A veteran plastics engineer, Ron Hale, has designed a better pallet - the stiff and strong Diamondback, an all-plastic pallet that can carry a rackable load of 2,800 pounds.
The Diamondback pallet features a fiber-reinforced nylon structural insert, sandwiched between a top panel and an interlocking base.
Hale is president of Houston-based PrimePal LP, which displayed the Diamondback at NA 2006, held March 27-30 at Cleveland's I-X Center.
Plastic pallets and shipping containers have proliferated, and they were everywhere at the Cleveland trade show. But Hale said plastic tends to bend under a heavy load. That means that pallets that are all-plastic, without any metal inserts, cannot meet the Diamondback's load-carrying ability, he said.
``Rackable,'' also known as ``edge rackable,'' is material-handling speak for the ability to support weight during storage on a warehouse racking system that supports the edges of the pallet, but not the entire base.
The industry standard for a rackable load is 2,800 pounds. Hale said the Diamondback can even carry double that weight.
``This pallet will take 5,600 pounds and it won't break,'' he said. ``It will bend, of course, but then it bounces back after you take the weight off of it.''
Everything is plastic on the 48-pound Diamondback. Even the fastening bolts are injection molded from nylon.
The material-handling sector is hungry for all-plastic pallets, thanks to a red-hot technology called radio frequency identification, because metal components can interfere with RFID. In RFID, tiny computer chips are embedded in packaging, and they can be scanned to find out detailed information on the product. Hale said wood pallets have connector parts made of metal, and moisture in the wood also causes some interference.
Plastic pallets also last longer than wood pallets, and they do not rot, splinter or corrode.
PrimePal debuted the Diamondback in 2005 at the ProMat show in Chicago. The Cleveland material-handling and logistics show was the second time the company has exhibited the pallet.
Hale is the co-founder, president and chief executive officer of PrimePal, which is part of H&G Pallets LLC of Houston. PrimePal sales offices are in Wichita. The company outsources the plastic molding, but officials at the Cleveland show declined to identify the suppliers.
Hale, who invented the Diamondback, has 40 years in the plastics industry. He holds several patents on plastic products, including two for pallets. Before he co-founded PrimePal in 2002 with company Chairman Edward Gaylord, Hale worked at another pallet company, where he helped develop its first plastic pallet.
Hale's design for the Diamondback uses three main parts. A top deck is compression molded, with a ``diamondback'' design of ribs on the underside. The ribs add strength, but they have another important function: An injection molded, nylon structural insert, fits into slots strategically placed in some of the ribs. Completing the assembly is a compression molded base.
The parts work together to give a high structural modulus, or resistance to bending. Hale said the reinforced nylon insert is a key innovation on the patented Diamondback.
``That's how you get the high racking strength,'' he said. The maximum static load, with the pallet just sitting on the floor, is 30,000 pounds.
The three pieces also can be taken apart for repair. ``We say this is the first truly repairable pallet,'' said Jay D. Swanson, vice president and sales manager of PrimePal.