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What is Altitude Package Testing?

Altitude Package Integrity Testing

Altitude package testing is performed to evaluate pressure differentials for a specific mode of transportation in the distribution cycle.

In this case, transportation modes include feeder aircraft or high mountain ground transportation. A feeder aircraft is considered a potentially non-pressurized aircraft used to transport express air packages to remote locations.

Keystone Compliance is an ISO 17025 and ISTA accredited test laboratory able to provide any altitude package testing needs. Our engineers take a consultative approach throughout the entire test process and we offer immediate emergency scheduling.

Contact us to learn first hand why so many companies partner with Keystone to achieve their altitude package testing certification needs. Request a quote to receive testing services customized to your specific needs. 

Why is Altitude Package Testing Important?

The purpose of package testing is to ensure that packages withstand distribution and keep the product protected until it reaches the end consumer. Damaged products can create costly damage fees, return shipments, and lost customer loyalty.

Pressure differentials potentially have negative effects on packages. These differentials range up to 19,000 ft. If there are bubbles that can be attributed to leaks in a unit, the unit has failed. This includes during the rise of vacuum or when held at full pressure.

Flexible packages are considered to be packages made of flexible material that can readily be changed. These types of packaging are extremely susceptible to altitude testing. Leaks during the transportation cycle allow contents to escape or unwanted substances to enter. 

Altitude Integrity Testing Process

First, specimens are chosen to adequately represent the performance of the test. A recommended number of samples is given by our expert package test engineers. Each sample consists of products that will be used during the transportation system. If this is unattainable, products will need to be as comparable to the original product as possible.

When these packages or packaging systems are exposed to these altitudes, the units will be negatively affected resulting from the pressure differential.

The package is conditioned to ambient laboratory temperature and humidity. Temperatures can range from 20℃ to 40℃ while ambient humidity is generally 50%.

Testing procedures vary depending on which test best fits the manufacturers’ needs. The unit is placed in a vacuum chamber and a specific pressure is attained. The unit is then removed from the vacuum chamber and examined for any damage or deformation. 

Lastly, a report is written. The test report includes information such as the following. This list is not intended to be all-inclusive.

  • Temperature and humidity of conditioning
  • Vacuum, temperature, and duration of the testing
  • Description of the product and internal packaging
  • Number of specimens used and number of failures (if any)
  • Date, time, and name of the test engineer
  • Test results of each specimen

Keystone’s Altitude Testing Equipment and Capabilities

Keystone Compliance utilizes multiple atmospheric chambers capable of simulating altitudes up to 70,000 feet. Additionally, we utilize dozens of thermal chambers from reach-in to walk-in chambers. These chambers can accommodate entire vehicles and large pieces of equipment.

Test Methods ASTM D3078, ASTM D4991, ASTM D6653, and ASTM D5094, test for leakage of packaging systems by vacuum method.

ASTM D3078: Leaks in Flexible Packaging

Detects gross leaks in flexible packaging containing a headspace gas. The size of the leak detected depends on the products contained, the nature of the packaging material, and test parameters.

The standard uses a vacuum chamber to determine if there are bubbles attributable to leaks in a specimen. This is determined during the rise of vacuum or when held at full vacuum. If a leak is present, the specimen fails the test.

ASTM D4991: Leakage of Empty Rigid Containers by Vacuum

Determines the resistance of leakage under differential pressure conditions for empty containers. The standard is also suitable for testing some hazardous liquids.

The standard is used to test rigid containers intended for the transportation of some liquids by air. ASTM D4991 is carried out by pressurizing an empty rigid container in a solution and subjecting it to a gradually increasing vacuum.

ASTM D5094: Gross Leakage of Liquids from Containers

Evaluates closure/container integrity with threaded or lug-style closures.

ASTM D5094 is tested by gross leaks in rigid and semi-rigid containers. The test indicates if a container can survive the distribution without leaking.

ASTM D5094 also tests the ability of containers to prevent leakage when stored or transported upright, inverted, or on the side. There are two test methods for ASTM D5094. Test method A is vibration and storage testing. Test method B is vibration and vacuum chamber testing. Though test method B is less severe than test method A, it is also a shorter test procedure.

ASTM D6653: High Altitude on Packaging Systems

Determines the effects of pressure differential when packaged products face certain transportation modes. This includes feeder aircraft or ground over high mountain passes.

For ASTM D6653, the unit is placed in a vacuum chamber. Next, the inlet valve is closed and the outlet valve is opened. The vacuum source is on so that the gauge rises to the rate of 305m 30-60s until the appropriate pressure is achieved. The vacuum is generally maintained for a total of 60 minutes.

Don’t see a standard that you are looking for? Contact us for more information on our extensive package test scope.

Expert Altitude Integrity Compliance Testing

Keystone Compliance provides the peace of mind that all your package testing needs are met. This helps customers focus on R&D rather than package compliance testing. We take a consultative approach throughout the entire test program. 

In addition to altitude and ASTM testing, Keystone has a full scope of expertise including temperature validation, accelerated aging, and burst strength. We can accommodate flexible and rigid packages of all sizes, including large pallets. Lastly, Keystone has a full lab of test equipment which permits us to provide short lead times on scheduling. 

Ready to get started? Request a quote and see why so many companies trust Keystone with their packaging integrity testing.