Based in Athens, Ohio, Stirling Ultracold, a subsidiary of BioLife Solutions Inc., manufactures and sells environmentally sustainable ultra-low temperature (ULT) freezers. Powered by the free-piston Stirling engine, and the first in the U.S. to use 100% natural refrigerants, the upright and undercounter ULT freezers use less than one-third the electricity of standard compressor-based ULT freezers. The company also produces the industry’s only portable ULT solution available for remote clinical trials and biologic drug delivery.
"Our large freezer stores 350,000 vaccine samples and our small freezer will store 8,500 samples," says Geraint Phillips, Chief Operations Officer. "These freezers are used in a variety of applications, really anywhere where samples and biological materials need to be stored. So we have been very much at the forefront of vaccine storage and distribution."
Stirling Ultracold has manufactured ULT freezers to cool and store life-saving treatments and research samples for a decade, but demand for the freezers spiked when the mRNA vaccines for COVID-19 required storage that could maintain ultra-low temperatures.
After experiencing high damage rates on its undercounter and portable units, the company needed a new packaging solution to protect its sensitive equipment. "As the demand for our products has grown, the criticality of getting the product in great condition to our customers has been ever more critical," says Phillips. "They want to be able to switch the product on and have it work straight out of the box. I cannot stress enough how important the packaging is in getting our product distributed all around the world in great condition."
"Fabricated foam packaging was the answer for Stirling Ultracold," says Patrick Kallmyer, account executive at Sealed Air, who partnered with Liberty Distributors to bring about a solution for Stirling Ultracold. "We have 26 packaging engineers on staff, and they constantly roundtable problems so we can get what the customer needs to them as quickly as possible."
For Stirling, it's not just about damage reduction — keeping their life-saving ultracold freezers damage-free is also about the customer experience, and the trust that hospitals, researchers, and medical professionals must have in their product. "The unboxing experience is critical," says Brian Pell, product manager. "First impressions mean a lot." Phillips agrees. "We've seen explosive growth, and we have relied on our suppliers to support us on that journey," he says. "Suppliers such as Sealed Air and Liberty Distributors have really been there for us and supported us through that journey."
"It's absolutely critical that the packaging is of a high quality and integrity, to ensure that the customer gets that out-of-the-box experience they're expecting. The cost of a replacement for a freezer going to China or Singapore or Europe is astronomical.
But it's more about the impact on our customers and the delays that they will incur in their research or vaccine distribution. It's absolutely critical. And so packaging is a key component of our overall product.”
— Geraint Phillips, Chief Operations Officer at Stirling Ultracold