ISTA 3E is a general simulation test for unified loads or packaged products. The purpose of this package testing is to evaluate the protective capabilities of these types of loads against hazards that might be encountered during their shipping and handling, while evaluating the stability of this load.
By definition, a load unit can consist of one or several products that have been secured and fastened together on a platform for distribution as a single load. The following are commonly-found load unit formats:
- Several products placed on a pallet and secured with stretch film
- A machine lashed to a pallet
- A pallet with a corrugated tray, a tube and a lid.
ISTA 3E standard: who it is aimed at and its benefits
The ISTA 3E standard is designed to test loads that are ready to be shipped via a system called full truckload (FTL), where the cargo space is completely filled by the cargo units described above. It is a common method of transportation for retailers who send a batch of products from the manufacturing location to a distribution center.
The ISTA 3E standard is an essential step toward optimizing this type of package, tailoring its design to the potential threats that it will face during transportation (such as, for example, shock or vibrations).
This allows companies to enjoy a number of benefits:
- Eliminate costs: this ISTA standard aims to achieve a load unit package design that guarantees the safety of the goods. This results in the elimination of costs related to shrinkage during product distribution.
Furthermore, the company is able to guarantee a product’s ability to withstand distribution conditions, thereby gaining an advantage when negotiating freight costs.
In addition, it avoids over-packaging and prevents shipping units from having an excessive size, optimizing cargo space and reducing freight costs.
- Improved brand image: thanks to this ISTA testing method, the company can work toward achieving a product+packging system that arrives at the end customer in mint conditions, thereby avoiding potential claims for damages during transportation and cementing its brand image.
- A greener packaging: designing an eco-friendly packaging does not just mean selecting sustainable materials: one must also take into account processes such as CO2 emissions during transportation or preventing excessive use of packaging materials.
This ISTA package testing method enables the company to design a system that addresses these two issues, optimizing the use of materials such as stretch film and the space occupied by load units, which has an effect on its transportation.
Requirements and procedure for the performance of the ISTA 3E standard
The ISTA 3E testing standard outlines a few requirements in regard to the testing sample:
- Packaging and product are considered as a unit, which means that they must be subjected to the test together.
- It is only required to perform the ISTA standard once on a sample. However, it is recommended to repeat the test at least 5 times to obtain more reliable results to guide the design of the system.
- The sample to be tested must not have already gone through the distribution cycle, since ISTA does not consider the sample to be representative in that case. Therefore, if it were necessary to send samples to a testing laboratory, they must already be prepared using additional packaging, or be repackaged in the lab, before starting the test.
- ISTA further recommends for the product+packaging design configuration to be thoroughly documented (both by means of written documents and through photographs). This allows for the detection of an alteration between samples that might result in significant variations in the test results.
The ISTA 3E test consists of the following set of tests:
- Atmospheric preconditioning. It is mandatory and measures the ambient temperature and humidity.
- Atmospheric conditioning. Optionally, the test can be performed under controlled temperature and humidity parameters.
- Shock test. It is mandatory to choose between an incline impact and a horizontal one. In both cases, the acceleration must be 1.1 meters per second (or 42 inches per second).
- Rotational drop shock from a height of 200mm or 8 inches. This is a mandatory test.
- Compression test. This test is mandatory, and you can choose between the machine apply and release, machine apply and hold and weight and load spreader methods.
- Random vibration test, which is mandatory.
Equipment required to perform the ISTA 3E test
- Temperature and humidity measuring devices, as per the ASTM D 4332 device selection. In case the company opts to perform the test based on a specific atmospheric conditioning, it will be necessary to have an environmental chamber and parameter control that is compliant with the aforementioned ASTM standard.
- Incline impact system compliant with ASTM D 880.
- Horizontal impact machine compliant with ASTM D 4003.
- Compression tester compliant with ASTM D 642.
- Random vibration tester compliant with the specifications outlined in the ASTM D 4728 standard.
Do you need to comply with the ISTA 3E protocol? At Safe Load Testing Technologies we help companies optimize their packaging and certify it using our transport simulation equipment. A track record of two decades in the industry and our commitment to continuous innovation certify our work. Contact us and let’s discuss how we can help you certify your packaging under the ISTA 3E standard.