The Carton Drop Test: 7 Things You Need to Know About It

by | Nov 29, 2018 | Packaging, Product Inspections, Quality Control

When you are manufacturing products overseas, it is important to take all possible steps to ensure product quality. More than that, you have to ensure that your products survive the journey from the factory to the port and then across the ocean to you.

Have you ever seen videos of airline workers handling luggage and tossing suitcases across the tarmac as if they were giant rectangular baseballs?

If so, you know that luggage is not always handled with the utmost of care. And you may not realize it, but your cartons can receive similar treatment during their journey. This is why carton drop tests exist.

Carton strength is an important consideration that importers sometimes overlook. It is essential to ensure that your master cartons can withstand being dropped multiple times and from different angles. This is essentially what a carton drop test works to simulate.

Here are 7 things you need to know about carton drop tests.

#1 – ISTA 1A Lays Out the Accepted International Standards for Drop Tests

The International Safe Transit Association (ISTA) is, according to their website, “an organization focused on the specific concerns of transport packaging.”

With that focus in mind, the association has developed a number of protocols, including ISTA 1A. It outlines acceptable procedures for a number of different tests, including vertical shock tests, alternative incline tests, alternative horizontal tests and, of course, carton drop tests.

The ISTA 1A drop test procedure is the accepted international standard.

#2 – Drop Test Height (See Chart) is Determined by Carton Weight

You may be curious about what height the carton should be dropped from.

Drop height is determined based on the weight of a carton. A carton that weighs less than 21 lbs (10 kgs) will be dropped from a height of 30 inches (760 mm), while a carton weighing 100 lbs (45 kgs) will be dropped from a height of 8 inches (200 mm).

Drop Test Height Chart

#3 – Cartons are Dropped 10 Times During Testing (See Diagram)

When performing a drop test, the carton is dropped on its most fragile corner, three of its edges, and six of its faces. In the diagram below, you can see how the faces, edges, and corner are identified.

Drop Test: Faces, Edges, Corner

In the table below you can see the details of the drop sequence. The carton will be dropped a total of 10 times.

Drop Test Sequence

#4 – After the Drop Test, Your Carton is Opened to Determine a Pass or Fail Result

Once the carton has been dropped from the appropriate height 10 different times, it will now be opened. The drop test is failed if any of the following is found.

  • Damage to the export carton
  • Damage to the product packages inside
  • Scratches, dents, or other damage to products
  • The products are not functioning as expected

If your cartons fail the test, it essentially means that they are not strong enough.

#5 – Burst Strength is Key to Passing Drop Tests

Box Certificate

This label will be found on boxes with 200 PSI burst strength.

In order to ensure that your cartons are strong enough to pass a drop test, burst strength is one of the main considerations to keep in mind.

Burst strength is a measure of a box’s resistance to rupturing. It is measured in Pounds per Square Inch (PSI). At Insight, we recommend using cartons with a burst strength of 200 PSI for protection against rupture. Master cartons should have a seal specifying the burst strength and carton manufacturer, generally on the bottom side of the carton.

This should be sufficient to pass standard drop tests. While some factories have the necessary equipment to test and verify burst strength most do not. It would be necessary to send a sample carton to a testing lab if necessary to verify burst strength.

#6 – ISTA 1A Outlines More Than Just Drop Test Standards

In addition to carton drop tests, ISTA 1A outlines procedures for vertical shock tests, alternative incline tests, and alternative horizontal tests.

These tests are much less common and aren’t done by the average importer. They require the use of specialized equipment such as a shock test machine, incline impact tester and horizontal impact test system.

Drop tests, on the other hand, are fairly common.

#7 – Drop Tests Can be Done as Part of Your Pre-Shipment Inspection

Product quality inspectors conducting a carton drop test

Insight inspectors conducting a carton drop test as part of an inspection

A carton drop test is most valuable when done on your first shipment and it can be performed as part of any pre-shipment inspection. By including it in your pre-shipment inspection, you can help ensure that the cartons you use are less likely to rupture and cause damage to your products and packaging.

By using high-burst-strength cartons capable of passing a drop test, you can be more confident that your products will make it to the country of importation unharmed.

If you are thinking of conducting a pre-shipment inspection, we recommend reading the following ebook.

Free Guide: How to Prepare for an Inspection

Are you thinking of hiring a third-party inspection company? If so, you need to be properly prepared. No one knows your product better than you do. So, make sure you give your service provider the information they need to ensure a successful inspection.

Thanks for reading! Do you have any questions about the article? Is there something else you’d like to add? Leave a comment below.

Andy Church

Founder & CEO, Insight Quality Services



    what is highest limit of drop test for heavy items.

    Like book almirah, bed or bookshelf etc,

    • Insight

      Generally 150 pounds is the limit for drop testing, which is the maximum weight in the drop test height chart above.

  2. Dharmender

    Below are the queries that I’m looking for –

    1. Is this standard only applicable for packaging Items or single Item can be tested as per above mentioned table ?
    2. Is is also applicable on Electronic hand held Items E.g. Neck Band, TWS, Earphone etc.
    3. If this is not applicable on product then what exactly standard or table i can follow for the above mentioned items in No. 2 ?

    • Insight Team

      Carton drop tests are not based on the number of items in the carton or the type of product. There could be 1 item, such as a portable generator, or 100 items, such as neck bands, in a master carton. The weight of the master carton will determine the drop height as specified in point #2.

  3. Jonathan Reyes

    How about for Plastic cabinets and drawers, as you can see this product is somehow bulky when it comes to size but do have lower weights. We always experience failure to drop test. Any recommendation?

    • Insight Team

      If your items are breaking at the drop height that corresponds to the weight of the master carton then the next step would be to undertake a packaging design review. Packaging can be designed to ensure items arrive undamaged.


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