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Internal Dunnage – Protecting Your Parts In Transit

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In the last blog we talked about the containers that cube out a truck in a Returnable Packaging System. In this blog we are going down to the next level; the internal dunnage inside of the container. This is one of the most important, and sometimes overlooked, part of a Returnable Packaging System. Internal dunnage is what actually holds and protects the part while in transit. There are many types of materials used to construct the dividers. Selecting your packaging all depends on the type of part being shipped. There are so many options when it comes to the internal dunnage, that’s why I’m going to break this into a couple of blogs on the subject. In this blog, I will discuss the most common materials used and in the next blog we will go over how the materials all come together to make a long lasting Returnable Packaging System.

Coroplast is one of the most common materials used in designing internal dunnage. Coroplast, also called Plastic Corrugated, looks like cardboard but is made of plastic – hence the name Plastic Corrugated. Most people call it by its proper name, Coroplast, which derives from the manufacturer of this board. Coroplast is the only source you want to use in the Returnable Packaging world. Most of the other plastic corrugated manufactures make their board for signs. You see these signs all over during an election or on the telephone poles at every corner downtown. This is a lighter weight board and won’t be able to survive the multiple trips a Returnable System faces. Just keep this in mind when you are talking to a dunnage manufacturer such as our sponsor. You want to make sure you use durable material or you will have issues down the road._N1A8129

These sheets of Coroplast have “flutes” running down the length of the board. Just like in the cardboard world, Coroplast comes in many gauges from 2mm all the way up to 14mm. When these sheets are extruded, two types of plastic are used – Polyethylene or Polypropylene. Polypropylene is more commonly used, because it’s a softer plastic – making it easier to bend and fabricate into intricate divider systems. These sheets of plastic can be cut, scored, welded, and bent into any designs. It all comes down to the part that is being shipped. That’s the great thing about the internal dunnage – it’s totally customizable! Anything can be figured out as long as there is enough space inside of your container. The plastic sheets can be laminated with special materials to help protect the parts. These laminates add another level of protection to the divider. This is a perfect solution if you are shipping a “Class A” part that can’t get scratched. Laminates can be rolled over the top edge if the dunnage manufacturer is very skilled at what they do. This rolled edge will not only help protect the part when it’s being placed into the divider, but will also protect the associate’s cuticles when they are reaching into the cell to remove the part. These laminates include Spuntex, Evelon, Brushed Polyester, and Tyvek. We will go into more detail on Laminates in future blogs, because this is a very important part to a successful Returnable Packaging System. When it comes to designing the dunnage, any cardboard design can be converted into a plastic design. So if you are already using that ugly, old fashion, dirty cardboard then a company like our sponsor can redesign what you have and make it into a lean, green, money saving machine!

5 Cell Divider TraySometimes when you are making a custom designed divider system you need more than sheets of plastic. The next most common material is foam. There are so many types of foam that we could probably dedicate an entire blog to just foam types. In a Returnable Packaging system there are two main types of foam used – PE foam and XLPE foam. By no means is it limited to these types of foams, you can use anything as longs as it gets you to a sustainable design. The first type is PE foam or Polyethylene foam. This is probably the type of foam that popped into your head when I said, “foam”. It’s an open cell foam, meaning it’s constructed of a bunch of little bubbles. PE foam can be cut into any shape to accommodate the part its holding. Die cutting is a common way of cutting PE foam, but it can also be water jet cut if compound angles need to be cut. PE foam comes in many densities from a .9 pound, which is very soft and can be crushed in your fingers, all the way up to a 10 pound which is as hard as wood. The densities are used depending on the weight of the part being shipped and how it’s held inside of the cell. The big problem with PE foam is it will scratch your part. If you are shipping something that can’t get scratched then you don’t want PE foam touching your part.

Your solution is XLPE foam aka Crosslink Foam. XLPE foam is very similar to the PE foam, because it comes in many densities from 2 pounds all the way up to 20 pounds (it might even go all the way to a 50 pounds!). The big difference with Crosslink Foam is that it is a closed cell foam. When you look at it, it looks like rubber; you won’t see little bubbles like in the PE foam. This is what gives its edge over the PE foams. It won’t scratch your product or part inside the divider, even when the part is resting right on top of the foam. If you think about it the part is constantly moving inside the cell while the truck is driving down the road. You need good materials holding your part or the person on the other end of the trip won’t be a happy customer! The closed cells in this foam are what give it a certified “Class A” protection. This foam can also be cut into any shape or size just like the other materials we mentioned.

In the next blog we will talk about some more materials used in designing the dividers or internal dunnage in a Returnable Packaging System. We will also discuss how all of these materials come together to make a working system.