Using a layer of expanded polypropylene foam, Novo Foam Products LLC has created a thermoformed plastic pallet that weighs only 13 pounds.
Novo, a new company in Findlay, Ohio, plans to outsource manufacturing of the specialized, composite pallet, but will continue to work on new applications and customers, said managing partner Tom Bohan.
The company's pallet was showcased during the Society of Plastics Engineers 2004 Thermoforming Conference, held Sept. 18-21 in Indianapolis.
Novo hopes the product will further the conversion from wood to plastic pallets. Although the pallet industry is a $30 billion global behemoth, plastic pallets are growing 2-5 percent annually, Bohan said.
``The industry seems ready for new ideas,'' Bohan said at the Indianapolis event. ``These twin-sheet pallets can hold heavy-load jobs without adding extra weight.''
Other plastic pallets are thermoformed or injection molded, customarily from high density polyethylene.
But while most plastic pallets weigh close to 70 pounds, the Novo Foam version is about one-fifth that weight, according to Bohan. The pallets are reusable, like other plastic counterparts, and can be custom molded to many applications, he said.
The pallets use expanded PP foam sandwiched between two outer layers of thermoplastic olefin material. The foam is shaped in the aluminum mold and bonds naturally to the TPO sheet without the use of adhesives, Bohan said. Rotary twin-sheet thermoforming equipment can make the pallets in a one-step process.
Novo Foam does not plan to produce its own pallets and is looking for licensing partners to use the technology, Bohan said.
The company is a partnership between Bohan and Dave Hedley, both of whom are former executives with London-based logistics company Exel plc.
Other investors include foam manufacturer Createc Corp. of Indianapolis and Austin Foam Plastics Inc., a foam fabricator in Austin, Texas.
An undisclosed contract manufacturer is producing an initial run of the pallets. The first pallets are expected to be made by December, Bohan added.
The Air Ride Pallet, as the product is called, offers other advantages, including a flat-deck base and a hygienic surface that can be used with food-related applications, he said.
The company also is looking at other uses for the composite thermoforming process, including automotive products, Bohan said.
The process, in development for two years, could provide an inexpensive, lightweight substitute for roofs, trunks, tonneau covers and other large exterior parts that can carry loads, he said.
Some of those products already are compression molded from sheet molding compound and other materials.
An exterior door application already is planned with an automotive supplier, according to Bohan. Novo is pursuing licensing and joint development opportunities with manufacturers in such industries as appliances, automotive, construction and defense, he said.
Novo Foam plans to stay small and let others handle production, Bohan said. Hedley is based in Belleville, Ontario, where he operates Novo Foam Canada, while Bohan manages the U.S. side from his office in Findlay.