Active Standard ASTM D5639 / D5639M | Developed by Subcommittee: D10.27
Book of Standards Volume: 15.10
Historical (view previous versions of standard)
Significance and Use
This practice assists users in selecting appropriate performance characteristics of corrugated fiberboard or box construction, or both, commensurate with the user's need for packing and distribution of goods. This practice describes several attributes of fiberboard and boxes which relate to various hazards encountered in distribution and describes test parameters which may be specified by the user to ensure sufficient strength in the box for containment, storage, handling, and protection of contents.
The user should specify only those attributes and related tests which are required for satisfactory performance in the user's operations and distribution cycle(s). When using packaging regulations as a basis for developing specifications, the reason for the existence of the regulation and its function and importance should be understood. As previously stated, regulations may be exceeded and should be when the minimum specifications are inadequate for the full effects of the distribution cycle. If the user decides to employ box compression strength or a rough handling performance protocol as the overriding specification, it should be noted that all minimum standards required by various organizations shall also be met or surpassed. These minimum standards can be stated in the box drawing so as to ensure adherence to regulations If a Box Manufacturer’s Certificate (BMC) is printed on the box, then the ECT or Mullen Burst/Basis Weight values shall meet or exceed the minimum requirements for size and weight of the packaged product.
See Appendix X7 for several examples of specification determinations.
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 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 intended to provide specific corrugated container performance standards as opposed to packaged product performance evaluation through distribution and handling environments, such as Practice D4169.
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 regulations include detailed descriptions of the materials that may be used and style, closure, or other construction details of allowed shipping containers. These regulations 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
1.2.1 The attribute levels contained herein are based on US practice and specifications. Some attributes such as flute dimensions and basis weights may be defined differently in other countries.
1.3 There are two distinctly different methods commonly used for specifying boxes. The most common approach is to specify materials, such as defining flute, edge crush value, Mullen burst value, and flat crush minimums, containerboard weights and thicknesses. An alternative approach is to define some measure of performance. Mullen burst values can be one of these measures if the user has determined that some minimum burst value is all that is required in their distribution system. The overall compression strength of the box is another, and this measure allows each supplier to achieve the required strength through their own unique combination of materials and processes. A third measure would be to pass some sort of rough handling performance protocol, with Practice D4169 being one example. Unlike material specifications, where definitions of fluting, test methods of ECT, and difficulty of assessing individual components of the box structure exist, compression values of the finished box are easily tested and verified using a common test method (Test Method D642). The same can be said of box performance measured against a performance protocol. Using only 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.
Conversely, box compression and rough handling performance protocols measures both material and manufacturing quality simultaneously. It is sometimes advantageous to use a combination of both these methods to help assure the outer liner will not easily scuff or break. Though suppliers will need to continue to use material specifications when making boxes, the user would benefit more from employing performance specifications to help guarantee similar box attributes from a variety of suppliers. It should be realized that no two suppliers, especially if they’re located in different countries, will use the same materials and processes for making a box. Employing box compression values or performance protocols will help assure the lowest price for specific performance, regardless of the material used.
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, CFR 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 and health practices and determine the applicability of regulatory limitations prior to use.
2. Referenced Documents (purchase separately) The documents listed below are referenced within the subject standard but are not provided as part of the standard.
D585 Practice for Sampling and Accepting a Single Lot of Paper, Paperboard, Fiberboard, and Related Product
D642 Test Method for Determining Compressive Resistance of Shipping Containers, Components, and Unit Loads
D685 Practice for Conditioning Paper and Paper Products for Testing
D996 Terminology of Packaging and Distribution Environments
D4169 Practice for Performance Testing of Shipping Containers and Systems
D4727/D4727M Specification for Corrugated and Solid Fiberboard Sheet Stock (Container Grade) and Cut Shapes
D5118/D5118M Practice for Fabrication of Fiberboard Shipping Boxes
D5168 Practice for Fabrication and Closure of Triple-Wall Corrugated Fiberboard Containers
D5276 Test Method for Drop Test of Loaded Containers by Free Fall
E122 Practice for Calculating Sample Size to Estimate, With Specified Precision, the Average for a Characteristic of a Lot or Process
TAPPI MethodsT825 Flat Crush Test of Corrugated Fiberboard-Fixed Platen Method
ICS Number Code 55.160 (Cases. Boxes. Crates)