By now you must be familiar with the content contained within Material Safety Data Sheets. If not then you haven’t read our MSDS posts close enough. What are you waiting for? We spent a ton of time on those! Moving on…
This post is about another kind of sheet: A technical data sheet.
A technical data sheet (TDS) is a document produced in tandem with a product so that a manufacturer provides the necessary information for its usage. Because of this a TDS is sometimes referred to as a product data sheet (PDS). To make it easier, we’re just going to refer to it as a TDS from here on out.
The format, layout, and design of a TDS are not universal and the length may vary. However, there are usually certain sections that tend to appear across the broad spectrum of existing products. (It’s important to note before we go any further that some products may not even have a TDS. For example, our propeller hats don’t need one and neither do gifts and toys in general. Also, sophisticated electronics, like Garmin GPS and Yaesu transceivers instead have instructional manuals and booklets that provide technical and installation information).
For the most part, a TDS is composed of a number of sections. The following is a list of the most common ones:
Description – A brief explanation of what the product is and what it is used for. Often you will find that SkyGeek (not to mention practically every site) draws from this section so that it serves as the description on the actual product page.
Features/Benefits – Sometimes one; sometimes the other; sometimes both. Features are traits that a product possesses. And these features usually translate to benefits when used. For instance, a sealant may have “high temperature performance” which means it can withstand high heat without compromising its effectiveness.
Applications – This is a broad section, but basically it gives instructions on how to handle the product and actually put it into use. Sometimes there is surface preparation involved or temperature and cure time requirements. There can even be information on how to clean-up excess amounts. Application can substitute for “Directions for Use” found on many containers since it is more or less the same.
Physical/Functional/Performance Properties – Another broad section with slightly different name variations. This is perhaps the most technical section in an entire TDS. A few properties that may be mentioned: viscosity, color, net weight, flashpoint, specific gravity, tensile strength, sheer strength, peel strength, cure time, etc. Fortunately, all this information and more is usually presented in chart form. But obviously because a product is made for an intended purpose and because it is composed of a specific combination of materials and chemicals, the extent or length of the chart varies widely.
Storage – This section describes how best to preserve the product so that it does not expire prematurely. By storing a product in a place that is secure and safe from harm, packaging is less likely to be damaged. No leaks or exposure translates to an uncompromised shelf life. This section is also found in an MSDS.
Warranty – Sometimes a manufacturer will honor a faulty product within a given time frame.
Additional Information – Anything left out that hasn’t already been mentioned and does not fit into any of the above sections.
Other parts of a TDS: a date of when the document was created and revised, a disclaimer with legal information, as well as contact information in case there are further questions.
Perhaps the best approach to understanding a TDS is to simply examine several to get a better idea of the extent to which companies are willing to divulge information on a product. I have selected five products from our site with links to their TDS. If the links do not work for whatever reason, you can simply search these products on SkyGeek; another link to their TDS can be found in the descriptions.
You’ll notice the featured five TDS pertain to chemical-heavy products. In this way they are related to MSDS, documents that are required to be disseminated to users by law and indicate the stringently regulated nature of a product. Certainly a wrench does not automatically call for a TDS and neither does a screw. Sure they have specifications and maybe even a data sheet of some kind but they do not need to be accompanied with written instructions telling someone where to store it or how to apply it. It is not mandatory. Based on this, one can start to see which products correspond to TDS.
Do you think technical data sheets should be a common feature on our site? Let us know on our Facebook page, the comments below, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org