Endurance Counts in Export Packing
Packing delicate equipment to export requires careful planning. Multiple customs inspections and repeated moves place extra burdens on packing materials.
With only three days remaining before the World Cup race in Australia, the SolarCat Team, sponsored by Villanova University, was still applying solar panels to their racecar. They hadn't moved from Philadelphia, and given the short time remaining, reliable marine shipping was not an option. There was no choice but to ship the fragile car by air. Complicating matters was the fact the car would be returned by sea, subjecting both the car and its packing to very different transportation environments.
The SolarCat car was scheduled for multiple customs inspections both leaving and re-entering the US and while entering and leaving Australia. Repeated container dismantling, typical of many custom inspections, can wreck havoc on both the shipping container and its contents, damaging the contents and reducing the effectiveness of the packing.
A design team from ActionPak and Hardy-Graham designed and worked around the clock to construct a unique shipping solution. Using the patented Hardy-Built® fastening system developed by Drew Graham, president of Hardy-Graham Inc., Packaging designers assembled a shipping container which could accommodate the repeated opening and closings when customs inspections were required.
With a single screwdriver, customs officials were able to remove the cover quickly and safely. They could easily remove side panels if necessary with out damaging the container or the car. After the contents were confirmed, the cover or side panel could be swiftly refastened without nails, screws or adhesives and the shipment could continue its journey.
The car's safe arrival in Australia depended on intense, complex internal packing enclosed in a rugged, sturdy external container.
Fragile and Costly
The high-tech racecar is composed of a fiberglass body built around a kevlar honeycomb core, covered by scores of solar panels. The lightweight material permit speeds in excess of 70 mph (113 kph), but at the expense of durability.
The delicate solar cells were valued at nearly $250,000 and could easily be damaged or rendered useless. Even minor damage to the cells or the body could not be repaired once the team and the car arrived in Australia. Damage would have meant elimination from the global competition.
To withstand the rigors of air and sea travel, ActionPak created a wooden deck based on military specification MIL-C-104B. complete with 1 in. by 4-in. headers (10 cm by 10 cm) and beveled rubbing strips to minimize friction for easy ground movement. The rigid deck was designed to accommodate lift truck fork entry from all four sides. Built-in wheel support channels accompanied by blocking and bracing supports prevented vehicle movement inside the container. Steel chain encased in foam tubing was attached to the deck in three strategic locations (through all the wheels, and up through the frame of the car) to eliminate any possibility of movement.
For further protection, the entire car was encased in a protective shell with a process called cocooning. Cocooning minimized the impact from vibration to maintain body integrity and to keep the delicate solar cells firmly in place.
With the car chained firmly to the deck, polypropylene foam cushioning was wrapped around the entire body to provide a waterproof barrier for additional protection from the harsh, damaging elements - including dust, salt, and moisture. Strong, 6-mil polyethylene shrink film was then shrunk in place with a propane flame. Flame retardant bubble wrap surrounded the windshield.
Four sturdy wooden panels were attached around the perimeter of the deck using the Hardy-Graham fasteners. A fifth panel served as the cover. With no heavy lifting equipment available at the desert race site in Australia, Team SolarCat needed a way to load and unload the car safely. ActionPak devised and installed a reusable wooden ramp that travels with the car inside the container. The ramp allows the team to roll the car off of and on to the container base without requiring any lift trucks, hoists, or heavy equipment.
Upon arrival in Darwin, Australia, the car disembarked over the self-contained ramp where the SolarCat team disassembled the container and sent the panels and components directly to the finish line 1,900 miles (3,060 km) away in Adelaide. After the race, the team reassembled the shipping container, reloaded the car using the original packing materials, and sent it to the pier for the six-week voyage back to Baltimore.