Hare, Brian (2011-08). Evaluation of Packaging Film Mechanical Integrity Using a Standardized Scratch Test. Master's Thesis.
Polymeric packaging films see widespread use in the food packaging industry, and their mechanical integrity is paramount to maintaining product appearance, freshness, and overall food safety. Current testing methods, such as tensile or puncture tests, do not necessarily correlate well with field damages that are observed to be scratch-like. The standardized linearly increasing load scratch test is investigated as a new means of evaluating the mechanical integrity of packaging films. Mechanical clamp and vacuum fixtures were considered for securing the films to a set of backing materials and tested under various testing rates and film orientation conditions. Film performance was evaluated according to their puncture load. Based on the above study, the vacuum fixture offers the most consistent and meaningful results by providing a more intimate contact between film and backing and minimizing uncontrolled buckling of the film during testing. Additional testing was also carried out on a commercial film to confirm similarity between damage observed in the scratched films and that from the field. The scratch test gives good correlation between field performance and scratch test results on a set of commercial films. The usefulness of the scratch test methodology for packaging film mechanical integrity evaluation is discussed. Scratch-induced damages on multi-layer commercial packaging films are investigated using cross- and longitudinal-sectioning. Scratch test results show clear distinction between the two tested systems on both the inside and outside surfaces. Microscopy was performed to investigate the feasibility of utilizing this methodology as a tool for packaging film structure evaluation by determining the effect each layer has on the resistance of scratch damages. It is shown that the film showing superior scratch test results also shows significantly better stress distribution through its layers during the scratch test, as well as better layer adhesion during severe deformation. The scratch test shows good ability to provide more in-depth film mechanical integrity testing by allowing for layer-by-layer analysis of damages and layer adhesion after testing.