ISTA Package Testing

A Series of Packages on the Conveyor Belt, Approved for Use After their Design Passed an Extensive Testing Procedure
The International Safe Transit Association
Applied Technical Services offers ISTA package testing to help clients ensure their packaging materials will perform to expectation in shipment.
The International Safe Transit Association (ISTA) generates standards on packaging design and assessment to optimize resource allocation in production and reduce the amount of product damage during the shipping process. Founded in 1948 as the National Safe Transit Committee, this body came about in response to unacceptable amounts of damage to fragile cargo and the money manufacturers lost as a result. By first identifying criteria important to the overall durability of the package and indicative of how well it would protect its contents, the ISTA created a series of testing specifications used to determine the suitability of a packaging sample. These specifications proved effective.
The ISTA’s record of securing demonstrable efficiency improvements for manufacturers that implement their rigorous testing specifications has earned them recognition from organizations like UPS, FedEx, and Amazon, each of which has adopted the association’s best practices for packaging materials. Today, the ISTA represents the definitive authority on package efficacy. They generate testing standards and train personnel on how to use those standards to help create more effective packaging designs.
Manufacturers send samples of their packaging to third-party package testing labs like ATS to verify their performance characteristics in accordance with ISTA packaging testing specifications.
ATS' ISTA Package Testing Capabilities
The ISTA testing standards identify various metrics that a package design must meet to be considered acceptable for use. Those criteria include the following:
Shock Resistance
Mechanical shocks — large, instantaneous loads of force such as a sudden impact — represent a significant damage risk to a package and its contents. The types of shock outlined by ISTA testing standards are:
  • Free Falls — releasing the sample from a specified height to let it fall to the flat ground
  • Drops onto Hazards — dropping the sample face-first onto a raised metal or wooden hazard block
  • Concentrated Edge Impacts — letting a standardized hazard fall edge-first onto the face of the subject from a specified height
  • Bridge Impacts — raising the sample off the ground by a support block under each end, thus suspending its middle above the floor, and dropping a hazard onto its center from a specified height
  • Rotational Flat Drops — raising an end of the sample off the ground and then letting it drop
  • Rotational Edge Drops — setting one edge of the sample onto a small hazard block and tilting it over to let it fall onto the flat ground
  • Tip-Overs — tilting the sample a specified amount from its intended shipping orientation and then allowing it to either fall over or return to its standing position — whichever gravity decides
  • Full Rotational Flat Drops — standing the sample in its tallest orientation, then tipping it over so that it falls face-first onto the flat ground
  • Vertical Shocks — subjecting the sample to a jarring impact from below
Compression Durability
Compressive forces can also cause damage to the packaging or, in more extreme cases, to the contents themselves. The ISTA identifies two types of compression testing:
  • Vertical Compression — simulating the mechanical stress caused by stacking packages on top of the sample
  • Horizontal Compression — simulating the mechanical stress caused by clamping the sample from the sides using a machine clamp during transit
Vibration Sensitivity
Certain packaging designs are more vulnerable to vibration than others, which can cause displacement or even damage over extended periods. Typical ISTA vibration testing for packages includes fixed displacement, random, vertical linear, and simple sine vibrations (with varying loads applied), used to determine how samples will handle the bumps and shakes they will encounter during transit.
Atmospheric Preconditioning
Environmental conditions can also affect how packaging performs in other areas of concern. To verify that atmospheric stimuli present in expected shipping conditions do not excessively undermine the sample’s performance characteristics, the ISTA defines the following testing methods:
  • Temperature Cycling — determining how the sample package holds up in various degrees of heat or cold
  • Humidity Variations — verifying that the sample packaging adequately survives high humidity conditions
ATS’ wide array of testing capabilities means we can perform each of these package testing methods to their ISTA specifications. Our environmental testing division performs all our ISTA testing services in our ISO 9001 certified lab, ensuring quality results and clear, detailed reporting. These expert technicians return their results within a short turnaround window to empower clients to make informed, timely decisions regarding their packaging design.
About ATS
Applied Technical Services has provided testing, inspection, and consulting engineering capabilities of unmatched quality since our founding in 1967. The 50+ years since have seen our company prosper greatly; what began as a band of three engineers working with local businesses out of the founder’s basement has grown into a multidisciplinary firm offering the services of over one thousand technicians, chemists, scientists, inspectors, Professional Engineers, investigators, and calibrators to respond to the needs of clients around the world. Although we regularly serve a wide variety of industries, the two that most directly benefit from our capacity as a package testing lab are the consumer product and medical industries.
If your company needs ISTA standard package testing to validate the durability of your packaging design, contact ATS today — We take a closer look!

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