May 17, 2011

As one of the leaders in the engineered waste packaging industry, PacTec, Inc. sells  custom-manufactured packaging. The company designs and manufactures packaging for the nuclear and hazardous waste industries.

Looking to expand its product lines, PacTec’s research and development department began researching products that would complement its other product lines using similar materials and manufacturing processes.  The company made a decision to enter the flexitank market.

A flexitank is a flexible container that converts a 20-foot standard shipping container into a bulk liquid shipping container. The benefits of shipping fluids in bulk in flexitanks are numerous. None are more important than higher payload possibilities with flexitanks lower tare weight, the actual, computed or estimated weight of the container, which results in lower freight costs and reduced packaging waste. 

Having explored the market for some time, PacTec was ready to begin the arduous process of developing a product. Looking forward to testing its theories, Derrel Thomas, director of research and development, recognized the need for expertise related to fluid and slosh dynamics.

That is when Marshall Rice, director of flexitank operations, PacTec, turned to LSU’s College of Engineering (CoE). “I was confident the College of Engineering had numerous resources available in the areas we needed expertise. It was just finding a way to tap into this hidden resource,” said Rice.

Within two weeks of contacting the CoE, Rice and the President of PacTec, Mike Schilling, had a meeting with four engineering professors and Sarah Schram, assistant director, research and economic development, CoE to identify how the College could assist PacTec with testing its design theories.

“We developed several models each with unique features and strapping configurations designed to reduce internal wave action during transit,” said Rice. “We needed to know if the integrated strapping actually worked as we thought it would and if so which combination worked best.”

Steve Cai, professor, civil and environmental engineering (CEE), and Michele Barbato, assistant professor, CEE, were able to provide PacTec with the expertise in fluid dynamics they were looking for to advance the development of its flexitank. 

“It was an ideal arrangement for PacTec,” said Schilling. “The most amazing part was that the College of Engineering had the piece of equipment to simulate and measure exactly what we needed, so that we could make critical decisions on product materials and integrated design features. The lab and equipment were readily available and allowed for testing within a very short time frame.”

Schilling is referring to the shake table housed within the CoE. The table can simulate the six different types of movements at sea, including: heave, surge, sway, roll, pitch and yaw. Simulating these types of movements allowed PacTec to evaluate what a flexitank could expect to encounter in the open seas. The materials could easily be pushed to their limits and evaluated rather than theorizing what could or could not happen.

“Assisting PacTec with testing its new flexitank product was an exciting venture for the College,” said Cai. “This partnership was beneficial as we were able to combine resources to advance the development of the new product.”

After Cai and Barbato analyzed the results of the different configurations, they provided the results to PacTec. The results of the modeling and testing provided data that was used to make design decisions, which helped the company pass an industry required rail impact test with the Association of American Railroads at its Transportation Technology Center in Pueblo, Colo.

“I can definitely say that without a doubt, had we not tested our theories as we did with the LSU College of Engineering, the outcome would have not been as favorable as it was,” said Rice. “We were very pleased with the results and already have scheduled additional and much more rigorous rail testing at the TTCI center in Colorado in the next few months. We’re confident we will successfully attain U.S. Rail Accreditation, which only three other companies have successfully completed.”

“We look forward to maintaining a long-term relationship with PacTec as they continue to refine their flexitank product and develop new products,” said Cai. 

The CoE remains steadfast in positively impacting the lives of Louisiana citizens by utilizing the College’s expertise to better engage with local needs through industry, government and private groups.

"The College is committed to serving as a primary engineering resource for education, research and innovation. We understand that as a College in Louisiana’s Flagship University, we serve as a proactive and strategic partner for all industries locally, nationally and even globally,” said Schram. “Our relationship with PacTec is a perfect example of how the LSU College of Engineering can serve as an outreach arm into the community to provide value in utilizing our strength in engineering expertise."

PacTec is currently engaged with LSU College of Engineering for phase two of the flexitank research partnership.

“LSU has proved to be an invaluable resource to PacTec, and we are lucky to have them, basically, in our backyard,” said Rice.

For more information about PacTec, Inc. visit www.pactecinc.com.

For more information about the research and economic development opportunities available in the College of Engineering, visit www.eng.lsu.edu/development.

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For more information, contact Cassie Arceneaux, College of Engineering, carcen6@lsu.edu or (225) 578-0092.



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