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What is Shrink Wrap?

Shrink wrap is a term used to describe a variety of products and materials. In order to correctly describe what shrink wrap is, it is important to start by pointing out what shrink wrap is not. See the images below to see what products are often mistaken for shrink wrap.

Products Often Mistaken for Shrink Wrap

1. Stretch Film - Common terms for stretch film are: pallet wrap, stretch wrap, and shrink wrap. Though often called shrink wrap, pallet wrap is technically a stretch film. The film stretches around products creating a "shrunk look" around the products being wrapped.

Pallet Shrink Wrap - Stretch Film

2. Vacuum Packaging - Vacuum packaging creates a tight-fitting appearance like shrink wrap. Vacuum packaging uses an air vacuum to remove air from the packaging. The removal of air creates a shrunk look to the package resembling shrink wrapping.

Vacuum Packaged Products

3. Cling Wrap -  Cling wrap (Saran Wrap) is a food grade plastic wrap that has tact on one or more sides. The cling enables users to pull film tightly around an object and adhere the film to itself. This tight fit often is mistakenly called shrink wrap.

Food Cling Wrap

What is Shrink Wrap?

Now that we know what shrink wrap isn't, let's look at what shrink wrap is. For industrial shrink wrap, shrink wrap packaging, and shrink tubing, the most distinguishing factor is heat. When heat is applied to a shrink wrap material, the film shrinks down and conforms to the product being wrapped.

Shrink wrap can be made from different materials and varies dramatically based on the intended use. The four most common materials shrink wrap is made from is PVC, polyolefin, polyethylene, and polypropylene. Polyethylene and polypropylene shrink wrap are most often used for heavier shrink wrapping applications. PVC and polyolefin shrink wrap are most often used within the retail packaging industry.

Below are some images of different shrink wrapped products with brief explanations of each. Though each shrink wrapped product is very different, they all require heat to shrink and conform to the product.

1. Industrial Shrink Wrap - Made from a thicker polyethylene shrink wrap and often and used with a propane heat gun to apply heat. Industrial shrink wrap is used to winterize boats, wrap large objects for weather protection, and wrap and enclose pallets of goods.

Industrial Shrink Wrap

2. Wire Shrink Tubing - Shrink tubing is used in many different manufacturing processes to protect and secure electrical wires together. Most wire shrink tubing uses an electrical or butane heat gun to heat and shrinks the tubing tightly around the wires being wrapped.

Wire Shrink Tubing

3. Shrink Wrap Packaging - Most shrink wrap used throughout the world is used for shrink wrap packaging. View the different forms of shrink packaging below, all require heat to shrink the material.

Retail Shrink Wrap

Most commonly made from PVC or Polyolefin materials, retail shrink wrap is used to fully enclose the product being wrapped. Centerfnewed shrink wrap is most often used with high output operations. Shrink bags are used as well with smaller hand sealers. The full enclosure protects the products from exterior elements and provides a clear view to the product.

Shrink Wrapped Tools

Neck Banding

Neck banding is primarily used with bottles for tamper protection. Neck banding is pre-cut shrink tubing slid over the cap of a container to prevent the top from being removed. Neck banding is most often made from PVC.

Neck Banding

Shrink Sleeves

Shrink sleeves are pre-cut tubing like neck banding except they are often printed on for advertising and marketing purposes. Shrink sleeves can be made from many different materials including PVC and PET. Some shrink sleeves require heat from steam to properly shrink the sleeve around the bottle.

Shrink Sleeve

Shrink Bundling Film

Shrink bundling film is used to package cases of water and soda. It is most commonly a lay-flat shrink film made from polyethylene. Shrink bundling film is used with a shrink bundling machine to bundle cases of heavy items. Shrink bundling film shrinks during cool down after heat has been applied.

Shrink Bundling Film 

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