History of the Center

Our Mission

To develop information and technologies which optimize the relationship between the design and performance of packaging systems and maximize the efficiency of the packaging supply chain.

To assist pallet, packaging, and material handling equipment manufacturers, their customers and suppliers, focusing on improving material handling efficiency.

To educate students for systems based packaging design by providing real life, hands-on experience.

About Us

CPULD is the one of the leading research facilities in the US that performs comprehensive research and development work, provides technical assistance, and offers educational programs focusing the whole packaging system including pallets, primary and secondary packaging, and material handling equipment. Using state of the art technology, we research every aspect of the material handling system from primary packaging through unit load design. We are part of the Department of Sustainable Biomaterials in the College of Natural Resources & Environment at Virginia Tech.

CPULD was established more than 40 years ago and is currently involved with many ISO, ASTM, ISTA, and ANSI work-groups to create national and international standards for the industry. 

Number of projects
Pallets Tested
Packages Tested
FasTrack Cycles

The center is a part of...

...in the College of Natural Resources and Environment, Virginia Tech.

The Center for Packaging and Unit Load Design is part of the Virginia Tech community. We are in the Department of Sustainable Biomaterials, which is one of four departments in the College of Natural Resources and Environment, and is home to one of the leading programs in renewable natural resources science in North America. The department focuses on the development of future leaders in the sustainable utilization of plant based renewable natural materials..

The department’s mission is to create and disseminate knowledge and prepare professionals to advance the use of natural, renewable materials and products. The department achieves its mission with the provision of classroom instruction, outreach activities, and the production and dissemination of research results. Most aspects of the discipline are covered in the department’s new curriculum, with the degrees in Packaging Systems and Design and Sustainable Biomaterials.


The Center was developed over the last 60+ years to research various aspects of, and to work with, forest products industries – especially the pallet and container industry. It serves pallet and container manufacturers by advancing the technical knowhow required to improve the design, construction and assembly of pallets and containers, so these industries can meet and exceed the demands of their present and potential customers. Over the years, the Center has expanded its focus so that it now starts with research into the raw materials required by the industry and studies every step of the process from primary packaging through unit load design.


The Beginning:
Bill Sardo with the National Wood Pallet Manufacturing Association partnered with Dr. George Stern at Virginia Tech to promote their joint interests in various wood fasteners and their application to the pallet industry.
New Buildings:
The National Wooden Pallet and Container Association funded the building of a brand-new, state-of-the-art laboratory in the Brooks Forest Products Center at Virginia Tech in which the new research would be conducted.
Lab Opens:
Grand opening of the William H. Sardo Jr. Pallet and Container Research Laboratory.
PDS is Created:
Virginia Tech and NWPCA created a new software called the “Pallet Design System” (PDS) that is currently used in 24 countries.
The Center:
The Center for Unit Load Design was created to broaden the lab’s research focus to include studying unit loads as well as pallet design.
The center was renamed the Center for Packaging and Unit Load Design (CPULD) when it came under new leadership and the research focus was again realigned to include primary and secondary packaging – including biodegradable and ‘smart’ packaging.
CPULD is the only research facility in the US that performs comprehensive research and development work, provides technical assistance, and offers educational programs focusing exclusively on pallets and containers, as well as into the materials and fasteners.