What is Stretch Film and Stretch Wrap?
Stretch film, also known as stretch wrap, is an essential packaging material commonly used to protect and secure items. It is a type of plastic film that is stretchable and can conform to the shape of the wrapped object, providing a tight and secure fit. This plastic film is a versatile packaging material used in various industries to cover and protect products during storage and transportation securely.
Stretch film is commonly used for packaging items on pallets or boxes, as it helps keep them together and prevent damage during transit. With its ability to provide a cost-effective and efficient way to protect goods, stretch film has become an indispensable part of the packaging industry. This article will explore stretch films’ different types, applications, and benefits.
What is Stretch Film?
The stretch film comprises a type of plastic called linear low-density polyethene (LLDPE) and has excellent elastic recovery properties. This material is a variation of traditional low-density polythene (LDPE) commonly used for plastic bags and packaging.
LLDPE is a more durable and flexible material that has excellent puncture resistance and stretchability compared to LDPE. To produce the stretch film, LLDPE resin is melted and then extruded through a die to form a thin film.
The film is then stretched longitudinally and transversely to increase its strength and stretchability. The resulting film is then wound onto rolls, ready for various packaging and wrapping applications. Some manufacturers may add additives such as volatile corrosion Inhibitors, UV inhibitors or slip agents to enhance the film’s performance for specific applications. Stretch film is available in various widths and thicknesses, making it suitable for multiple applications. By wrapping products with stretch film, goods can be secured, reducing the risk of product loss and load tampering.
The Manufacturing Process of Stretch Film
The manufacturing process for stretch film involves melting and shaping LLDPE resin into a thin film wound into rolls. The packaging material is manufactured through two primary methods: blown film extrusion and cast film extrusion.
Blown film extrusion involves melting the LLDPE resin pellets and extruding them through a circular die to form a thin film tube. Air is blown into the centre of the tube to expand into a tube approximately 30 feet high, passing through a series of cooling rollers before being flattened into a sheet.
The sheet of film is then stretched in both the longitudinal and transverse directions using rollers, which increases its strength and stretchability. The stretched film is then wound into large rolls, ready for various packaging and wrapping applications. The film produced by this method is typically robust and hazy and makes a noise when unwound for application.
On the other hand, cast film extrusion involves sending molten resin through a large extruder that forces a thin film layer over a large drum that is cooled. The cooled layer of plastic is then cut and rolled into stretch film rolls. The film made by this method is generally tear-resistant and quiet on the application but tends to bear limited puncture resistance.
The Properties of Stretch Wrap: Stretchability, Strength, and Clarity
The stretch wrap’s stretchability, elastic recovery, durability, transparency, cost-effectiveness, versatility, and eco-friendliness make it an excellent choice for various packaging and wrapping applications.
- Stretchability: The film is highly stretchable, allowing it to conform to the shape of the wrapped item, providing a tight and secure fit. It also has a uniform and relatively high holding force.
- Elastic Recovery: The plastic has excellent elastic recovery properties and will rebound to its original shape after being stretched. This helps to keep the wrapped items tightly bound and secure.
- Durability: The film is durable and puncture-resistant, protecting the wrapped items during storage and transportation.
- Transparency: The plastic is transparent, allowing for easy identification of the contents of the wrapped item.
- Cost Compelling: Stretch film and the equipment required to use it are lower in cost than most load securement packaging alternatives.
- Provides Packaging Protection: They keep the products protected from moisture, dust, and dirt. It reduces shipping damages and also reduces the possibility of theft and pilferage.
- Efficient: The material allows for items to be easily scanned through optics. It is easy to wrap and allows the efficiency and productivity of workers during the packaging process.
- Recyclable – It can be recycled in most cases.
Types of Stretch Wrap
Stretch film can be applied to a load in two primary ways: by hand or machine. Hand stretch film rolls are typically lighter and shorter, making them easier for users to manage. On the other hand, machine stretch film is designed to be used with a stretch film machine or pallet wrapper.
- Hand Wrap Stretch Film – requires an operator to apply and remove the film from the load during loading and unloading. The amount of tension applied depends on the operator’s strength and technique, making it more suitable for low-volume applications.
- Machine Wrap Stretch Film – used with a stretch film machine that applies the film to the load using predetermined parameters. This ensures that the packaging is wrapped the same way every time, providing consistent and reliable results.
How to Use Stretch Film
Using stretch film effectively ensures products’ proper packaging, protection, and stability. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to use stretch film properly:
- Choose the appropriate width and thickness of the stretch film for the application. The thicker film is generally more durable and tear-resistant, while the thinner film is more economical.
- Load the stretch film roll onto a dispenser or stretch film applicator. This will make it easier to handle and apply the film.
- Start by anchoring the film’s end to the item. This can be done by pressing the film’s back against the object or using OPP tape or adhesive.
- Begin wrapping the item with the stretch film, pulling the film along. Be sure to overlap the layers of film to ensure a secure fit. It’s essential to avoid leaving any gaps or loose areas in the wrapping, as this can lead to damage or shifting during transportation.
- Continue wrapping until the item is fully covered and secure. Use a safety cutter to trim the film’s end after wrapping.
- Using multiple rolls of stretch film or wrapping them in sections may be necessary for more oversized items. Overlap the sections to ensure a tight and secure fit.
Common Applications of Stretch Wrap
Stretch wrap, or stretch film, is an incredibly versatile packaging material with numerous applications across various industries. Its ability to stretch and conform tightly to the shape of the products it covers makes it an ideal choice for different packaging and protection needs. Here are some of the common applications of stretch wrap:
- Pallet Wrapping: One of the most widespread uses of stretch wrap is securing and stabilising pallet loads. The stretch wrap helps keep items tightly bound together, preventing shifting, toppling, or damage during transit. It is commonly used in warehouses, distribution centres, and shipping facilities.
- Shipping and Transportation: During transportation, products are exposed to various hazards like vibrations, jolts, and rough handling. The stretch wrap protects against moisture, dust, and other external elements, ensuring products reach their destination intact.
- Retail Packaging: In retail settings, stretch wrap bundles and secures products together, creating attractive displays and neat arrangements. It is often used for bundling smaller items like bottles, cans, or boxes.
- Food Packaging: Stretch wrap plays a significant role in the food industry, particularly in wrapping perishable items such as fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy products. It helps maintain freshness, prevents contamination, and extends shelf life.
- Furniture Protection: When moving or storing furniture, stretch wrap safeguards items from scratches, dust, and minor damage. It tightly conforms to the furniture’s shape, providing a protective layer without leaving sticky residues.
- Industrial Equipment and Machinery: Large industrial equipment and machinery can be efficiently protected using stretch wrap. It helps prevent corrosion, dust accumulation, and minor abrasions during storage or shipping.
- Construction Materials: Construction materials like lumber, pipes, and other building components are often bundled using stretch wrap. This keeps them organized and protected on job sites or during transportation.
- Household and Office Moves: During relocations, stretch wrap is commonly used to wrap and protect household items and office supplies. It secures loose items, keeps drawers and doors closed, and prevents damage to delicate objects.
- Pharmaceutical and Medical Industry: In the medical sector, stretch wrap is used to wrap and secure medical supplies, equipment, and sterile products. It ensures cleanliness and hygiene while providing a tamper-evident seal.
- Agricultural Applications: Stretch wrap is utilized in agriculture for wrapping hay bales, securing harvested produce, and protecting fragile crops from weather and pests.
- E-commerce Packaging: With the rise of e-commerce, stretch wrap has become essential for packaging individual items or bundling multiple products together for shipping.
- Promotional and Gift Wrapping: Stretch wrap with unique colours or designs is used for promotional purposes and gift wrapping, adding an appealing touch to the overall presentation.
Stretch film to stretch wrap is a versatile and cost-effective packaging material used in various industries to securely cover and protect products during storage and transportation. It is made of linear low-density polyethene (LLDPE) resin and has excellent elastic recovery properties, making it highly stretchable, durable, and puncture-resistant. Stretch film is available in different widths and thicknesses and can be applied to loads by hand or machine.
This packaging material provides protection from moisture, dust, and dirt, reduces shipping damages, and keeps the products secure from theft and pilferage. It is also recyclable in most cases, making it an eco-friendly option. Therefore, stretch film has become essential to the packaging industry due to its various types, applications, and benefits.