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ASTM D5639/D5639M-20

Standard Practice for Selection of Corrugated Fiberboard Materials and Box Construction Based on Performance Requirements

1.1 This practice provides information on corrugated fiberboard for the prospective user who wants guidance in selecting attributes of materials and box construction based on performance requirements. These attributes should be part of specifications which establish levels of the qualities a shipping container shall have achieved in order to be acceptable to the purchaser or user. The attributes and qualities should be testable, using standard methods that are recognized by both the buyer and seller. This practice will assist users in developing specifications for corrugated containers through an analysis of performance requirements and subsequent relationships to fiberboard materials and box construction attributes. This practice is meant to complement the box buyer–box manufacturer relationship by having the buyer (user) better understand, discuss, and negotiate needed elements of box design and specification. The full box design process is complex, and it is beyond the scope of this standard.

1.2 The attributes and their levels should be based on the intended use of the box, including the handling and environment it will encounter. Many packaging rules include detailed descriptions of the materials that may be used and style, closure, or other construction details of allowed shipping containers. These rules are presented as minimum requirements; they may be exceeded for functional reasons, but there is no regulatory reason to do so. Rail and motor freight classifications applicable for surface common carrier transportation have established minimum requirements for certain attributes of corrugated packaging. These may or may not be appropriate for application in the complete distribution system, as they encompass only containerboard or combined corrugated board — not finished boxes — and are not intended to provide for the distribution and storage system beyond the transportation segment.

1.2.1 The attribute levels contained herein are based on U.S. practice and specifications. Some attributes such as flute dimensions and basis weights may be defined differently in other countries.

1.3 There are four common methods used for specifying boxes.

1.3.1 A common approach is to examine boxes currently in use for the specific application and to make a similar or modified version of that box, given that it has a proven performance record. This method, while quite efficient, and fast, does not lead to box optimization based on characterization by end use. This method can lead to overdesign.

1.3.2 A second common approach is to estimate the compression strength necessary for a box at the bottom of a stack of boxes to totally support the anticipated load. A safety factor, F, is calculated from the expected environmental hazards that are anticipated in storage and shipping. A minimum initial box compression, as measured by Test Method D642 is determined using the weight on the bottom box and the F factor, see 8.3. Then engineering principles are used to select material combinations based on material characteristics such as caliper, edge crush value, and flat crush to meet that requirement.

1.3.3 The third approach may be used when the box application has product support sufficient to meet anticipated compression requirements, therefore the board structural requirements are focused on protection and containment. Mullen burst values can be one of these measures for this category of box if the user has determined that a minimum burst value is the main metric required in their distribution system. In this case, total weight per box allowable per carrier rules may be higher than would be expected based on expected predicted compression strength, safety factor, and board combination used. See 7.2 – and 8.2.1.

1.3.4 The fourth approach may be used when the box is intended for single parcel shipment of high value or hazardous materials, where there can be a compression requirement but most often the performance attributes required are toughness as measured by drop and impact resistance, see 8.2. A means of gaining confidence that a box in this category will function properly in its intended distribution environment is to test the box using some sort of rough handling performance protocol such as Practice D4169 or ISTA 3 Series: General Simulation Performance Tests.

1.3.5 Using material specifications to define a box does not guarantee the box will be well made. For example, the best possible material could be used for making a box, but if the score lines are too deep or too shallow, or if the manufacturer’s joint is not secured correctly, the box will fail in distribution. All proposed constructions and designs should be vetted by means of a process of samples, testing, prototype packing and shipping. Only once a construction has been proven to work across a range of anticipated end use conditions should it be approved for normal production.

1.4 Corrugated containers for packaging of hazardous materials for transportation shall comply with federal regulations administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation (Code of Federal Regulations, Title 49).

1.5 Lists and Descriptions of Performance and Material Characteristics and Related Test Procedures—For further information on the development of performance-based specifications, please refer to the sections on Specifications and Test Procedures of the Fibre Box Handbook.

1.6 The values stated in both SI and inch-pound units are to be regarded separately as standard. Within the text, the inch-pound units are shown in brackets. The values stated in each system are not exact equivalents; therefore, each system shall be used independently of the other.

1.7 This standard does not purport to address all of the safety concerns, if any, associated with its use. It is the responsibility of the user of this standard to establish appropriate safety, health, and environmental practices and determine the applicability of regulatory limitations prior to use.

1.8 This international standard was developed in accordance with internationally recognized principles on standardization established in the Decision on Principles for the Development of International Standards, Guides and Recommendations issued by the World Trade Organization Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Committee.

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