When Protecting Critical Contents, Soft Materials Can Exacerbate the Problem

Dear Colleagues

We suffer a ferocious amount of damage to our equipment when it is transported to various training locations around the world. When I see the damage to the shipping case (and the contents); I often refer to this delicate equipment being subjected to the ‘Airline Drop Test’.

I am always amazed at the massive dent marks in our robust steel cases or what appears to be a pick axe that has been wielded repeatedly (normally very effectively) against the side of the case. Naturally, the courier company will deny all knowledge of damage and insurance is a joke (often so expensive that you might as well laugh it off).

Materials that Give Way are often Better
In this context, bear in mind that the case materials should ‘give’ when subjected to an impact and plastic is often better than a firmer steel or wooden trunk. When force is applied to the plastic exterior of a case; it is better that it gives slightly and thus the damage can be minimised. Although, in using these very robust plastic materials, I have found the locks are often smashed. You may wonder where we ship our stuff to but most assuredly it is not deepest Africa or Afghanistan but normally (what you would think are) fairly mild Australia, Europe or North America.

Very Few Packages are Dropped
Packaging experts reckon that it is a myth that many packages are accidentally dropped during transport. And far fewer are dropped from a height causing damage to the contents.

The internal packaging is thus the key to good protection.

Oddly, the Real Killer Can be Vibration

However, one area that most of us don’t consider is damage from vibration during transit. The wrong type of cushioning material (such as soft foam) for your delicate electronic equipment can actually amplify the external vibrations (of the vehicle or plane) and thus cause failure of your delicate contents – especially if it ends up close to the natural frequency. So be wary of the type of packaging materials you use.

Thanks to 101 Things I learned in Engineering School by John Kuprenas with Matthew Frederick.

Angela N. Blount makes a rather damning comment about damage: ‘Everybody’s damaged. It’s just a question of how badly, and whether you’re healing or still bleeding.’

Yours in engineering learning,


Mackay’s Musings – 8th April’14 #507    
125, 273 readers – http://www.idc-online.com/blogs/stevemackay


hi steve,

i would like to connect to you. please get back to me.

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