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Inside UL visits Bentonville, Ark. to discover how UL tests luggage for durability and strength. Do your bags keep up with you?
Thump, thump, thump goes the roller board as you walk through the airport on the way to your next destination. Whether you’re a leisure traveler or business tycoon, your luggage needs to be able to withstand the many exciting challenges of modern travel.
To learn more about luggage durability Inside UL visited our hardline consumer lab in Bentonville, Ark. to see how UL evaluates the performance of luggage over the long haul.
A roller board’s wheels are critical to the navigation of luggage. Without wheels, we’d have to push, pull or carry our heavy bags.
But, wheels are also one of the most easily damaged parts as they not only carry the weight of the entire contents in the bag but are also subjected to the random abuse from uneven walkways, escalators and hard surface parking lots.
UL uses the wheel mileage test to simulate the bumps and cracks the wheels endure while going in and out of the airport. The machine used for testing is a giant rubber walkway with various cables and cords to keep the suitcase secure.
A roller board is placed on the moving sidewalk where it is secured to ensure it doesn’t roll away. A permanent metal bar attached to the walkway replicates the unevenness often found on hard surfaces. The luggage is loaded down with weights, which is based on a measurement of the total interior volume of the suitcase. Typically, a small roller board weights 25-30 pounds when packed, with a large Pullman weighing considerably more.
The roller board then sets off on its not-too-adventurous journey –10 miles of rolling on the walkway with a 1/4” “bump” approximately every 15 feet of travel. (Don’t worry, even roller boards get to rest with a 10-minute stop for every 2.5 miles on the walkway.)
The test takes several hours to conclude. The roller board wheels are examined at the end of the test for cracks, breaks and uneven wearing of the wheels.
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In Confessions of an Airline Baggage ‘Thrower’, an anonymous baggage handler admits to throwing suitcases an average of 50 feet to get them onto the airplane. Because of this sort of treatment and other travel traumas, the handles on heavily weighted bags can break off.
To test the sturdiness of luggage handles, UL performs a simulated drop and jerk test on the top and side handles of a roller board.
As with the wheel mileage test, the lab technician determines the interior measurements of the bag and calculates the filled weight of the bag.
He adds the correct weight and zips the bag up on all sides. The bag is anchored to a machine and carefully balanced to make sure it is centered and not going to slip one way or another. The lab technician tugs on the bag a couple of times to make sure it’s secure and then starts the machine.
The bag is dropped 4.5 inches then quickly pulled back up, a test which is repeated 500 times per luggage handle. If the bag makes it through all 500 rotations intact, it is examined for tearing around the seams and tested to see if the handle can still move freely up and down.
No one wants their luggage to break, but if your wheels won’t roll or your handle snaps off, replacement parts are often available through luggage manufacturers and travel stores. Check with the luggage’s manufacturer or the retailer where purchased and follow the directions on how to repair wheels on luggage or fix a broken handle on a rolling suitcase.
Buying quality luggage doesn’t have to break the bank as there are good bags available at different price points. Do your homework when shopping for bags to help ensure they will be able to keep up with you on your travels.
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