Pack Integrity

Smithers Pira use multiple methods to analyze pack integrity, depending on material porosity or specific requirements. We test to ASTM standards, where relevant.

There are a range of methods our experts use to assess pack closure integrity, the selection of which is dependent on several factors; whether the material is porous or non-porous, the intended purpose of the packaging and the contained product. These methods are:

We also offer testing to assess the leak resistance of closures

Dye Penetration

The dye penetration test involves injecting a dye solution, including a surfactant, into the package and allowing it to contact each seal for a specific time. The package is examined for evidence of seal failure evidence by dye penetrating through the seal.

Smithers Pira commonly tests medical device packages for dye penetration in accordance with either ASTM F1929 or EN 868-1. ASTM F1929 is more applicable to porous material packaging (such as Tyvek® pouches), whereas EN 868-1 is more suitable for non-porous materials (including foils). 

In cases where the material is not transparent, the pouch is dried after introducing the dye, then peeled open and examined for dye penetration. 

Pressure Decay

The integrity of non-porous packages can be tested using a pressure decay method. In this method, the pack is pressurised to a small overpressure, typically 50 mbar.

Smithers Pira use a Lippke 4500 Package Testing System which outputs a pressure drop value over the test time.

The method employed is similar to, but not in accordance with, the pressure decay leak test for non-porous flexible packages without restraining plates described in ASTM F2095 test method A. 

The method is capable of detecting microleaks, but is less sensitive when testing packages containing wet products as the leakage route can become 'plugged'. 

Tracer Gas Detection

Gas leak detection systems are used to 'sniff' for a test gas which has been earlier introduced into the package.

Smithers Pira uses a Qualitek leakmeter 120 electron capture detector. The leakmeter 120 responds to sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) and other electron capture gases and can detect leak rates as low as 1x10-7 ml/sec SF6.

The gas is injected into the test package and the injection point sealed with tape. The leakmeter fitted with a miniature "sniffer" probe is used to locate any leakage routes.

The technique is easily capable of detecting microleaks in non-porous medical device packaging and modified atmosphere (MAP) food packaging. In the latter application it is often used to identify leakage routes after a high oxygen content has been determined.

The technique is similar to helium leak detection which uses a mass spectrometer detector. One advantage of sulphur hexafluoride as a test gas is that it has a higher molecular weight that helium and less likely to give a false "leak" result from gas permeation through the packaging material.

Bubble Emission (Vacuum)

The vacuum method is suitable for packages having a well-defined headspace. It relies on gas or liquid flow because the pressure inside the package is higher than the pressure in the vacuum chamber. It is suitable for detecting gross leaks and for testing the seal integrity of packages under differential pressure conditions such as those which can occur during air transportation.

Smithers Pira employs a CVC 3000 vacuum package testing system to test packages using vacuum methods including ASTM D3078 "Standard Test Method for Determination of Leaks in Flexible Packaging by Bubble Emission".

Vacuum methods are not suitable for detecting smaller leaks, especially when the package contains a wet product which may "plug" the leakage route.

Smithers Pira also tests packages in accordance with ASTM D4991.This test method covers the testing of empty containers for resistance to leakage under differential pressure conditions such as those which can occur during air transport.

Bubble Emission (Internal Pressure)

The internal pressure method uses the Lippke 4500 to inflate the package to a predetermined pressure, typically 50 mBar, to detect for gross leaks. The internal pressure test method is performed in accordance with ASTM F2096.