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Comparing Chipboard Pallets to Paper Pallets

Posted by Sonoco Conitex Team on November 07,2022

Pallets made of chipboard and pallets made of corrugated cardboard: What’s the difference? Which is best for which environment or application? Let’s see how these pallets stack up against each other.

First, some definitions:

Chipboard pallets are made from wood pulp. This makes them a little thicker than paper, but without the corrugated channels that reinforce and widen sheets of corrugated cardboard. Chipboard may also be known as “molded fiber,” depending on where you’re looking. (The packaging industry tends to have different names for everything!) 

Corrugated paper pallets are made from sheets of corrugated paper. Although they may not intuitively seem like they could hold as much weight as wood, pallet design engineers can create strong, durable, and incredibly resilient pallets to customer specifications. They’re easy to recycle and customize. 

Although each type of pallet has pros and cons—chipboard pallets may stack more efficiently, whereas paper pallets are splinter-free—the true best-for-you pallet will depend on your needs and environment. 

Here’s more information about each type of pallet so you can make a truly informed decision with your next purchase:

Spotlight On: Chipboard Pallets

Let’s start with the basics. How is chipboard made? 

Chipboard starts as a pile of wood, chipped finely into tiny pieces. This starting material is mixed with glue and poured into a form (or a mold). Once the mixture dries, it becomes a piece of press-formed chipboard. 

Because the molding process is relatively simple, chipboard can be made into just about anything. (Here’s a quick video showing how to make office furniture out of it!) 

[ How It's Made - Chipboard Office Furniture

That sounds impressive. But how does chipboard hold up to real use? 

Chipboard pallets are low-weight and decently strong. They are also recyclable, easy to mold, and easy to handle. 

However, they do come with significant downsides. For example: 

  • You can’t use chipboard pallets in cold storage (e.g., refrigerated environments). These pallets are already brittle, and being used in the cold will cause them to shatter. 
  • Chipboard pallets do not interact well with forklifts. Over time, forklifts strip fibers away from the pallet, weakening them and leading to a potentially dangerous pallet failure. 
  • Although each pallet may not cost much, the upfront die set-up costs—or the process of setting up the forms and cutting each pallet—are costly. (Think: $80K-100K.) The die-cutting process is also very slow. 
  • Chipboard does not stand up to moisture. The structural integrity of the pallet will descend into a soggy mess in an overly humid or damp environment. 
  • Chipboard is not as hygienic as other pallet alternatives (e.g., corrugated cardboard). It offers a greater chance of cross-contamination than paper pallets.
  • Chipboard pallets are hard to print on, making branding far more difficult (or impossible) and some organizational aspects (barcoding) impractical.

Although those downsides can be significant, your preferences and environment matter most. For example, chipboard may work well if you never operate in cold or humid conditions. 

If you need something less costly and more resilient, it may be time to learn about paper pallets.

Spotlight On: Corrugated Paper Pallets

Corrugated paper is made of two or three layers of thick paper that are ridged, folded, and grooved in an alternating pattern to make a rigid final product. When built by pallet design engineers, paper pallets are far more than the sum of their parts. These pallets can hold up to 10,000 lbs. while weighing only a few pounds. 

Corrugated pallets are clean, dust-free, eco-friendly, and easy to customize. What’s more, when you’re using them, you don’t need to use a slip sheet. They also posit zero concerns surrounding mold, nails, splinters, fire retardants, or fiber particles. 

How do corrugated paper pallets compare to chipboard pallets? 

Wondering exactly how corrugated paper pallets compare to chipboard? Here’s a quick rundown for your reference: 

  • Corrugated board is superior to chipboard in strength on a horizontal plane. 
  • The LoadRunner© paper pallet is not meant for use in humid environments or standing water, but it is superior to chipboard when there are low moisture levels. 
  • The process of making a custom pallet is much cheaper for paper pallets than chipboard pallets. 
  • The production process after tooling for chipboard is more expensive. 

Ultimately, your decision to choose chipboard or corrugated pallets is just that: Yours. We’re here to ensure you have the information you need to select a product that will work well for you!

Sonoco Is Your Resource for High-Performing Paper Pallets

Are you looking for high-quality pallets to streamline and strengthen your warehousing, shipping, or storing strategies? 

Although chipboard pallets can work well in some circumstances, corrugated pallets are stronger, more cost-effective, and easier to brand. But you don’t have to take our word for it! Schedule a call with our pallet design experts to learn more about how corrugated pallets would work for you or customize a sample to test in your space. 

In the meantime, check out our blog for more packaging industry advice and updated information, including everything you need to know about paper pallets!

Tags: Pallets, LoadRunner®, Corrugated, Paperboard

Sonoco Conitex Team

Sonoco Conitex Team