A new all-plastic pallet design from Lomold features a high-strength
system whose top and bottom decks and optional components snap-fit into place
and can be removed when not needed.
The pallets are the first products to emerge from a new molding technology developed in South Africa that combines the design capabilities of injection molding with the strength provided in low pressure molding systems.
The base of the new pallet concept can remain at a production plant or distribution center while product is transported on the top deck of the pallet to a customer's facility, where it would then be placed on another base.
When not in use, both top and bottom decks are nestable, greatly reducing the footprint needed to store or ship empty pallets. The new pallet weighs 30 lb compared to 88 lb for comparable alternatives, wood, plastic or plastic wood composite.
Lomold says the top deck can be used as a standalone pallet for one-way trips, yet it supports a dynamic load of up to 4,400 lb.
Click here for larger image.
"There have been many attempts over the past few decades to develop a plastic or composite pallet that eliminates the traditional issues of wood - such as high weight, inconsistent dimensions, short use-life, high maintenance and washability," says Pieter du Toit, Lomold Group founder and CEO.
The components are produced from the company's patented long-(glass) fiber thermoplastic (LFT) injection-molding process using polypropylene composite. Glass loading is 36 percent by weight. Lomold won a JEC composites award earlier this year for its one-piece pallet produced with the new molding process.
The new pallets can be washed for increased hygiene due to the composite's hydrolytic stability. No fumigation is required.
Although the capital cost of the LFT pallet system can be much higher than wood, Lomold says operational cost savings plus utilization benefits more than compensating for the higher initial cost.
Lomold calls its new processing technology "3-D LFT" because it combines the three-dimensional design benefits of injection molding with the mechanical properties for glass fibers found in direct molding processes such as compression molding. The glass fibers are much longer in the finished component, up to 50 mm versus just 5 mm even in complex shapes.
Du Toit says the only major difference between Lomold's processing machines and traditional injection molding machines is the way molten material is injected into the closed mold.
The 3-D LFT Machine uses a series of pistons in place of a hot runner system to move material from a barrel to a mold cavity. The final piston face becomes the final boundary face of the mold cavity. This allows the gate size to be increased up to 100 mm without the requirement to cool a sprue.
This avoids breakage of fibers that occurs when the melt is forced under high pressure through check valves, hot runner systems and gates in a traditional injection molding system.
The Lomold group selected pallets as the first product to be commercialized with the new technology and it was introduced at Pack Expo in Chicago and K 2010 in DÃ¼sseldorf, Germany.
The machinery for Lomold is being built by Chuan Li Fa Machinery Works Co. of Yuen Kang City, China. A U.S. patent issued to Lomold in 2005 indicates the technology could also be used to mold ceramic and glass components.
Lomold is building a new pilot plant in China that will be able to produce 25,000 metric tons of material next year and 60,000 metric tons in 2012.
Click here to see a video of how the new molding technology works.