Skip to main content

The ISTA 2A protocol focuses on the testing of ready-to-ship packaged products weighing up to and including 68kg. This method combines simulations contained in other ISTA standards such as ISTA 1 (non-simulation integrity performance testing) and ISTA 3 (general simulation performance testing).

Despite the fact that the rule states that products under 68kg are to be tested using this standard, there is one exception: palletized products over 45kg are to be tested using the 2B or 3E procedure.

The ISTA 2A standard evaluates the performance of a product-packaging system when facing the hazards of international transportation. This implies that, at a practical level, the packaging and the product are considered to be a single unit during testing.

It can also be used to compare different packaging alternatives and decide which one is more effective to protect the goods.

The ISTA 2A: Test and equipment needed

To evaluate the load’s resilience and strength, the ISTA 2A testing method incorporates a series of tests performed using transport simulation systems.


The tests are:

Atmospheric temperature and humidity conditioning

Humidity and temperature are two atmospheric conditions that might compromise the protective ability of the package. Therefore, the ISTA 2A standard first requires the performance of a preconditioning and atmospheric conditioning of the package. For its performance, the atmospheric chamber must comply with the ASTM D 4332 standard.

Compression test

Next, the method calls for measuring damages caused to the package by compression forces. Using a compression tester, these forces are to be applied in the press and release, press and hold and Load Spreader modes. In order for the test to be valid, the machine must comply with the ASTM D642 standard.

Vibration test

The vibration test reproduces the vibration motions that might be experienced during goods transportation, both in the vehicle and during loading & unloading. Performing it requires the use of a vertical vibration system, which can go one step further and achieve results that are closer to real transportation conditions by adding a Pitch & Roll module.

In order to comply with the ISTA 2A standard, the vibration test must be performed twice: the first one, after the compression test, and the second one, after the impact and drop tests.

In addition, the method indicates that the operator may opt to perform random vibrations during both tests or run one test with random vibrations and another one with a fixed displacement system. In all cases, the type of vibrations that have been tested for must be specified in the test result records.

The vibration system must meet the ASTM D999 standard when performing the fixed displacement test, and the ASTM D4728 standard when performing random vibrations.

Impact and drop test

Between the first and the second vibration test, the ISTA 2A protocol requires the performance of a few tests to verify the resistance of the product-packaging system to shock. Especially designed transport simulation systems must be used for this purpose.

This phase calls for the performance of:

  • A free fall test using a Drop Tester that complies with the ASTM D 5276 standard.
  • An incline impact test using a machine that is able to simulate these kinds of impacts as per the ASTM D880 standard.
  • A horizontal impact test using an ad hoc horizontal impact system that complies with the specifications outlined in the ASTM D4003 standard.

Getting ISTA certified requires these series of procedures to be performed once. However, if possible, it is also recommended for it to be repeated at least 5 times, using new samples of the packaging-product system for each new test.

ISTA 2A protocol results

The issue of the results and the success of the protocol must be addressed before performing the test. The company must establish what it is that it will consider as ‘product damage’, and what damages are tolerable. Additionally, it must choose the method to be used to determine the product conditions after completing the test, and what would be an acceptable package condition at that moment.

ISTA will consider a test to have failed if the packaging error implies a hazard to the stacking of other packages and products. This will not be taken into account if the product will not to be stacked during the distribution cycle.

Advantages of implementing the ISTA 2A test

Implementing packaging optimization protocols give companies a series of advantages, including:

  • Package optimization, reducing over and under-packaging.
  • Time savings in the development of a suitable packaging.
  • Launching a product that is guaranteed to be safe for international shipping.
  • Reduction of costs caused by shrinkage during transportation.
  • Customer satisfaction when receiving a product in mint condition, encouraging customer loyalty.

At Safe Load Testing Technologies we help companies certify their product-packaging systems through our simulation systems for packaging optimization and testing. Get in touch with us and let’s discuss how we can help you.