Drop Testing

Drop testing is performed in a controlled setting to assess a product and package's ability to withstand differing levels of impact encountered during the shipping and handling process.

 

Package & Product Drop Testing

Drop testing is a procedure used to evaluate how a package and its contents react to impacts such as free-falls, tumbles, and other types of handling during the shipping and distribution environment. This type of simulation is designed to mimic both potential mishandlings and expected circumstances a product and its packaging may encounter in distribution and in-use environments. Westpak performs a variety of drop tests including:

  • Package/Parcel Drops 
  • Product Drops
  • Repeated Impacts
  • Tumble Testing
Here, we’ll provide a detailed explanation of drop testing along with drop test standards, and share some of Westpak’s testing solutions.


What is drop testing?

Drop testing is one of the many methods used to assess product and packaging durability during the shipping and handling process, and in some cases, throughout a product’s lifetime. During drop testing, a package will be dropped in a controlled setting in different orientations—on corners, edges, and faces — to detect product weaknesses that can then be addressed.
There are several different types of drop testing, each examining how a product and/or package responds to different levels of impact. Freefall drop testing, for example, looks at a test sample’s structural integrity after it has been dropped from a certain height and specific orientation(s). A tumble test machine, on the other hand, evaluates the bare product response to a semi-random repeated tumbling or rolling motion, rather than a fall from a substantial height. Westpak can conduct drop testing on a variety of products and packages and onto a variety of surfaces.  

Importance of drop testing

Product drop testing and package drop testing provide insight into their design by evaluating how well items withstand tumbles, drops, and other types of impact throughout their lifecycle. Armed with this information, manufacturers can address design flaws and different build options to improve durability in order to minimize product damage, loss, and associated costs. In addition to shipping and distribution environments, products may be at risk of being dropped during use, installation, or repair by the end-user. Westpak’s testing solutions help manufacturers assess their products throughout their lifecycle. With drop testing, Westpak can provide data-driven insights to uncover distribution and use patterns, as well as optimize product design, packaging, and more.


Frequently Asked Questions

Get answers to our most frequently asked questions.

What are the advantages of performing product and/or package drop testing?

Impact and drop testing allow manufacturers and other stakeholders to glean insight into how their product will fare during the distribution process and beyond. By gathering this information through controlled testing, these parties can make more informed decisions about their product design and packaging. Below, we’ve listed some of the primary advantages of drop testing:

  • Allows the shipper to evaluate the package system’s ability to protect the product during shipments
  • Allows manufacturers to assess the type of packaging required for safe transportation
  • Provides information useful to mitigate the risk of potential shipping hazards
  • Reduces the risk of product damage and the associated costs 
  • Assesses a product or package system’s adherence to government, business, and company requirements

What types of products are tested in an impact drop test?

Many different products can benefit from impact drop testing. Some of the product drop testing performed with this method include:

  • Electronics (i.e. smartphones, personal computers, tablets)
  • Lab equipment
  • Medical devices
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Bulk food packaging
In general, drop tests are a good idea if you're shipping delicate or high-value goods that aren’t suitable for rough handling, or if your products are likely to be rejected by consumers if they're not in perfect shape. A network rack and pallet of windows have very different design characteristics, but drop testing on both systems would provide valuable information to the OEM. While drop testing is especially useful in these instances, it may also be employed for lightweight products.

What other types of drop testing exist?

Drop testing is the generic term given to testing a package or product’s ability to withstand impacts.  Within this umbrella lies various test standards that fill niche testing inputs.  The impact a cell phone receives after falling off a kitchen counter is very different from the impact a crate receives when its railcar is humped with a second railcar. Westpak conducts a vast array of these test inputs, including but not limited to:

  • ASTM D5276 - The most commonly referenced drop test, free fall impacts simulate containers of various sizes being dropped from different heights and orientations. Distribution standards such as ASTM D4169, ASTM D7386, ISTA 3A and ISTA 2A dictate these variables. 
  • ASTM D4003 - Horizontal impact testing challenges a product or package’s ability to withstand impacts of a horizontal nature. In the in-use environment, you would see these when a forklift abruptly rams into its target, or when two rail cars carrying freight are connected together, resulting in an impact event.
  • ASTM D5277 - The use of an Incline Impact test machine can be used to help diagnose damage which may result from rail car switching, pallet marshalling or other mechanical means. 
  • ASTM D5265 - Different from a freefall impact, this tests the ability of a long, narrow package to withstand another object falling onto it. This test is conducted with the ends of the package supported, thereby creating a ‘bridge’. 
  • ASTM D6344 - Concentrated impacts simulate a low-level impact from a outside source onto a package system. This may be the result of adjacent freight, sorting damage or conveyor belt and chute impacts. 
  • ASTM D6055 - This standard addresses the hazards that are present when containers are mechanically handled (that is to say, moved with a forklift or similar method). 
  • ASTM D6179 - Also specific to mechanically handled containers, these inputs focus on rotational and flat impacts onto the base and edges of the package system. 
  • ASTM D880 - Another form of horizontal impact testing typically conducted onto the package system, where ASTM D4003 is typically conducted onto products. 
  • IEC 60068-2-31 - Tumble testing is conducted by subjecting products to a repetitive low level impact.

What are other considerations for a drop test?

Drop test procedures are developed by test standards organizations such as ASTM, IEC  and ISTA. The drop testing process can be conducted with the help of a machine. However, the operator’s training has a large impact on the outcome.  In order to conduct a repeatable drop testing, the following considerations should be taken into account:

  • Training of test operators needs to be consistent and documented. As the operator has a large impact on the outcome, you want to ensure the training program mitigates variability of the operator. This is ensured through a robust Quality Management System and Test Method Validation program. 
  • The drop test machine(s) should be subjected to an annual preventative maintenance program. 
  • The height of the drop should be confirmed with a calibrated ruler, ideally to an accredited reference standard. 
  • The impact surface used in testing should comply with the test protocol. For example, if you want to simulate dropping a phone from a kitchen counter, consider a protocol that allows a hardwood or linoleum impact surface.
Westpak subscribes to the following testing procedures and protocols:
  • ASTM D880
  • ASTM D4003
  • ASTM D4179
  • ASTM D5265
  • ASTM D5276
  • ASTM D5487
  • ASTM D6055
  • ASTM D6344
  • IEC 60068-2-31
  • ISO 2248
  • ISTA 2A and ISTA 2B
  • ISTA 3A and ISTA 3B
  • All other ISTA and Sam’s Club standards
Westpak is dedicated to assisting consumers in determining the most cost-effective, lasting packaging and product solutions. Our customers can easily and reliably identify possible problem areas by receiving detailed, data-driven reports generated through drop testing and other procedures. In addition to drop testing, our ISTA and A2LA accredited team is equipped to perform other valuable testing measures, including environmental conditioning tests, reliability tests, material analysis, and more.

Accreditations:

Testing at Westpak has been accredited by A2LA to comply with ISO 17025.

Westpak testing labs are ISTA certified to perform a variety of tests.

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