ISTA (International Safe Transit Association) is an organization that develops testing protocols and design standards that define how packages should be in order to guarantee the protection of their content during the transportation cycle. ISTA tests are the best known and renowned tests in the industry, since any company needing to verify the performance of its packaging turns to their protocols.
Among the great variety of control standards that they develop, there are 3 that are of particular importance to the packaging industry: ISTA 1a, ISTA 2a and ISTA 3a. In the following article we will learn more about each of these tests and the requirements that one needs to comply with in order to obtain the ISTA certificate.
“ISTA is an organization that develops testing protocols and design standards that define how packages should be”
What is the purpose of ISTA 1?
ISTA 1 is a series of procedures whose purpose is to test the strength of the product-packaging system. More specifically, ISTA defines series 1 as follows:
1 Series – Non-Simulation Integrity Performance Tests: Challenge the strength and robustness of the product and package combination. Not designed to simulate environmental occurrences. Useful as screening tests, particularly when used as a consistent benchmark over time.
The ISTA 1 series is divided into a set of protocols¸ each with a different purpose:
- 1A Packaged-Products weighing 150 lb (68 kg) or Less.
- 1B Packaged-Products weighing Over 150 lb (68 kg).
- 1C Extended Testing for Individual Packaged-Products weighing 150 lb (68 kg) or Less.
- 1D Extended Testing for Individual Packaged-Products weighing Over 150 lb (68 kg).
- 1E Unitized Loads.
- 1G Packaged-Products weighing 150 lb (68 kg) or Less (Random Vibration).
- 1H Packaged-Products weighing Over 150 lb (68 kg) (Random Vibration).
“ISTA 1 is a series of procedures whose purpose is to test the strength of the product-packaging system”
ISTA 1a: all you need to know
The ISTA 1a protocol has been designed to provide a standard set of tests with which to verify the individual performance of the product-packaging system in relation to specific transport hazards. More specifically, ISTA 1a is targeted at individual packaged products weighting 150 lb. (68 kg) or less. The loads that meet these requirements will be subjected to the following tests:
- Atmospheric conditioning to room temperature/moisture.
- Vibration test using the fixed displacement method at 1 inch peak to peak at a predetermined frequency.
- Shock testing which can be conducted by drop, incline impact or horizontal impact.
The advantages that companies can obtain from subjecting their packages to the tests established in the ISTA 1a standard are many:
- Reduction of packaging times.
- Reduction of costs resulting from product loss or damage.
- Greater customer satisfaction.
“ISTA 1a is targeted at individual packaged products weighting 150 lb. (68 kg) or less”
ISTA 2a: all the details
ISTA 2a has been designed to provide a standard set of tests that can be used to verify the performance of individual packaged products weighting 150 lb. (68 kg) or less in relation to the risks involved during the distribution cycle. The ISTA 2 series is one of the most thorough, since it includes components of 1 series and 3 series for testing. The ISTA 2a protocol is composed of the following tests:
- Atmospheric preconditioning at room temperature / humidity.
- Atmospheric conditioning at controlled temperature and humidity levels based on detailed guidelines.
- Compression using one of the following methods:
- Machine apply and release (calculated test force x 1.4)
- Machine apply and hold (calculated test force)
- Weight and load spreader (calculated test load)
- Vibration using fixed displacement (1 inch peak to peak at a predetermined frequency) or random (overall Grms level of 1.15) methods.
- Shock testing based on drop, incline impact or horizontal impact methods (the height or impact velocity depends on the package weight).
Just like with the ISTA 1a standard, there are many benefits for the companies that subject their product-packaging systems to this type of test, since in addition to the ones mentioned above, other advantages include:
- Reduction of material and distribution chain costs .
- Guarantee the compliance of legal aspects and applicable regulations.
- Ensure that the product’s protection is not compromised.
“The ISTA 2 series is one of the most thorough, since it includes components of 1 series and 3 series for testing”
ISTA 3a procedures
ISTA 3A is a general simulation test for individual packaged products that are sent by means of a messaging system, either by land or air. This test can be applied to four different types of packages, distributed individually:
- Small packaged-products: any package that meets the following requirements:
- Its volume is less than 13,000 cm3 (800 in3).
- Its size is 350 mm (14 in) or less.
- It weighs 4.5 kg (10 lb.) or less.
- Flat packaged-products: any package that meets the following criteria:
- The shortest dimension is 200 mm (8 inches) or less.
- The next longest dimension is four (4) or more times larger than the shortest one.
- Its volume is 13,000 cm3 (800 in3) or greater.
- Elongated packaged-products: any package that has the following characteristics:
- The longest dimension is 900 mm (36 inches) or more.
- Packages of other dimensions that are 2 percent or less than the largest dimension.
- Standard packaged-products: Any packaged product that does not meet some of the previous definitions for a small, flat or elongated packaged product.
“ISTA 3A is a general simulation test for individual packaged products that are sent by means of a messaging system”
The tests that these types of packages will be subjected to differ depending on their characteristics:
- For Standard & Small packages, the tests are:
- Atmospheric preconditioning with ambient temperature and humidity.
- Atmospheric conditioning at a predetermined temperature and humidity (optional).
- Shock testing by using the drop method (9 drops from varying heights dependent on product weight).
- Vibration using the random method with and without a top load (Grms level of .53 and .46).
- Random Vibration under low pressure dependent on if the packaging will be seeing truck only or truck and air transport (optional).
- Shock testing by using the drop method (8 drops for standard packages & 7 drops for small packages at varying heights).
- For Flat & Elongated packages, in addition to the tests mentioned above, other additional tests are performed:
- Shock testing by using the rotational edge drop method at 8 inches.
- Shock testing by full rotational flat drop method.
- Shock testing by concentrated impact (flat) or bridge impact (elongated) where a hazard box is dropped from a height of 16 inches.
In order to obtain the various ISTA 1a, ISTA 2a and ISTA 3a certifications it is necessary to pass the tests outlined in the protocols and, in order to do that, it will be essential to have the right machinery or hire the services of a package testing laboratory to perform those tests.
At Safe Load TT we are experts in the manufacturing of simulation machines for testing the performance of packages throughout the distribution cycle, so if you are thinking about making an investment and having your own simulation systems, get in touch with us.