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The Power of Cardboard: How Corrugated Pallets Are Tested for Quality

Posted by Sonoco Conitex Team on November 01,2022

Cardboard is a ubiquitous material, and it’s coming into the spotlight as a versatile option within the sustainable packaging industry.

But how do manufacturers ensure that their corrugated pallets are up to snuff? 

Today, let’s find out. 

We asked Aaron Albritton, our lead pallet design engineer, to discuss the ways Sonoco tests our LoadRunners for strength, performance, and quality.

Our Preferred Tests for Top-Tier Corrugated Pallet Performance

We use two specific tests to check the quality of our pallet products: 

  • The vibration test simulates over-the-road conditions in a typical transit environment.
  • The compression test simulates a warehouse environment where a pallet is under a lot of weight for an extended time. (This one’s especially relevant for corrugated pallet performance.) 

“To understand the goal behind our testing procedures, it’s key to understand where the structural integrity of a pallet exists,” Aaron explains. “For our LoadRunners, that’s the cores. You want to ensure you distribute your product's weight as evenly as possible over those cores for the best possible performance. Each core can support about 3,000 pounds. Each pallet has a number of these cores dispersed across the pallet (placed strategically along with other functional pieces, like entry points).”

Environmental Pallet Conditions: Guidelines for Customers Testing Pallet Samples

Before purchasing a bulk order of corrugated pallets, it’s key to make sure that a sample pallet works well with your product and in your environment. Here’s what to keep in mind: 

  • Humidity: Some pallets don’t do well in high-humidity environments because that can weaken the integrity of the cardboard. The cores can wick moisture; however,  the corrugated material doesn’t tend to interact with moisture as well. 
  • Conveyors and automated packing lines: Depending on the distance between rollers, you may need to optimize pallet design to reduce wobbling, flexing, and instability. 
  • Racking and warehousing of the pallets: If corrugated pallets are used without supported racking, they won’t work, so it may be necessary to update your racking or warehousing strategies. 
  • Weight dispersion and placement: If you put something heavy between the cores of your pallet, you might experience a failure. Spreading out the load helps disperse the weight load, so it’s critical for the customer to do in-house testing with the sample to make sure it works for their product characteristics.

Given your environment and your product specs, Sonoco’s pallet design engineers can design a pallet that will work well for what you need

If the sample pallet we provide doesn’t perform well, let us know, and we can map out different core placements or provide other updates or recommendations to make your pallet work even better!

Other Tests to Learn About Corrugated Pallet Strength

Aside from compression and vibration tests, you might hear about a few other options when considering pallet strength. Some are more relevant than others. Here’s our take on how applicable they are for corrugated pallets.  

In the Mullen burst test, a piece of corrugated material is suspended. Then, to assess the strength of the material, a mallet bursts through the center of the suspended cardboard. While this is helpful in some situations, the industry standard now is the edge crush test. 

While the Mullen burst test applies force to the face of the material, the edge crush test applies force to the edge. In the test, the corrugated material gets compressed from bottom to top until the material buckles. This test measures the strength of the corrugated board per square inch. 

So, which should you use? If you’re looking for the most relevant performance data for corrugated pallets, you’re just trying to figure out how a piece of cardboard holds up structurally instead of weathering a one-time burst of force. We recommend the edge crush test over the Mullen burst test; it’s more relevant. 

How to Determine the Testing Parameters Appropriate for Your Corrugated Pallets

That’s a lot of different tests! Are they all necessary for every single application? Likely not—and that’s where the experts at Sonoco are ready to provide technical assistance. We custom-build pallets for your application and figure out exactly how to give you confidence that they will perform well for you. 

When you’re ordering pallets, make sure to get this information to your pallet manufacturing team: 

  • Your average monthly volume
  • Whether you need your pallet to accommodate an unsupported open rack
  • Whether your pallets will be exposed to wet conditions
  • Whether your pallets are stacked during shipping or storage

Sonoco Is Ready to Support You with Strong, Ready-to-Use Corrugated Pallets

When you purchase corrugated pallets, you need to know that they’re sturdy and reliable. At Sonoco, we go the extra mile and test our pallets thoroughly to ensure they’re good solutions for your business. Need to learn more about high-quality corrugated pallets? Contact our team for more information. In the meantime, subscribe to our blog for always-relevant packaging advice and information!

Tags: Pallets, Corrugated

Sonoco Conitex Team
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Sonoco Conitex Team