Technology has become a great ally for companies at the time of testing the behavior of packaging during transportation. During the last few years, a number of systems that help companies test their packages have emerged – machines that make it easier to detect and predict errors that may occur during packaging transportation. These processes are known as transport packaging simulations, and they can be separated into physical or destructive simulations, which are performed through the use of machines, and the non-destructive or virtual simulations, performed through finite element simulations.


What does the physical or machine-based transport packaging simulation involve?

The physical or machine-based transport packaging simulation consists of
replicating the physical-environmental conditions experienced by the cargo during the distribution cycle and which may affect both the package and the product it contains. The best method to perform this replication in the most realistic manner is by using a recording device that captures all the phenomena experienced by the product-package system. This data is them used in machines that are capable of simulating these aspects, in such a way that the behavior of the package can be evaluated and predicted to optimize it so as to prevent losses or unnecessary over-packaging.

The following aspects are usually recorded and subsequently simulated:

  • The random vertical vibrations and angular motions during transportation.
  • The stress resulting from storage.
  • Handling impacts.
  • Temperature and moisture.

In order to replicate each of these aspects, different machines or systems are employed:

  • For the simulation of vibrations, vibration machines are used, which are added a Pitch&Roll module to simulate angular motions.
  • Compressometers are used to simulate the stress suffered by product-package systems during the distribution cycle.
  • Acceleration, impact or drop machines are used to simulate recorded accelerations and impacts.

“The machine-based transport packaging simulation consists of replicating the physical-environmental conditions experienced by the cargo during the distribution cycle”


Some of the systems require specific tests; for example, in the home appliance distribution cycle it is common to use forklifts with clamps. This device can be simulated through horizontal compression testing machines or clamp machines that control anything from the speed applied and force, to the elevation speed of the product.

Each product has its own nuances that need to be characterized and simulated. Most of these tests can, and should, be carried out inside an environmental chamber that replicates real temperature and moisture conditions experienced by the products.

Boat transport packaging

How many variables influence the calculation for this type of simulation?

The variables involved in the calculation of these simulations are many:

  • Product
  • Packaging
  • Testing criteria for the product-packaging system
  • Fragility of the product-package
  • Means of transportation
  • Shipping routes
  • Handling methods (manual, mechanical…)
  • Climate of the distribution region (temperature, relative humidity, pressure…)
  • Maximum storage time
  • Number of distribution nodes that the cargo goes through
  • Applicable laws
  • Specific characteristics

All of these aspects need to be taken into account when
selecting the right system or systems to simulate the cargo transportation.

You might be interested in: Why should you perform a cargo transport simulation test of your palletized products?


What is the non-destructive or virtual packaging transportation simulation?

Packaging technology has significantly evolved, and nowadays we also have
non-destructive or virtual packaging transportation simulation systems. These involve finite element simulations, but as of today they are still underdeveloped. In order to properly perform a finite element simulation it is necessary to fully characterize all mechanical properties of all of the cargo components. This implies characterizing anything from the product’s resistance to the cushioning material, all the way through the cardboard of the box, the film that keeps it stable, etc., as well as their variation when exposed to a certain temperature, humidity, pressure…

This requires all of these characteristics to be programmed in, and the software in question should calculate an answer for all the products, for each primary and secondary packaging, and so on. Nowadays there are still not enough resources, or there are extremely costly to get right.

Just like with the machine-based packaging transport simulation, in the virtual one diverse variables also come into play, such as:

  • The mechanical and thermal properties of the product and the container and their variation.
  • The type of packaging (primary, secondary…).
  • The baling or palletizing.
  • The pallet configuration.
  • ….

“In order to properly perform a finite element simulation it is necessary to fully characterize all mechanical properties of all of the cargo components”


Companies can predict the transport packaging behaviour with technology

Packaging solutions for transport: virtual vs. machine simulation

As already discussed,
the virtual simulation still needs to be perfected, which means that the best option for companies of the packaging industry to evaluate package performance nowadays are simulation machines. In order to carry out a machine-based transportation simulation you need a sample and a good knowledge of the distribution cycle. Upon completion, the effects caused by the simulated phenomena, just as they would take place during the transport of packaging, can be physically observed.

However, in order to perform a virtual simulation that shows all of the effects suffered by a product-packaging system during the distribution cycle it is necessary to characterize all of the materials involved in the system by means of a test, as well as make a 3D design of the entire packaging system. In addition, it is also necessary to define all of the phenomena that will affect the entire system and their variation in time, and use a computer center that supports the execution of all of the calculations.

This will all result in an approximation that will only show the parameters considered in the virtual design. For example, given the complexity of simulating the effect of moisture on the system, it is not usually included in the calculation, which implies that data will be missing, resulting in a simulation that is not completely realistic.

“In order to carry out a machine-based transportation simulation you need a sample and a good knowledge of the distribution cycle”


The machine-based simulation therefore exhibits a series of advantages when compared to the virtual one, such as, for example, that when testing the product-packaging system all approximations disappear, giving way to real calculations. Furthermore, there is no risk of having forgotten to take into account any parameter, since the consequences suffered by the real package are seen.

Just to give an example, nowadays virtual simulations do not show the effects suffered by package labels due to the friction of transportation phenomena. This is an important aspect, since by simulating these phenomena you can test whether those labels would get damaged.


Safe Load's data recorder to predict the transport packaging behaviour

Data recorder: between the virtual and the machine-based simulation

The Data recorder is a device that monitors all hazards in the distribution, such as, for example, axial and angular vibrations, shocks or accelerations. This allows you to know what a product-packaging system experiences during a specific cycle. The recorded data can be used to obtain the necessary information to know what that system needs to withstand during the transport packaging period.

This device is therefore the perfect solution for evaluating packages, since, based on real information, real values can be applied to the simulations instead of employing hypotheses that may have varying degrees of accuracy. This will result in a truthful knowledge of the hazards experienced by the cargo during the distribution cycle, and the packaging will be optimized as much as possible as a result to prevent losses and reduce costs.

If you want more information about how to predict and simulate your transport packaging, contact us and we will help you to improve your distribution cycle. 

You can also download for free our ebook Calculate the ROI of investing in packaging testing machines and learn how much you can save with your own transport simulation equipment.