Environmental tests are a very important phase for those companies that need to evaluate the behavior of their products under different environmental conditions, either to optimize their design or to comply with both market requirements and applicable regulations.
Changes in temperature and humidity or the passage of time can damage the packaging materials or the products inside, affecting their reliability, behavior and structural integrity. Environmental tests help companies evaluate the performance of these products under specific environmental conditions and design products capable of withstanding them, avoiding additional costs due to losses, claims or product returns.
We analyze what environmental tests are, their benefits and their application in packaging testing methods, particularly for fragile products such as packaging for medical devices.
What are environmental tests and why are they so important?
Environmental testing consists of testing a sample in a laboratory context, creating artificial environments that anticipate the possible conditions that the product + packaging system may encounter in real distribution environments.
The aim is thus to determine whether the packaging will be able to withstand the environmental risks it will encounter, allowing companies to redesign the system if necessary.
In particular, environmental preconditioning takes into account three key factors in testing samples: the temperature and relative humidity you are likely to encounter, and the time it will take to distribute them.
To carry out the environmental tests, it is possible to take historically accepted standards as a reference or use conditions similar to those found in the distribution cycle that the package will follow.
Environmental tests include climatic, humidity, heat and thermal shock tests, among others.
Some reasons to conduct environmental testing include:
- The obligation to meet standards: Many industries require suppliers to meet certain standards and requirements, so that they demonstrate that their products are ready for a global market. ISTA and ASTM standards often include the performance of environmental preconditioning test methods.
- Eliminate the possibility of lawsuits or claims: packaging testing methods and environmental tests allow companies to demonstrate that they have done everything possible to guarantee the safety of their products in the face of possible claims.
- Differentiation from the competition: carrying out environmental tests represents a competitive advantage since they reinforce confidence in the company and its products.
- Validate or improve designs: through simulations, environmental tests allow us to detect problems in the design of the product + packaging. Thus, companies access information on the protective capacity of the system, being able to anticipate and correct errors before its launch.
Benefits of replicating the real environment of distribution in laboratory conditions
- Guarantee the reliability of a product against the environmental risks of the distribution cycle
- Anticipate and avoid costs derived from defective products. Claims, losses or the fulfillment of guarantees can entail high costs for companies, including costs for maintenance and customer service. Carrying out testing methods, including environmental tests, therefore represents an investment to anticipate and avoid these losses due to insufficient protection against environmental risks.
Testing solutions that might need environmental testing
Temperature, humidity and the passage of time are decisive factors for the choice of materials in the field of packaging.
Thus, in the case of plastic packaging, for example, a high temperature can cause damage due to creep (deformation of the container) that causes instability during transport on pallets. Paper and corrugated cardboard packaging, for its part, is affected by increases in humidity, which put its protective capacity to the test.
To guarantee that the chosen packaging will overcome these risks, it is possible to have an environmental chamber that simulates the possible environmental conditions that the product + packaging system must withstand.
Thus, packaging testing methods such as the compressometer, vibration tests or the clamp machine can be carried out inside an environmental chamber to replicate the environmental conditions of some specific distribution cycles, where it is important to know the behavior of the package against humidity or temperature among other factors.
Importance of climatic tests for medical devices
In the case of a sensitive sector such as medical devices, the objective is to guarantee that the product will reach the final consumer in perfect conditions of sterility and safety.
Products such as drugs, vaccines or blood samples are extremely sensitive to environmental changes, especially in temperature and cold chain. Thanks to preconditioning tests for medical devices, it is possible to predict how the product + packaging system will interact in the climatic conditions that it will encounter in a specific distribution cycle.
In addition, there are some standards that provide a framework for action regarding the essential requirements for medical packaging. This is the case of the ISO 11607 standard, which guarantees that medical products and their packaging have been manufactured and packed appropriately to maintain sterility (such as sealing and other closing systems, as well as their assembly and handling). and its properties throughout its distribution cycle.
Important standards for climatic tests
Associations such as ISTA and ASTM, responsible for developing multiple standards for testing methods, include some specifications for environmental preconditioning in the samples to be tested.
It proposes a standard for atmospheric conditioning and simulation of real distribution conditions, so that the sample achieves equilibrium against the environment it will encounter. Thus, it is about carrying out environmental preconditioning prior to other packaging tests and it is common before transport simulations.
This standard defines the method for conditioning a sample against temperatures and humidity typical of the distribution cycle, including here packaging materials such as paper or plastic.
It is a general simulation test for packages sent individually through parcel services such as UPS, DHL or FedEx, among others. Among the conditions of environmental preconditioning, it includes the controlled conditioning of temperature and humidity.
Do you want to know more about why carry out environmental tests and how to carry them out? At Safe Load Testing Technologies we have two decades of experience in the transport simulation sector. Contact us and let’s talk about how we can help you.