Product protection is one of the biggest supply chain challenges businesses face. How do you keep products intact, prevent tampering or theft, and deliver quality goods to customers without wasting time and materials?
Stretch film is the answer. But where exactly does stretch film fit into the packaging process? And how does stretch film work with stretch wrappers? The more you learn about the ins and outs of optimized stretch film usage, the easier it is to implement solutions that protect your products and streamline your supply chain. Discover the role stretch film plays in secondary packaging with this comprehensive guide.
What Is Stretch Film?
Stretch film, also known as stretch wrap, is a specific type of plastic film that warehouses use to wrap product loads. It consists of an extremely stretchable plastic—usually linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE). The elasticity of the film is perfect for stretching around pallets and conforming to unique product shapes without losing its tightness. This makes stretch film a convenient, versatile, and dependable solution for combining multiple products into one single unit, securing products to each other and to the pallet.
Stretch film comes in many types and forms, but one of the most important details to pay attention to is gauge. Stretch film gauge determines the thickness of the film; a higher gauge indicates thicker film, while a lower gauge indicates thinner film. The correct gauge will depend on what you’re wrapping and how. Higher gauges provide more stability, but they aren’t always necessary. Strategic film placement and pre-stretch can help you make the most of a lower gauge film, allowing you to secure products while saving money and minimizing material waste.
The Importance of Stretch Wrap in Secondary Packaging
There’s no overstating how important stretch wrap is in packaging. Stretch film is essential for a secure product load. Once you have multiple product cases on a pallet, you need something to bind them together so they don’t shift around during transit. Proper stretch film usage stabilizes products and prevents broken bottles, crushed packages, and other damage as the product load moves throughout the supply chain.
Stretch film does more than just prevent product damage, though. Because stretch film wraps all the way around the load, it also helps minimize theft or contamination. Moreover, secure pallets are less likely to tip over during storage or transit. From warehouse workers moving each load on a forklift to grocery store employees breaking pallets apart to put products on store shelves, stretch film helps keep workers safe from broken or unstable pallets.
How Do Stretch Wrappers Work?
Now that you have a better understanding of what stretch film is and what it does, let’s explore how stretch film works with stretch wrappers. There are many different types of stretch wrap machines, but they all function with the same basic process. The stretch film goes on the wrapper’s film carriage. The machine or its operator threads the film through film rollers, then attaches the film to the pallet or to a clamping device. The wrapper either rotates the pallet itself—as is the case with a turntable stretch wrapper—or moves a wrapping arm around the pallet to apply the film. Alternatively, portable stretch wrappers move around a stationary pallet load that sits on the floor.
There are two main categories for stretch wrappers: automatic and semi-automatic. Both have their benefits and drawbacks, so it’s important to explore each option to decide which solution will best serve your packaging workflow.
Automatic Stretch Wrappers
The biggest benefit of automatic stretch wrappers is that they require no manual intervention. Many even contain infeed and exit conveyors to integrate seamlessly into your packaging line. As a result, product loads can move through the wrapper entirely on their own. This makes automatic stretch wrapping machines the ideal choice for high-volume facilities that need to streamline their workflows and produce product loads as quickly as possible.
Semi-Automatic Stretch Wrappers
Semi-automatic stretch wrap machines are also great for delivering consistently wrapped product loads in less time than manual wrapping, but they do require some manual intervention. Depending on the machine, an operator might have to attach the film before wrapping, cut the film after wrapping, move the pallet on or off the machine with a pallet jack or forklift, or press a start button to begin the wrapping process.
This means that semi-automatic stretch wrappers aren’t as fast or efficient as automatic stretch wrappers. However, they’re an ideal solution for businesses that wrap fewer than 30 loads per hour since they don’t need the high power or capacity of a fully automated machine. Semi-automatic stretch wrappers take up less floor space and can even offer greater versatility and adaptability, as is the case with portable robot stretch wrappers.
The Ideal Stretch Wrapping Process
How do you ensure your stretch wrap machine is making the most of your stretch film? The key is to choose the right secondary packaging equipment for your unique operation. Robopac USA provides cutting-edge stretch wrapping solutions. One of our greatest advantages is our Cube Technology, which optimizes the stretch wrapping process through powerful pre-stretch, strategic film placement, multi-level variable containment force, and proactive corner compensation.
Stretch wrappers use pre-stretch technology to stretch the film much farther than manual wrappers can achieve. Pre-stretch works by moving the second film roller faster than the first one. This stretches the film as much as 400 percent before applying it to the product load. Pre-stretching the film allows the machine to achieve a stable and secure wrap around the product load while cutting down on material usage, minimizing waste, and saving money.
Strategic Film Placement
Strategic film placement is another vital part of optimized stretch wrapping. Stretch wrappers operate with computer-level precision, allowing them to place film exactly where it needs to be around the product load. In addition to improving accuracy, this also boosts wrapping consistency from pallet to pallet. You can move more products through your packaging line without worrying about small wrapping errors causing major problems with safety or product damage down the line.
Multi-Level Variable Containment Force
Containment force—or the tightness of the film multiplied by the number of film layers—determines how well your product load stays together. Proper containment force is tight enough to secure the load without applying so much pressure that it crushes products.
The ideal containment force will change depending on what kind of products you’re wrapping. That’s why our Cube Technology allows you to program multi-level variable containment force to perfectly suit each load that moves through your workflow. With the ability to adjust the containment force nine times per load, you can create a dependable custom solution for every type of product you wrap.
Proactive Corner Compensation
Corners can be challenging in stretch wrapping. If your film is too tight, it will crush the corners or tear at the sharp edges, breaking the film and creating an unstable and unsafe load. Robopac USA’s proactive corner compensation uses cutting-edge motor and load cell technologies to minimize this risk and create secure pallets that remain intact throughout the supply chain.
Optimal Stretch Film Usage
Is it time to improve your stretch wrapping workflow? Partner with Robopac USA today to find advanced automatic and semi-automatic stretch wrappers. Our expert team will set you up with an optimized secondary packaging solution that is perfect for your business.