This talk was of interest to me because I am a former member of the Sustainability Committee, and reusable crates were something that we received several inquiries about. As museums and other lending institutions look at ways to increase their sustainability, one thing they consider is finding an alternative to the typical wooden crate used to ship objects. The problems with wooden crates are: a) they are made to fit a specific sized object, and are difficult to retrofit for something else; b) extra room is necessary to store them until needed again; c) wood is attractive to a variety of pests; d) wood adsorbs and emits odors; and e) locally- and sustainably-sourced wood can be difficult and expensive to aquire. There are some European companies that rent resuable plastic crates, such as Turtlebox, but they are not yet available in the United States.
Yale University turned to Kevin Gallup when their Sustainability Strategic Plan compelled them to find a solution for this problem. They wanted a system of modular parts made of sustainable materials that could be taken apart, stored, and reused as necessary. As Mr. Gallup explains in his abstract: “There were many factors to take into account to obtain an acceptable system. Availability and price of materials, construction techniques, compatibility of materials, and the unique archival material requirements [of] the museum industry…are some of the features of the crating system that had to work together to produce a crate design. The fabrication and creation of the parts withing the design would need to be obtainable either by utilizing their own facility…or by having the parts…made locally. The system would need to be easily put together utilizing as many common parts as possible.”
After 10 years of trial and error, Mr. Gallup is satisfied with his current design. The crate is made with an aluminum frame and Dibond sides. Dibond is a composite sandwich of two thin sheets of aluminum with a white polyester coating bonded to a polyethylene core. There is an outer box with a smaller inner traveler or tray of the same materials to contain the object(s). Various foams or Sorbothane can be used to surround the traveler. Sorbothane feet are attached to the bottom to mitigate the effects of vibration.
He is currently working about a business model to make this available to other institutions. Parts can be cut out in various sizes with a CNC machine, but the system still requires a high skill level to assemble. If you are interested in learning more about these crates, Mr. Gallup suggests that you contact him in about 6 months, and he will be able to provide more information.