Vertical compression forces are not the only type of compression that may affect goods during the distribution cycle. When loads are clamped from the sides to be moved, they may also suffer damages due to horizontal compressions. This is where clamp testing comes in, to prevent the damages related to horizontal compressions.

What is packaging clamp testing?

Clamp testing is a load test that is performed with the purpose verifying the protective ability of a product’s packaging when subjected to horizontal pressures and vertical motions during storage and handling.

For many years, the protection to compression forces focused on vertical forces (those caused, for example, due to box stacking or vibrations during transportation). This cast aside the effect that horizontal compression forces had on the products.

However, the advent of new package handling techniques (such as the clamp handling system) has led to the need to foresee how horizontal forces affect packages.

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What is clamp handling?

Clamp handling is a product handling technique that consists of clamping it from the sides by applying compression forces. This technique reduces the amount of manual work when handling loads, and makes for a more agile truck loading & unloading.

However, this technique (quite widespread, due to its advantages) has also implied a new threat for goods: horizontal compression forces.

By means of clamp testing it is possible to know the level of horizontal pressure that may be exerted when handling a product, without damaging it.

Clamp tests simulate the typical motions and forces that take place during storage and handling of a load in laboratory conditions, in order to anticipate how they will affect a package.

This means that clamp testing lets us evaluate whether a product might be damaged when being subject to the horizontal compression forces that are typical in clamp handling.

With which standards does clamp testing comply?

Clamp testing is a requirement to meet certain standards of the packaging industry. ISTA 6-AMAZON.COM and ISTA 6-SAMSCLUB establish clamp testing as a requirement.

Both of them are tests established by the ISTA organization jointly with distribution and transportation companies, and passing these tests is required to comply with the requirements set forth by these companies.

For example, ISTA 6-AMAZON.COM SIOC simulates the processes that follow the dispatch of packaged goods from Amazon sellers to the end consumer, through a series of standardized tests.

This protocol will by particularly important starting this 2019, since Amazon will require many of the sellers who use its distribution system to perform these tests.

Among the tests required by the ISTA 6-AMAZON.COM SIOC procedures we can find clamp testing, along with others such as the vertical compression test, the vibration test and the impact test.

One of the characteristics as part of these procedures is the clamping force that will need to be applied to a package based on its characteristics and weight.

Measuring clamping force

Measuring clamping force and optimizing a package based on this force is accomplished by using a clamp tester.

Generally speaking, the clamping force to be applied during the test is calculated based on the standard with which one intends to comply. As an example, the ISTA 6-Amazon.com-SIOC procedure outlines that the clamping force to be applied will depend on the type of product and its mass.

A typical clamp testing procedure would consist of these steps:

  1. The type of package to be tested is identified and its mass is measured in order to calculate the clamping force as per the standard.
  2. Optionally, the package may be preconditioned for the test, so that the package and the product reflect the real temperature and humidity conditions experienced during transportation.
  3. That which has been determined to be the maximum compression force will be applied.
  4. Clamp testing will consist of simulating the clamp handling processes that take place during the handling of the package.

To accomplish this, first, the machine’s moving platen are closed at a specific speed, reaching the maximum compression force. Second, the package is lifted to a specific height and, after waiting a few seconds, it is lowered. Lastly, the platens are opened once again.

  1. This process is repeated as many times as outlined in the standard.
  2. Finally, the state of the merchandize that has been subject to the horizontal compression forces is evaluated.

The testing procedures painstakingly outline how clamp testing is to be performed, but it does not provide information on how to evaluate any failures and conclude whether a sample passes a test.

This means that, once the test is completed, the operator will analyze (by following his company’s or research laboratory’s internal criteria, which may have been previously agreed-upon with the client) whether the product or package have suffered damages that are unacceptable to the consumer. It is, therefore, a qualitative test: after the clamp test, the package will be considered to be either suitable or unsuitable.

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The clamp testing machine: features

Safe Load Testing Technologies’ clamp testing machine measures a package’s protective properties when facing horizontal pressure forces and vertical movements during storage and handling.

This means that it simulates the handling of packages through the clamp handling method, to evaluate the prospective hazards that these motions imply for goods and design a suitable package that protects the load.

Safe Load Testing Technologies’ clamp testing machine is available in two different designs tailored to different package sizes to be tested.

As a result, the innClamp machine family allows for the testing of packages ranging from 400 mm (15 ¾ in.) to 2,000 mm (78 ¾ in.), with a maximum weight of 500 kg (1,100 lb.). Furthermore, the machine can perform tests of up to 10,000N with a load precision of ±5%, at a constant rate and with a uniform load compression force.

Additionally, Safe Load’s clamp testing machine has been designed to comply with the standards outlined in the ISTA 6-AMAZON.COM and ISTA 6-SAMSCLUB procedures.

Moreover, Safe Load Testing Technologies’ clamp testing machine has several advantages that set it apart from other machines on the market:

  • Its control software allows for the generation of force-displacement curves for a more detailed post-analysis.
  • It has just one platen instead of two.
  • It has been designed to offer an intuitive use, and includes a touchscreen to control the tests.
  • It was developed in a way that makes its maintenance simple and occasional.

Companies from across the globe have already relied on Safe Load Testing Technologies for their package research processes. This is the case of a major German testing institute, which acquired our clamp testing machine to continue helping its clients to keep damages under control during the shipping & handling of their goods.

In this day and age, package research is the way to ensure the success of product transportation and storage.

At Safe Load Testing Technologies we put our track record of 20 years working with the packaging industry at your service.

Our commitment to excellence and innovation have led us to become one of only two companies in the world that have the necessary know-how and skill to deliver a turnkey package laboratory ready for use.

Choose our services, and we will work toward providing you with personalized solutions tailored to your needs. Get in touch with us so we can start studying your case.