The drop test apparatus is a fundamental tool to determine if a packaging system is able to withstand the impacts that occur during the distribution cycle. In this article we analyze what a drop tester is, what types of drop testing exist and the standards that drop tests include
Drop test apparatus: an introduction to drop testers
By means of the drop test apparatus it is possible to simulate the drops and rotational impacts that affect packages during shipping and handling. The machine lifts the product to a predetermined height (based on weight) and then drops the package on each face, edge and corner to validate product safety.
This machine, also known as a “free fall tester” or “vertical impact tester”, is essential for quality control and packaging research for manufacturers of corrugated and solid fiberboard, shipping containers, etc.
Ultimately, the purpose of carrying out a drop test is to simulate the damage that these drops can cause to the packaging and the goods inside. Thus, it is an essential element for packaging optimization, providing information on how the packaging behaves in order to design or redising the packging.
In addition, thanks to the drop test apparatus it is possible to simulate the damage that these impacts can cause to the packaging and the merchandise inside, providing information on how the packaging behaves.
This information is very valuable both for the design and for the optimization of packaging since it allows choosing the right packaging for the product in order to resist the dangers of the distribution cycle.
This translates into a reduction of unnecessary costs due to loss or damage that could be caused by such impacts. This is especially relevant considering that it is estimated that up to 10% of freight shipments may end up being part of a claim due to arrival in poor condition.
In order to replicate these hazards more closely to reality, various accessories can be used when carrying out fall tests. These accessories can be purchased optionally together with the different models of the Drop Tester designed by Safe Load Testing Technologies.
The following are the most important ones:
Hazards for drop test apparatus
The Support block is used in the rotational edge and corner drop tests present, for example, in the ISTA 6 Amazon SIOC test sequence and other ISTA tests.
In this particular case, the support blocks used must comply with ASTM D6179 or ISO 2876 apparatus sections and must measure between 3.5 and 4.0 inches (or between 90 to 100 mm) in height, and be at least 8 inches (200 millimeters) longer than the package to be supported.
> Concentrated impact mass
This type of accessory is used in free-fall and guided free-fall of impacting mass tests.
> Concentrated impact tube
In this case, the drop test is performed through a tube, through which the concentrated impact mass is dropped.
> Concentrated impact gadget
This is an object or gadget with a specific shape that is left on the package. It is part of the packaging testing accessories.
> Hazard box
It consists of a wooden box that is dropped on the package at the height indicated by the test. It is used in the context of the free-fall drop tester with Edge Hazard box. This type of accessory is used in the drop tests listed in ISTA-6-FedEx and UPS.
> Cross-section Hazard Block
This accessory consists of a block on which the package is dropped, all using the drop tester equipment.
> Forklift circuit
Simply described, these are plates with circuits in the form of potholes through which the forklift passes.
Thus, the forklift loaded with the goods has to pass over the circuit a certain number of times. The purpose of this packaging test is to evaluate how the stability of the load it is carrying is affected. The test is part of the ISTA 3B test protocol and is specified in ASTM D6055 or ISO 10531 standards.
> Rotational Drop
In this case, two 200x100x50 blocks are used on which the load is placed. During the test, the blocks are quickly removed and the load is dropped.
Drop test apparatus: Testing methods
· Box Drop Test
The Box Drop Test method simulates the impact that a package will receive when falling or being pushed from a certain height or being pushed during transport. Its objective is to determine the weaknesses of the package and to design a suitable one.
You might be interested: ‘Features, models and functionality of the drop test equipment’
· Drop on to Hazard Test
This is a type of drop test whose objective is to drop the sample on a solid obstacle, made of wood or metal and with different sizes, rather than on a flat surface. In order to perform this test, the accessories described before are used along with a drop test apparatus
This is a required test to pass Amazon Ships In Own Container (SIOC) testing requirements, part of Amazon’s Frustration-Free program.
· UPS Drop Test (ISTA 3A)
The UPS drop test simulates the drops that the goods may suffer in order to evaluate the protective capacity of the packaging. For this purpose, a Drop Tester is used, which simulates vertical and rotational drops and adapts to the weight and different characteristics of the goods.
In the case of the UPS drop test, the requirements of ISTA 3A, a globally recognized protocol for packaging design and testing, are followed.
To carry out the UPS test procedure, it is necessary:
- To choose the unit to be tested at random, thus obtaining a representative sample. This unit should already be prepared for shipment so that the simulation is as close as possible to transport reality.
- To take into account three particular variables during the UPS drop test: the height of the drop, the position from which the package falls and the number of times the drop is repeated.
To define these values, the type of product transported and the route it will follow during its distribution cycle (whether it will be transported by air, by road, what type of storage will take place…) are taken into account.
You might be interested: ‘UPS drop test: everything you need to know’
The FedEx drop test is one of the simulations proposed by this company to simulate possible damage that may occur during its distribution cycle. In this case, this procedure is accompanied by vibration and compression tests.
Some of the specific FedEX requirements include:
- Free drop: the height from which the package will fall will vary depending on the weight of the package. In addition, FedEx drop test procedures vary depending on whether the shipment is domestic or international, so for international packages there is a second drop sequence to be performed after the vibration test. In addition, a free-fall test will be performed for each of the possible drop orientations.
- Concentrated Impact: Concentrated impact test procedures are carried out through a drop machine. In this case, moreover, it is necessary to use one of the drop test apparatus named above, the dense wooden box, which shall measure 12″x12″x12, with a bottom edge covered by angle iron and with a total weight of 21 lbs and filled with a sandbag to reach the weight. To perform the concentrated impact test, the package shall be dropped freely, by machinery, from a steel or concrete base located 30″ away and onto the dense wood box.
- Bridge impact: The bridge impact test is performed using a drop tester and a box of the characteristics described above. Thus, the package is dropped onto the box from two 4″ high blocks at opposite ends of the longer package dimension and parallel to each other at the edge of the shorter package. After testing, and verifying that a package meets the stated requirements, the contents should be inspected.