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ISTA FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

If you would like more information, or don’t see a question that you would like answered please contact ISTA staff by email or by calling 517.333.3437 (see phone extensions and emails below).

Technical Questions - Test Procedures and Certification of Laboratories and Packages:
Eric Hiser, Vice President - Technical, ehiser@ista.org, phone extension 218

Educational Events and Certified Package Laboratory Professional Program Questions:
Lisa Bonsignore, Vice President - Events, lisa@ista.org, phone extension 215

Advertising and Marketing Questions:
Kathy Joneson, Vice President - Communications, kjoneson@ista.org, phone extension 214

Membership Questions:
Megan Riegel, Director - Membership, megan@ista.org, phone extension 217

Accounting Questions:
Lisa Bonsignore, Vice President - Events, lisa@ista.org, phone extension 215

 


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Below is a list of answers to the most commonly asked questions ISTA receives from members and non-members.

TESTING

Vibration
What are the benefits of random vibration testing vs. fixed-displacement testing?
Is there a formula to calculate the g level at a certain frequency & displacement during vibration testing?
Does the time my package was vibrated in the lab equate to distance traveled in shipment?
What is meant by “fixturing” in regards to vibration testing?

 

Compression
If our packaged-products will not be stacked, do we have to perform a compression test?
What is meant by “compression conditioning”?

 

Atmosphere
What temperatures will my packages encounter during distribution?
Do the temperature/humidity sequences in ISTA procedures include ramp times?



Shock
Is there a formula that can be used to calculate the g forces experienced during incline-impact testing?
What orientation should my packaged-product be placed in when identifying its faces, edges and corners for ISTA 3A?
Will UPS accept testing done to ISTA Procedure 3A by a laboratory other than their own?
What is the difference between Procedures 1A/1B and 1G/1H?


General
What is the acceptance criteria for damage when testing to ISTA procedures?
How many samples are required for ISTA testing?
What are the test parameter tolerances/variances in ISTA procedures?
In order to pass an ISTA test procedure do all test methods need to be passed?
What are Rule 41 and Item 222 in comparison to ISTA procedures?
Do ISTA procedures and projects have version dates?
Does passing an ISTA test procedure or project mean that my carrier will pay for a damage claim?
What does “replicate testing” mean?
Can I create my own tests based on ISTA procedures?
Should I use VERY demanding test methods?
How can I access the most current ISTA Test Procedures and Projects?
Where can I find an ISTA Certified Lab?
Which ISTA procedure or project should I use?
What are the requirements for retesting when using an ISTA procedure or project?
What is the difference between ISTA and USDOT HazMat testing?
What is the difference between ECT and Burst?
What is meant by PDT and PDA?
How long after a procedure is changed can I continue to use it?

 

CERTIFICATION

If I have a product in many different sizes do I have to test each size to obtain packaged-product certification?
Nothing has changed in our lab but our certification date is up do we need to re-certify?
Do I have to re-certify our lab if we’ve moved the equipment to a new location?
How do I certify my testing laboratory?
I have a product that comes in several different colors, do I need to test each one for ISTA Certification?
What are the rules for using the ISTA Certification Mark?
Why do my vibration circles look like ovals?
Can we make self-adhesive labels from our Certification Mark artwork?
What programs does ISTA offer for professional development?
Do our vendors/suppliers need to be members of ISTA in order for our packaged-products to be ISTA Certified?

 

MEMBERSHIP

How do I update my contact or member information?
What is the difference between a COMMERCIAL and a LIMITED lab?

 

EDUCATION

How do I submit a topic, case study and/or suggestion for a future ISTA educational program?
I don’t see what I am looking for and/or have a suggestion regarding one of ISTA's programs. Who should I contact?
Does ISTA offer any discounts for educational programs?
Does ISTA have education publications or reference materials available?
What educational programs does ISTA offer?
What programs does ISTA offer for professional development?

 

GENERAL

What are the differences between ISTA procedures and ASTM standards?
What marketing opportunities does ISTA offer?

 


What are the benefits of random vibration testing vs. fixed-displacement testing?
The answer, in a nutshell, is "better simulation of the actual transport environment".

Fixed displacement vibration has been around for over 60 years, and was the first type of vibration ever used for packaged-product testing. In reality, it was essentially the only type of vibration that could be practically supported by technology of the time (electric motor, belts or chains, eccentric cams). While still widely used, today it is mostly considered an "entry-level" or "simplified" approach - ISTA calls it a "Non-Simulation" test (ref ISTA 1-Series), and ASTM often uses the terminology "repetitive shock", not vibration (ref ASTM D999). Its advantage is that the equipment is inexpensive and the tests are simple. But its disadvantage is that it doesn't really simulate the transport vibration environment. It can certainly "beat up" a package and cause damage, but in many situations lab results do not correlate well with actual field performance.

A fixed displacement vibration test is run at nominally 4.5 Hz, where the test item just begins to "bounce" on the machine's table. It is easily observed and intuitively obvious that this does not mimic the motion of a transport vehicle. True, there is some intermittent "bouncing" of lading during transport, but transport is much more complex than simply a long interval of constant-frequency, constant-amplitude, and low-level shocks. Vibration frequencies in actual transport range from at least 3 to 100 Hz, and for the last 25 years or more the motion has been recognized as random, not periodic, in nature.

Literally thousands of field measurements and compilations now permit packaging engineers to accurately characterize the transport vibration environment in terms of random vibration PSD (power spectral density) profiles. Different shapes and intensities of these profiles differentiate various vehicles, road/trailer/air speed, lading, and other vibration conditions. With random vibration, it is possible not only to create meaningful laboratory simulations of generalized road, rail and air transport, but to be quite specific if desired - PSDs are available for "truck transport in China", "rail TOFC", "parcel delivery van", "jet aircraft", and many others (ref ISTA Project 4AB).

Now more than ever it is important to minimize the amount of packaging, investigate alternative configurations, try new materials, etc. But the packages must nonetheless still properly perform their intended functions. Accurate random vibration simulations support accurate package designs, making possible economies and efficiencies which cannot be realized using older methods.

Click here for further information on vibration testing equivalence.

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Is there a formula to calculate the g level at a certain frequency & displacement during vibration testing?
The formula that relates g, frequency, and displacement for sinusoidal vibration is:

g = 0.0511 x f2 x D

Where g is zero-to-peak acceleration
f is the frequency and
D is the double amplitude displacement in inches.

For example, ½ g at 2Hz requires a vibration system stroke of 2.45 inches double amplitude.

This formula applies ONLY to sine.

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Does the time my package was vibrated in the lab equate to distance traveled in shipment?
The answer to the question of whether a specific vibration test time requires to actual distance traveled in shipping is YES and NO, depending on the test and the shipping means. YES, under certain specific conditions. NO for many common packaged-product tests.

If the vibration test is (1) random vibration with a spectrum shape that is an accurate representation of the actual transport vibration, and (2) run for the same amount of time as the actual shipment, or time-compressed in accordance with an accepted formula, then vibration test time can be correlated to actual shipping time or distance.

If either condition (1) or (2) above is not met, then the vibration test cannot be reasonably and accurately correlated to shipping time and distance. This doesn't mean that the test isn't useful, only that there is not a strong relationship to actual transport.

All of the ISTA 1-Series "Non-Simulation Integrity Tests" are "not designed to simulate environmental occurrences", and therefore there is no correlation, expressed or implied, between 1-Series vibration and actual shipping times or distances.

ISTA 2-Series tests are the same as the 1-Series with regard to their vibration sections, except for Procedure 2C. While 2C includes shaped random spectra reasonably representative of actual transport vibration, the test time is constant and rather arbitrary. There has been no attempt at correlation to actual ship time/distance.

ISTA 3-Series "General Simulation Tests" offer the best correlations. Procedures 3B, 3E and 3H contain a formula relating to miles and kilometers to test time, so the correlation is clearly stated.

ISTA Project 4AB, available to members for no additional charge through the ISTA Member Center, includes test time vs. shipping time/distance correlations.

For a more complete discussion of this topic, download the paper written by William Kipp (presented at ISTACon in 2000, and revised/updated in 2008), which is available online by clicking here.

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What is meant by “fixturing” in regards to vibration testing?
As stated in ISTA testing protocols, "Restraining devices shall be used to... (1) Prevent the test specimen from moving off the platform and (2) maintain test orientation of the packaged-product, but (3) not restrict the vertical motion of the test specimen."

This means that the test package should not be affixed directly to the vibration table. For safety, the test package should be prevented from falling off by some "fixture", "fence", "restraining device" around the sides, but not attached to table in such a way that the vertical motion is restricted. This allows the package to respond to the vibration of the table in a natural way.

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If our packaged-products will not be stacked, do we have to perform a compression test?
Several ISTA Procedures and Projects call for compression testing and compression conditioning. The formulas to calculate the test load during these test methods include a value for stack height. An example of such a formula - this one shown in several procedures and is for an Apply and Hold testing using a compression test system - is:

Wt x (S-1) x F

Where Wt is the weight of the packaged-product
S is the number of packaged-products in a stack and
F is the compensating factor

If nothing is to be stacked on top of the packaged-product at any time, that would mean the S value is "1". Plugging that into the formula above, your test load would calculate to zero, therefore no compression test would be required.

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What is meant by “compression conditioning”?
"Compression conditioning" is not a compression performance test, in other words it is not intended to result in a pass or fail. It is also not intended as a predictor of warehouse or vehicle stacking capability - the maximum force to be applied is only 750 pounds (3300 N) for even the largest and heaviest of packaged-products. Instead, its purpose is to condition the specimen prior to performing vibration and shock/impact tests. It might be compared to atmospheric (temperature and humidity) pre-conditioning before a test.

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What temperatures will my packages encounter during distribution?
A section on the ISTA website (click here) contains temperature and humidity study reports which may provide useful information.

As a broad, general approach to answering the questions, consider the NOAA "Climates of the World" document. Of course this is WEATHER data, not PACKAGE data, but convention wisdom says:
* The minimum possible temperature for packages is the same as the weather temperature
* The maximum possible temperature for packages is the weather temperature PLUS 10-15 degrees C to account for the heat rise in closed vehicles, etc.

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Do the temperature/humidity sequences in ISTA procedures include ramp times?
The temperature and humidity conditioning times specified in ISTA Procedures and Projects are dwell times at the specified conditions, and do not include any time which may be required to transition from one condition to another (ramp times). Some ISTA Procedures (i.e. ISTA Procedure 7D) specify the transition times, and those should be followed.

In certain situations longer temperature and humidity conditioning dwell times may be required. There are packaged-product configurations which may equilibrate extremely slowly with their surrounding atmosphere. For example, hot-filled containers in the interior of dense unitized loads may require a week or more to reach room temperature. If necessary, make measurements or calculations and extend the conditioning times accordingly.

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Is there a formula that can be used to calculate the g forces experienced during incline-impact testing?
There is not a direct relationship between velocity and the accelerations or forces produced at impact. Acceleration (g) is primarily a function of the surfaces which are impacting - soft surfaces produce low accelerations, rigid surfaces product higher accelerations.

As an illustration: Let's say you are running as fast as you can go. Would you rather run into a brick wall, or a wall made of pillows? Your velocity would be the same (as fast as you can go), but most people would rather run into the pillow wall. It's softer, the accelerations would be less, and you'd be less likely to get hurt. Of course, the faster you are able to run the harder you'll hit (so there is an indirect relationship to velocity), but mostly it's the surface which determines impact accelerations and forces.

In an incline-impact test, the test item impacts the machine's backstop. The backstop is always the same rigidity, but the test item could be a corrugated box, wood crate, plastic container, etc. Each of these could produce a different range of impact accelerations. And probably what you're really interested in is the acceleration reaching the product inside the package - for that you'd need to know the dynamic characteristics of the package and any cushioning.

To learn accelerations for a specific situation, you could mount accelerometers on or in the test package and take measurements at the various desired points.

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What orientation should my packaged-product be placed in when identifying its faces, edges and corners for ISTA 3A?
Your packaged-product should be resting in its MOST STABLE orientation prior to identifying its faces, edges and corners. The most stable orientation may be different than the intended shipping orientation and is typically when the package is resting on its largest face. This is the orientation in which a packaged-product is most likely to travel through a single-parcel distribution system like UPS, FedEx, DHL, etc.

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Will UPS accept testing done to ISTA Procedure 3A by a laboratory other than their own?
UPS has their own testing facility, UPS Consumer Solutions, located in Addison, Illinois (USA). The lab's position on the acceptance of testing done by an outside test lab is straightforward:
"...as long as the testing is being performed in accordance with the most current standard in an ISTA Certified Lab, UPS should accept the results. UPS will always reserve the right to inspect any damage so the customer needs to keep the damaged item and packaging to confirm. As long as everything is in order, they should be able to use that report in claims determination."

It is strongly recommended that an ISTA Procedure 3A testing done by an ISTA Certified Lab be submitted to ISTA Headquarters for review. Once a test report form has been submitted to ISTA the product manufacturer and the lab then have the added benefit of a third-party, unbiased review of the testing. Test reports should be accurate, detailed and very thorough; it is highly encouraged that photos of the package and the product - before, during and after testing - be included with the test report. In addition, it is very important that all parties understand UPS's current regulations and requirements listed in their Terms of Service, so complete compliance can be met. Click here to review and download the UPS Tariff/Terms and Conditions of Service (see Section 8).

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What is the difference between Procedures 1A/1B and 1G/1H?
ISTA Procedures 1G and 1H are essentially identical to ISTA Procedures 1A and 1B except for the vibration requirements. 1A and 1B require fixed displacement vibration (1 inch, 22mm, peak-to-peak), while 1G and 1H require random vibration at 1.15 Grms.

While it's generally recognized that random vibration in the laboratory can be the best way to simulate actual transport vibration, remember that the ISTA 1-Series tests "challenge the strength and robustness of the product and package combination" and are "not designed to simulate environmental occurrences". So the random vibration in 1G and 1H is not shaped to match transport vibration and the overall intensity is much higher. It is designed to "challenge the strength and robustness", not to simulate.

These two approaches are alternatives, not equivalents, and will not necessarily produce the same results.

A number of users have reported a preference for random vibration (1G/1H) over fixed displacement (1A/1B). Random vibration is a more repeatable test as the breakpoints that you plug into your control are definite. Fixed displacement tests require more judgment on what frequency causes the sample to "bounce". In testing, the more control over variability, the better. If you have appropriate equipment capabilities, you are encouraged to try both approaches to determine which might be the most suitable and effective in your particular situation.

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What is the acceptance criteria for damage when testing to ISTA procedures?
ISTA and ISTA Procedures/Projects do not dictate what constitutes a pass and fail result. All of the Procedures and Projects contain a section like the following (this is from Procedure 1A):

"The shipper shall determine the following prior to testing:
* what constitutes damage to the product and
* what damage tolerance level is allowable, if any, and
* the correct methodology to determine product condition at the conclusion of the test and
* the acceptable package condition at the conclusion of the test.

For additional information on this determination process refer to the "Guidelines for Selecting and Using ISTA Procedures and Projects". (Click here to download the Guidelines)

Notice that the statement above says "the shipper shall determine...” This is further amplified by a section in the referenced Guidelines as follows:
"PRODUCT DAMAGE TOLERANCE AND PACKAGE DEGRADATION ALLOWANCE Before testing begins; a determination must be made as to the damage to the product and any allowable change in package condition. These determinations are made to allow the evaluation of packaged-product specimens after performance of all tests and assignment of pass or fail results. When possible, these determinations should be quantitative in nature to minimize results interpretation. Use of product quality standards, user acceptability information, and other data is encouraged.

ISTA intentionally does not specify what constitutes product damage and package degradation. These determinations are dependent upon the particular product, package, distribution system, market, customers, and other factors and can vary widely. Therefore product damage and allowable package degradation must be defined by the shipper, manufacturer, damage claim group, and/or other stakeholders and interested parties. In most cases, the shipper/product manufacturer is in the best position to define product damage due to detailed familiarity with the product. Sometimes others may contribute to these determinations including carriers and test lab personnel. But in any case, definition and agreement should be reached cooperatively among all entities concerned with safe arrival of the shipment, low damage rates, cost effective packaging, etc."

After testing, the Product Damage Tolerance (PDT)/Package Degradation Allowance (PDA) will be used by the lab to determine whether the item tested passed or failed the test. If, after testing, there is additional information known and the customer (Shipper) wishes to change their definition of damage, they can do so. However, it is strongly cautioned that any changes made should be well documented in the test report, including written notification from the customer that the PDT/PDA has changed, a justification for the change, and approval of the final results. There is a comments section in all ISTA test report form templates - this section should be used for any advice or opinion from the lab based on the testing and results.

The ultimate decision regarding damage, and therefore the criteria to judge pass or fail, is the Shippers.

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How many samples are required for ISTA testing?
Most ISTA® Procedures and Projects require a minimum of one packaged-product to be tested. A single "pass", however, does not provide high confidence that other seemingly identical packaged-products will also pass the same test. This is due to inherent variation in packaging materials, package components, and the package contents as well as other statistical considerations. ISTA generally recommends replicate testing, using new samples each time. Having three successful tests of identical packaged-products helps improve the assurance; five or more are recommended when possible. Even ten successful replicate tests, however, do not guarantee that all future tests will also be successful.

There is no definite rule about appropriate sample size; it may depend on the purposes of testing, the desired confidence level, and the availability of samples. ISTA Procedures and Projects specify a minimum number of samples required to run the test and achieve packaged-product Certification through ISTA. In addition, commendation for replicate testing is generally made. ISTA's policy is that if any sample fails any of the tests, then the entire test is considered failed.

The additional testing time for larger sample sizes need not be a barrier to better test technique. For example, most vibration test systems will allow the user to test many packages simultaneously, this saving considerable time. In this way, a sample size of five would have essentially the same elapsed time for vibration testing as a sample size of one.

Occasionally, proper samples are not available to meet minimum requirements for a test protocol. The use of non-functional "dummy" products is not allowed in most cases, but samples with minor, identifiable damage, such as minor surface scratches, may be acceptable. The key is: when the test is complete, can we determine if the product was damaged according to the Product Damage Allowance statement developed before testing began?

Another technique is to re-use a product for several test sequences with appropriate inspection to insure that the product has not been damaged. The user must be cautious to re-use a product that has become more susceptible to damage due to prior testing. In this way, one product and three packages could be used to achieve a sample size of three. The test would be run three times, re-packaging the single available product each time.

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What are the test parameter tolerances/variances in ISTA procedures?
ISTA test procedures generally do not include tolerances on test parameters such as drop height, compression force, vibration time and intensity, etc. In such cases the requirements given in ISTA test procedures and projects are considered minimums; i.e. no variation or tolerance below the stated values is allowed. Testing to exceeded levels is perfectly acceptable when using ISTA Procedures and Projects.

If any particular test in a test sequence is below the required minimum, that test does not count and must be repeated.

In the case of the low pressures in Procedure 3A and the temperatures in Procedure 7D, this requires some interpretation but basically means that the altitudes or temperatures, respectively, must be not less than what is shown as the minimum requirement. The equipment used for these test methods should always comply with the ASTM documents referenced in all ISTA Procedures and Projects under the Equipment Required sections. The ASTM reference will give applicable variances that are allowed with the specific equipment being used.

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In order to pass an ISTA test procedure do all test methods need to be passed?
When performing an ISTA test procedure or project that will be submitted for ISTA recognition or certification, all required test methods, at the required minimum test levels, must have passed. If there is a method performed during the testing that does not meet the requirements or shows an obvious failure after the testing, then the entire test is considered a fail.

If the testing being done won't be submitted to ISTA for recognition or certification then failures during the testing are allowed. Be aware that any failure during testing will most likely invalidate the testing for other outside organizations (including carriers, customers and insurance companies).

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What are Rule 41 and Item 222 in comparison to ISTA procedures?
These are different requirements, serving different purposes.

Uniform Freight Classification (UFC) Rule 41 sets requirements for corrugated boxes used in rail shipment. The similar (but not identical) National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) Item 222 sets box requirements for common carrier motor freight shipment.

These requirements, shown on the boxmakers' certificate printed on the bottom of boxes, only specify board construction and/or material properties in relation to box size and gross weight limits. They represent minimums for handling and movement in the respective modes, but don't necessarily address the issues of product damage and protection, nor do they apply to other means and modes of transport.

ISTA pre-shipment performance tests apply to packaged-products in general (not just to corrugated boxes), and evaluate or compare their ability to withstand various distribution environments. They are performance tests, with pass/fail criteria set by the product manufacturer/shipper.

There is no way to compare or correlate Rule 41 and Item 222 to ISTA pre-shipment performance tests.

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Do ISTA procedures and projects have version dates?
ISTA Procedures and Projects are created, updated or discontinued as new information and experience is acquired or as known conditions change.

If you have used a now-obsolete ISTA test to certify a packaged-product, the certification remains valid if the product and package have not changed. Your position regarding possible disputes or negotiations may be degraded, however. If the product or package has changed and you need to re-certify, you'll have to use a current ISTA Procedure or Project.

Current version dates, as well as technical and editorial changes to procedures and projects, are listed on the ISTA website. Click here for further information.

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Does passing an ISTA test procedure or project mean that my carrier will pay for a damage claim?
In certain situations, the answer would be "yes", but in general you should check with your carrier's website or account representative for full details.

UPS, in addition to other requirements, states “It is the responsibility of the shipper to ensure that proper packaging is used and that contents of packages are adequately and securely packed, wrapped, and cushioned for transportation. Packages must be so packed or wrapped as to meet UPS’s published standards related thereto set forth in the Service Guide, or on ups.com, and as to pass tests set forth in the International Safe Transit Association (“ISTA”) Procedure 3A, Procedure for Testing Packaged Products, published by ISTA. In addition, any tested product must be free from damage and the packaging must afford reasonable protection as determined by UPS in its sole judgment."

So, while testing isn't explicitly required by UPS, it would be necessary for the shipper to prove the packaged-product can pass the testing should damage occur. The best way to do this is have the testing done prior to shipping, so a test report is available when needed (be sure to have the testing lab submit the test report to ISTA for third-party review!). Click here to review the full UPS Tariff/Terms and Conditions of Service (see Section 8).

Federal Express (FedEx) has its own package testing procedures, which were approved as ISTA 6-Series Member Performance Tests in 2008. While similar in many ways to basic ISTA tests, there are a number of detailed differences. The testing procedures are recommended, not required, by FedEx. Of course, FedEx may look for test passage as part of resolving disputes. You can download the FedEx procedures for no charge from their website:
Click here for packaged-products weighing under 150 pounds
Click here for packaged-products weighing over 150 pounds

National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC), or National Classification Committee (NCC) Item 180 and Item 181 are performance test alternatives to other NMFC/NCC packaging rules for common carrier motor freight shipments. The tests are similar in many ways to basic ISTA tests, but there are also a number of differences. Testing must be done in a "competent" laboratory (an ISTA Certified Lab with the proper equipment can register as an NMFC lab), and packages certified in this way must carry a special marking.

Other carriers and carrier organizations may have different requirements and tests. Always contact your carrier to determine what regulations must be met in order to be in compliance.

To further understand that ISTA testing is not a guarantee that a damage claim will be paid, it is important to realize that the distribution environment is large in scope; diverse and extremely complex. It would be impossible to design a product or package, or packaged-product pre-shipment test, which would always ensure perfect performance.

Further, packaged-products and pre-shipment tests are typically designed for normal environments (perhaps with a reasonable safety factor); yet occasionally very abnormal circumstances can arise. It would usually be impractical and uneconomical, for instance, to design and test for a 3-story drop height, a train derailment, or a package being run over by a lift truck, yet occasionally these things do happen.

However, properly-applied ISTA tests will greatly increase the probability of damage-free shipments. The basic (1-Series) ISTA tests are most useful as screening tools, to be used to avoid major problems in shipment. The more sophisticated ISTA tests (especially the 3-Series and higher) are able to uncover more subtle effects, and allow fine-tuning of costs and environmental impacts as well as reasonable avoidance of damage of all types.

So, payment of a damage claim is never automatic. But the likelihood of a claims payment being successfully negotiated goes up tremendously if the package is ISTA Certified. Companies that have their packaged-products ISTA tested and certified, yet still experience damage in the transportation/distribution environment, have a huge advantage over other shippers when it comes to claims negotiations. These companies can demonstrate diligence and actual package performance to industry-accepted standards and with ISTA's third-party retention of test results, there's never a question of authenticity.

But because there are so many different aspects of distribution and the transport environment that can be factor, carriers essentially rarely, if ever, "automatically" pay claims. It is important for a carrier to determine the cause of damage so as to attempt to prevent it in the future. But a certified packaged-product will likely direct a carrier's attention to other areas of the environment, as opposed to making the assumption that the packaging was inadequate and therefore not covered under their policies.

ISTA is willing to help member companies with the claims negotiation process if needed; we strongly believe in our programs, and will gladly assist those members who believe in them as well. Contact ISTA for assistance (ista@ista.org).

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What does “replicate testing” mean?
Most ISTA Procedures and Projects require that only one sample be tested. Exceptions to this are ISTA Procedure 3F and Project 3K, both of which require multiple samples.

In all cases, however, ISTA recommends that the tests be repeated multiple times using new samples for each test. This is to increase confidence in the representative performance of the packaged-products.

Note that is multiple tests are conducted, the packaged-product is deemed to have passed ONLY if all samples successfully pass all tests.

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Can I create my own tests based on ISTA procedures?
Yes, you can certainly do that. Whether or not it's advisable to do so, however, depends on your test purpose and how you intend to use the results.

Custom tests can be useful if they have a particular special purpose and if use of the results will be limited or controlled. But if called into questions, custom tests may not have the credibility of unmodified industry-standard approaches. Before configuring a custom test, it is recommended that you review the list of ISTA tests to see if there is a standard Procedure or Project which would suit your purpose. Click here to review the full list of ISTA Procedures and Projects.

In 2008, ISTA activated our 6-Series for Member Performance Tests. The 6-Series is dedicated to test protocols created by ISTA members to meet their particular purposes and applications. The tests may be completely original, or may be modifications or variations of ISTA Procedures or Projects or other publishes and accepted tests. The ISTA Testing Council reviews and approves these tests, but primary responsibility for creation, validation, maintenance revisions and support of 6-Series tests rests with the originating member. For further information on how to submit your company's protocol for approval as an ISTA 6-Series test, contact ista@ista.org.

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Should I use VERY demanding test methods?
Not unless your only or overriding concern is prevention of damage. For some products (extremely expensive, critical, dangerous, etc.) this might make sense, but for most products the objective is probably good overall balance. In other words, a good combination of low damage, low package cost, low distribution costs, low environmental impact, etc.

If you use a very severe test you could be driving up packaging costs and size without any reasonable additional benefit. Yes, some package may drop from 3 meters (for example), but the probability is very, very, very low. If your test requires a 3 meter drop, that protection must be built into each and every package purchased and shipped. The same holds true for vibration, compression, atmospheric and other tests.

The goal is usually an effective balance between under-protection resulting in damage and over-protection resulting in excess cost and size. Realistic tests, perhaps with a reasonable "safety factor" where appropriate, are typically the best tool for achieving this goal.

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How can I access the most current ISTA Test Procedures and Projects?
ISTA Members are granted exclusive access to the most updated versions of ISTA Procedures and Projects through the online ISTA Member Center. Simply LOGIN and click Download Test Procedures.

Non-member may purchase ISTA Procedures and Projects through the ISTA E-Market .

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Where can I find an ISTA Certified Lab?
A complete and updated list of current ISTA Certified Laboratories is maintained on the ISTA website. The Find a Lab feature allows you to search geographically and/or by procedure capability.

Many of these labs also offer package design, distribution environment measuring, problem-solving, and other consulting services.

ISTA certifies these labs but we do not have a part in their business practices or policies. To arrange for testing services, a lab should be contacted directly.

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Which ISTA procedure or project should I use?
This common question cannot be answered directly, but must be determined in each case through an understanding of the various ISTA tests and their applications.

There are currently over 20 different ISTA Procedures and Projects. Some of these are basic tests: very non-specific in terms of the products, packages, and distribution systems to which they apply. Others, however, are quite specific, and are applicable only in certain situations.

The various tests can be organized in several ways, as follows:

By Series:
* 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 test, such as atmospheric conditioning or mode-shaped random vibration and at least one element of a 1-Series type non-simulation integrity test.

* 3-Series: General Simulation Performance Tests. Designed to provide a laboratory simulation of the damage-producing forces and conditions 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 such as tropical wet or winter/frozen.

* 4-Series: Enhanced Simulation Performance Tests. In many ways similar to General Simulation tests, but incorporating the latest information on environmental hazards, and with test sequences based on user-defined descriptions of distribution means. Not currently in use, but under development.

* 5-Series: **Not currently an active Series** Focused Simulation Performance Tests. Guides to providing a laboratory simulation based on actual field measured hazards and levels.

* 6-Series: Member Performance Tests. Test protocols created by ISTA members to meet their particular purposes and applications. The tests may be completely original, or may be modifications or variations of ISTA Procedures or Projects, or other published and accepted tests. ISTA reviews and approves these tests, but primary responsibility for creation, validation, maintenance, revision and support rests with the originating member(s).

* 7-Series: Development Tests. These tests are used in the development of transport packages. They can be used to compare relative performance of two or more container designs, but are not intended to evaluate the protection afforded packaged-products.

1-Series tests are typically quite basic, usually require relatively low-cost equipment, and can be performed by moderately skilled operators. In terms of damage prediction/prevention and overall system cost optimization, however, the higher-series tests can be more effective.1-Series protocols can reasonably be expected to be screening tests, with an increasing expectation of predictability through 5-Series. Whether this is true in any specific case needs to be evaluated by comparing lab and distribution results. This important validation process should be a part of each user's normal operations.

This information can be found on the ISTA website with additional detail, click here.

To determine applicable tests for any given situation, the list may be narrowed down based on the above information. Then each individual Procedure or Project should be examined in detail to arrive at the one best suited.

Contact ISTA Headquarters for help with test interpretation (ista@ista.org / +1 517-333-3437). Assistance with test selection in specific circumstances and/or problem situations is available as a service from many ISTA labs, consultants, and members.

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What are the requirements for retesting when using an ISTA procedure or project?
ISTA test protocols should be repeated periodically or as necessary to maintain the quality characteristics of the packaged-product on arrival. In addition, test must be repeated whenever there is a change in the product, the package or the process. Some changes are not included in this requirements, but only if the change is not associated with potential performance in any way.

Changes in the product can include changes in:
* Design (configuration, components, accessories, etc.)
* Size/weight (dimensions, shape, mass, center of gravity, etc.)
* Materials (type, construction, fabrication, gage, etc.)

Changes in the package can include changes in:
* Configuration (individual package or unit load, container type and sub-type, style, design, interior packaging, etc.)
* Size / weight (dimensions, shape, mass, caliper, gage, etc.)
* Materials (corrugated, plastic, metal, glass, etc.)
* Components (closures, labels, straps, pallets, skids, wraps, etc.)

Changes in the process can include changes in:
* Manufacturing / assembly (vendor, location, automation, etc.)
* Filling (equipment, speed, automation, etc.)
* Distribution system (parcel delivery, LTL, intermodal, etc.)

When there is any doubt as to whether a change will potentially affect performance, retesting should be done. Determining when retesting is required may involve knowing and tracking specification details of both the package and the product, such as new or changed components, materials, interior packaging, closure methods, etc.

Changing the grade of the corrugated board in the box definitely requires retest, even in those situations where carrier regulations imply "equivalence" of two grades of corrugated (such as 200 psi burst and 32 lb. /in ECT grades). In many instances, corrugated from these two grading systems will be different in construction and performance and thus must be retested on a grade change. Basis weights (weight per unit area) of corrugated board constituents have been shown to be good indicators of box equivalence or change. If the basis weights change, even if the board is rated for the same performance a retest is appropriate. It is therefore strongly recommended that the measurement and documentation of basis weights in accordance with TAPPI T410 and TIP 0308-01, FEFCO (European Federation of Corrugated Board Manufacturers) Testing Method No. 10, ISO (International Organization for Standardization) EN536, ASTM D46, or other accepted industry standards accompany every packaged-product test where corrugated packaging is involved.

Retesting is also strongly recommended when distribution channels change, as this may mean a different test protocol. An example is the opening of an e-commerce business (to replace or supplement traditional retail distribution) that involves significant shipments direct to customer by small parcel carriers.

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What is the difference between ISTA and USDOT HazMat testing?
USDOT Hazmat tests apply to the packaging of Hazardous Materials (Dangerous Goods). These are different tests, with different purposes, than ISTA testing. This department of the USDOT is often referred to as UN/DOT, but it is officially the U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Transportation Administration, of PHMSA.

ISTA tests are primarily used to evaluate or compare the effectiveness of packaging in protecting the product. USDOT Hazmat tests are intended to ensure that people and the environment are protected from the product. The emphasis in USDOT Hazmat testing is on safely containing the material, not necessarily preventing damage to it. USDOT Hazmat tests have strict legal and environmental ramifications.

If you have a hazardous material (dangerous good) to package then it must meet applicable regulations, which may include those from USDOT, other nations' regulations, and perhaps the requirements of other organizations such as the International Air Transport Association (IATA). For many materials this means a "specification" package and compliance would include very specific marking, labeling, documentation and package testing. Depending on the product, package, and distribution type, packages may have to undergo drop tests, stacking tests, vibration tests, pressure tests, and other. Tests are defined in applicable regulatory documents, such as Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations (49 CFR) for USDOT regulations.

There are training requirements for employees of companies that ship hazardous materials or those who supply packaging to hazmat shippers. It is very important to understand and be in compliance with all regulations concerned with hazardous materials (dangerous goods) packaging and shipping as this affects the public safety.

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What is the difference between ECT and Burst?
ECT (Edge Crush Test) and Burst (sometimes called "Mullen") ratings for corrugated board are based on two completely different tests, and measure different properties of the material.

Burst tests use hydraulic pressure behind a flexible diaphragm. Increasing the pressure causes the diaphragm to expand through a circular opening. A sample of board is clamped across the opening and the diaphragm forces through due to increasing pressure until it bursts the sample. Test level is maximum pressure in pounds per square inch (psi).

ECT uses a small sample of board compressed between two platens which are aligned perpendicular to the flute direction. Test value is the maximum force to collapse the board, in pounds force per inch of specimen length.

So the two tests measure different properties: ECT measures primarily top-to-bottom compression strength, while Burst measures primarily puncture and tear resistance.

Corrugated grades are based on these tests. When a test is applied to a sample, then the results allow us to assign a grade. So a particular run of board is not intrinsically ECT or Burst, the designation only refers to how it was tested (board may be designed to optimize one of the other test results, however). If a run is designed to be graded ECT and then is graded ECT and marked accordingly, we typically call it ECT grade board. But the sample could also be graded Burst. Grade is just a classification system and there happens to be two systems. Accordingly it is not typically possible to tell the difference between ECT and Burst grades as all board can fit into both grading systems.

Carrier rules now allow for grading by either system. The ratings are ALTERNATES, but not EQUIVALENTS. No equivalency exists or is implied between the grading systems. For example, while 32 ECT is an ALTERNATIVE to 200 Burst, 32 ECT is not EQUIVALENT to 200 Burst. In fact, we would expect that 200 Burst would test about 38 ECT and 32 ECT would Burst test at roughly 150.

If your primary concern is crushed boxes and stacking problems, consider specifying in terms of ECT. If it's a containment strength and puncture resistance issue, consider specifying in terms of Burst. If you need both, specify both.

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What is meant by PDT and PDA?
Product Damage Tolerance (PDT) and Package Degradation Allowance (PDA) are sometimes referred to as the Acceptance Criteria. Both criteria are to be determined prior to testing by the Shipper/Product Manufacturer (or the company representative requiring the testing), or in cooperation with the Shipper/product manufacturer, laboratory, buyer or other party with a vested interest in the testing. Typically, the test laboratory organization cannot and should not make these determinations by themselves alone, but instead work with the Shipper and other parties to determine the best criteria for the packaged-product being tested.

The Product Damage Tolerance is the criteria used to determine what constitutes damage to the product, and what damage tolerance level is permissible, if any. This could be as simple as "No Damage" or it might be more specific, including details that relate to any type of deterioration of appearance or operation, and the amount or level that would determine pass/fail.

The Package Degradation Allowance is the criteria used to determine what degradation, if any, is acceptable for the package. This could be as simple as “No Damage" or might include specific details about corner or edge crushing, scuffing, dents, etc., and the amount or level that would determine pass/fail.

The Method Used to Determine Pass or Fail is the manner in which the test results will be determined. Examples would be a "visual inspection" or a "functional test".

Additional details concerning these criteria can be found in the Guidelines for Selecting and Using ISTA Procedures and Projects .

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How long after a procedure is changed can I continue to use it?
ISTA Projects and Procedures are continuously reviewed, updated and expanded. When a technical change has occurred, ISTA will accept testing to a previous version for 12 months (one year). One year after a technical change, testing done to previous versions of the procedure or project will no longer be accepted. New and revised tests are available to members through their Member Center login; non-members may purchase new tests through the E-Market. New versions may supersede those in the Resource Book. Keep up to date with changes by checking the ISTA website.

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If I have a product in many different sizes do I have to test each size to obtain packaged-product certification?
Assuming the products meet certain conditions, then yes. The ISTA Technical Committee (now Testing Council) and Board of Directors approved a Product Line Extension Policy in April of 1998. This policy applies to ISTA Shipper members only.

This policy refers to a product line (products of the same kind) having essentially the same interior and exterior packaging system where the ONLY difference is the size of the product and packaging components.

Any questions about this policy should be directed to ISTA (ista@ista.org; +1 517-333-3437).

TO CERTIFY AN ENTIRE "PACKAGED-PRODUCT LINE":
*Determine how many different models make up the full product line. A minimum of forty percent (40%) of the packaged-product line's SKU's must actually be tested in accordance with the appropriate ISTA test procedure or project. The 40% tested should represent the largest, smallest and medium-sized units. All models, whether tested or not, must be listed on the test report form submitted to ISTA Headquarters per the ISTA Packaged-Product Certification Policy. Therefore, testing certifies 40% of the packaged-product line and the remaining 60% will be certified by policy.

* Following certification, a detailed shipping record for the entire packaged-product line must be maintained by the Shipper member for six (6) months. During this period, the number shipped and the number damaged in distribution must be recorded. At the end of six months this report must be submitted to ISTA Headquarters (ista@ista.org).

* There must be a minimum of 50 packages, for the entire product line, shipped during the six months so that a reasonable evaluation of the product line certification can be made by ISTA.

* If the damage levels indicate that the extension to the packaged-products that were NOT tested has proven to be valid then the certification for the packaged-product line will remain valid for the normal term of certification. If any particular model shows damage levels that are considered by ISTA to be too excessive, that packaged-product may have to be tested or re-tested to maintain its certification.

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Nothing has changed in our lab but our certification date is up do we need to re-certify?
Yes. All ISTA Certified Labs must complete the re-certification process every two years, regardless of whether or not anything has changed in the lab.

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Do I have to re-certify our lab if we’ve moved the equipment to a new location?
Any time a Certified lab makes extreme changes to their equipment, including moving the equipment, either to a new location in the same building or to a new location altogether, the re-certification process must be completed immediately.

If you have moved your equipment and therefore must submit the re-certification materials prior to your current re-certification date, that date will be adjusted accordingly.

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How do I certify my testing laboratory?
ISTA Lab Certification is a benefit of ISTA membership, so all Certified Labs must also be ISTA Members. ISTA certifies laboratories for all member classifications [Shipper, Carrier, Supplier and Testing (third-party labs)].

ISTA Lab Certification requires the completion and submission of a series of Equipment Verification Forms, Lab Technician List and Video. We also require current calibration documentation for all equipment and instrumentation. For those labs wishing to certify to the ISTA 3-Series (3A, 3B, 3E) or 6-SAMSCLUB, we also require the submission of control plots from the vibration system to show that the required PSD's can be met.

ISTA offers the forms and video procedure on the ISTA website.

Re-certification is required from each Certified Laboratory every two years, regardless of any changes to the equipment. A lab must also maintain membership with ISTA, in the form of payment of annual dues, to continue certification.

Once a lab submits their certification materials, and application if applicable, processing takes approximately 7 to 10 business days. Submission can be done by sending the materials direct to ISTA Headquarters (address below) or by electronic submission using email, FTP or any number of file sharing programs available online.

Materials can be submitted to:
ISTA Headquarters
1400 Abbot Road, Suite 160
East Lansing MI 48823-1900 USA

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I have a product that comes in several different colors, do I need to test each one for ISTA Certification?
No. A color difference is considered "cosmetic" and cosmetic differences in the product do not require individual testing of each unit.
If the differences in your products do not affect the performance of the packaging (such as color, small internal components, decorative accessories, etc.) then testing one representative sample is acceptable.
If the sample tested has different model numbers based on cosmetic differences, then those should be clearly listed on the test report form, including what the difference is to the sample tested.

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What are the rules for using the ISTA Certification Mark?
The ISTA ® Transit Tested Certification Mark on a package is visible proof that the packaged-product has passed a valid ISTA pre-shipment test. It gives the highest level of credibility to the design, test and packaged-product performance verification process.

For legal and management reasons, ISTA only offers this certification service when certain conditions have been met (see our certification policy, below). ISTA cannot stand behind use of the Mark unless it has the appropriate control and oversight of all portions of the process. As the Mark is registered with the US Patent and Trademark Office, it is especially important to maintain the proper use of it by our members.

Due to the way our procedures and projects are written, taking into account both the package and the product, ISTA does NOT certify packages for a packaging or services supplier. The ISTA Certification Mark is a benefit for the Shipper (product manufacturer) member only.

ISTA PACKAGED-PRODUCT CERTIFICATION POLICY:
In order for a package to be printed or labeled with the ISTA Transit Tested Certification Mark, or to make claims of ISTA packaged-product certification, the following conditions must be met:

* The product manufacturer/brand owner must be a Shipper member of ISTA in good-standing and with a valid License Agreement on file.

* The packaged-product must be tested in an ISTA Certified Lab (the lab must be in good-standing and current with their lab certification).

* The testing must comply fully with all minimum requirements of a current ISTA test procedure or project (exceeding minimums is acceptable but other modifications are not).

* All samples that are tested must pass all test methods as written.

* The results of testing must be submitted to ISTA Headquarters for review and processing (ISTA members can download test report form templates from the ISTA Member Center ).

* The report form must pass review and be approved by ISTA Headquarters. Certification comes from ISTA, not the laboratory.

* The Shipper (product manufacturer) must sign a License Agreement to use the Transit Tested Certification Mark, and will be assigned a Manufacturer's License Number to be used in conjunction with the Mark.

* Once all conditions have been met, the Mark, with Manufacturer's License Number, may then be placed on the packaged-product.

ISTA Headquarters not only reviews test reports for completeness and accuracy, but retains it and the resultant Certification information on file for a minimum of 5 years for Shipper members. This third-party oversight and records-retention provides maximum credibility of results in the event of subsequent disputes or negotiations.

There is no additional charge beyond member dues for ISTA certification services.

Click here for the benefits of ISTA Membership.
Click here to review the benefits of the ISTA Transit Tested Certification Mark.
Click here to JOIN ISTA!

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Why do my vibration circles look like ovals?
In order to have a rotary motion vibration table approved for and maintain ISTA Certified Lab status, the lab must submit a phase relationship test, which is in the form of circles drawn by the table.

The circles are "drawn" to verify proper operation of a typical rotary motion vibration tester. This test is used to check the phase relationship of the primary and secondary drive shafts by verifying that each corner of the vibration platform moves simultaneously with the other corners.

The circles are drawn by attaching a pen or pencil to each corner of the table, parallel to the drive shafts, with the points extending beyond the edge. The machine is then operated at approximately 250 CPM and a blank piece of paper is brought into contact with the pen or pencil point such that the table motion is traced. This is repeated at each corner.

The best way to bring the paper in contact with the pen/pencil is to have the paper attached to a solid and stable surface (a clipboard or a large piece of corrugated, attached then to large box or hand truck) that can be brought smoothly and evenly up to the point of the pen or pencil.
If all four corners produce uniform 1" circles (with variation of no more than 1/16"), then the machine is considered in phase. Oval tracings indicate that the machine needs adjustment, which must be done before certification will be approved. Adjustment can be done in-house or by the equipment manufacturer or outside calibration service provider, and then verified with a new phase relationship test.

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Can we make self-adhesive labels from our Certification Mark artwork?
Yes! ISTA supplies Shipper Members with electronic versions of their exclusive ISTA Certification Mark with a unique Manufacturer's License Number (MLN). This artwork is typically used to have printing plates made for the box manufacturer to imprint the Mark on boxes with comply with the ISTA packaged-product certification policy (Click here for this policy).

It is also acceptable for Shipper Members to create their own self-adhesive labels using the artwork supplied.

In lieu of using an imprinted Certification Mark, or a member-created self-adhesive label, ISTA Headquarters offers self-adhesive labels to Shipper Members for a nominal cost ($60 per 1000 labels; available in rolls of 500; minimum order 1000). Labels sold by ISTA do NOT include a Shipper Member's MLN.

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What programs does ISTA offer for professional development?
The ISTA® Certified Packaging Laboratory Professional program (CPLP) offers three levels of individual certification for the packaging professional:

• Technician: covers basic laboratory operations, procedures & protocols, and conduct of the essential ISTA shock/drop/impact, vibration, compression, and atmospheric tests. A minimum of 6 months employment in the industry is required, or a packaging or related engineering degree.

• Technologist: encompasses advanced procedures & protocols including those from other organizations, random vibration, dynamic material testing, instrumentation, and enhanced simulation (ISTA 4AB). Prerequisites are Technician-level certification and a minimum of 1 year employment in the industry (or a packaging or related engineering degree).

• Professional: is the elite status, the highest attainable certification level in the CPLP program, and is based on a résumé of industry participation and achievements. Weighted recognition of employment in packaging, attendance at educational packaging events, other related continuing education, advanced packaging or related degrees, published papers/articles, presentations, teaching, participation in technical societies and packaging organizations, honors/awards, patents, etc. comprise the requirements. Prerequisites are both Technician and Technologist CPLP certifications and a minimum of 3 years employment in the industry. Certification is based on a résumé in the above categories and is scored on a numerical basis. A minimum score of 320 is required for CPLP Professional certification.

Full details relating to the CPLP Program, including program contents and fees, are available on the ISTA website .
The ISTA® Certified Thermal Professional program (CTP) offers two levels of individual certification for the packaging professional:
• Certified ThermalProfessional (CTP) – LEVEL I
A CTP Level I individual is a lab technician with demonstrated competence to perform Standard 20 testing procedures under the direction of a CTP II. CTP I personnel know and understand the basics of document preparation (including reporting of exceptions), basic numeric procedures for completion of forms, and a general understanding of authorities and signatures required for attesting to document completion.
• Certified ThermalProfessional (CTP) – LEVEL II
A CTP II certified thermal professional has a comprehensive working knowledge of all of the documents contained in Standard 20, and is capable of running a lab performing the tests specified by Standard 20. CTP II personnel understand the entire process from design to final certification of an insulated shipping container (ISC). They are capable of creating compliant, accurate and properly attested documentary packages.
CTP II personnel have exhibited a conceptual grasp of laboratory procedures that are relevant to Standard 20 protocols and are competent to maintain a laboratory to certification standards set forth by ISTA.
Full details relating to the CTP Program, including program contents and fees, are available on the ISTA website .

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Do our vendors/suppliers need to be members of ISTA in order for our packaged-products to be ISTA Certified?
Each Shipper member of ISTA is assigned a Manufacturer's License Number; this number is what is used with the ISTA Certification Mark on tested packaged-products. The shipping location of the final packaged-products should be location of the ISTA Shipper member. In some cases, this may mean a Primary Location as well as Additional Locations, depending on where shipping takes place.

If your company has components of a product that are manufactured elsewhere and used in the assembly of the final product, that manufacturer would not need to be an ISTA member. ISTA packaged-product certification is based on an entire shipping unit: packaging and product included, not the individual components of the product or package.

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How do I update my contact or member information?
ISTA Members can LOGIN to the ISTA Member Center to update or edit their personal contact information. Once you have logged in, click View and Edit User Profile and you will be able to edit and update the information we have on file.

Anyone with a Member Center account can edit their own profile information; only Delegates are allowed to edit member company information.

If you were previously employed by an existing ISTA Member company (and therefore have a Member Center account), but have since moved to a new company that is also an ISTA Member, please contact ISTA for assistance in updating your account (ista@ista.org).

If you would like to add yourself or another contact to an existing ISTA Member company records, please contact ista@ista.org.

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What is the difference between a COMMERCIAL and a LIMITED lab?
ISTA classifies the testing laboratories we certify in two ways:

COMMERCIAL: Labs that have little to no restrictions to their customer base. Generally independent, third-party testing facilities.

LIMITED: Labs that have policy restriction regarding their customer base. Generally suppliers who test only for customers, or product manufacturers with in-house labs.

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How do I submit a topic, case study and/or suggestion for a future ISTA educational program?
Please contact Lisa Bonsignore (lisa@ista.org ; 517-333-3437).

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I don’t see what I am looking for and/or have a suggestion regarding one of ISTA's programs. Who should I contact?
To find educational materials or resources, or to suggest a topic/submit an abstract for one of our educational programs, please contact Lisa Bonsignore (lisa@ista.org; 517-333-3437).

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Does ISTA offer any discounts for educational programs?
Yes! ISTA membership has advantages including discounts for all our educational events, certification programs and E-Market items. ISTA also provides group discounts to give added value.

If you are not already a member, JOIN TODAY to start taking immediate advantage of member benefits.

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Does ISTA have education publications or reference materials available?
Yes! Available online, ' i-News' is ISTA's e-newsletter for the transport packaging community. It highlights the latest top-of-the-page ISTA news, trends and information in the packaging industry.

In addition, ISTA’s digital magazine, ' istaviews’, is a compilation of vision and views for the transport packaging community. Regular features of ista views include Technical articles, 'Inside ISTA Headquarters', Technical Articles, New Member listings, 'CPLP Corner', Here's an Interesting Question' and Industry News. To access ista views archive click here.

Our website also offers access to informational technical papers, studies as well as proceedings from past conferences (ISTACon, Dimensions and the Forum) via our Technical Library.

Some of our more popular informational papers are now available to both members and non-members for no charge. Click here to access the Technical Library.

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What educational programs does ISTA offer?
ISTA provides regular opportunities to allow packaging professionals to exchange theories and best practices. ISTA educational opportunities allow members to keep current with both test procedures and developments in the transport packaging industry.

Our annual TransPack Forum , held each spring in the United States, is the largest transport packaging conference in the world. You will gain knowledge and insight from quality presentations and case studies on the latest techniques, ideas and advancements of sustainable transport packaging and the physical distribution of products. There are ample opportunities for networking with fellow colleagues, companies and vendors from around the world.

Our annual China Symposium provides a similar event as the Forum and is held in China each fall.

Our annual European Symposium also provides a similar event as the Forum and is held in Europe.

ISTA Workshops cover the basics to the very specific, in response to the needs of the transport packaging community. Whether it is one of our ongoing CPLP Workshops focused on personal development and certification of packaging laboratory professionals, or a specific topic such as our Field Data Workshop focused on dynamic measurement techniques, we provide the education and information that enhances your career. Workshops are held throughout the year in varying locations; check the ISTA website for details.

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What programs does ISTA offer for professional development?
The ISTA® Certified Packaging Laboratory Professional program (CPLP) offers three levels of individual certification for the packaging professional:

• Technician: covers basic laboratory operations, procedures & protocols, and conduct of the essential ISTA shock/drop/impact, vibration, compression, and atmospheric tests. A minimum of 6 months employment in the industry is required, or a packaging or related engineering degree.

• Technologist: encompasses advanced procedures & protocols including those from other organizations, random vibration, dynamic material testing, instrumentation, and enhanced simulation (ISTA 4AB). Prerequisites are Technician-level certification and a minimum of 1 year employment in the industry (or a packaging or related engineering degree).

• Professional: is the elite status, the highest attainable certification level in the CPLP program, and is based on a résumé of industry participation and achievements. Weighted recognition of employment in packaging, attendance at educational packaging events, other related continuing education, advanced packaging or related degrees, published papers/articles, presentations, teaching, participation in technical societies and packaging organizations, honors/awards, patents, etc. comprise the requirements. Prerequisites are both Technician and Technologist CPLP certifications and a minimum of 3 years employment in the industry. Certification is based on a résumé in the above categories and is scored on a numerical basis. A minimum score of 320 is required for CPLP Professional certification.

Full details relating to the CPLP Program, including program contents and fees, are available on the ISTA website .

The ISTA® Certified Thermal Professional program (CTP) offers two levels of individual certification for the packaging professional:
• Certified ThermalProfessional (CTP) – LEVEL I
A CTP Level I individual is a lab technician with demonstrated competence to perform Standard 20 testing procedures under the direction of a CTP II. CTP I personnel know and understand the basics of document preparation (including reporting of exceptions), basic numeric procedures for completion of forms, and a general understanding of authorities and signatures required for attesting to document completion.
• Certified ThermalProfessional (CTP) – LEVEL II
A CTP II certified thermal professional has a comprehensive working knowledge of all of the documents contained in Standard 20, and is capable of running a lab performing the tests specified by Standard 20. CTP II personnel understand the entire process from design to final certification of an insulated shipping container (ISC). They are capable of creating compliant, accurate and properly attested documentary packages.
CTP II personnel have exhibited a conceptual grasp of laboratory procedures that are relevant to Standard 20 protocols and are competent to maintain a laboratory to certification standards set forth by ISTA.

Full details relating to the CTP Program, including program contents and fees, are available on the ISTA website.

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What are the differences between ISTA procedures and ASTM standards?
ASTM International has a group which is concerned with packaging (designated Committee D10). Most of the ASTM packaging tests are for various material properties or are "Test methodologies"; i.e. the considerations and steps needed to run a particular type of test, such as a drop test. In this case they don't tell you what drops to perform or the orientations or drops heights, but do detail the general procedure, type of equipment, equipment installation, accuracy and repeatability, documentation, etc.

There are only two ASTM standards devoted to packaged-product performance in distribution, and those are D4169 and D7386.
D4169 (Standard Practice for Performance Testing of Shipping Containers and Systems) is a pre-shipment General Simulation test covering a range of package types and distribution scenarios. The user must choose from tests, alternatives, intensities, sequences and specific procedures based on packaged-product and distribution characteristics. Its compels, and there are some gaps and difficulties, but an experiences user can create from D4169 a test plan that will be a good general laboratory simulation of the selected distribution cycle.

D7386 (Standard Practice for Performance Testing of Packages for Single Small Parcel Delivery Systems) is a relatively new (2008) General Simulation test specific to the small parcel distribution environment.

Typically, testing to ASTM D4169 and ASTM D7386 involves rather sophisticated, extensive and expensive equipment, and relatively skilled operators.

The mainstream ISTA tests are also pre-shipment test procedures; i.e., test used to compare or evaluate the effectiveness of protective packaging and/or a packaged-products; ability to withstand the hazards of distribution. ISTA classifies procedures and projects in Series:

ISTA 1-Series: Non-Simulation Integrity tests that evaluate the ruggedness of the product and package unit but don't necessarily simulate what happens in actual distribution. The tests require relatively simple and inexpensive equipment, simple test methods and minimal operator skill.

ISTA 3-Series: General Simulation tests that are based on broad definitions of the hazards of distribution. Equipment and operator skill requirements are similar to ASTM D4169 and D7386, however, there are individual specific procedures covering a number of packaged-products and distribution systems, so much less interpretation is required.

ISTA 5-Series: This Series is not currently being used by ISTA; however it is reserved for Focused Simulations, based on user-measured or observed hazards. This test series is intended for the highest-value products, and/or the most demanding situations. Equipment and operator requirements are much like the 3-Series, but test design requires thorough knowledge and complete information.

ISTA 2-Series and 4-Series are combinations of the Series above, with elements of each.

Each procedure or project within the Series' reference ASTM methodologies for equipment requirements.

In summary:
ASTM has two performance test protocols, intended to cover essentially all situations. It may be difficult to understand and use, but can be effective if properly applied. They require relatively expensive equipment and skilled operators. The rest of the ASTM document line-up are test methodologies and do not give specific details on what levels, sequences, orientations, etc. to use during testing.

ISTA offers a variety of test protocols, often tailored to specific situations or package configurations. The different Series give the user a choice of cost, complexity and operator skill requirements. All Procedures and Projects are in a "mapped" (step-by-step) format for easy interpretation.

Click Here to review the Overviews of ISTA Procedures and Projects.

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What marketing opportunities does ISTA offer?
ISTA offers several marketing opportunities for members and nonmembers:

ista views is ISTA's digital magazine. This high-quality digital publication is a reliable source of transport packaging news and information that keeps packaging professionals informed, involved and connected to the industry. ista views contains technical articles, member and industry news, and regular features such as Test Procedure Updates, Certification updates, New Members, Upcoming Events and Spotlights on ISTA Suppliers, Certified Laboratories and individual members. Various ad sizes, 4 color and black and white options are available. Interactive full hyperlinks link to advertiser's website URL. Published four times each calendar year.

i-News is ISTA's e-newsletter. i-News highlights the latest top-of-the-page ISTA news, trends and information in the packaging industry. Banner ads are available. i-News is sent 8 times each calendar year.

The Resource Book contains complete information about all of the ISTA Procedures, Guidelines for the selection and use, ISTA-certified labs, and much more. This book is updated annually. Various ad sizes, 4 color and black and white options are available. ISTA Certified Laboratories may also enhance their laboratory listing for a fee.

To download the current rates and the contract, click here.

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