Intermediate bulk container
An Intermediate bulk container (IBC) or IBC Tote or Pallet Tank, is a reusable industrial container designed for the transport and storage of bulk liquid and granulate substances (e.g. chemicals, food ingredients, solvents, pharmaceuticals, etc.). Intermediate bulk containers are stackable containers mounted on a pallet that are designed to be moved using a forklift or a pallet jack. IBCs have a volume range that is situated between drums and tanks, hence the term "intermediate“. The most common sizes are 1040 liter/275 gallons and 1250 liter/330 gallons (the 1040 liter IBCs are often listed as being 1000 liters). Cube shaped IBCs give a particularly good utilization of storage capacity compared to palletized drums - one 275 gallon IBC is equivalent to five 55 gallon drums, and a 330 gallon IBC is equivalent to six 55 gallon drums.
The most common IBC is the one-time use plastic composite IBC; a white/translucent plastic container (typically polyethylene) housed within a tubular galvanized iron cage that's attached to a pallet. IBCs can be manufactured out of a number of materials depending upon the needs of the shipper and the legal requirements that must be met. In addition to the plastic composite IBC, intermediate bulk containers are also manufactured out of fiberboard, wood, heavy gauge plastic, aluminum, carbon steel, and galvanized iron. Heavy gauge plastic IBCs are made of reinforced plastic that requires no steel cage; they have a pallet molded into the bottom so the entire unit is manufactured as a single piece. Folding IBCs are also made of heavy plastic, however, their sides fold inward when the unit is empty allowing the IBC to collapse into a much smaller package for return shipment or storage. Flexible intermediate bulk containers, made of woven polyethylene or polypropylene bags, are designed for storing or transporting dry, flowable products, such as sand, fertilizer, and granules of plastic. Almost all rigid IBCs are designed so they can be stacked vertically one on top of the other using a forklift. Most have a built-in tap (valve, spigot, or faucet) at the base of the container to which hoses can be attached, or through which the contents can be poured out into smaller containers.
Advantages of the IBC
There are many advantages of the IBC concept:
- Being cubic in form they can transport more material in the same area than cylindrical shaped containers and far more than might be shipped in the same space if packaged in consumer quantities.
- Composite IBCs rely on plastic liners that can be filled and discharged with a variety of systems.
- The manufacturer/processor of a product can bulk package a product in one country and ship to many other countries at a reasonably low cost where it is subsequently packaged in final consumer form in accordance with the regulations of that country and in a form and language suitable for that country.
- Galvanized iron IBCs have an expected lifespan of more than 20 years.
Shape and dimensions
IBCs can be manufactured to a customer's exact requirements in terms of capacity, dimensions, and material. The length and width of an IBC is usually dependent on the pallet dimension standard of a given country.
In 1992 the concept of the IBC was patented by inventor Olivier J. L. D'Hollander working for Dow Corning S.A. It was inspired by the patent of a "Fold up wire frame containing a plastic bottle", patented in 1990 by Dwight E. Nicols for Hoover Group, Inc.
IBCs may ship and store:
- Bulk chemicals including hazardous materials or dangerous goods
- Commodities and raw materials used in industrial production
- Liquid, granulated, and powdered food ingredients
- Food syrups, such as corn syrup or molasses
- Petrochemical products, such as solvents, detergents, or adhesives
- Rainwater when used for rooftop rainwater collection
- Used IBCs are the basic building blocks for many home aquaponic systems
Plastic IBCs containing combustible or flammable liquids may melt or burn rapidly, releasing their entire contents when exposed to a fire, increasing the fire hazard by the sudden addition of the combustible fuel.
For metal IBCs, Test Reports by Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und -prüfung (BAM) show that - if equipped with a venting device - the metal IBC will withstand a fire for at least 30 minutes.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Intermediate bulk containers.|
- Yam, K. L., "Encyclopedia of Packaging Technology", John Wiley & Sons, 2009, ISBN 978-0-470-08704-6
- Association of Producers of Metal-IBC: http://www.ssca.eu
- "Pallet Dimensions". Tankmanagement.com.au. Retrieved 2013-10-14.
- "Patent US5269414 - Intermediate bulk container - Google Patents". Google.com. Retrieved 2013-10-14.
- "Patent US5002194 - Fold up wire frame containing a plastic bottle - Google Patents". Google.com. 1988-11-21. Retrieved 2013-10-14.
- "NFPA Fire Protection Research Foundation, Assessment of Hazards of Flammable and Combustible Liquids in Composite IBC’s in Operations Scenarios". Nfpa.org. Retrieved 2013-10-14.