Effect of Pallet Deckboard Stiffness and Unit Load Factors on Corrugated Box Compression Strength

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Virginia Tech

Corrugated paper boxes are the predominant packaging and shipping material and account for the majority of packaging refuse by weight. Wooden pallets are equally predominant in shipping, transportation and warehousing logistics. The interaction between these two components is complex and unexplored leaving industry to compensate with outdated component specific safety factors. Providing a focused exploration of the box and pallet interaction will open the door for holistic design practices that will reduce cost, weight, damage, and safety incidents. This study was separated into four chapters exploring different aspects of the corrugated box to pallet interaction.

The first chapter evaluates the support surface provided by a pallet consists of deckboards spaced perpendicular to the length of the pallet. The resulting gaps between deckboards reduce the support to the box. Gaps were limited to 55% of box sidewall length for practical reasons. The effect of gaps was significant and produced a nonlinear reduction in box strength. Small boxes were more susceptible to gaps than larger boxes. Moving the gap closer to the corner increased its effect while increasing the number of gaps did not increase the effect. A modification to the McKee equation was produced that was capable of predicting the loss in strength due to gaps. The equation is novel in that is modifies a widely used equation and is the first such equation capable of handling multiple box sizes. This study also has practical implications for packaging designers who must contend with pallet gap.

Chapter 2 explores the relationship between deckboard deflection and box compression strength. Testing found that reducing the stiffness of the deckboard decreases the compression strength of the box by 26.4%. The location of the box relative to the stringer also had varying effects on the box strength. A combination of deckboard stiffness and gaps produced mixed with results with gaps reducing the effect of stiffness. It was observed that lower stiffness deckboards not only deflect but also twist during compression. The torsion is suspected to have a significant influence on compression but further exploration is needed.

The third chapter tests the effect of box flap length on box compression strength under various support conditions. Variables included four flap lengths, gaps between deckboards, low stiffness deckboards, column stacking and misaligned stacking. The results show that the box flaps can be reduced by 25% with no significant effect of box strength under any support condition tested. Furthermore, the box flap can be reduced by 50% with less than 10% loss in compression strength under all scenarios. These results have significant sustainability implication as 25% and 50% reduction in box flap reduce material usage by approximately 12% and 24%, respectively.

In the fourth and final chapter, the theory of beam-on-elastic foundation is applied to deckboard bending and corrugated boxes. In this model the corrugated box acts and the foundation and the deckboard is the beam. Rotational stiffness, load bridging, and foundation stiffness changes required the development of novel testing solution and model development. The model was capable of predicting the distribution of force along the length sidewall but was not capable of predicting the ultimate strength of the box. The model developed in the study will be applicable in determining potential weakness in the unit load in addition to optimizing those that are over designed.

These four chapters represent a considerable contribution of applicable research to a field that relied on outdated safety factors over thirty years. These safety factors often lead to costly over design in an industry where corrugated box and pallets volumes make event the smallest improvements highly beneficial. Furthermore, this research has opened the door for significant additional research that will undoubtedly provided even greater economic and sustainability benefits.

Packaging, Corrugated, Pallet, Unit load, Elastic foundation