Monday, November 29, 2010

Which shipping company is hardest on your packages?

Using a self-powered data logger equipped with an ARM microcontroller evaluation board, a three-axis accelerometer and a massive Energizer Energi To Go XP18000 battery, Popular Mechanics shipped a variety of packages using the three most popular shippers: FedEx, UPS and the USPS. None of the shippers were alerted and the packages were sent through the usual shipping channels. During the test a few variables were manipulated to see if the treatment of the packages changed. Was overnight shipping more or less violent than three-day? Did marking the package "Fragile" or "This Side Up" ensure more careful treatment?

Before the first journey, the ­National Instruments engineers collected baseline g-force readings. "We dropped the package from different heights, kicked it around our building, ran down the stairs with it in a backpack and took it on a car ride—giving real-world meaning to how many g's the package endured," says Kuhlman. The findings: A moderate jostle exerts 2 g's, while a 2.5-foot drop registers 6 g's; we set the latter as our limit for rough treatment. "Our co-workers thought we were a bit odd," says Brettle, "but we assured them it was all in the name of science."

The results are summarized in the chart below, and detailed results are available at the referenced site.

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