How to get custom packaging for lithium-ion batteries certified

June 11, 2024

Since first being used in commercial devices in 1991, lithium-ion batteries have become ubiquitous. These powerful energy sources are used in everything from smartphones to electric vehicles. However, their potential for causing fires or explosions if not handled properly makes the certification of their packaging critically important. At Americase, we design our packaging based on each customer’s unique needs, while using our extensive regulatory, standards-setting, and testing expertise to ensure that the packaging is certified to the applicable UN packaging standard. to In this article, we will walk you through the essential steps involved in ensuring your custom packaging solutions for your lithium-ion batteries of products meet all regulatory requirements and maintain the highest safety standards.

Understanding Regulatory Requirements

To start, it’s vital to understand the regulatory landscape governing the transportation of lithium-ion batteries. Various organizations have established stringent regulations to ensure the safe transport of these materials, and Americase works hand in hand with regulatory agencies to add valuable insight. Here’s a breakdown of the key regulations you need to be aware of:

  • International Air Transport Association (IATA) Dangerous Goods Regulations (DGR): These regulations govern the transport of lithium-ion batteries by air. Compliance with IATA DGR is mandatory for shipping batteries via any air carrier.
  • International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code: This code regulates the sea transportation of hazardous materials, including lithium-ion batteries.
  • Department of Transportation (DOT) Regulations: Within the United States, the DOT oversees transportation regulations through the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR). These regulations cover all modes of transportation within the country.
  • United Nations (UN) Model Regulations: The UN Model Regulations provide a standardized framework for the global transport of dangerous goods, including lithium-ion batteries. These regulations ensure consistency across international borders.

Adhering to these regulations is not just a legal requirement; it is essential for the safety of everyone involved in the transportation process. Non-compliance can result in severe penalties and pose significant safety risks. Organizations such as the Federal Aviation Administration keep track of incidents involving hazardous materials, with the FAA specifically tracking lithium-ion-related incidents and publishing the results.

Why Standards-Driven Design Matters

Even taking the quickest of trips through a list of lithium-ion-related incidents clarifies why it’s so important to be compliant with all regulations. Common sense simply isn’t enough, as anyone involved in handling and transporting dangerous goods will tell you. Safety, economics, and even life itself may be on the line. That’s why the packaging and storage specifications for lithium-ion batteries are so stringent and so precise. 

The regulatory requirements must necessarily inform and guide the custom fabrication process. With our ongoing work with the UN and other regulatory agencies, Americase is intimately familiar with what it takes to create compliant, reliable containers that not only meet but exceed regulatory requirements. 

Says Americase CEO Robby Kinsala, “One of the things we do with every customer is ensure that they understand not only what the regulations are but why they are important. My team and I work directly with the United Nations to address both known and emerging challenges in lithium-ion safety,” he continues. “In this way, I believe we are able to give them more sophisticated, safer solutions and, ultimately, the peace of mind that comes with knowing that the company creating their custom containers has the deepest and most current possible knowledge.” 

Once the customer understands the regulatory requirements, the next step is designing packaging that meets not just regulatory standards but flawlessly meets the customer’s specific needs. In every case, the work involves creating packaging that strictly adheres to UN specifications. Let’s take a look at what those are.

Key Aspects of UN Specification Packaging

Broadly speaking, there are two main requirements the United Nation specifies for all lithium-ion packaging:

1. Robust Construction: The packaging must be constructed to endure the stresses of transport, including rough handling and environmental conditions.

2. Positive Outcomes on Performance Tests: The packaging must pass a series of performance tests to ensure its durability and reliability. These tests include:

  • Drop test: Packaging must withstand being dropped from a height of 1.2 meters (approximately 4.27 feet) without releasing its contents for regular, not damaged, batteries. For damaged batteries, the case needs to withstand 1.8 meters drop test.
  • Vibration test: The packaging must withstand vibrations that simulate transport conditions without any failures. 
  • Stacking test: The packaging must withstand a force applied to the top surface to the total weight of identical packages for 24 hours.

Designing packaging that meets these stringent standards ensures the safety of the lithium-ion batteries during transit and complies with international regulations.

Testing and Certification

After designing your packaging, the next crucial step is to get it tested and certified. This involves selecting a certified testing facility and going through a series of rigorous tests. At Americase, we  work with our in-house testing laboratory to subject all of our custom containers to rigorous testing and simulation, which gives our customers the advantage and ease of having one partner that can complete the entire process: from design to manufacture to testing to deployment. Our laboratory is fully accredited to conduct UN performance tests, with all of the expertise and equipment needed to ensure that custom lithium-ion battery packaging is compliant, durable, and safe. Testing involves three, equally important steps:

1. Preparation: Send your packaging prototypes, along with the lithium-ion batteries they are designed to contain, to the testing facility.

2. Conducting tests: The facility will perform the necessary tests, such as the drop test, vibration test, and others. These tests simulate real-world transportation conditions to ensure the packaging can protect its contents effectively.

3. Evaluating results: The facility will evaluate the test results to determine if the packaging meets the required standards.

If the packaging passes all the tests, the lab will issue a UN performance packaging certificate. This guarantees the packaging’s compliance with international regulations and its ability to safely transport lithium-ion batteries.

 Documentation and Labeling

To ensure that all parties involved in the transport process are aware of the contents and handling requirements, clear documentation and labeling are vital. Here are some of the main considerations in this area.

  • Test reports: Maintain detailed reports of all tests conducted on the packaging. These reports provide evidence of compliance and can be requested by regulatory authorities.
  • Certification documents: Keep the UN certification documentation readily accessible. This documentation is essential for regulatory inspections and audits.
  • Closure Instructions: This document provides information on how to properly fill and close a UN Performance Package. These instructions are provided to all customers to ensure proper use of the package.
  • Markings: Clearly mark the packaging with the UN packaging symbol, the packaging code, and other relevant information such as the weight limit and the type of goods contained.
  • Handling labels: Apply appropriate handling labels indicating the presence of lithium-ion batteries and any special handling instructions. These labels inform handlers of the potential risks and the necessary precautions.

Training and Compliance

Training is never complete – because the evolution of regulations is never done, either. 

All personnel involved in the packaging, handling, and shipping of lithium-ion batteries must be trained in hazardous materials regulations and proper procedures. This training should cover:

  • General awareness of the DG regulations;  
  • The specific regulatory requirements for lithium-ion batteries;
  • Proper handling and packaging techniques; and
  • Emergency response procedures in case of incidents.

“Regular training updates ensure that staff stay informed about the latest regulations and best practices,” says Chris Egloff, Americase vice president  of strategic business opportunities, hazmat & lithium. “Regulations and best practices for the transport of lithium-ion batteries are constantly evolving. You must review and update your packaging and shipping procedures to remain compliant.”

The particulars of the process may look different from organization to organization and from team to team, but the process always has three main components, and it is forever in a state of improvement:

  1. Staying informed about changes in regulations and industry standards.
  2. Conducting regular internal audits to ensure compliance with procedures.
  3. Implementing corrective actions in the setting of noncompliance.

Quality Assurance and Continuous Improvement

Continuous improvement isn’t an ideal to strive toward but rather the operating system of the highest-performing teams – regardless of what their work is. Maintaining high standards of quality and continuously improving your packaging designs and procedures are vital for not just long-term success but also for safety and scalability. Being dedicated to continuous, systematic improvement is good insurance against change and volatility. 

Implementing strict quality control procedures ensures that you get it right and make it repeatable, with as few kinks in the chain as possible. A simple, three-part QA workflow would look like this:

  • Regular inspections of packaging materials and finished products; 
  • Random sampling and testing of packaging batches to verify compliance; and
  • Documenting and addressing any defects or inconsistencies.

In addition to optimizing your internal processes, you should also regularly collect feedback from stakeholders. This sort of information can fill in gaps or provide “aha” moments for you and your team, as well as help you build strong, productive relationships with your customers, partners, and regulatory groups. You can use this feedback to:

  • Refine packaging designs based on practical insights and experiences;
  • Enhance training programs to address identified gaps; and
  • Update procedures to incorporate new best practices and regulatory changes.

Says Americase CEO Robby Kinsala, “The feedback that we get from customers and stakeholders, as well as the firsthand knowledge and relationships we build through serving on regulatory committees focused on the future of lithium-ion technology, give us perspectives that we otherwise might not have.” By deliberately seeking the brainpower of many and using collective knowledge to enhance our own thinking and capabilities, Americase is able to not only respond to what our customers need but to innovate solutions that will benefit our customers and partners. 

 You Have a Partner

At Americase, we are committed to providing expert guidance and innovative solutions to help you meet your lithium-ion packaging needs while complying with UN packaging standards. Our extensive experience and dedication to excellence make us an ideal partner who can be your champion throughout every step. Contact us today to learn more about how we can assist you in ensuring the safe and compliant transport of lithium-ion batteries and products. 

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