ASTM D6653 Standard Test Methods for Determining the Effects of High Altitude on Packaging Systems by Vacuum Method

The purpose of ASTM D6653 is to simulate the effects of pressure differential on packaged goods that are transported via different tight altitude modes. Common examples of high-altitude transportation are feeder aircraft and ground transportation over high mountain passes.

A feeder aircraft is a small aircraft used to transport express air package; in some cases, the aircraft is not pressurized. Packages that are transported by this method can experience high altitudes that negatively affect the package or its contents due to the pressure differential. The test can be used to evaluate the effects of high altitude on packaging and also identify areas of design and engineering that need improvement to better withstand high altitudes.

The apparatus required for ASTM D6653 is a vacuum chamber. The vacuum chamber is suitable if it can withstand one atmosphere pressure differential fitted with a flat-vacuum-tight cover. And altitude chamber is also acceptable. There should be a vacuum gauge, inlet tube from a source of vacuum, and an outlet tube to the atmosphere attached to the chamber. The inlet and outlet tubes should have hand operated valves. The vacuum gauge must be accurate to within 2%, be of laboratory quality, have a range of 0-100 kPa, and minimum graduation no greater than 2 kPa. The chamber must be large enough to contain the test specimen, including any expansion that may occur during testing.

The test specimen for ASTM D6653 will be the assembled packaging system. The system should be representative of actual packaging systems, including primary and secondary packaging. The test specimen will need to be conditioned prior to testing. The conditioning criteria is as follows: The test specimen shall be conditioned to 5.6 +/- 2°C for at least 24 hours prior to testing. The test specimens are tested in the conditioned environment. However, these conditions may be altered based on but not limited to knowledge of the real shipping environment, product value, and desired damage level.

After the package has been conditioned, testing can begin. The test specimen should be placed in the vacuum chamber. The valves should the be adjusted so that the inlet valve is closed and the outlet valve is opened. Then, the vacuum source should be adjusted so that the gauge rises at about 305 m 30-60 s until it reaches the desired pressure. Once the desire vacuum is achieved, it should be maintained for 60 minutes (1 hour). Again, this can be modified based on but not limited to knowledge of the real shipping environment, product value, and desired damage level. To release the pressure, open the inlet valve to release the vacuum at the same rate as the vacuum was created. Once the vacuum is released, open the chamber and inspect the package and its contents for any damage. The test laboratory will record the test method and results in a report that follows guidelines of ASTM D6653.

If the package is free from damage at the conclusion of the altitude test, it is recommended that the package be reassembled to undergo other testing. Follow up testing will help determine if the pressure differential had any affect on the package that was not visible at first.

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