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ASTM Committee D10 Celebrates 90 Years of Packaging Standardization

by Julie Clifford and Alfred H. McKinlay

So commonplace that it goes virtually unnoticed by most people, packaging is an essential part of our daily lives. Packaging provides three key functions for today’s products: protection, utility, and communication. Without packaging that protects products, the shelf life for many products would be hours or days instead of weeks and months and, in some cases, years. A classic example of the utility offered by modern packaging is obvious when you consider the cracker. In days gone by, people visited local stores and pulled crackers from a large barrel. Today, crackers are neatly packaged in plastic film tubes and the tubes are loaded into a carton that is sized to be appropriate for a household. Communication, the last key function, is probably the most obvious. Without a label, it is hard to identify the contents of that can prior to opening.

ASTM International Committee D10 on Packaging has been on the job for the last 90 years, keeping abreast of changes in packaging. This technical committee has played a key role in the development of technology over the years. Through the methods it has developed, the committee has continued to both push technology and support it as it evolved.

The first regular D10 meeting was held on Jan. 8, 1914, in New York, N.Y. Nineteen members were present. Col. B.W. Dunn was elected chairman of the committee and W. S. Topping was elected secretary. At the time, the committee title was D10 on Shipping Containers. For the first 50 years the focus was on protection, and specifically protection through the shipping process.

The First Years

During its formative years, from 1914 to 1920, the committee worked on the classification of woods, test methods, and specifications for shipping containers. The emphasis of its work was on the testing of wooden boxes in a revolving drum and on specifications for boxes for shipping canned goods. The onset of World War I added great urgency to the work of the committee. At this time, the Forest Products Laboratory and the National Association of Box Manufacturers were very active participants in D10’s work. The Fibre and Corrugated Strawboard Box Association was also a member, however, little work was done in this area due to the inferior quality of the shipping containers made from these alternative materials.

With the emphasis on protection during shipment it is no surprise that the first procedure approved during these years was for determining the actual performance of a shipping container. Although compression testing of wooden boxes was going on as early as 1905 at Purdue University and at the Forest Products Laboratory, it was the development of the revolving drum machine that spurred the development of D10’s first standard. In 1914, the first such machine, a 4 ft. [1.2 m] model, was demonstrated by two D10 members for the committee. In 1915, FPL designed a newer version that eventually led to the development of the 7 ft. [2.1 m] drum similar to that used today. In 1917, FPL also developed a 14 ft. [4.3 m] diameter model which is primarily used by the military.

In 1917, the committee, in conjunction with FPL, ran a series of tests on various types of boxes using the revolving drum — an 18 in. [460 mm] drop test and compression test. It was one of the first attempts at using standardized test methods to develop data for specifications.

1920 - 1940

Following World War I, the pressure to develop container specifications eased. In the 1920s, the focus changed to the development of equipment to meet the needs of the D10 test program. The increasing availability of new materials and container designs caused a shift in the emphasis from container specifications only to test methods for both containers and materials. In addition, the committee acted as a clearing house for information developed by producers, users, associations and FPL. In 1921, the Subcommittee on Nomenclature and Definitions of Terms Related to Shipping Containers was formed.

1940 - 1960

World War II brought on much activity in the U.S. government and at FPL. Most of the current foundational test methods were developed and published during this period. Table 1 (below) lists these methods.

Table 1 — Foundational D10 Test Methods
D 642 Method of Compression Test for Shipping Containers (1941)
D 775 Test Method for Drop Test for Shipping Containers (1945)
D 782 Method of Testing Containers in Revolving Hexagonal Drum (1944)
D 880 Method of Incline Test for Shipping Containers (1946)
D 895 Method of Test for Water Permeability of Shipping Containers (1947)
D 951 Method of Test for Water Resistance of Containers by Spray Method (1947)
D 959 Method of Drop Test for Bags (1948)
D 996 Definitions of Terms Relating to Shipping Containers (1948)
D 997 Drop Test for Cylindrical Shipping Containers (1948)
D 998 Method of Test for Penetration of Liquids Into Submerged Containers (1948)
D 999 Vibration Test for Shipping Containers (1948)
D 1008 Method of Test for Water Vapor Permeability of Shipping Containers (1949)
D 1083 Method of Testing Large Cases and Crates (1950)

In the 1950s, the committee began conducting round-robin tests to determine the precision and accuracy (now called precision and bias) of existing methods. Four initial tests — drum, incline impact, drop and vibration — were given priority. The results were surprising. The drop test and the incline impact test would rank different types of containers in the same order each time they were tested. The vibration test suffered from a lack of suitable end points. The most shocking discovery was the extreme variability of the revolving drum test, and eventually it was withdrawn.

1960 - 1980

Consumer packaging was becoming more sophisticated and diverse. Standardization outside of the well-defined protection function was needed to support these changes. To meet these new challenges, the D10 scope, bylaws, and organization would need to change. In January 1961 ASTM’s board of directors approved a change to the title along with a broader scope. The new title would be Committee D10 on Packaging. The only restriction placed on the group at this time was that the committee would not develop standards on basic materials used in packaging. This has since been modified to allow the committee to develop material standards if the relevant existing material committees do not develop such standards. In 1993 a new scope was approved by the ASTM board of directors that not only more clearly defined the areas of D10’s activities but added the areas of re-use, recycling and disposal of materials related to packaging.

The committee was completely reorganized in 1964. That year the membership approved a new structure that included three divisions: Division I, General (covering subjects common to all divisions); Division II, Shipping Containers; and Division III, Consumer Packaging. This new structure became effective in 1965.

The standards that were placed in Divisions I and II had existed and been maintained almost from the formation of the committee, but Division III was brand new and would have to start from scratch. This new effort began in October 1964. Initially, five subcommittees were part of this division. During the first six years however, the structure of Division III would significantly change to better meet industry needs.

Child resistant packaging has become a key area of focus in packaging and therefore, one of the subcommittees in Division III now covers these types of packages exclusively. The accomplishments of this group are noteworthy, including working with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to support the testing methodology that helps companies package products to meet the standards of the Poison Prevention Act of 1970. Recently, the subcommittee decided it was time to move to a new level of commitment and has asked the members to go into their communities and spread the word about keeping young children safe.

Performance of Shipping Containers

One of the major contributions of D10 to the field of packaging has been the development of D 4169, Practice for Performance Testing of Shipping Containers and Systems, which was first published in 1979 as a proposed practice. This standard provides a uniform basis for evaluating, in a laboratory, the ability of a shipping container to withstand the distribution environment. This practice coordinates many of the foundational methods by prescribing a specific series of tests simulating a sequence of anticipated hazards encountered in a specific distribution environment. Various distribution environments and test levels are used to represent the different levels of hazard normally encountered in the shipping environment. (Click here for more on D 4169.)

During the development of D 4169, all known shipping environments, many published by FPL, were investigated to determine the types of tests and test levels needed to simulate various real-life shipping environments. In 1982, following much verification and validation testing, D 4169 was approved and published as an ASTM standard. Since then, several revisions have been made, including the 1992 addition of the military distribution environment requirements. Consideration was given to adding requirements for hazardous material packaging to D 4169, however, it was felt that a separate method would be more appropriate. Today D 4919, Specification for Testing of Hazardous Materials Packaging, covers testing as spelled out by the United Nations’ standard.

The effort to coordinate, write, verify and validate D 4169 was so noteworthy that the standard received the ASTM Dudley Medal in 1995 and is the only standard to date to receive this prestigious award.

D10 and GSA/DoD Packaging Documents

In 1972 the General Services Administration’s Federal Supply Services branch approached Committee D10 with the request that D10 take over a number of federal documents on test methods. Of particular interest at that time was FED-STD-147 on Packaging Tapes. As of the early 1980s, all tape test methods, not strictly military, were converted to ASTM standards.

In the fall of 1977 it was recommended that the committee call a joint meeting with Department of Defense packaging specialists to explore areas of mutual interest and concerns. This joint meeting was held in Philadelphia during the 1978 spring meeting of D10. This meeting resulted in the formation of the ASTM/DoD Packaging Liaison Group. The group consisted of three D10 members appointed by the chairman of the committee and several members from DoD representing the various branches of the armed services. One ASTM member and one DoD employee serve as co-chairs of the group. Its purpose is to facilitate and encourage DoD personnel to participate in D10 and become members of the committee. This group is encouraged to offer comments on DoD standards, to participate in writing packaging sections to ASTM materials specifications, and to make D10 aware of DoD’s standards needs.

In the past 25 years much has been accomplished by the participation of DoD in D10, with the past 15 years being particularly rewarding. Not only have the tape tests been converted to ASTM standards, but such federal specifications as PPP-S-760 and QQ-S-781 on non-metallic and steel strapping have been converted to ASTM D 3950, Specification for Strapping, Nonmetallic (and Joining Methods); D 3953, Specification for Strapping, Flat Steel and Seals; and D 4675, Guide to the Selection and Use of Flat Strapping Materials, with the federal specifications having been canceled. The federal specifications covering fiberboard and fiberboard boxes, PPP-F-32D, PPP-B-636 and PPP-B-640, are now ASTM standards D 4727/D 4727M, Specification for Corrugated and Solid Fiberboard Sheet Stock (Container Grade) and Cut Shapes; D 5118/D 5118M, Practice for Fabrication of Fiberboard Shipping Boxes; and D 5168, Practice for Fabrication and Closure of Triple-Wall Corrugated Fiberboard Containers, respectively, with D 1974, Guide for Closure Sealing and Reinforcing Fiberboard Shipping Containers, replacing the appendices of PPP-B-636 and 640.

1980 - the Present

In 1991 several changes were made to create the basic structure of D10 today. These changes included adding Division IV on Recycling and Disposability. The division was dropped a few years later when interest and participation waned. Later, the Service Function Subcommittees were added under the committee chairman. These include D10.91 on Technical Steering, D10.92 on Editorial, Statistics and Metric Practice, D10.93 on Long Range Planning, D10.94, the ASTM/Government Liaison Group on Packaging, D10.95 on Awards, and D10.96, the U.S. Technical Advisory Group for International Organization for Standardization Technical Committee 122 Subcommittee 3.

Liaison Activities

ASTM D10 standards form the basis of most of the ISO/TC 122 standards. In 1980 the United States, through Committee D10, was the prime mover in the ISO Child Resistant Packaging standard. In 1984, a member of D10 was appointed chairman of the ISO/TC 122 Working Group on Packaging Terminology. Later that year, two other D10 members were made co-conveners and co-chairmen of the ISO/TC 122 Working Group on Unit Load Stability. D10 has continued its participation in these activities by sending members to meetings of TC 122 in Canada, Turkey, and the Czech Republic, as well as three meetings in the United States. The United States also regularly sends members to TC 122 working groups that work in conjunction with European Committee for Standardization (CEN) working groups on Child Resistant Packaging and Dangerous Goods Packaging.

Since the formation of American National Standards Institute (ANSI) MH 10 Committee on Packaging in 1957, D10 members have been active in and chaired the subcommittees on testing and terminology.

In addition, a D10 member chaired the subcommittee on unit load sizes for several years and presently a D10 member is MH 10 chairman. The active participation by D10 members on this committee has led to good coordination between the two organizations.

The Future

D10 will continue to be an important contributor to the success of packaging that you see and deal with every day. The committee has recognized the need to remain flexible enough to incorporate new technologies and will continue to evolve to match growth opportunities. The members of D10 welcome the interactions with industry, government, academia and international standards organizations in an effort to be as inclusive as possible. We believe the best packaging standards can be created with a diverse level of participation. //

Copyright 2004, ASTM International

Julie A. Clifford is an assistant director with Alcon Laboratories, Inc., in Fort Worth, Texas, where she manages Alcon’s packaging for ophthalmic products. She is a 17-year member of ASTM Committee D10 on Packaging and currently serves as D10’s chairman. Clifford is also a member of Committee F02 on Flexible Barrier Materials.

Alfred H. McKinlay has served four terms as chairman of Committee D10 and is currently the U.S. head-of-delegation to ISO Technical Committee 122 on Packaging. His entire career has involved packaging and handling: first at General Electric corporate packaging for over 20 years, and since 1981 as an independent consultant to a wide range of clients.