ISTA Transport Package Testing

When the required testing of a product includes a transport simulation test, there are several standards that various organizations have published for package testing methods. These include the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), Military Standards (MIL-STD-810), and in more recent years the International Safe Transit Association (ISTA) whose test standards are becoming more widely accepted.

ISTA has organized its test protocols into Series, and there are a total of seven Series. Testing must be performed in an ISTA certified lab and must comply with minimum requirements of a current ISTA testing procedure. But In order to perform a proper ISTA certified test, which of the series should be used?

ISTA Test Series descriptions are essentially 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.

2-Series: Partial Simulation Performance Tests. Tests with at least one element of 3 Series type General Simulation performance tests, such as atmospheric conditioning or mode-shaped random vibration, in addition to basic elements of a 1 Series Non-Simulation Integrity test.

3-Series: General Simulation Performance Tests. Designed to provide a laboratory simulation of the general damage-producing motions, forces, conditions, and sequences of transport environments. Applicable across broad sets of circumstances, such as a variety of vehicle types and routes, or a varying number of handling exposures. Characteristics will include simple shaped random vibration, different drop heights applied to the sample package, and/or atmospheric conditioning.

4-Series: Enhanced Simulation Performance Tests. General simulation tests with elements of focused simulation, such as a test sequence or conditions linked to actual known distribution. Project AB (in its implementation phase) is currently the only protocol in this series.

The following three Series are usually outside the range of consideration for individual packages due to the following reasons:
5-Series is currently not an active series, while
6-Series is focused on member performance tests only and
7-Series are tests used in the development of transport packages.

To aid in choosing a test series to follow, consult with your ISTA certified test lab and consider the following:

1-Series Non-Simulation Integrity Tests are typically the simplest of the series but are also the least effective and are usually used as screening tests because they do not simulate environmental occurrences.2-Series Partial Simulation is considered an “in between” test, where it is a combination of 1-Series and 3-Series. 3-Series General Simulation Performance Tests are more of a broad simulation of the hazards and conditions of an actual distribution. The level of complexity and potential overall effectiveness increases with the level of Series. Therefore, to determine which of the Series to test to, there are a number of factors to consider. These include but not limited to:

  • The type of package being tested. For Parcel Delivery System Shipment, procedure 3A should be used.
  • The test criteria. Is it simply for screening or are the prediction/prevention and overall system cost optimization of interest?
  • The weight of the test item must also be considered when selecting a Series test. For the first three of these Series (1, 2 and 3) the package must weigh 150 pounds or less.

More information about ISTA guidelines for testing along with additional information on package design can be found on the ISTA website www.ista.org