Finite Element Modeling of Plastic Pails when Interacting with Wooden Pallets

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Virginia Tech


The physical supply chain relies on three components to transport products: the pallet, the package, and unit load stabilizers. The interactions between these three components can be investigated to understand the relationship between them to find potential optimization strategies. The relationship between corrugated boxes and pallets have been previously investigated and have found that the relationship can be used to reduce the quantity of material used in unit loads and can also reduce the cost per unit load if the package and pallet are designed using a systems approach. Although corrugated boxes are a common form of packaging, plastic pails are also used in packaging for liquids and powders, but they have not been previously investigated. To understand the interactions between the wooden pallet and plastic pails, physical tests were conducted and then used to create and validate a finite element model. The experiments were carried out in three phases. The first phase included physical testing of plastic pails where the deckboard gap and overhang support conditions would be isolated by using a rigid deckboard scenario. The second phase also used physical tests to investigate plastic pails but instead used flexible deckboards and used an overhang support condition and a 3.5 in. gap support condition. The third phase of experiments would develop and validate a finite element model to further understand the impact of deckboard gaps and overhang depending on the location of the gap. Previous physical experiments were used to create and validate the finite element model. Nonlinear eigen buckling analysis was used to model the plastic pail buckling failure that was seen in physical testing. The model based on the physical experiments was able to predict the behavior of the plastic pail within a range of 5-12% variation with higher variation being introduced when the flexible deckboard is introduced. The finite element model was then used to model a range of deckboard gap sizes and overhang sizes as well as different locations for deckboard gaps. The results of the experiments indicate that the percent of pail perimeter that is supported directly on the pallet impacts the compression strength of the plastic pail. Decreasing the quantity of support decreases the compression strength of the plastic pail in a linear pattern. The location of the deckboard gap also influenced the compression strength because of the quantity of pail being supported being altered. The results of the experiments can be used by industry members to provide guidelines on unit load design to prevent plastic pail failure. Industry members can also use the results as a baseline investigation and further the finite element model by incorporating their own plastic pail design.



pallet, packaging, unit load, plastic pail, finite element analysis, support condition, pallet gaps