Drop test standards are designed to test the protective capabilities of a package or container to withstand the sudden shock resulting from a free fall, or to test a package’s ability to protect its contents during the sudden shock resulting from a free-fall impact. 

The damages caused on the goods by drops, which are common during shipping & handling, include wrinkles in the corrugated cardboard, perforations or other signs, such as tears and breakages, among others.

It is estimated that up to 11% of transported goods arrive to the distribution center with damages due to accidental product drops, among others. 

In order to foresee and prevent the consequences of this problem, a drop test performs the simulation of drops and rotational impacts that may affect packages and products during handling and distribution. These tests can simulate flat, edge, as well as corner drops.

Drop testing consists of dropping a sample (generally, the chosen packaging containing the load) in different ways (on its corners and edges, and on its different sides). 

Therefore, a drop test allows for the analysis of the protective ability of your packaging when facing this kind of event, providing companies with reliable information to design the most suitable product+packaging system to withstand the distribution cycle. 


Drop test standards procedure

In order to perform these tests, companies can perform ad-hoc tests based on their specific product and distribution cycle, or they can follow the testing methods outlined in the various drop test standards. These include several standards and regulations that international standard organizations such as ASTM, ISO and ISTA have established to perform drop tests in a standardized manner.  

Drop standards outline the number of times that the sample needs to be dropped, as well as the order in which falls need to take place and the different types of drops to simulate, including vertical, rotational and corner drops.

In drop testing, two kinds of tests can be performed: fall and rotational fall.

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In the first case, the procedure consists of rising the load to a certain height and it is dropped, hitting the impact surface, which is usually the ground. Goods can be hit on different parts (faces, edges or corners) and objects can be fixed on the impact surface, such as sticks or other kinds of rigid objects). In addition, the impact surface can be modified to reproduce real collisions. One of the most basic parameters of impact that can be controlled is the speed of impact.

In the second case, a rotational fall is based on placing one side of the load on a support and the other side over the ground, so that it is slanted. Then, it is quickly dropped to test whether the load falls over.



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How do I know that I need to perform a drop test?

There are various reasons why companies may decide to perform drop tests on their goods, but today we want to highlight two of the most common reasons:

  • Guaranteeing safety during the distribution cycle for particularly fragile high-value products (such as ceramic tiles), which are unable to withstand rough handling or sudden shock. 

This is particularly important in cases where it is likely for their customers to return the goods if they do not make it to the destination in perfect condition. In this case, it is advisable to perform a drop test, as well as consider performing the other shipping tests.

Drop test: why carry out and how

  • Optimizing costs: drop tests enable companies to analyze the most suitable type of packaging for the goods that they ship. This allows them to avoid financially inefficient scenarios such as over-packaging (which multiplies costs in materials and transportation) and under-packaging (which leads to shrinkage and damages to the goods, with the resulting financial costs and loss of reputation).


Drop test machine: characteristics

The Drop Tester system by Safe Load Testing Technologies can simulate both the vertical and rotational falls that affect packages and products during handling and distribution.

Safe Load Testing Technology has different drop test machines depending on the package size and weight, both created to simulate drops up to 2m height. 

  •  The SF-DP50, SF-DP100 and SF-DP200 drop test machine models perform tests with packages of up to 50 kg, 100 kg and 200 kg, respectively. To perform a test, the load is placed on forks, which rise and retract, dropping the load. Additionally, the model for smaller goods allows for the placement of obstacles to be impacted by the load, and includes a release mechanism to prevent the forks from interfering with the free fall.
  • Models SF-DP600 and SF-DP1200 perform tests with packages weighing 600 kg and 1,200 kg, respectively. The characteristics of each drop test machine are suited to these loads: to perform the procedure, a steel drop platform is used, which is raised and then dropped on a steel beam-guide. The load falls freely and, to prevent damages, the platform is equipped with hydraulic shock absorbers.

Furthermore, these machines are specifically designed to comply with ISTA, ASTM and ISO standards for tests on palletized product packaging.


Types of drop test standards

The most common drop test standards are the ones developed by ASTM and ISTA and offer different guidelines to perform the tests depending on the weight of the package to be tested and the desired result.

>ISTA Drop Test

The ISTA drop test encompasses a series of tests within the impact testing category. 

A drop test is included in the following ISTA series: Series 1: 1A, 1B, 1C, 1D, 1G, 1H, Series 2: 2A, 2B, 2C, Series 3: 3A, 3B, 3E, 3F, 3H, 3K, Series 6: SAMSCLUB, AMAZON.COM-SIOC, AMAZON.COM-Over Boxing, FEDEX-A. FEDEX-B

>UPS Drop Test

The UPS drop test is governed by the ISTA 3A procedures. It is a worldwide recognized packaging design and testing protocol. 

In addition, this international shipping company has specific shipping boxes for different materials (UPS Express Box, UPS Express Tube and UPS World Ease Document Box), which can also be tested via this testing protocol. 

>FedEx Drop Test

The FedEx Drop Test is contained among the ISTA-6-FEDEX procedures, FedEx’s pre-shipping tests to simulate air and road freight environments, aimed at anyone shipping through their distribution system.

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ASTM drop test standards regulations

>ASTM D5276

Standard Test Method for Drop Test of Loaded Containers by Free Fall. The purpose of this protocol is to test boxes and their load, cylindrical packaging, bags and sacks, in addition to containers of under 50 kg (110 lb.). Ultimately, the goal is to test packages that, because of their size and weight, are to be handled manually during the distribution cycle.

>ASTM D6179

Standard Test Methods for Rough Handling of Unitized Loads and Large Shipping Cases and Crates. Testing method to test the integrity of unitized loads (articles or containers that are unitized for transportation), and large boxes and crates.


Other drop test standards regulations

>ISO 2248

Packaging — Complete, filled transport packages — Vertical impact test by dropping. This international standard can be considered either separately or as part of a broader testing protocol. The test involves elevating the sample over a flat surface and dropping it in free fall, with certain predetermined variables such as height drop and atmospheric conditions. 

Do you want to know more about drop test standards and how to comply with them? At Safe Load Testing Technologies we specialize in transport simulation to help companies achieve a safe transport for their products. Get in touch with us and let’s talk about how we can help you. 

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