Shrink wrap packaging guide

What is shrink wrap?

The idea of pallet shrink wrap is that tension is used to hold a number of items together. Shrink wrap comes in 4 primary forms.

Centerfold shrink wrap: Centerfold shrink wrap is folded in half lengthways and rolled onto a roll. A 10-inch-wide centerfolded roll would unfold to a 20-inch width.

Single wound shrink wrap: The film comes off the roll flat. Most single wound shrink film is used to bundle water bottles. The film is only sealed on two sides, leaving round holes known as bulls eyes on two ends of the package.

Shrink tubing: Shrink tubing is a round tube available in different sizes and made to package a wide array of products. Long continuous rolls of shrink tubing are often used to wrap long cylindrical objects. Shrink sleeves are pre-cut and sized tubes often made to go around a bottle. Shrink sleeves are heavily used in food and beverage packaging. Smaller pre-cut tubing sized for fitting bottle caps and lids is called shrink banding or neck banding.

Shrink bags: Shrink bags have three enclosed sides and one open side. Accurate product sizing is important when using shrink bags. The advantage of shrink bags is the need to only seal one open end. Hand impulse sealers used with shrink bags are a great low-cost option for professional packaging.

Wrapping a pallet using shrink wrap

  • Place the outside of the shrink wrap to the pallet surface.
  • Secure the shrink wrap to the pallet base.
  • Ensure shrink wrap covers the base of pallet and the bottom layer of the load.
  • Wrap the bottom of pallet twice to secure the load.
  • Overlap the shrink wrap by 30 to 50%.

Depending on the weight of your load, consider wrapping the pallet twice. To increase the strength, use the shrink wrap horizontally to create a strap. Use a handheld stretch film dispenser for rapid easy application and to prevent injury through straining or repetitive use.

Selecting shrink wrap thickness

You should use the thinnest gauge of shrink wrap that will be strong enough to properly wrap your goods.

Shrink wrap thickness
12.5/13 micron shrink wrapThinnest shrink film available. Suitable where the shrink wrap is supported.
15, 17 and 19 micron shrink wrapFor heavier goods and larger packs.
21/25 microns shrink wrapAllows collations of packs.
35/38 micron shrink wrapFor large and heavy packs.

Selecting shrink wrap width

Shrink wrap width is calculated by adding the width and height of the pack together, increasing this figure by 10% and adding 60mm for scrap.

As shrink wrap widths are incremented at 5cm per time, you should round up your figure.

Calculating the number of shrink wrap packs required

Add the height and length together, increase it by 10% and then divide this figure into the length of the roll.

Types of shrink wrap

Types of shrink wrap
Cast shrink wrapBlown shrink wrap
Load retentionStretches easily.Slightly more force required to stretch film.
Film yieldAdditional stretching can be obtained easier through lower micron blown films.Re-stretching the film once its applied is extremely difficult.
Clingyness of the filmNaturally clingy on both sides.One sided clingy only.
Visual clarityPerfectly clear, makes reading and scanning in warehouse light easy. High gloss can cause reflections.Hazy and dull which makes reading more difficult. It has lower gloss with reduces reflections.
Noise on unwindingVery quiet when being unwound.Loud when being unwound from the roll.
Puncture resistanceGood puncture resistance. Tearing can occur if stretched too much.Great puncture resistance.

Typical shrink wrap uses

Shrink wrap uses
BooksKeep your personal library safe from moisture. Shrink wrap your book collection to seal it off from the elements.
ShoesShrink wrapping shoes is a great way to keep them from aging.Shrink wrap for shoes
WindowsKeep your home warmer in the winter by shrink wrapping windows. Increase the insulation of your home.Shrink wrap for windows
CDsShrink wrap CD cases.Shrink wrap for cards
Paintings and printsShrink wrap protects artwork from unwanted scuffs, dust or moisture.Shrink wrap for prints
BoatsWinter proof boats with shrink wrap.Shrink wrap for boats
Soaps and candlesShrink wrap can be used to protect soap and candles from the elements.Shrink wrap for soap
FirewoodShrink wrap is an inexpensive way to keep moisture out of firewood.Shrink wrap for wood
FoodShrink wrapping food is an easy way to increase the shelf life of food without having to rely on artificial preservatives.Shrink wrap for food

Shrink wrap thickness

Stretch wrap is an affordable way to wrap and secure products. Using the right thickness of stretch wrap to secure the product being wrapped will protect from product loss and reduce film cost. Below is a brief explanation of common stretch wrap terms referring to film thickness.

Shrink wrap thickness guide
37 gaugeExcellent cost saver when wrapping light loads. Great for bundling two light uniform objects together. Users can easily apply the film with minimal exertion.
47 gaugeGreat for light boxes. No products with sharp edges or corners.
80 gaugeThe most common gauge in all stretch wrap. Known to be very versatile and handle a variety of applications. 80 gauge is the most common stretch film thickness and ideal for a variety of applications
90 gaugeThe ability to run with a higher tension with fewer tears. Used to wrap bundle firewood, angle iron and a variety of heavier objects. Ideal for taller or heavier loads.
100 gaugeCommonly used for heavier boxes and products to bundle together. Medium heavy boxes and medium heavy items such as light lumber are ideal. Often used to wrap pallets of drums, steel beams and other heavy objects.
115 gauge115 gauge shrink wrap provides excellent stretch with limited tears. Used for banding sets of heavy products together. 115 gauge shrink and above is ideal for taller or heavier loads.
150 gaugeThe heaviest shrink stretch film offered. For heavy duty pallet loads. Greater strength and puncture resistance. Great for irregular shaped boxes. Ideal for securing steel, metal and other heavy duty items.

Determine stretch film stretch rate

By stretching a stretch film to the maximum stretch rate, save money on film costs and reduce product loss. With the simple steps below, companies can find out the amount of stretch being reached. This is useful to find out if you are attaining the proper amount of stretch when applying hand film and thus decreasing film usage.

We recommend using a pallet of goods that are commonly wrapped. Uniform pallet loads such as boxes will often obtain a higher stretch rate than loads with sharp edges or corners.

Stretch film stretch rate
Step 1Tie the stretch film to the corner of the pallet. Make one or two full revolutions around the pallet.Stretch film stretch rate
Step 2After the last corner is reached to complete two full revolutions, loosely pull 5 to 6 feet from the stretch film roll and hold up to the pallet.Stretch film stretch rate
Step 3Hold the loose stretch film up to the boxes and make 3 to 5 lines ten inches long on different sides of the film. The lines should be spaced apart a few inches across the length of the extra film pulled out in step two. Multiple lines should be marked on the film to obtain an average rate during one revolution of pallet wrapping.Stretch film stretch rateStretch film stretch rate
Step 4Wrap the pallet as normal after 3 to 5 ten inch lines are marked on it. After the pallet is wrapped the lines should be stretched out longer than the original markings.Stretch film stretch rate
Step 5Use a tape measure to measure the stretched lines and write each line length down.Stretch film stretch rate
Step 6After all of the stretched lines are measured and wrote down, get the average length of the lines by adding all lengths together and dividing by the number of lines. If the average of all of the lines is 20, a 100% stretch rate is being reached. If the average of the lines is 30 inches, a 200% stretch rate is being reached.

Shrink wrap packaging guide last updated: Aug-2023

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