True or false: the back of a truck (pickup truck, air-ride-equipped semi, or any model in between) rides as smoothly as the cab of said truck?
False with a capital F and an exclamation point. While suspension has improved over the years, the back of any truck will always be a much rougher ride than the front.
True or false: you can expect a powder coated surface to survive repetitive hammer blows without any visible change to the coating surface?
False with a capital F and THREE exclamation points. While perfectly equipped to withstand time, weather, sunlight, and cleaning products, powder coating is not designed to endure blunt-force trauma.
So if the back of a truck does not effectively cushion its cargo, and if powder coating is not equipped to withstand repetitive knocking, how does anyone get their parts home safely from the powder coating shop?
The answer lies in the packaging. Today, I’m sharing Kaser’s three-part recipe for effective packaging of powder coated parts.
Ingredient 1: An Appropriately-Sized Pallet.
Whether you’re an industrial customer shipping 200 parts or a general public customer with a single wheel, the humble wooden pallet is your very best friend. Every time you make a turn, you want the pallet to scrape against the bottom of the truck. Every time you brake, you want the pallet to bump against the truck wall. Every time you bounce, you want the pallet to absorb most of the blow. The more abuse the pallet takes in transit, the less your parts will suffer.
This system only works if the pallet is the right size for whatever is on it. If your parts are too large, too numerous, or hanging over the sides of the pallet in any way, then the pallet will not protect them effectively. If the Kaser team cannot load your pallet on to the forklift without scraping against a part, your pallet is too small.
Ingredient 2: The Right Kind of Foam.
Anytime you have parts next to each other on a pallet, there ought to be foam between them. The trick is finding the right foam thickness: too thin, and the parts will rub through the foam immediately; too thick, and the foam will not be flexible enough to wedge between parts. The goal should be to keep metal surfaces off of each other, while not adding too much bulk to the pallet.
Ingredient 3: Shrink Wrap, Shrink Wrap, and More Shrink Wrap.
Kaser’s official rule for shrink wrap is to use enough of it so that the clear plastic is no longer completely transparent (yes, that’s a lot of shrink wrap). You’ll know you’ve used enough when: 1. The parts are no longer clearly visible through the shrink wrap; 2. No matter how many parts are on the pallet, the whole package acts, moves, and bounces like one slug.
In the case of extremely heavy parts, steel bands will be more effective than shrink wrap.
These packaging tips are just as relevant for un-powder-coated parts. I can’t count the number of times a customer has shipped raw parts to us straight from the fabricator, only to have them arrive bent and dented from the road. Whether you’re a customer, a fabricator, or a powder coating professional, I want to reiterate that no matter what you’re driving, your parts will not experience a ride as smooth as the one you experience from the driver’s seat. There will be bumps. There will be turns. There will be sliding. There will be jostling. These are the inescapable facts.
Good packaging is all about minimizing motion to avoid damage.