Best Plastic Materials for Automotive Dunnage
Dunnage may be an unknown word to many consumers. But in the automotive sector “dunnage” is an extremely important component of keeping any supply chain moving smoothly and cost effectively.
Dunnage – the durable packaging used to protect, store and transport parts and products – can be made of just about anything. But in the automotive industry choosing the right dunnage materials is essential to ensuring that parts are transported on-time, within budget and without damage.
In this article the dunnage experts at Clark Logic discuss the various materials used to make automotive dunnage containers.
Designing Dunnage for the Automotive Industry
The automotive industry is the number one consumer of reusable parts containers – which are simply called “dunnage” in the auto industry. At one time automotive parts were actually packaged in disposable containers – such as cardboard.
But in the late 1960s and into the 1970s, automotive manufacturers began to see the advantages of using reusable plastic bulk bins and pallets. By the mid-1980s reusable plastic containers and pallets were in widespread use among auto manufacturers.
Reusable parts containers now save automotive manufacturing companies several thousands of dollars annually by eliminating the expense of new packaging for every shipment. Additionally, washable, reusable dunnage reduces an automotive manufacturer’s carbon footprint by keeping storage and shipping materials out of landfills.
Plastic Dunnage Materials for the Automotive Industry
But while plastic has become the go-to dunnage material for the automotive industry, not all plastics are created equal. When selecting a plastic for automotive dunnage needs there are four primary concerns:
- Damage protection
Proper dunnage materials need to protect valuable, fragile, and loose parts – especially in transit when they may be sliding around on a truck, ship, or train.
- Moisture protection
Moisture can harm many automotive parts. In addition to protecting valuable equipment like electronics from moisture during shipping, waterproof plastic dunnage can keep automotive parts safe from rust or corrosion caused by moisture.
- Shock absorption
Shock and vibration during shipping is not uncommon. The right plastic dunnage material can provide shock absorption to prevent damage – even when containers get dropped, jostled, slid around, or smashed in transit.
- Cost Effectiveness
While auto manufacturers want to protect their valuable parts ‘at all costs’ they still need to be cognizant of the bottom line. When dunnage materials are too costly it can cut into profits – yet this must be balanced with avoiding ‘cheap’ plastics that don’t provide the necessary degree of protection.
The lifespan of the type of plastic material used in automotive dunnage must also be taken into consideration. Dunnage that chips, breaks or falls apart after a few uses not only puts parts at risk, but increases shipping costs with the need to continually buy replacement parts containers.
Types of Plastic Used in Automotive Dunnage
While most automotive dunnage is manufactured from “standard” durable but cheap forms of plastic – high-precision plastic materials are critical for parts packaging, handling and delivery of special, delicate or sensitive automotive parts.
ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene)
ABS is the most common plastic for autosave dunnage trays and packaging – because it is impact resistance, tough and durable. ABS can be manufactured in different grades by changing its components. ABS dunnage can be manufactured by both extrusion and injection molding.
ABS/TPU (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene + thermoplastic polyurethanes)
This type of dunnage is extruded with a rigid base layer of ABS that is covered by a cut resistant layer of TPU. TPU adds elasticity and resistance to oil, grease, grime and abrasion. ABS/TPU is extremely durable and cannot be cut by the sharp machined edges of the parts.
Conductive HDPE (high-density polyethylene)
This automotive dunnage material is specifically used when protecting certain parts or components against electrostatic discharge is a necessity. It is ideal for protecting sensitive electronics in devices and sensors.
HMWPE (high molecular weight polyethylene)
HMWPE is a very light weight automotive dunnage material that offers longevity and abrasion resistance. It also resists water and chemicals, preventing rust and corrosion of metal parts and components.
TriPly (three-layer polypropylene)
TriPly is a new, composite material for automotive dunnage. It consists of a central structural sheet (for rigidity) that is sandwiched between two smooth exterior sheets. It offers the advantages of being extremely lightweight, while also very strong – as well as water and chemical resistant. As an added benefit, polypropylene is recyclable.
Outsourced Automotive Dunnage Washing
No matter what type of plastic your automotive dunnage is made from, Clark Logic’s customized, outsourced dunnage washing offers your company the ultimate turnkey container washing solution. We provide fast, cost-effective, eco-friendly dunnage washing services for automotive manufacturers across Michigan, including Lansing, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Portage, Battle Creek, Sturgis, St. Joseph County, and the Detroit area.
Call us to today to see how we can wash, dry, pickup, deliver, sort, package and store your returnable industrial containers – according to your exact specifications – with one simple phone call.