Understand Shock Levels and Packaging Principles
|Time Required||Average (6-10 days)|
|Material Availability||Specialty item|
|Cost||Low ($20 - $50)|
AbstractWhen you open up your presents on your birthday, you probably don't spend a lot of time admiring the wrapping—you'd much rather see what's inside. It can be the same way with the packaging that products come in, but packaging is important for protecting the things we buy as they make their way from the factory to our homes. How much shock force is produced when a box gets dropped accidentally? What kinds of materials work best to protect products from damage? This project can show you how to find out.
The goal of this project is to investigate the effect of material properties on shock levels and protection against shock damage.
- Maria Noer
- Dave Brucks
- Becky Freeman
- Icy Mackley
- Venbing Jogwuia
Edited by Andrew Olson, Ph.D., and Justin Spahn, Science Buddies
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Last edit date: 2017-07-28
Products we use every day come in all shapes and sizes. Most products come in some type of packaging to protect them from damage while they are being transported. Companies spend a lot of money on designing the right package for their product.
This experiment is meant to help you explore how material properties such as hardness and weight can affect shock levels observed during drop testing. The material properties of the product being dropped, the packaging, and the surface it is being dropped onto are all important in determining the amount of shock received. This project is intended to help you understand what types of material make effective and cost effective packaging to protect products from damage.
Terms and Concepts
To do this project, you should do research that enables you to understand the following terms and concepts:
- standard measure for material hardness,
- comparison of hardness for common materials,
- measuring shock amplitudes,
- common packaging materials and their cost.
- Do you think dropping your product on a hard floor from 1 foot would cause more damage than dropping your product on a carpeted floor from 4 feet?
- What would be a realistic drop distance for your product to survive during shipping? How about after shipping, once it has been removed from its packaging? For example, is it reasonable to expect a product to withstand a drop of 10 feet?
- Tyson, Peter. (2007, November 1). All About G Forces. Retrieved April 12, 2011 from, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/space/gravity-forces.html
- Henderson, T. (2004). Introduction to Free Fall. Retrieved September 14, 2010 from http://www.physicsclassroom.com/Class/1DKin/U1L5a.cfm
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Materials and Equipment
To do this experiment you will need the following materials and equipment:
- 3 samples of material or an object to be dropped. You may want to use multiple sizes/weights of each of these:
- 3 samples of various surfaces to be dropped on:
- 3 samples of material to be used in packaging:
- bubble wrap,
- packing peanuts,
- plastic filled with air,
- packaging container (choose 1):
- cardboard box,
- large plastic (i.e. Ziploc) bag,
- shipping envelope.
- tape measure or ruler,
- chair or ladder,
- 1–2 resettable shock indicators (50 G level) search Web for these, example brand names are "Drop-N-Tell" and "TelaDrop" (see Variations section for possible alternatives).
- Lab notebook
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- Set up your materials and equipment for testing.
- Determine the material(s) and size(s) of product you plan to drop.
- Identify the 3-4 surfaces you plan to use to drop the product onto. You can choose to go to the location of the surface or, if it is portable (e.g., a small sample of carpet, wood, etc.), then collect the samples and bring them to one central location for testing.
- Create a table listing the variables (material, size, and surface).
- Secure the tape measurer or ruler in a vertical position against a non-movable surface like a wall. (This will allow you do your experiment using two hands.)
- Tape the resettable shock indicators to one side of the first product you are dropping.
- The shock indicator is a small device which has two modes: active and inactive. The indicator is inactive when no dark arrows are showing on either side of the sticker with the product name. This mode tells you that the indicator has not detected the shock level for which you are looking. The indicator is activated when it feels an impact at or above the level you are looking for—you will know that it has been activated when one or both of the dark arrows appear. For the TeleDrop brand, to reset the device to its inactive position, insert a pencil into the small hole on the side of the indicator, right where the arrow is pointing. Each arrow has its own reset button.
- Predict the outcome of the drop testing.
- Formulate a hypothesis about how you expect the material type, material size, or surface type to affect the distance the product can be dropped before it activates the shock indicator.
- For example, your hypothesis might be "I think a smaller piece of X when dropped on a surface of Y will activate the shock indicator at the shortest distance from the surface."
- Determining the shock threshold of product on each of the various surfaces.
- Take your first product and first surface and drop the product from 1 foot above the surface.
- Verify whether shock indicator was activated. If it was activated, record the activation height in a table in your lab notebook like the Data Table. If the shock indicator was not activated, then increase the drop height and repeat the experiment.
- You can decide how much to increase the drop height by, but make sure you use the same intervals each time. For example, if the shock indicator fails to activate at 1 foot, and you decide to raise it to 1.5 feet, and it still fails to activate, the next test level must be 2 feet. This way you'll be increasing the activation height by the same interval (6 inches) each time.
- Continue until you get to an activation height where the shock indicator is activated. Record the activation height in your data table.
- Repeat the experiment with the remaining surfaces, making sure you reset shock indicator each time it is activated.
- Repeat the entire experiment with second and then third products selected. Test against all three surfaces.
Object Type Object Size Surface Activation height Wood Large Concrete Carpet Wood floor Wood Small Concrete Carpet Wood floor Metal Large Concrete Carpet Wood floor Metal Small Concrete Carpet Wood floor Plastic Large Concrete Carpet Wood floor Plastic Small Concrete Carpet Wood floor Wood Large Concrete Carpet Wood floor Wood Small Concrete Carpet Wood floor
- Summarize your findings and compare them to your predicted results. What did you learn?
- Predict the outcome of testing with different packaging materials.
- Formulate a hypothesis about how you expect different packaging material to affect the distance the product can be dropped before it activates the shock indicator.
- For example, your hypothesis might be, "I think using bags filled with air will protect the product at higher drop distance than using tissue."
- Test various packing materials.
- Choose the packaging materials you will be using.
- Create a table for recording the packaging material, the distance dropped, the surface it is dropped on, and whether the shock indicator was activated or not.
- Choose one of your product samples from your first experiment, place it in your packaging container, and fill the container with the first packaging material.
- Make sure that the packaging material completely surrounds the product.
- Tape the packaging container closed.
- Choose one surface to perform your experiment on (perhaps the 'worst case' from your first experiment).
- Drop your package from the same distance that had previously activated the product in the first part of this experiment. Record whether the shock indicator was activated or not.
- If not, continue to increase the distance and repeat the experiment until the shock indicator is activated. Record your results after each drop.
- Repeat the experiment with other packaging materials and record the results.
- Summarize your findings and compare them to your predicted results. What did you learn?
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If you like this project, you might enjoy exploring these related careers:
Industrial EngineerYou've probably heard the expression "build a better mousetrap." Industrial engineers are the people who figure out how to do things better. They find ways that are smarter, faster, safer, and easier, so that companies become more efficient, productive, and profitable, and employees have work environments that are safer and more rewarding. You might think from their name that industrial engineers just work for big manufacturing companies, but they are employed in a wide range of industries, including the service, entertainment, shipping, and healthcare fields. For example, nobody likes to wait in a long line to get on a roller coaster ride, or to get admitted to the hospital. Industrial engineers tell companies how to shorten these processes. They try to make life and products better. Finding ways to do more with less is their motto. Read more
Materials Scientist and EngineerWhat makes it possible to create high-technology objects like computers and sports gear? It's the materials inside those products. Materials scientists and engineers develop materials, like metals, ceramics, polymers, and composites, that other engineers need for their designs. Materials scientists and engineers think atomically (meaning they understand things at the nanoscale level), but they design microscopically (at the level of a microscope), and their materials are used macroscopically (at the level the eye can see). From heat shields in space, prosthetic limbs, semiconductors, and sunscreens to snowboards, race cars, hard drives, and baking dishes, materials scientists and engineers make the materials that make life better. Read more
- An alternative to using the shock indicators would be to use:
- an egg, or
- an impact-activated sound toy, or
- an impact-activated lighted toy (you would need to be able to see through the packaging to know if the light was activated).
- Determine how small the product packaging can be and still protect the product at the desired drop distance—packaging does cost money.
- Renewable resources and packaging. Do research on the materials commonly used in packaging. Which materials can be made from renewable resources? Can renewable materials effectively protect against shock? Would using renewable materials add to the cost (e.g., if more material is needed to provide effective protection)?
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