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Pallet Design System Adds Capabilities, New User Interface with 3-D Graphics
Improved PDS: Latest version of the Pallet Design System computer software features expanded pallet design capabilities and improved, three-dimensional graphics.
Date Posted: 10/1/2007
The Pallet Design System© (PDS), the computer software program available through the National Wooden Pallet and Container Association (NWPCA), now features expanded pallet design capabilities and improved, three-dimensional graphics.
PDS, first introduced in 1984, is a pallet specification and engineering tool, but it is also used in marketing and educational efforts with customers. The program enables wood pallet manufacturers to assist their customers in significantly reducing costs and product damage and increasing safety throughout the material handling system.
PDS Version 4.0, the 30th version in the history of the software, was issued near the end of 2006.
The expanded pallet design capabilities include the ability to design pallets with up to 29 top or bottom deck boards, up to nine stringers or stringer boards, and up to seven blocks per stringer board. Symmetrical or non-symmetrical pallets can be specified. Lead deck boards can be inset or overhang stringers or stringer board ends, and stringers or stringer boards can be inset or outset from ends of top deck boards to create a wing or ledge.
When a new pallet design is started, initial defaults will be used for the number of components and their dimensions. This provides a basic pallet design as a starting point, and it can be modified as required.
The top deck dialog of the software allows the user to input the number of top deck boards, their dimensions, locations and fasteners per connection. It provides a real-time interactive graphical display of the top view, side view and end view. The bottom deck, stringer, stringer board and block dialogs allow the design of these other component areas of the pallet.
The software features a new user interface with interactive, real-time, three-dimensional graphics. This graphical user interface allows a person to see the pallet as it is designed or changed. Dimensions of any component can be changed by clicking on graphical displays, and components can be positioned by ‘dragging’ with the desktop computer mouse.
Other improvements to PDS include a new HTML-based User’s Guide, one-step creation of PDF files, and three design options to better meet specific pallet design needs.
The ‘standard’ of the three design options provides complete pallet specification, drawings and analysis. Another option provides only the pallet specification and drawing, and the third option provides a drawing of the pallet. The user also can switch to a different option during the design process.
Users can create, save and open files for information related to a pallet design, materials (lumber and fasteners) for a design, customers and images for stenciling.
While the new version of PDS can design virtually any pallet, not all designs can be analyzed by the software. The analysis availability dialog indicates what conditions cannot be analyzed. If a condition cannot be analyzed, the user has three choices. One is to change the design so the condition can be analyzed, and another option is to continue with the current design without analysis capability. The third choice is to switch to the pallet specification and drawings option.
The analysis capability can determine structural, durability and physical properties of the pallet. The software takes the user through a series of questions about the intended conditions of using the pallet, such as whether loads will be uniformly distributed or concentrated, the use of boxes, bags or pails, box stacking methods, use of load stabilizers, and other factors, such as material handling system. PDS performs a series of engineering analyses to predict the performance of the pallet design under the specified loads within the material handling system. The program determines safe load capacity, deflection under load and critical components. Also, performance can be easily compared to other pallet designs, wood species or grades, fasteners or component dimensions.
The engineering and analysis of PDS enables pallet suppliers to quickly and accurately determine pallet performance under the intended conditions of use without time-consuming, expensive testing or trial and error. The engineering and analysis capability helps ensure safety and unit load and product integrity by avoiding the use of pallets of inadequate strength, stiffness or durability.
The PDS pallet specification sheet, drawings, and engineering analysis are valuable marketing materials to use with customers. All PDS materials clearly display the company name, address and other contact information for both the PDS provider and the customer. Special or custom notes can be added and displayed on the pallet specification sheet.
To make PDS even more effective as a marketing tool, guides to the specification and analysis have been created to give to customers. The guide to the specification analysis explains all aspects of the pallet specification; the guide to structural analysis explains all parts of the analysis results. The guides help convey the importance of a properly specified, designed, engineered and constructed pallet.
PDS enables pallet suppliers to help their customers select the most cost effective and efficient pallet design and construction to meet their application, whether the goal is the lowest initial price or, in the case of closed loop or return systems, lowest cost per use.
The NWCPA has made continuous investments in PDS software improvements and research and development. These efforts are overseen by John McLeod, director of the Pallet Design System for the association. Each new version incorporates the latest data, engineering and technologies.
Finally, PDS pallet specification data can be exported to a file readable by Palmate™ enterprise resource planning software from Automated Machine Systems Inc.
John Swenby, president of Paltech Enterprises in Urbana, Iowa, is one NWPCA member who was happy to see the new version of PDS. It is the first time he has purchased the software for his company to use. “This new interface is quick, simple and efficient,” he said.
He likes the capability to e-mail a PDS drawing to a customer because it helps eliminate potential misunderstandings.
“This latest version of PDS allows you to quickly put together a drawing for a customer to review and if necessary convert the drawing to be able to analyze the design at a later time,” said John. “Special board placements use to be a time consuming process. Now, you just ‘drag’ the boards to where you need them, simply-simple.”
PDS is an important selling tool, noted Greg Vipond, president of Girard Wood Products in Puyallup, Wash., another NWPCA member, and the improved version has been noticed by customers, too, he said.
“The PDS program has been a great selling tool from day one,” said Greg. “But I was finding that in the age of endless possibility of software and graphics, we needed better quality drawings to get the attention of the new wave of buyers — and for that matter, the old ones, too. PDS now gives us the ability to paint or add some color to the presentation, a stencil, logos and the IPPC stamp. Your customer can truly see exactly what they’re purchasing. My customers have appreciated the PDS information, drawings and professionalism it brings for years, but now they go, ‘Wow!’ ”
The new version also provides “more options than ever” for pallet design, Greg noted. The ability to add more stringers and deck boards than ever, along with the ability to space each individual board, is something I know I’ll be using. Along with making it a better work horse for us, John McLeod has gone one step further and has made it easier to operate with a fantastic on-board user’s guide.”
The NWPCA publishes a newsletter for PDS users to keep them informed about new versions, improvements and changes to PDS.
For more information about PDS, call the NWPCA at (703) 519-6104.