CURRENT RESEARCH DETAILS

Nicolas Navarro – nico2710@vt.edu

Nico is currently working on his Masters Degree in the Department of Sustainable Biomaterials. He grew up in a small town in Costa Rica surrounded by coffee farms. He completed his bachelors of science degree in Industrial Engineering at the Costa Rica Institute of Technology.  Nico completed an internship at Virginia Tech during his undergraduate education, so when it came time to start his graduate degree, he decided to come back to the campus he’d enjoyed, especially since he was offered the chance to work on an interesting research project. 

Research Description: Quantifying pallet durability is essential to estimate how long multiple-use pallets will last in the supply chain. Currently, the only material independent pallet durability simulation and prediction method is Virginia Tech’s FasTrack procedure. However, 26 years after its creation there is a question of whether our distribution systems have changed. We know from experience that there are damages to the pallet that FasTrack doesn’t simulate such as the damage to the 48 in. middle block. Therefore, a comprehensive review of FasTrack is needed. In addition, the intensity of the impacts produced by forklifts is one of the major causes of pallet damage during simulations. Thus quantifying the intensity of these impacts to the pallet is essential to create repeatable simulations.

"Investigation of the Interaction Between the Components of Palletized Drums and Pails Throughout Storage and Distribution"

Mary Paz Alvarez – M.S. student – marypaz@vt.edu

Research Description: She will conduct research to investigate the interaction between pails, drums, and pallets. This research will investigate the potential load bridging and unique stress distribution caused by pails and drums, and also explores how a pallet affects the strength of pails/drums; this could offer significant cost reductions to the industry. This research will require Mary to conduct hands-on work within CPULD’s testing laboratories using multiple data acquisition systems, software, and testing machinery. Through her fellowship, Mary will be given the opportunity to publish, make presentations at conferences, and represent CPULD at industry trade shows. The results of Mary’s research will be implemented in NWPCA’s unit load design software, PDS. Her results will dramatically improve both the safety and efficiency of unit load material handling.

"Evaluation of the Maximum Pallet Deflection that Occurs Under Forklift Handling Conditions"

Yu Yang Huang Qiu – M.S. student – yuyangh27@vt.edu

Research Description: The most common handling method for pallets are by industrial forklift trucks. When pallets are handled by these trucks, the pallet deflects (bends) due to the weight of the unit load it’s carrying. Commonly, the maximum deflection occurs at the pallet’s outside edges and corners. Both ISO 8611 and ASTM D1185 define the maximum acceptable deflection for a pallet in this handling condition; however, the relevance of these limits was questioned in a recent ISO meeting. It was determined that the exact effect of pallet deflection on the stability or handleability of the unit load while in the forklift support condition is not well understood. Therefore, pallets might currently be designed using unrealistic values. Understanding how a pallet’s deflection while in a forklift support condition affects the stability of the unit load, and, from this, deriving industry accepted deflection limits will help the industry to design safer, more cost-effective pallets. The intensity of vibration caused by the forklift will be measured using a Lansmont SaverX device under different handling scenarios. The representative vibrational profile will be used to simulate the dynamic movements that a pallet experiences during forklift handling. A custom jig will be built for the vibration tester, and the static and dynamic pallet bending will be measured during simulated forklift handling scenarios. The experiment will be repeated for various representative unit loads — such as testing it with a unit load of bags, bottled beverages, or a column of stacked boxes, etc. At the end of the project, a maximum deflection limit will be proposed for forklift truck handling in both ISO 8611 and ASTM D1185 standards.

"Development of a Finite Element Model to Predict the Deflection of a Stacked Unit Load of Corrugated Boxes."

Eduardo Molina – Ph.D. student – molina@vt.edu

Research Description: Different types of unit loads can cause load bridging on pallets, which means that the weight is not distributed evenly across the pallet. Various factors including box size, aspect ratio, coefficient friction, number of layers, containment force, etc. influences the amount of load bridging. The investigation of the load bridging effect using physical testing is complex, expensive, and time consuming. Using finite element modeling would significantly increase the effectiveness of load bridging research. The proposed project will validate experimentally, in 2D and 3D, a finite modeling system for testing the interactions of packages causing load bridging. And, once validated it will be used to develop an adjustment factor to help apply the testing results of a pallet loaded using a uniform flexible load to a pallet loaded with corrugated boxes where load bridging occurs.

Previous Research / Graduate Students

Chandler Quesenberry, M.S. – chanq14@vt.edu

As Chandler grew up in the area, Galax, VA, Virginia Tech was an obvious choice for him. He graduated from the VT Packaging Systems and Design program in 2018 and started right into graduate school. He was eager to continue his education in distribution packaging and to keep learning from all of the great instructors and mentors he’d found in our department. The science as to why pallets, corrugated boxes, and unit load designs do or don’t work interest him, and he was excited to join the graduate program here in order to be able to look deeper into these particular topics in addition to getting more experience seeing and testing numerous packaging designs in the lab.

"Investigation Into the Effect of Pallet Design on the Operating Cost of the Supply Chain."

Alina Mejias, M.S. – alinam@vt.edu

Research Description: Pallets, packaging and the material handling system must work together to ensure stability in the supply chain. Currently each part of the system is designed and manufactured independently which can cause equipment slowdown, shutdown, and unit load failure. Currently, research projects focus on the performance of corrugated boxes because they represent 80% of packaging materials in unit loads. We will be looking into what areas of the supply chain are affected by using low quality pallets. We will determine a method to financially quantify all of the issues caused by using these low quality pallets. The outcome of this research will allow us to develop a model tying pallets to the operating costs of the supply chain. The proposed project will identify where low quality pallets adversely influence material handling and storage systems and will financially quantify these adverse effects. We will then develop a model to show how to save costs and increase efficiency by utilizing properly designed, high quality pallets.

"Investigation Into the Types of Unit Loads Carried by Pallets."

Dorina Bugledits, M.S. – dorina93@vt.edu

Research Description: Currently the load carrying capacity of a pallet is determined by assuming that the load will be distributed evenly across the pallet. Most current pallet testing is set up using this assumption. However, this is not always the case in real-world pallet use. The weight on a pallet is actually distributed based on the type, size, and shape of the packages making up the unit load. These changes in the distribution of weight is called “load bridging” and this can significantly impact the overall load carrying capacity of a pallet. The proposed project will investigate different types of packages/unit loads and their effects on the load carrying capacity of pallets. This will be done through research of current literature, surveying the marketplace to determine the frequency of different unit loads, and studying the most common unit loads for their overall effect.

"Investigation Into Pallets Being Manufactured, Recycled, and Landfilled Annually in the United States."

Nathan Gerber, M.S. – gnathan8@vt.edu

Research Description: There are up to 2.4M pallets in circulation at any time in the United States and 92% of them are made of wood. The pallet industry is a rapidly changing and growing sector of the wood products market and the last time any real research was done into the industry’s estimated number of new pallets manufactured, pallets being repaired and reused, and pallets being recycled is over six years ago. Having this data available and always up-to-date would be useful to all pallet industry professionals in their day-to-day business making decisions. The proposed project studies, through market research, the current numbers of pallets being manufactured, reused, and recycled in the pallet industry. The scope of the study also includes new pallet production estimates, estimates of the recovered pallets, pallet sizes, lumber types, information on various production steps, and waste disposal or reuse.

"Investigation into the Distribution of Stresses on the Top Surface of Stringer Class Pallets as a Function of Package Size and Pallet Stiffness."

Page Clayton, M.S. – pagec11@vt.edu

Research Description: The load carrying capacity of most pallets is very likely to be significantly higher then what is determined through current testing methods. The effects of package size and distribution on load bridging are not included in most current tests and pallets are overdesigned when these factors aren’t taken into account. The stress distribution effect of the size of regular slotted type corrugated boxes in column stacked unit loads will be quantified and taken into account for the design of new pallets. This should help reduce wasted resources hence increasing sustainability factors and reducing production costs. The proposed project will investigate how unit load stresses are distributed across the top deck of stringer class pallets as a function of the package size of corrugated boxes when stacked in columns. Then it will determine how this effect affects the load carrying capacity of pallets to see where they are overdesigned as part of a proposed redesign to reduce waste and cost.

"Investigation into the Distribution of Stresses on the Top Surface of Block Class Pallets as a Function of Package Size and Pallet Stiffness."

Steven Morrissette, M.S. – smorr07@vt.edu

Research Description: The load carrying capacity of most pallets is very likely to be significantly higher then what is determined through current testing methods. The effects of package size and distribution on load bridging are not included in most current tests and pallets are overdesigned when these factors aren’t taken into account. The stress distribution effect of the size of regular slotted type corrugated boxes in column stacked unit loads will be quantified and taken into account for the design of new pallets. This should help reduce wasted resources hence increasing sustainability factors and reducing production costs. The proposed project will investigate how unit load stresses are distributed across the top deck of block class pallets as a function of the package size of corrugated boxes when stacked in columns. Then it will determine how this effect affects the load carrying capacity of pallets to see where they are overdesigned as part of a proposed redesign to reduce waste and cost.