hIt’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 Shock and Vibration 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. A shock absorbing shipping crate is essential to guard against events like these—a standard crate or pallet won’t do.


Less commonly understood is the impact of vibration on shipments. Imagine unpacking a piece of machinery from its wooden pallet to discover several nuts and bolts rolling around loose inside the shipping crate. The culprit isn’t shock, it’s vibration. The entire crate likely encountered sustained vibration en route.


Prepare for Shock By Designing Shock-Absorbing Shipping Pallets, Skids and Crates


To adequately protect your shipment from sudden impacts, you need to predict the type of threat it is likely to encounter during typical handling. A heavy duty large crate that can only be moved with heavy machinery should be able to withstand a drop of 12 inches. A good rule of thumb for a package or crate that can be carried by a human is to prepare for it to be dropped (or tossed) from a height of 42 inches.


Then you need to calculate how much cushioning is required to protect your particular package from harm. 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 you should use in your packaging.


Preventing Vibration Damage


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 with the Right Shock Absorbing Material: Foam, Skid-Mates, or a Multi-Directional Pad


It costs far less to prevent shock and vibration damage than to correct it. There are three different packaging materials you should consider to make sure your shipment experiences a gentle ride:


Foam: Foam is 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: Skid-mates are round plastic donuts which attach to the underside of the skid and work overtime to mitigate vibration. (Skids are large, heavy-duty wooden pallets which form the bottom surface of a wooden shipping crate.)

Skidmate crate mitigating vibration during transport

Orange skid-mates beneath a custom crate

Multi-Directional Pad: A multi-directional pad is a more sophisticated (and expensive) cushioning option than foam, which makes it ideal for particularly heavy and delicate machinery. The pad 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 any 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, a custom industrial crating specialist, can help ensure your machinery has a stable, cushioned journey to your customer’s site. Contact us to learn more.