Packing for Shipment

Brooke Clarke 2007 - 2009


Background
Philosophy
How Carriers Work
Some Good Packers
    Fair Radio
    Mike Murphy
    pvt Jarhead
    Mile High Clock Supply
    National Semiconductor Samples
    Foam in Place Packaging
    Instapak
    Fast Pack boxes 
    Shredded Paper
What goes Wrong (examples of poor or worse packing)
    Air Compressor
    eBay Gel Cell Batteries
    Really Bad Packaging by mickiecat1
    Poor Packing by different eBay seller
    Super Circuits
    Enco , Enco #2
    Simmons Amp meter
    Government Liquidation Shipping Company
    Rack size RCS-5B Receiver
    USPS Truck vs. Book
    USQ-46 Items
    Inadequate Padding
    Inappropriate Use of Air Pillows
    Lack of Water
    Microscope & Stand
Miscellaneous
Insurance
Summary
Links

Background

I have had a number of eBay items arrive after being destroyed during the shipping process.  The reason is the the shipper did not properly package the item.  Recently I bid on and won a Self Winding Clock Co. "Western Union" clock that had the cover glass.  As far as I know you can no longer buy these large concave clock glass circles.  But as soon as I moved the box from my front porch I know the glass was broken into bits.  Hence this page about how to do it correctly.

There are college degrees for packaging engineering.  In some engineering classes a project is to package a fresh egg so that it can be dropped from the roof of a building and survive.  To engineer the packaging you need to know what stresses will be applied to the item and what stresses it can survive.  The most common stresses are shock and vibration, but for some products temperature (food) or barometric pressure (G-M tubes with thin metal walls) are critical.

Philosophy

After making this web page and thinking about it there's a philosophy to good packing. 

Cushioning

The purpose of the cushioning is to absorb rough handling including dropping some number of feet.  I'm calling this padding on this web page.  A piece of steel does not need any cushioning but some effort is needed to keep in inside the box.  A wine glass needs a lot of cushioning.  Multiple layers of bubble wrap where each layer is tapped and at right angles to the prior layer works well for this.

Void Fill

After the Cushioning the rest of the box needs to be filled with something that will immobilize the item being shipped.  Ideally this would have no weight and be crush proof.  A box may be hit by a hand truck or some other hard object that will puncture the outer wall or crush a corner so a minimum of 2 inches for light (1 pound) objects and four inches for heavier objects (50 pound) is reasonable.

The loading on this material needs to be lower than it's crush strength.  Crush strength is the load that causes a permanent change in size, not what's needed to flatten.  Once the void fill material gets even a little smaller then the load has wiggle room which will increase the force for the next movement.  Once this process of crushing the void fill starts it's just a matter of time until the load is banging around or puncturing the box.

Chicken or Egg

For most of the items I receive or ship it's best to bubble wrap them first and use the void fill for the rest of the box.  But for some items,  that have projections, like a typewriter or adding machine that has a lever sticking out, it may be better to use styrofoam sheets that are in contact with large areas of the item and stick out beyond the projection, then apply the bubble wrap for padding.   That's to say use the void fill first then the padding.

How Carriers Work

UPS, Fedex, USPS, etc. do not dedicate a person to put your package on their lap and hand carry the package, although this is what some people must think.  The reality is they all consolidate as many packages as possible into a big truck.  This means packages stacked on packages until there are packages touching the eight foot high ceiling.  I've seen some trucks with a sign on the back saying 100" high or 102" high which is a little more than 8 feet.

To unload the truck a conveyor belt is slid into the truck and the packages are pulled down and allowed to drop onto he belt which takes them to the dock.  There are variations on this theme but it's part of standard practice to drop the box some distance that varies from a couple of feet to seven feet.  This process gets repeated at each consolidation center.  Typically there are two centers between the sender and the receiver.  In the case of domestic Fedex air shipment there's the Memphis, TN center.  So a fragile item shipped Fedex air will have less trauma than other commercial methods.

Some Good Packers

I'm sure that anyone who has been in a business where they are shipping something soon learns how to properly pack.  So it's interesting to see what they do.

Fair Radio

I've received many heavy delicate items from Fair Radio and all arrived in tip top shape.  They have a unique packing method that involves using newsprint and cardboard as the filler materials.  A strong box that's a few inches larger than the item has it's bottom and lower corners reinforced with 2 or three additional layers of cardboard.  The item is centered in the box.  Then newspaper is packed extremely tightly around the item.  I can't figure out how they pack the newsprint so tightly and yet don't hurt the item being shipper.  It's as if you needed a broom stick to compress the newspaper but did not hurt the item.  The top the corners and top surface are again reinforced with extra cardboard.  I don't remember if they use a banding machine or fiber tape for heavy items, but it's one of those.

Mike Murphy

Mike uses 3 or 4 layers of bubble wrap.  Applied one layer at a time.  Each layer is at 90 degrees from the prior layer.  Minimum bubble thickness 4" everywhere.  Box corners reinforced with additional cardboard.  Either 2 bands or 2 wraps of fiber tape in each of 3 planes so that no matter which face you look at you will see 2 horizontal bands and 2 vertical bands.

The packing shown below from Mike is very similar to the packing used by pvt Jarhead for the AM-2060.

Mike Murphy Before
                Packaging
Mike Murphy In Box
Mike Murphy ready to
                ship
Prior to packaging
Note double wall box
wood & double wall cardboard blocking
Ready to ship
All 6 faces have a minimum of two layers of double wall cardboard.

Box from Mike Murphy
Opened box from Mike
                Murphy
39 pound box with O-1814/GRC-206
Inner bubble wrap surrounded with packing, Double wall cardboard

pvt Jarhead

Used only cardboard in a very cleaver way.  The idea is to heavily reinforce all 8 corners with multiple layers of cardboard.  Trapped the AM-2060 and padded it at the same time.  This is very similar to how Agilent (HP) ships some test equipment with a notched cylinder in each corner of the box holding the instrument.

Mile High Clock Supply

Shipped two convex clock glass disks.  Used textbook Double boxing as shown below.  Both glass disks arrived without a problem.
Mile High CLock
                    Supply Package as Delivered
Mile High Clock
                    Supply 2 Boxes
Mile High
                    Clock Supply Inside second box
Mile High
                    Clock Supply Bubble in peanuts
As delivered
Outiside box has peanuts holding Inside box
Inside box has peanuts holding buble wrapped glass
Each glass bubble wrapped and then both taped toghther.
3 Aug 2007

National Semiconductor Samples

National Semiconductor Samples13 Dec 2007 received two each LM38692Eval samples from NSC.  They came in a UPS Express box that's about 13 x 11 x 2.
The samples are in bubble envelopes that are about 13 1/2 x 10 1/2 x 1/2 marked Jiffylite, cushioned mailer #4, Sealed Air Corp.  Notice that the envelopes are slightly longer than the box, so one end of the envelope takes a slight bend.  Once the stuffing material is placed in the box to fill the gap between the 1" of envelopes and the 2" box the contents can not move.  So by choosing the envelope size to be a good match to the box the envelope no longer needs stuffing on two sides.  Someone knows what they are doing at NSC.

Also the small slip of paper with the red band at the top says "Please check inside packaging material for product."  That would cover the case where the person filling the box wrapped an envelope with the packing material.

Elegant, simple - a good example of fine packaging.

Foam in Place Packaging (Google)

Agilent had one of these machines in the Mountain View facility.  A plastic bag in the bottom of the box is partially filled with a two part foam that's expanding, and the instrument is set on top of it and settles in like on a pillow and the foam hardens.  Another bag is placed on top and also filled with the foam and the top cover flaps are closed and held down.  The foam expands down toward the bottom and they meet.  It takes some skill to do this but the results are great.  These are expensive machines.

There are shipping services that offer foam in place.  Many companies use this method.

Instapak

This Sealed Air system consists of sealed bags that contain the "A" and "B" chemicals in seperate compartments.  The bag needs to be heated then pressed on a flat surface to get the A & B chemicals to mix.
The origional was Instapak Quick and Instapak Quick Tough and these required a heater.  Instapak Quick RT is the Room Temperature version that does not need the heater.

Quick Application Guide.pdf has technical details about Instapak.

ULine carries Instapak Quick, Instapak Quick Tough & Instapak Quick RT.

Fast Pack NSN 8115- (Google)

These are high strength double or triple wall reusable cardboard boxes that have foam padding glued to some surfaces.  You just put your item in the box press the lid down and tape it closed.  The item being shipped is padded on all sides by the box.  There are National Stock Numbers for all the common sizes and the starting digits are NSN 8115-.

The No Packing itme below shows three large Fast Pack boxes.

Fast Pack box XC5
Fast Pack box XC5
10x8x2 CU 0.2  8115-00-787-2146

It consists of an outer sleeve and the insert
The smaller box inside is:
10 x 6 x 2   and contains Bowman radio set
from Mike Murphy.

NOTE:
In order to open this package you need to hold
the far end of the sleeve (between the sleeve and
filler, while pushing the filler at the near end with
some force.



Goodwin Robbins - Fast Pack Boxes shows style G-XE9 which is the one used for the Cesium sources
Keese Box Co. - Fast Pack Boxes

Shredded Paper

shreaded Paper PackingThe main item has been wrapped with one layer of bubble and air pillows used between that and the cardboard box.  Shredded paper is used as filler so the contents can not move around.  Appears to be newsprint that's been run through a shredder.  This is much stiffer than wadded up newsprint and so for things that are not too dense a good choice.






What goes Wrong

Item Loose

This is the most common mistake.  If when the box is all sealed up you shake it hard in any direction the contents must not change position or move. If the contents can move just a little then they will weaken the box and eventually escape the box.  The longer the distance the more time the item has to escape the box.

If the item has been properly wrapped and is well padded then the box needs to tightly fit the wrapped item.  Putting a well padded item it to a box that's too big defeats the padding.  The space can be made up using cardboard, or by cutting down the height of the box and using the now long flaps as extra cardboard.

Improper use of styrofoam, either peanuts or sheets is a common problem.  Styrofoam, like is used for coffee cups, is very light and takes up space and is a great way to fill up a box that contains something that's also light, such as small parts.  But when it's used with heavy items it easily gets crushed. 

CAP2060 Air Compressor from eBay


CAP2060 as
                  shown in eBay ad
CAP2060 Air
                  Compressor with Handle broken into bits
as shown in eBay ad with Handle at top
as delivered with smashed handle
Bostich
                  CAP2060 shroud Removed
Bostitch
                  CAP2060 Air Compresson Working
Bostich CAP2060 New shroud ready to install + feet to install
Bostitch CAP2060 Air Compressor Working
The Grizzly H3226 5 piece Coupling set has 1 female 1/4" NPT coupling used
on the air blower and 4 male couplers, 2 used on the hose.  Still need 4 more females
for the other air tools (H5530).   Also a longer hose, or better, one on a reel would be very handy.

The box arrived looking fine.  The UPS delivery man carried it using the two handle holes near the top of the box.  One of them is shown in the photo at left near the top center of the box.

The box top is four layers of cardboard each the full size of the top held in place by a half dozen large metal staples.  The top outside looked fine.

But inside the carry handle of the compressor is gone and the bits are sitting in the bottom of the box.

In the photo you can see the indentation in the lid where the box was turned upside down.  Riding in a truck upside down is going to cause this problem.  Note there is no packing to support the air compresson when the box is upside down.  There are no markings on the box, like a wine glass or printed "This Side Up", so it's fair for the delivery company to turn it upside down.

12 Jan 2009 - The box the compressor was shipped in is probably the same box the factory used to ship the compressor to the seller, BUT it was shipped on a pallett with a bunch of other compressors and so there was no way for it to get turned upside down.  A local business had the same problem with a different product, i.e. the factory ships on pallets and the dealer removes the box from the pallet and ships the individual item with this type of result.

eBay Gel Cell Batteries

Styrofoam peanuts
            and heavy items = No-No
An ebay seller sent me two gell cell batteries in a USPS flat rate priority box.  He put them in the box and filled the rest of the space with peanuts.  When the box arrived there was not one whole peanut.  There were a couple of holes in the side of the box a few inches wide.  One battery was broken.  There were a few peanuts flattened into paper thin pieces.

The USPS wrapped the box in tape saying received in damaged condition.  Also a hand written sticker about the damage.
The right battery has it's corner smashed.  It takes quite some force to do that, but heavy batteries in a box without any padding dropped 5 feet would easily cause the damage.

Notice on top of the left battery the two "peanuts" now are flat.

Really Bad Packaging by mickiecat1

A description of this fiasco is on my web page for the Self Winding Clock Co. "Western Union" 37SS Sweep Second clocks.  Look at the poor packing below for the same model clock and then have a look at Really Bad Packaging.

Poor Packing by different eBay seller

Crushed Box The box with a 37SS Clock arrived crushed by a couple of inches.  A box this size probably gets put on the bottom of a stack that's 8 feet high so needs to be able to carry that weight, either based on the strength of the box itself or based on packing it so it can not be crushed, or both.  I suspect there's plenty of bubble wrap around the clock but not enough to really fill the box.  The rule of thumb for radios is to have at least 4" of bubble wrap on all sides that's taped tightly on each layer where the layers are at right angles to each other.  Then the box should have stuffing at the corners and sides so that the item can not move around.  Then the box can be cut down so the top just covers the item with more packing in the corners.  When the box is all tapped up and shaken there must not be any movement of the contents.  If there's any movement open the box and pack it tighter.

Notice the lower left corner is also crushed.  No reinforcing inside.



Poor Bubble Wrap


This is poor bubble wrapping.  There's only one layer and it's loose, not tight to the clock.  Thickness of bubble wrap varies from 0 to maybe 1 inch, should be 4".  The rest of the box was filled with plastic peanuts.  That would be OK if the item had 4" of bubble wrap and if the box was "tight" so that nothing can move inside.  If there's any movement the peanuts will crush with each shake, so it's a matter of time until they are completely gone.  With heavy items the peanuts can be completely gone after a few hundred miles of shipping.




Super Circuits received 3 Aug 2007:


Super
                  Circuits as Received
As received the box was full
of  peanuts.  Which may or
may not be OK.
Super
                  Circuits Items in box
But all the items were on the
bottom of the box! 

So there was no padding.  How well
the items survived is determined
by what padding the factory
box provides.

This is poor packaging.
PC164 TV camera, Lens, power supply
100 feet of coax.
PC164
                  Camera box has no padding
The PC164 box has no padding other than
what is provided by the paperwork and wires.
13 Aug 2007 - Heard from Super Circuits that my camera had a loose internal connector, exactly the type of problem bad packing would cause.  It's on the way back.  We'll see if they pack it correctly.  Also received an email from them thanking me for letting them know about the poor packing.  Again, we'll see if that was hype or if they have improved.

16 Aug 2007 - received the P-164C (KPC-350BH).  This time it was wrapped in bubble wrap (that's the way I sent it to them) and in a box with the high quality peanuts.  The strange thing is on the phone the tech told me a cable was loose inside, but on the green tag it says unable to duplicate the problem.

Also received a Super Circuits P-38 (Mintron 63V5) in a different box.  This time the camera box had peanuts on all sides.  Also the Mintron factor box has an egg create rough molded paper type cradle for the camera that provides some cushioning.

Enco received 14 Aug 2007

As soon as I picked up the box it was obvious that was way too much slop.  This is strange since most of what they sell is heavy metal machines and accessories.  You'd think they would have learned how to properly package.
Enco box w/storopack
                  burst pillow
Enco box just after opening.  All the items ordered are in a plastic bag which is wrapped with tape.  But a strip of 5 air pillows were used to fill the rest of the space.  This was the wrong packaging material.  One of the pillows has burst.
Enco Multiple Items
                  wrapped into one unit
This bag of measuring items weighs just under 3 pounds and is 6" x 3.5" x 1.5".  So the smallest end has an area of about 5 sq inches.  The loading on that end is 8.6 oz/ sq in.
Enco Shipping Box Hole
                  and Dent
Inside the box there's a hole in the seam and a large dent a few inches to the right of the hole.  The cardboard has a crease between them.  To the left of the hole the cardboard is distressed.

If this box went much further the inner heavy bag would have escaped the box and not arrived at all.
Nowhere on the storopack  web page was any specification about what loading the pillows can take.  air pillows are an alternative to plastic peanuts and neither is suitable for dense items, like the metal parts in this shipment.

15 Aug 2007 - their email said something like thanks.

Enco #2 rcvd 21Nov 2007

The UPS delivery man did the knock softly then run away.  He was in the truck starting to back out when I opened the front door.  As soon as I picked up the box it was clear that the contents were very loose.  Inside I started a web page for using a Drill Press for drilling holes on the centerline of round parts and when I got the the part about the Enco items I went to open the box.  Then noticed a yellow plastic tape that said "DO NOT OPEN    DO NOT OPEN".  The strange thing is that it was under a staple and so probably was put on at Enco.  Maybe because this set is a sale item composed of a number of Enco items and may have been prepackaged.  The shipping label looked like it was stock, i.e. contents have not been repackaged (which sometimes is done by the carrier if the box is beyond hope).  My thought was that maybe the box should be opened from the other side to make getting the contents out easier and after turning it over saw the hole in the bottom.  After calling Enco they said go ahead and open the box.  Inside there was a single piece of bubble warp loose in the box.  It is far short of the volume needed to fill out the voids in the box.  The packing list says this is the "5C" collet set.  There are 4 individual boxes inside.

Enco #2 DO NOT
                OPEN sticker
Enco #3 Box
                Bottom
Enco #2 Inside Box
DO NOT OPEN tape
Hole in bottom of box
Inside: nowhere near enough filling,
blue box has hole in corner and dent in top.

Simmons Amp Meter

Another case of a seller that doesn't have any idea of how to package. 
eBay Auction
                  with pointer
Seller's
                  Packaging
Simmons Broken Pointer and other parts
Auction ad shows pointer at 2
Packed in Photo mailer
NO padding
you can see over a dozen hard hits to the meter
pointer broken
loose screw inside
rectangular washer shown in another auction photo completely missing.
The glass was knocked loose from the brown stuff that held it in place as was the dial.

Multiple Items in the Same Box

This is a special problem.  If a single item is well padded and then tightly boxed it will be OK.  But suppose two items are in the same box.  By two items I mean that they are not connected together in a very stiff rigid fixed way.
Although you might be able to ship a sledge hammer and a wine glass in the same box it would be better to seperate them and use two boxes.  I think most people would do this.  The problem comes when it's not so obvious.  For example pendulum clocks have a heavy bob at the end of the pendulum that's equivalent to a sledge hammer.  The rest of the clock is about as fragile as a wine glass. 

Electronic Gold Mine
          Small Parts Packaging

The photo at left shows many small packages consolidated into larger bags which in turn were wrapped in the small bubble wrap seen under the bags.  A few of the bubble wrapped bags fit into a USPS priority mail box and the small remaining space was filled with plastic peanuts.  Electronic Gold Mine GOOD PACKAGING has a good solution to keep customers from tossing product out with the packaging.

The Electro-optical parts are small and light (pun intended).



Morse Bugs or Vibroplex keys

The same goes for Morse code keys called "bugs" or Vibroplex keys.  The lever weights act like hammers.
For Packing a Morse Bug or Vibroplex for shipment see: Packing a Bug for Shipping.

Self Winding Clock Co. "Western Union" packing

The pendulum is like a sledge hammer.
In the case of the Western Union clocks the maker built into the design a way to anchor the pendulum bob so shipping would be no problem.  There are two holes in the bob and matching holes in the clock frame.  A 1/4-20 bolt, lock washer and thumb nut will hold the bob and it can not escape.  The suspension at the top of the pendulum is designed to allow the whole length of the pendulum to sit flat against the frame for shipping without doing anything special other than installing the nut and bolt.  They even provide a place to store the nut and bolt while the clock in mounted to a wall next to each battery holder.

Telephones

The handset acts as a hammer and destroys the phone or vice versa.
Here's a case where someone just tossed a bunch of old phones in a box and sent them loose.  About half of them were damaged.
Save the Phones! - explains how to pack phones so they survive shipping.

Military Radios

In most TMs there is a section dealing with preparation for shipping that covers securing the equipment, removing batteries, settings that need to be homed, meters put in the self dampening range, etc.  The next section usually has a figure showing how to pack the item for storage or shipping.  So if you have a TM for the item by all means read the packing section.

Four inches of bubble wrap.  Applied one layer (an inch) at a time tightly taped so it can not move.  Layers 90 degrees to each other.  The 4 inches applies to every part of the item so handles and rack ears need 4 inches past their widest point, not just the main chassis.  The box needs to be reinforced with cardboard in all the corners.  Fiber tape or a banding machine holds the box to the padded item.

Items not Covered Above

The number of items not covered far exceeds the few I've mentioned.  If you're shipping an item you need to do your homework and learn how to properly package it.  Google is your friend.  Find someone who has the item and see what groups or links they might have.  Above all use common sense.  Think!
This is why a business does not do many things that are very different.  My grandmother would say "stick to your knitting".  Meaning do what you know.  It's OK to do new things, but then it's your responsibility to learn how.

No Packing

c


I purchased three Cesium Standards from Government Liquidation and hired one of their recommended shipping companies to handle shipping the pallet.  I picked this particular lot because it included 3 Fast Packs for the 3 items.   The photo at the left shows the three Fast Packs and one of the Cesium Standards has been taken out so it can be seen.  So one of those Fast Packs is empty.  The guy from the shipping company just used a metal banding machine to tie everything together as you see it in the photo then wrapped with the clear wrap.  When the truck arrived I was sick to see the Cesium standard with metal banding down to the pallet.  Not only no padding but a good mechanical connection to all the shocks and vibration.  Needless to say that unit has never worked, but should since is brand new.










Rack size RCS-5B Receiver

If you feel the need for FRAGILE tape, you've probably done a poor job packaging!

The sticker on the box says the box weighs more than 70 pounds, yet whoever packed it used Styrofoam peanuts!  As received there was a void at the opened end ranging from 5" to 9" deep!  I paid for professional double box packaging and this is what they sent!  Once unpacked the receiver is DEAD!

Packed by the:
UPS Store
1678 Montgomery Highway, Suite D
Hoover, AL. 35216

For more about this receiver see the RCS-5 web page.
This was supposed to be insured, but I've never received anything.

RCS-5B as
                received
RCS-5B Top
                Inside of box
Notice rip in carton just to the left of yellow 70# sticker and fold line
at top just below FRAGILE tape.  Another fold ling along right side.
I have NOT removed anything.  i.e. the top of the box was EMPTY!

RCS-5B bubble
                wrap, corners reinforced & peanuts

Corner reinforcing has been used BUT the box was way bigger than the reinforcing!  All the packer needed to do was cut down the box size to be a tight fit to the corners.  It's going to take at least a half hour to clean up the static charged peanuts!


USPS Truck vs. Book

USPS Truck vs.
        Book

USQ-46 Items

I ordered 3 items, the receiver, the test transmitter (both in PRC-77 type housings) and the ARFBUOY that is based on a sonobuoy.
The ARFBUOY arrived and when the postman handed it to me I almost fell forward into his truck.  It weighs 18 pounds and looks like
a 4-3/4" x 22" steel cylinder.  It had a single wrap of cardboard.  This is like shipping a sledge hammer.  Imagine what whould happen to other packages that shared a truck with this.

The other two items simply dissapeared.  My guess is that they were not bound toghther and seperated and in the process destroyed the box they were in.

Inadequate Padding

A microscope objective is a delicate optical device and in some respects is like a metal hammer.
The shipper just dropped it into a bubble mailer, but the hammer just popped all the bubbles so there was just a layer of paper between it and any metal surface.
Don't know exactly what's wrong, but suspect the glass inside is broken.

Not enough padding on microscope objective when
                  shipping
Metal has been deformed from 12:100 to 2:00.
Not
                  enough padding on microscope objective when shipping

Inappropriate Use of Air Pillows

A Wild T16 theodolite was shipped in well sized box, but it's a heavy item and can easily break the air pillows.  I'm sure when shipped the theodolite was centered in the box, but when opened it was laying on the bottom.  You can see crease lines where the box was crushed (you can see similar crush lines on the "Lack of Water" photos just below these.

Inside the box there is: Styrofoam blocks, crumpled packing paper, air pillows, small pieces of bubble wrap used as filler (not wrapped around theodolite and tapped).  The theodolies was just lying on the bottom, not wrapped or in any way contained.   The things in the box were just stuffing allowing the theodolite to migrate to the bottom, but the crushed air pillows made that happen faster.

Note "Fragile" sign (aka bad packaging)
and crush lines in cardboard.
Wild T16
                  Shipping Box Problem
Note: Crushed air pillows an crush lines in cardboard.
Wild T16
                  Shipping Box Problem


Lack of Water

The fiber paper tape that needs to be licked by a wheel in a water bath does not work when the water gets low.  Both ends of the box were open and the contents spilled out as soon as I put the box down.  The U.S.P.S. mailman must have given this box a lot of special care to prevent loosing the contents.
Lack of Water on
          fiber paper tape

Microscope & Stand

Received in two boxes: (1) the microscope with individual parts bubble wrapped along with a steel bar heavier than a sledge hammer loose in the box.  Sort of like shipping wine glasses and an hammer in the same box. (2) the base plate (70 pounds) and another steel bar.

The horizontal support bar came out of the package onto the UPS driver's foot.  It was not anchored inside the box, an example of poor packaging.  The loose bar broke one of the knobs on the focusing mount even though the focusing mount was wrapped in bubble wrap.
Box as received with the bar sticking out
Nikon SMZ-U
                    shipping box BAD PACKAGING
Inside Box wrapped components were free to move and
be beaten by iron bar (a hammer)
Nikon
                    SMZ-U shipping box BAD PACKAGING
parts laid out on floor
Loose knob in center just above the binocular head.
Broken shaft on focusing mount to the right of loose knob.
Don't know if there is additional damage yet.
Nikon SMZ-U
                    shipping box BAD PACKAGING
The result of the bad packaging is that the Focusing Mount has a knob broken off and the ISO Port beam splitter slide is very hard to move.
There is another box still due, so the total extend of the bad packaging is yet to be determined.

The shipper does not know how to package
heavy items.  The base arrived with a broken handle.

The base weighs 70 pounds.
Nikon SMZ-U shipping box BAD PACKAGING
Instead of putting all the hardware in a bag tied to a handle a bolt was wrapped with clear packing tape around the vertical bar.  It's going to take some time to get the tape and sticky residue off the bar so that the height can be adjusted. Nikon SMZ-U shipping box BAD PACKAGING

Miscellaneous

Small High Value Items

Small high value items often can be properly packaged in a box only a few inches on a side.  But a small box is more likely to be lost than a box that's say 1 foot on a side.   Also Registered mail requires a signature path and can be traced from the shipper to the last person at the post office who handled it.  So if it's lost there's a better change of finding the package.  I recently received an adapter from C/CS mount to 1 " telescope.   It's small enough that you can hide it in your hand.  The seller shipped it in a priority mail box that was nearly 1 foot on a side for just this reason.  (I think he had earlier suffered "lost" shipments).

Heavy Fragile Items

Double boxing adds a layer of padding.  For example the ICOM R9500 is double boxed from the factory. 

Multiple Items

Multiple items in the same package in addition to being individually padded MUST be tied together.  I received a set of microwave parts where each was well padded but the small bag of connectors got tossed into the garbage because it blended in too well. 

Garbage

It's a good idea to not toss packaging immediately into the garbage, but instead store it for more than a week.   Christmas presents was the first place where I learned that lesson.  Some of the boxes made for new things like cell phones have compartments that have something inside that may not get opened after the phone and manual are removed from the box, but will be missed when needed, like the charger or USB cable.  When moving packaging to the garbage it's a good idea to inspect it to be sure you're only tossing packaging and not content.  Good packaging avoids this problem by not hiding content.

Postage & Stamps

I have a seperate web page about options for USPS postage.

Air Pillows

These are used like Plastic Peanuts but have advantages for the shipper in that they take up much less space and for the recipient in that they are much easier to seperate for the shipped items.  The problem is when they are misused, like in the Enco case above where a pillow burst.

Plastic Peanuts

These are one way to fill voids in a box after the contents have been padded.  But they have a number of disadvantages.  It makes a mess for the receipent.  They have very low strength so are not suitable for use in the same box as heavy items.  They generate static.  Items can get lost in a box (See Multiple Items above).

Styrofoam Sheet

A little Googling and I found DOW web pages where they specify 15 Pounds per Square Inch (PSI) for the wall insulation sheets.  These or similar sheets are available at home improvement stores.  This is a void filling method, not suitable for padding.
Control Styrofoam Peanuts
A couple of misting squirts from a bottle of window cleaner stopped
them from sticking to my hands and the box.

ESD

Electrostatic Discharge can cause the failure of electronic items.  Many people put their static sensitive product into an anti static bag thinking that will protect the product.  But, that's not the case.  "Antistatic bag" just means the bag will not generate any static.  These plastic bags look sort of like sunglasses.  To protect a product from static a Faraday Cage (Wiki) is needed.  There are bags that do this and they look like paper painted sliver on the outside and black on the inside.  Or just wrap in aluminum foil so item is completly covered.

The Wiki article is wrong about antistatic.  The meaning is "Preventing or inhibiting the buildup of static electricity".   This is very different from shielding from static discharge.  See: Static & Electrocution.

Shipping or Transit Cases

Many military devices come in a shipping case.  These are typically made of metal, have a closeable air vent and use a number of quick acting latches.  They are water proof and have compartments for each item.  I believe you can just tape a label on these without any further packaging and a commercial carrier will accept them.  They are also used for commercial products.  For example when going to trade shows or customer demonstrations the equipment is packaged into shipping cases.  Some of these have wheels like carry on baggage complete with long handles so make it easier to move them without lifting.

Insurance

Insurance is not going to pay for damage caused by improper packaging.  It will pay for lost items, but the odds of a lost item are extremely low.   Some of the eBay message boards make a point of recommending that either the seller or the buyer get insurance with the belief that everything is covered.  If you get a custom policy from Lloyds of London and pay their fee then that might be the case.  But the insurance offered by the carriers only covers their neglect.  Dropping a box 6 feet is not negligent, it's standard operating practice.

Summary

What is Good Packing? 
  1. Gets the item to it's destination without any damage.
  2. Minimizes the expense of the shipper both in terms of time and money.
Characteristics of Good Packing.
  1. No movement of item when package shaken, dropped or bounces in truck.
  2. Box completely filled so can not crush.
  3. For heavy items fiber tape or banding to hold box together.
  4. If more than one item in box they are individually padded then held firmly toghther so they can not beat up each other.
  5. Item is padded on all sides so box can be dropped.
  6. If the box is too small for a heavy object there will not be enough padding.  Heavier items need more padding so need space for more padding.  The style G model XE9 Fast Pack has a lot of built in foam padding.
Good Packaging Methods for Common Carrier Items

Links

Agilent - packing test equipment (or heavy stuff) - http://cp.literature.agilent.com/litweb/pdf/5991-0392EEE.pdf
UPS -Preparing Your Package -Packing Materials - Internal Packaging - talks about different types of fillers
Gemmary - How to Pack Expensive Antique Scientific Instruments for Shipping -
Astromaart - A realistic guide to packing astro items -


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