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ASTM D4169 - Performance Testing of Shipping Containers and Systems

What is the ASTM D4169 method?

The ASTM D4169 standard is a set of standardized testing methods used to determine and assess the performance of laboratory shipping units, particularly well-suited for multimodal and international transportation. Its aim is to standardize the evaluation approach, ensuring that containers and shipping systems can reliably protect their contents throughout the logistics process. This standard involves subjecting shipping units to a detailed test plan, which includes a sequence of stresses typically encountered in various distribution environments, such as shocks, vibration, compression load, ...

This container and packaging system performance guide uses standard testing methods that faithfully represent the real-world distribution context. Test levels are established based on industry (electronic, medical device, pharma, consumer goods,...) or government-provided information regarding shipping and handling environments, as well as accumulated experience. The tests must be performed sequentially on the same packaging-product systems to ensure a relevant and realistic assessment of their ability to withstand the challenges posed by distribution cycles.


How do I know which distribution cycle and assurance level to test for with ASTM D4169 testing?

Understanding how to select the most suitable distribution cycle (DC) and assurance level (AL) is indispensable in ASTM D4169 testing for packaging. This decision is essential to ensuring your packaging is tested under realistic conditions, simulating its journey through the distribution process.

1. Identifying the appropriate distribution cycle

Firstly, it's essential to analyze your package's journey. Ask yourself key questions: Will the package be transported via air, rail, sea, or truck? How your motor freight is loaded ? What is the extent of travel for each distribution phase – is it a cross-country journey or a local one? These factors are instrumental in choosing the right DC for your package.

2. Understanding distribution cycles in ASTM D4169

ASTM D4169 offers 18 distinct distribution cycles, each corresponding to different modes of transportation like air, train, or truck. Contrary to common belief, these cycles are not product-specific but are based on transportation type. Each DC encompasses a variety of travel methods and the risks associated with them, ensuring a comprehensive evaluation of the packaging's resilience.

3. Selecting an appropriate assurance level

Once you've pinpointed the right DC, it's time to consider the assurance level. The AL is determined by assessing the likelihood of various events, such as the intensity of drops, compressive loads, and vibrations. Additionally, factors like product cost and potential risks to consumers or patients play a significant role in this decision.

4. Determine the acceptance criteria for the shipping container test

The acceptance criteria for package validation of ASTM D 4169 testing must be established prior to testing. The organizations conducting the test may choose any acceptance criteria suitable for their purpose.

What are the typical and key parameters for ASTM D4169 testing?

Practice ASTM D4169 is a packaging test standard that outlines specific parameters for how testing procedures should be completed when evaluating shipping containers and packaging systems. ASTM D4169 utilizes different types of schedule and tests, such as drop testing, vibration testing, compression testing, and incline impact tests to evaluate a packaging system’s ability to withstand the distribution environment.

Key parameters for ASTM D4169 testing are :

  • Sample specification: Number of sample, dimensions, weight, palletization plan, load...
  • Distribution Cycle (DC): 1 to 18
  • Assurance Level (AL): I to III
  • Conditioning and testing temperature / humidity

If you find yourself unsure about which DC (Designated Certification) or AL (Acceptable Laboratory) is the best fit for your packaging needs, METROPACK is here to offer expert guidance. Our extensive knowledge of packaging standards equips us to help you identify the optimal testing parameters for your product, ensuring a seamless certification process.

Should I perform other tests on my package?

Aging (ASTM F1980), product durability, and packaging integrity are important in ensuring the quality and reliability of any product. 
Example for medical device barrier sterility : ISO 11607 (Packaging for terminally sterilized medical devices)

Notice : alternative standard

  • ISTA standard : ISTA 3A, ISTA3E,...
  • ISO 4180.

ASTM D4169 version

  • ASTM D4169-22 from 2022 (Current version)
  • ASTM D4169-16 from 2016
  • ASTM D4169-14 from 2014

ASTM D4169-23 version FR

pdf-772.87 kB

Résumé des changements de la norme ASTM D4169-23 vs ASTM D4169-22


ASTM D4169-23 EN

pdf-877.04 kB

Free download : Summary of changes from ASTM D4169-22 to ASTM D4169-23 standard.


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