Preventing damage from shock and vibration during shipmentIt’s a nightmare common to all manufacturers of delicate equipment: The machinery leaves your facility in mint condition, calibrated for peak performance at your customer’s location. But when the machinery is unpacked at its final destination, it is out of calibration, or worse, components are broken.

Somewhere along its journey, the shipment suffered a shock or vibration event. And now you have to pay the price. In the best-case scenario, you will need to send out a specialist to recalibrate the machine. But more often than not, the crew of installers that are waiting at your customer’s site will have to sit idle while new parts are found or fabricated and shipped overnight to the installation site.

How Damage Occurs

As anybody who has ever packaged a gift in bubble wrap before mailing it to the recipient knows, shock is a very real threat to packages large and small. Crates can slide off forklifts when being transferred from truck to train or dropped from a crane when being moved onboard an ocean-going vessel.

Less commonly understood is the impact of vibration on shipments. Imagine unpacking a piece of machinery to discover several nuts and bolts rolling around loose inside the crate. Were small rodents with hand tools responsible for this act of disassembly? Unlikely! Did the entire crate encounter sustained vibration en route? Most definitely.

Preparing for Shock

To adequately protect your shipment from sudden impacts, you need to predict the type of threat it is likely to encounter during typical handling. For example, a heavy crate that can only be moved with machinery should be able to withstand a drop of 12” but any package that can be carried by a human needs to be prepared for a drop — or toss — from a height of 42”.

Then you need to calculate how much cushioning is required to protect your particular package from harm. Luckily, foam suppliers have performed extensive tests to determine how every variety of protective cushioning responds to drops from varying heights. Armed with their data, plus the weight of the equipment you plan to ship, it is possible to calculate the type and density of foam to use.

Preventing Vibration

Every mode of transportation vibrates at a different frequency. Trains generate the most shaking, but trucks, planes, and boats can all produce enough vibration to damage sensitive equipment. To protect your shipment from vibration, you must first learn exactly how it will be transported at each stage of the journey.

Then you need to consider at what frequency your equipment is likely to shake itself apart. (Understandably, most manufacturers don’t like to test their multi-million dollar equipment to the point of breakage, so this figure is usually an estimate.)

Combining the known frequency of vibration of the shakiest mode of transportation with the estimated point of failure for your equipment, will allow you to calculate the type and density of cushioning required.

Minimize Shipping Risk

It costs far less to prevent shock and vibration damage than to correct it. Here’s how to make sure your shipment experiences a gentle ride:

Foam
The most basic and versatile option for preventing damage from shock, foam can also be effective against many types of vibration. It is available in many different materials and weights and can be cut to fit just about any shape or size of equipment.

Skid Mates
These round plastic donuts attach to the underside of the skid and work overtime to mitigate vibration. (A skid resembles a large, heavy-duty pallet and forms the bottom surface of the crate.)

Skidmate crate mitigating vibration during transport

Orange skid mates beneath a custom crate

Multi-Directional Pad
A more sophisticated (and expensive) cushioning option than foam, the multi-directional pad is ideal for particularly heavy and delicate machinery. It lies beneath the equipment and can absorb vibration from several directions simultaneously. It is constructed from two pieces of plywood with a specialized foam and tube layer, in between.

Plan Ahead for a Smooth Ride

When you are shipping sensitive equipment, a bump, bang, drop, or shimmy can get expensive real fast. Carefully calculated protective measures that prevent damage from shock or vibration are well worth the investment.

CDC Packaging Can Help!

Have questions about how to protect your equipment during shipment? CDC Packaging can help ensure your machinery has a stable, cushioned journey to your customer’s site. Contact us to learn more.