Packaging functionality

Do you need to test the functionality of your packaging or packaging material?

Packaging has many useful functions, including its primary goals of holding products and food, protecting their internal qualities, preserving their initial characteristics, protecting them during distribution and home storage, maintaining food’s shelf life and preserving food safety. Any packaging problem can produce a functionality failure, which could compromise the product or the food inside.

Tests to assess packaging functionality

At AIMPLAS, we perform different tests and take measurements to ensure the functionality of packaging or packaging materials for a specific application.

Compatibility tests

Compatibility testing, also known as stress-cracking testing, determines whether the contents can affect or cause damage to the packaging material. This test is performed mainly on packaging designed to hold chemical products, which, due to their nature, can produce “hidden” defects in the material after prolonged exposure.

The test involves exposing the packaging to the product to be packaged or to a reference surfactant at high temperature for a given period of time with the aim of revealing the residual stress points in the packaging material that were produced when it was manufactured due to unsuitable manufacturing conditions. The test is performed in accordance with standard UNE 53975.

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Leak detection

The tightness of certain packaging must be ensured to protect and preserve the product inside during the entire supply chain and subsequent home storage. Leak detection in food, medical, pharmaceutical and cosmetic packaging is essential to secure the integrity of packaged products.

There are many tests to guarantee packaging system integrity based on the type of packaging, pore size to be detected, equipment used and other factors.

At AIMPLAS, we use different test methods to detect leaks in packaging.

One of them is visual testing, in which a dye penetrant solution is used in accordance with standards ASTM F3039 or ASTM F1929. The solution is placed where there is a possible leak (weld seam, caps, etc.) and the area is checked after a set contact time to see if the dye has penetrated into any channels.

Another test used at AIMPLAS to detect leaks is the pressure decay leak test for pressurized packages with and without restraining plates, based on standard ASTM F2095. This test involves measuring the volume of air needed to maintain an overpressure of 30-50% of the burst pressure, in accordance with ASTM F2095. Based on the pressure decay, the leak rate can be calculated and then used to determine the size of the leak.

Testing for leak size is performed with the seal strength test, based on standards ASTM F2054 and ASTM F1140, through which the burst pressure (or the maximum pressure the equipment can apply) is determined.

Another test carried out at AIMPLAS to detect leaks in packaging is the bubble emission test, based on standard ASTM D3078. This test involves immersing the package in a tank where a vacuum is applied. Leaks can be detected based on the emission of air bubbles from the package.

Gas analyzer

“Headspace” is  the internal volume of a packaging where there is no product. The atmosphere in this space is called headspace gas. Analyzing and measuring this headspace gas is a key quality control process in the food, beverage and pharmaceutical industries for products packaged in a modified atmosphere.

This test is performed by inserting a fine needle into the packaging and using a pump to extract a small amount of headspace gas volume. The extracted gas comes into contact with a sensor that measures the concentration of residual oxygen and carbon dioxide in the gas sample.

This non-destructive test can be used to evaluate the composition of the headspace at different times over long periods in order to identify any changes in the headspace composition due to permeability and leaks.

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Sensory analysis

Packaging materials can “contaminate” food by transferring substances which can occur either by direct contact with the packaging material or indirectly through the headspace of the packaging. This can lead to produce strange olfactory and gustatory sensations in the packaged food. Regulation (EC) No. 1935/2004 on materials and articles intended to come into contact with food states that “any material intended to come into contact directly or indirectly with food must be sufficiently inert to preclude […] a deterioration in its organoleptic properties”.

At AIMPLAS, we therefore work with standard UNE-ISO 13302, which establishes the methods for ensuring that food’s smell and taste sensations are not significantly modified under certain storage conditions that involve contact with the packaging material (time, temperature and form of contact).

Standard UNE-ISO 13302 includes two complementary tests that are not mutually exclusive:

  • Assessment of the inherent odour of the packaging material under test (odour test), in which the packaging is stored in a container in controlled conditions and the odour of the atmosphere in the container is then evaluated using sensory analysis methods.
  • Assessment of the change in flavour of food after direct or indirect contact with the packaging material under test in actual conditions or in simulated conditions (contact test). In this case, the food, or failing that, the simulant, is assessed using sensory analysis methods in terms of changes in odour and smell and taste sensations.

Child-resistant closure testing

Since 2016, it has been mandatory for chemical products for household use (detergents, cleaning products, drugs, etc.) to pass this test in accordance with standard UNE-EN ISO 8317.
Packaging intended for these kinds of products must have a special reclosable system that can be opened by adults to access the contents, but which children are unable to open.
The test assesses the accessibility of this packaging using a wide panel of people (50-200), including children (3-4 years old) and adults (50-70 years old).

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Raquel Requena

Food Contact & Packaging