Pittcon – don’tcha love it? And this year’s Pittcon was no exception.

Held again in Orlando after a year in Atlanta, Pittcon 2012 was an opportunity to cruise International Drive and enjoy the benefits of Mears shuttle buses (whine, whine), where the topic of packing density appears shortly and spontaneously after arrival at the airport….

Technical trials

Well it’s at events like this that technical thoughts leap to the forefront of my over-worked neuron. Fueled on a diet of technical presentations, posters, short courses, and the invariably enormous exhibition with huge numbers of laboratory equipment vendors and their existing, and hopefully-to-be, customers.

This year I happened to be thinking about packing density and customer relationships – and this wasn’t to do with how many customers we could pack into the House of Blues for the famous annual Malvern Instruments’ customer appreciation event!

A quick lesson in packing density

Packing density, as you’ll know, is a function of particle size distribution and has implications from the opacity of paints to the strength of ceramics among other things. The more that the voids between particles can be filled, then the stronger or more opaque the ensuing material will become.

In the case of particles of all one size and shape (spheres), it’s easy to calculate that the maximum occupied space is of the order of 74% (π/3√2 to be pedantic; some people prefer π/√18 ) although it took many years and a computer program to show that the face-centered- and hexagonal-packed structures were the most effective for spheres (a cannon ball packing problem that has been carbon dated to pre-Cambrian in the same manner as most of my jokes).

Now back to the customer appreciation event….

Getting close to customers in more ways than one

As I mentioned earlier, Malvern held its annual customer appreciation event at the House of Blues on Tuesday evening.

Here at Malvern we like to get close to our customers and build relationships over years, but I never thought that we could get packed more densely than a neutron star. The laws of physics were however defeated that night.

Following a terrific evening, there were five of us – four Malvern people and one customer –  filled to the brim with an excellent repast and needing to get back to two different hotels in Orlando. The gentlemen among the group allowed Marisa the front seat (and an excellent photographic opportunity) and Randy, myself, Ulf Willén and the customer crammed into what was probably illegal but cosy surroundings of the backseat of a Yellow Cab taxi. If we had been in Japan people with white gloves would have politely crammed us all in and shut the door!

More good natured banter followed until we were able to disgorge/discharge (well I think he fell out when the door was opened) our guest at his hotel.

The rest of us then resumed breathing!

I know that the customer really enjoyed his evening. We certainly did!