Cushion Curves for Protective Packaging

Several custom Atlas protective packaging products made from EPS.

Proper packaging is the culmination of several protective elements combined to keep every aspect of the contents safe throughout the entire shipping and delivery process. It is impossible to control how a package is handled or what road and weather conditions it may face during shipping, so creating the perfect protective environment around a product is imperative.

Many factors go into creating the perfect packaging, but one of the most important protective packaging concepts is the cushion curve.

Let’s look at what cushion curves are, how they help protect shipments and how we use them at Atlas to engineer and manufacture our industry-leading protective packaging.

What Are Cushion Curves?

Several custom Atlas protective packaging products against a black background.

Not all materials absorb shock the same. For instance, if you dropped a glass object packaged inside a wooden box, the wood has very little shock absorption, resulting in shattered glass. However, a packaging material like molded polystyrene is designed to absorb the shock, so glass packaged in this material would remain intact after a drop.

The measurement of how a specific packaging material — like foam, paper or cardboard — of different thicknesses reacts to various impact conditions is a “cushion curve”.

Cushion curves use a measurement called g-forces (Gs) which is the force of gravity or acceleration on a body. In protective packaging, the goal is to reduce the number of Gs on an object when it drops.

Black and white sketch showing cushion curves. Static loading and decelerations are measured.


During the testing process, objects are intentionally dropped to measure the Gs — this is called drop testing and is discussed more in the next section. Through testing, a curve is created to show the measurement and relationship between the Gs and the protection material. The curve takes into consideration how much the item decelerates, how high it is dropped and how thick the protective material is.

This data is then used to determine the proper thickness and density of the packaging material needed to achieve optimal protection.

Drop Testing

Close-up on custom Atlas protective packaging foam.

Protective packaging materials, like molded polystyrene foam, are tested for quality and performance through drop testing. As mentioned above, during drop testing, a packaged item will be dropped repeatedly and the data will be collected to determine the proper foam thickness to product weight ratio.

During both the testing and the shipping process, the foam serves as the “ground,” so the product in the box bounces off of the foam.

In order to protect the item, it needs to be heavy enough to break the cushion layer. Otherwise, the foam will not absorb enough of the shock and the packaged object will take on the full stress of the drop, the same as if it were dropped without the foam. Drop testing is all about finding that perfect balance between the foam and the weight of the item.

During drop testing, different scenarios need to be tested in order to figure out which material and thickness is best for shipping. The test package is dropped by a machine from various heights and on every side and corner to ensure maximum protection is achieved.

Atlas + Cushion Curves

An open Atlas wine shipper is placed on a table. The shipper is holding six bottles of wine.

Our protective packaging designs custom-fit packaging molded specifically to whatever it is that needs to be shipped which allows for better protection than ready-made packaging alternatives.

Because our protective packaging is designed specifically for its content, the contents will be much safer throughout the shipping process. In addition, the contents will not shift around in the box during shipping and delivery thanks to the perfectly-molded fit.

The Atlas in-house packaging engineers can provide 3D modeling and prototyping to design protective packaging specific to the content’s requirements. Designers also utilize state of the art CAD software to produce fabricated parts that will precisely fit any product. Our goal with our protective packaging products is to provide a cushioning material that protects the content throughout the whole shipping process.

More information on the benefits of our protective packaging can be found here.

Choose Atlas for Protective Packaging

Cardboard box fitted with protective packaging foam walls.

The last thing you want to worry about when it comes to shipping is your product breaking during transit and disappointing clients upon delivery.

You can rely on the protective packaging at Atlas for all your shipping needs. We care about the success of your delivery as much as you do which is why our products undergo extensive testing and quality checks to ensure your packages are perfectly protected.

Our expert reps are ready to answer all your protective packaging questions, so contact us today and let us help you find the perfect packaging solutions.