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3 Ways To Ensure You Are Buying the Right Shrink Wrap

Shrink wrap is a general term composed of many different materials and styles. Any material that requires heat to shrink is a heat shrink wrap material. Stretch film used to wrap pallet loads is often referred to as shrink wrap but does not require heat.

This list of ways to find the right shrink wrap below is focused on heat shrink wrap products. The four primary materials heat shrink wrap is made from are: PVC, Polyolefin, Polyethylene, and Polypropylene. Understanding uses for each of these materials is important when buying shrink wrap. View the list below to be sure you are purchasing the right shrink wrap.

Product Size

1. Know Your Product Size

Knowing the product Length x Width x Height x Weight can be an excellent indicator for which shrink wrap to use. See below for a brief description of shrink wrap materials.

Polyethylene Shrink Wrap – For heavier products with sharp, rigid edges. Most polyethylene shrink wrap is available in 200 gauge or 2 Mil thickness up to 12 Mil thickness.

Thinner 2 to 4 Mil Polyethylene is often used to wrap cases of water and canned foods. Thick 6 to 12 Mil Polyethylene is used for winterizing boats and storage of other large objects.

Polyolefin Shrink Wrap – A very popular retail packaging option. Polyolefin is food safe and FDA approved for direct food contact.

Polyolefin shrink wrap is available in multiple thicknesses. A 100 gauge or 1 mil thick polyolefin film can be used for some products up to 20 lbs.

PVC Shrink – For years PVC was the most popular retail shrink wrap on the market. PVC requires low temperatures to shrink and offers up to a 40% shrink rate.

PVC shrink wrap is sold in bags, tubing, and centerfolded rolls. It is an excellent option for gift baskets, DVDs, and other retail items. It is most often used to wrap smaller non-consumable items.

Polypropylene Shrink Wrap – Often available in thicker tubes or sleeves, polypropylene is common in 2 mil up to 6 mil thicknesses. Most rolls of polypropylene shrink wrap are FDA approved to be used with food.

Polypropylene is the least common shrink wrap material. It is often difficult to find as a stock item and requires custom production runs.

Production Levels

2. Accurately Estimate Production Levels

The number of products being wrapped will determine the type of shrink wrap needed. It will also help to determine what type of equipment will be needed.

Smaller production levels can use shrink bags and tubing with a sealer to wrap 200 or fewer products per day. Higher production levels use centerfolded and single wound film.

Machines vary depending on production levels as well. Production times can range from 1 to 2 products per minute up to 30 or more per minute with fully automatic machines.

Transportation Stress

3. Understand Product Transportation Stress

When shrink wrapping anything from small items to larger boats it is important to know what the product and film will go through during transportation and storage. If the material is going to be exposed to whether it will more than likely need to be a polyethylene shrink wrap used. Depending on storage times, UVI inhibitors may need to be added to the material to slow the UV breakdown of the film.

A product being shrink wrapped and placed in an exterior box is under much less stress than exposed shrink wrap sent via USPS, UPS, or Fed Ex. Thinner shrink wrap can be used for items shipped inside boxes. Light items packed inside boxes can use as thin as a 45 ga Polyolefin shrink wrap. A 2 to 3 Mil polyethylene shrink wrap is recommended for products being shipped exposed via parcel shipment. It is the only material strong enough for the stress of exposed shipping.

For products being shrink wrapped and placed on pallets, we would recommend using the product size to determine the thickness of the film needed. Palletized LTL shipments do not expose the products and film to heightened transportation stress if transported properly. Use the size of the product to determine the thickness and type of film needed.

If you are still unsure which shrink wrap you need, feel free to call us at 1-800-441-5090. We would be happy to make a recommendation.


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