Quantitative Analysis of the Compressive Stress Distributions across Pallet Decks Supporting Packaging in Simulated Warehouse Storage


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Virginia Tech


The primary objective of this study was to quantitatively analyze compressive static stress distributions across pallet deck surfaces supporting flexible and rigid packaging in simulated warehouse storage systems. Three different densities of polyolefin foams (2, 4, and 6 lb/ft3, pcf) simulated a variety of flexible and rigid packaging with a range of stiffness properties. A layer of single wall C-flute corrugated fiberboard acted as a sensing medium and also simulated the bottom of a corrugated box. Pressure sensitive films were used to detect compressive static stresses at the interface between the polyolefin foams and the pallet deckboard. Image analysis computer software program was developed to quantitatively characterize stress distributions left on pressure sensitive film. 280 lbs of compression load were applied to a Plexiglas® pallet section (40 x 3.5 inches, L x W) with ¾ inch deck thickness, as well as to a steel pallet section (40 x 3.5 inches, L x W) with ½ inch deck thickness. In both cases, the pallet sections were used in a simulated pallet storage rack. 700 lbs of compression load were applied to the same steel pallet section that was used in the racking simulation and the Plexiglas® pallet sections (40 x 3.5 inches, L x W) with ½ and ¾ inch deck thicknesses were used in simulated block (floor) stack storage to measure the stress distributions and deflections of deckboards. Applying the final models of resultant non-uniform stress distributions enabled the development of finite element analysis (FEA) models of pallet deckboard deflections. The predicted FEA models of the deckboard deflections were validated through comparison with experimentally measured deflections in the simulated warehouse storage systems.

In the final models, the resultant three foams' stress distributions across pallet deck surfaces in both rack and floor stack storage simulations were non-uniform. The changes in the degree of stress concentrations and maximum stress levels along the deckboards varied, depending on the stiffness of the foams and deckboards and the support conditions in the simulated warehouse storage models. Qualified test indicates that the 2pcf and 4pcf foams represent non-rigid sack products and the 6pcf foam represents rigid packaging and contents. All tests were conducted within a few minutes; hence, all test data were assumed to be initially resulted compressive stresses. The compressive stresses may change over time. The measure of stress concentrations is the stress intensity factor, which is the ratio of initial maximum resultant compressive stress to the applied stress. The initial maximum resultant compressive stresses were adjusted for rate of loading which varied due to the difference in the stiffness of the foams. The table below shows the adjusted initial maximum resultant compressive stress intensity factors. The product of the calculation uniformly distributed compressive stress and the stress intensity factor is the appropriate criteria for designing packaging of product with adequate compressive strength. These factors will be useful when designing pallets, packaging, and unit loads.In simulated block stack storage, the foam stiffness (package and product stiffness) had a more significant effect on the stress distributions and concentrations along the deckboards than did the pallet deck stiffness. As a result, the stiffer foam presented a greater change in stress levels along the deckboard under the compression load. The quantified and evaluated stress concentrations and stress distributions will be useful in understanding the interactions between pallets and packaging, reducing product damage and improving the safety of the work place during the long-term storage of the unit loads. The predicted FEA models will allow the industry to better optimize pallets, packaging, and unit load designs.



Warehouse Storage, FEM, Packaging, Pallets, Compressive Stress Distributions