ASTM D 4169 Performance Testing of Shipping Containers and Systems

The scope of ASTM D4169 package testing is to provide the ability to evaluate shipping units to withstand the distribution environment. To accomplish this, the standard outlines a test plan of anticipated hazards.

ASTMD-4169 packaging tests require that all test specimens be samples of the complete shipping units. The units should contain the actual contents. Dummy test loads are acceptable if the testing of the actual product might be hazardous.

It is very important that the test specimens not incur degradation on their way to the lab. This includes both the product and the package. If there is any doubt, the product should be repackaged in a new package.

The number of test cycles will depend on the objectives of the testing and the availability of duplicate products and shipping containers. ASTM D-4169 testing recommends replicating testing to improve the reliability of the test results.

It is required that the shipping units remain unopened until the sequence of tests are completed. If the testing is for research and development, containers can be opened periodically. This can help determine the ability of the package to survive specific tests.

The procedure for ASTMD-4169 tests includes the following steps:

  1. Define the shipping unit in terms of size, weight and form of construction. It also must be determined if the container will be manually or mechanically handled.
  2. 2. Establish the assurance level or level of test intensity. The level is based on the product value and desired level of anticipated damage to be tolerated. The number of units to be shipped and knowledge of the shipping environment should also be considered.
  3. 3. Determine the acceptance criteria. The acceptance criteria of ASTD D4169 testing must be established prior to testing. The criteria should consider the condition of the product at receipt. The organizations conducting the test may choose any acceptance criteria suitable for their purpose. In most cases, the acceptance criteria can be:
    • Criterion 1: Product is damage-free
    • Criterion 2: Package is intact
    • Criterion 3: Both criteria one and two
  1. Select the distribution cycle. D4169 packaging tests outline a number of different distribution cycles. These cycles spell out the various paths a package could experience and include:
    • 1: General
    • 2: User-specified
    • 3: Single package without pallet or skid, LTL motor freight
    • 4: Single package with pallet or skid, LTL motor freight
    • 5: Motor freight, TL, not unitized
    • 6: Motor freight, TL or LTL, unitized
    • 7: Rail only, bulk loaded
    • 8: Rail only, unitized
    • 9: Rail and motor freight, not unitized
    • 10: Rail and motor freight, unitized
    • 11: Rail, TOFC and COFC
    • 12: Air and motor freight (local) over 150 pounds or unitized
    • 13: Air and motor freight (local), single package up to 150 pounds
    • 14: Warehousing
    • 15: Export/Import shipment for intermodal container or roll on/roll off trailer
    • 16: Export/Import shipment for palletized cargo ship
    • 17: Export/Import shipment for break bulk cargo ship
    • 18: Non-Commercial government shipments per MIL-STD 2073-1
  1. Write the test plan. ASTM D4169 outlines a number of hazard elements and test schedules to select from. They include:
    • Schedule A: Handling, manual and mechanical. Manual handling includes loading, unloading, stacking, sorting or palletizing. The main hazards from these activities are the impacts caused by dropping or throwing. Several test method options are permitted. These include free-fall and simulated drop test using shock machines.
    • Schedule B: Warehouse stacking. This package test method determines the ability of the shipping unit to withstand compressive loads. These loads occur during warehouse storage or vehicle transport.
    • Schedule C: Vehicle stacking. The required loading must consider the effects of the length of time in storage. Other considerations include container stacking pattern, container strength variability, method of load transport and vibration. Environmental impacts such as moisture content and temperature must also be considered.
    • Schedule D: Stacked vibration. This test method determines the ability to withstand vertical vibration and the compression resulting from vehicle stacking.
    • Schedule E: Vehicle vibration. This vibration does not include the compression from vehicle stacking. Acceptable vibration testing can include sine vibration and random vibration.
    • Schedule F: Loose load vibration. This simulates the repetitive shocks that occur during transportation of bulk or loose loads.
    • Schedule G: Rail switching. There are various acceleration levels and compression forces that occur during rail switching operations.
    • Schedule H: Environmental hazard. This schedule accounts for the rapid changes in ambient conditions. These are most associated with the military distribution of material. These conditions include moisture, temperature shock, solar radiation and water spray.
    • Schedule I: Low pressure hazard. The reduction in pressure when packaged products are transported via certain methods must be accounted for. These methods include feeder aircraft or by ground over mountain passes.
    • Schedule J: Concentrated impact. Packages often experience numerous impacts during sorting operations and in transit. This package test schedule simulates those impacts.
  1. Select the samples for testing.
  2. Condition the samples.
  3. Perform the tests.
  4. Evaluate the results to determine if the units meet the acceptance criteria.
  5. Document the test results by reporting each step.
  6. Monitor shipments to ensure that the type and quantity of damage obtained by the lab testing correlates with the damage the occurs in the distribution cycle.

Keystone Package Testing is a leader in testing to the ASTM D-4169 test standard. With significant experience, we not only provide transit testing, but we also assist with developing the test plan and identify potential solutions when packages do not meet the requirements. With four shakers and numerous temperature chambers, we offer short lead times on package testing scheduling. Contact us to see firsthand why so many companies partner with Keystone Package Testing to meet their package testing needs.


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