Today’s Cold Shipping Technology Involves Far More Than Dry Ice

Shipping of goods worldwide is an enormous business and companies compete for our business with catch words and phrases like “if it fits…” or “let Brown…” or “…it’s logistics” to grab and hold our attention. Within this shipping world is a very specialized kind of service, one that can literally be life-saving. Cold shipping is a specialized shipping service in which sensitive products, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, foods, healthcare products, biomaterials, human organs and even animals that need to be kept temperature-controlled may be sent and delivered safely.

Insulated shipping supplies are needed to properly package items that must be temperature controlled during shipping. These vary from vacuum flasks, similar to a thermos, to molded expanded polystyrene foam (EPS — similar to coolers) to sheets of foamed plastics.  There are fabricated thermal liners and blankets as well as molded foams known as polyurethane polyethylene. There are metalized film reflective materials, gel packs and cold bricks, insulated box liners and moisture shields. Some products are designed to be used once and discarded while others are made to be reused.  For frozen and very cold foods, there is still dry ice.

Thermal protection solutions for cold shipping are often part of a cold chain, by which the shippers maintain a record of the temperature of the product and its freshness through every step in the shipping process.  In order to accomplish this, a digital thermometer or some sort of device to indicate temperature and time is often packaged with the product to monitor its temperature inside the packaging for the entire trip.  In this manner the quality and freshness of the product is assured. This is crucial for all shipments, but a matter of life or death when shipping organs for transplants or someone’s pet amphibian or reptile.

Two primary characteristics of insulated shipping containers that are of major importance are the insulation properties or value of their materials (known as the “K value”) and their thicknesses.  These form most of the functional ability of the container. There are a variety of different temperature control packaging products from which to choose. Your choice will depend upon your specific shipping need and the item to be shipped.  There are box and gel pack combination systems, molded EPS insulated containers, panel box containers with 1.0 EPS foam panels included, and Polyurethane (PUR) molded “Super K” containers.  There are also containers build specifically for transporting amphibians and reptiles safely in any climate at any time of the year.

Dry ice used to be the go-to material for frozen shipping but it is classified as a dangerous material. Today’s temperature-sensitive biomaterials and biogenetics benefit from a deep frozen shipping option from the technology of liquid nitrogen dry vapor.  Using this form of nitrogen eliminates the need to ship under a dangerous goods classification. This and many new technological advances have been of great benefit to the cold shipping industry.

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