ASTM D4169: new version

In a transport simulation, the distribution environment is simulated in a controlled laboratory environment, where processes (methods) mimic the risks of real transport. For many customers in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device industries, the most commonly used test method is the ASTM D4169 standard. At the IBE-BVI, the most current version is always used for testing unless the customer specifically requests a different version. In February 2024, ASTM released a new version of this standard, immediately followed by an additional editorial change in March 2024 (ASTM D4169-23e1).

We would like to share with you the main changes in this updated test procedure, which mainly focus on the possible top load during transport:

  • Sub-section 3.2.7 - A new definition for “Small and light packages” has been added for packages weighing less than 4.53 kg (10 lbs) & with a volume under 0.056 m³ (2 ft³). This directly affects the determination of maximum stack height (H). Previously, this was listed as a “NOTE” (n°3) in the ASTM D4169-22.

  • The 160kg/m³ shipping density had not changed in the standard since 2005. However, shipments are increasingly optimized to minimize the amount of air transported, which makes the average density per package go up in recent years. Sub-Section 11.4.1 henceforth recommends a higher overall shipping density for mixed loads and LTL shipments (LTL: 'Less than Truck Load Transport' Where the load occupies part of the load floor & several loads from different companies are combined into one full load). If the average shipping density factor (Mf) for the specific distribution system is not known, a value of 192.2 kg/m³ (12.0 lb/ft³) is recommended. ASTM D4169 says the old average shipping density factor 160 kg/m³ (10lb/ft³) represents the 40th percentile and 481kg/m³ (30lb/ft³) represents the 95th percentile of the possible weight on the shipping package. So what can this mean for you? The same box will now be more heavily loaded during a test when the new recommended density is used. For example, a shipping box measuring 50 x 30 x 30 cm, should be able to support 2848N according to the latest version of the standard, whereas before it was only 2371N. This does not necessarily mean that you need to make immediate adjustments to your packaging. If you have been using the same shipping box for several years without any significant compression problems, continuing with 160kg/m³ is certainly justifiable. However, you can always contact us to have your current packaging tested with the new recommended density as well. Subsection 11.4.2 - This section provides a decision matrix to determine the “Maximum Stack Height” (H) during transport.

  • For testing according to distribution cycle 13, in addition to ASTM D4332, reference is now made to ASTM F2825: Standard Practice for Climatic Stressing of Packaging Systems for Single Parcel Delivery. This standard recommends temperatures that are not absolute extremes, unlike those in ASTM D4332, but are based on global daily averages in cold and hot climates. Which can provide a more realistic assessment of the packaging system.

Federico Bassotto June 7, 2024
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