Research Mission:

All research conducted at the Center’s labs for our sponsors is based on the graduate education mission of Virginia Tech.

The Center’s research team is focusing on developing new ways to optimize distribution packaging systems and unit loads by using the physical interaction between the components. Quantifying and improving the sustainability of distribution packages is at the fore front of our research mission. The Center has been developing life cycle inventories and conducting life cycle analysis on pallets and distribution packaging systems.

Smart and connected packaging will revolutionize the distribution packaging sector thus the Center is currently conducting feasibility studies and supply chain studies using the latest technology in smart and connected packaging.

The Center maintains an extensive research database that includes articles on subjects such as: the performance of driven fasteners, observations of damage frequency, and damage severity levels occurring in pallets. Our pallet data, in particular, is vital to researchers developing reliability-based models of pallets, containers, and other such related structures.

The Center researches every aspect of primary and secondary packaging, shipping, and material handling systems. We are also constantly striving to meet and exceed our industry affiliates’ expectations in regards to new areas of research such as electronic sensor tracking and sustainable packaging. Any questions or issues your company has, our team will find the answers!

Most projects are conducted through our Industrial Affiliate Membership Program; however, Sponsored Research projects are also available for more individualized research projects.

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Nicolas Navarro, M.S.

"Investigation into the Deployment of Smart Sensors for Distribution Packaging Tracking"

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Description: Nicolas’s research will focus on the deployment of smart sensors for distribution packaging. His research will help us create continuous supply chain visibility. Internet of Things (IoT) start to become a widely used technology in in many aspects of our life from smart refrigerators to aerospace sensors. In the distribution packaging sector, obtaining data on the shock, vibration, and environmental conditions that the package experiences throughout the supply chain will enable us to create safer and more sustainable packaging solutions. Nicolas’s research will focus on reviewing the available technologies for the distribution packaging sector and identifying opportunities for further research.

Yu Yang Huang Qiu (M.S.)

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

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Description: The most common handling method for pallets is 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. 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. 

Jorge Masis Ulloa (M.S)

"Measurement of Hazards Experienced by Pallets During Material Handling."

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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 later there is a question of whether our distribution system changed. We know from experience that there are damages to the pallet that FasTrack does not simulate such as damage to the 48 in. middle block. Therefore, a comprehensive review of FasTrack is needed. In addition, the intensity of the impact produced by the forklift is one of the major causes of pallet damage during the simulation. Thus, quantifying the intensity impacts that the pallet causes is essential to create a repeatable simulation.

Objectives: The objective of the study is to quantify the number of handling steps, handling and storage modes, and intensity of the forklift impacts during palletized material handling.

Mary Paz Alvarez (MS)

"Investigation into the Interactions Between the Components of Palletized Drums and Pails During Storage and Distribution"

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Description: She will conduct research to investigate the interaction between pails, drums, and pallets. The research investigates 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.

Objectives: This research will require Mary to conduct hands-on work within CPULD’s testing laboratories using multiple data acquisition systems, software, and testing machinery.

Eduardo Molina (Ph.D.)

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

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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.

Objectives: 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.


There are three main benefits for our industry partners through our research projects:

Interaction with students

The personal and professional skills of the students are developed through conducting industry sponsored research projects. The presentations at the end of their research provides an excellent opportunity for interaction with our best students who are potential future employees or summer interns.

Find solutions to your company's
existing real life problems

Our students develop and present solutions to real life problems throughout the year. As a member company you can bring your real-time problems to the Center and have a research project developed around solving your company’s issues!  The students’ solutions developed through their research projects give our supporting companies a competitive advantage.

Networking opportunity

Our supporting companies are composed of packaging producers, suppliers, and final customers. Our bi-annual meetings, at which students present their research findings from the previous year of projects, provide a great opportunity to network with other industry members who are your company’s potential suppliers, customers, and future employees.

How can I sponsor a research project?

The Center offers two primary ways to work with us on research projects.

Our Affiliate Membership is designed to provide an opportunity for groups of companies to sponsor fundamental research projects that can create benefits for the whole group. Each year, projects are voted on by all of our members, and once the research is completed, the sponsoring companies can use the generated information to increase the competitiveness of their companies. In addition to the research information, companies also get discounts on short courses and contract testing projects.

The Center also offers a more individualized research partnership through our Sponsored Research Program. These projects are more tailored to the individual company, and Virginia Tech also offers a mechanism to transfer the generated IP to the sponsoring company. The results of the research projects remain confidential for up two 2 years.


Work on Issues That Matter!

Our researchers focus on highly applied projects focusing on current challenges in the packaging industry:

  • Most projects are sponsored by large multinational packaging corporations.
  • Sustainability is in the core of all research projects.
  • You research results might be built into an internationally used pallet design software package and used by thousands of packaging professionals.

Get Paid to Study!

Our M.S. and Ph.D programs are designed to help you focus on your research and not worry about finances:

  • We cover your tuition for the duration of the research project.
  • We offer competitive research assistantships to cover living expenses.
  • We help international students with getting an F1 student visa.

Make Industrial Connections!

You will have a chance to work on our internationally recognized pallet testing laboratory as a Graduate Laboratory Manager. During this experience, you will gain hands-on managerial experience and work on real life contract testing projects with major packaging companies. The interaction with the companies will give you, life-long connections that will help with the job hunt while the projects will give you actual industrial experience.

The history of RESEARCH conducted in our center...

Below you will find dissertations and theses written by past graduate students in our programs.
Market Studies
Pallet Durability
Smart Packaging
Sustainability Studies
Unit Load Interactions
Unit Load Stability
Wood Pallet Design

Check back soon for research conducted on Smart Packaging!

Contact Us for More Info about our research: