Most people have heard about shrink wrap and stretch wrap before, but not everyone has a clear understanding of what they are. Both shrink wrap and stretch wrap are a kind of film made from plastic. They’re wrapped around products to secure them and protect them from potentially damaging outside elements, such as moisture or grime. This keeps the products safe during transportation and storage.
Many people assume that shrink wrap and stretch wrap are the same thing. So, is stretch wrap the same as shrink wrap? Although shrink wrap and stretch wrap look similar and serve virtually indistinguishable purposes, they’re far from identical. If you’re having trouble distinguishing these two types of protective film and aren’t completely sure which one to use to wrap your products, we’ll go over everything you need to know about shrink wrap and stretch wrap—including their differences—in this handy guide.
What To Know About Stretch Wrap
Stretch wrap (also known as stretch film) is an elastic film used to wrap products on pallets and bind them together. It can return to its original state even after being stretched and wrapped around a pallet. There are two main types of stretch film: cast and blown. Cast stretch wrap is manufactured using the cast extrusion process, while blown stretch wrap is manufactured using the blown extrusion process. Blown stretch wrap is more resilient and versatile. However, cast stretch wrap is much less expensive to manufacture and much quieter than blown wrap. You can apply both types of stretch wrap by hand, but it’s much more efficient to wrap pallet loads using semi-automatic or automatic stretch wrapping machines.
The Advantages of Stretch Wrap
There are many advantages to using stretch wrap to secure and protect your pallet loads. These advantages include:
Worried about spending too much money wrapping your pallets? Luckily, stretch wrap is one of the most cost-effective materials you can use. The machines used to dispense and apply stretch wrap also tend to be less costly than other types of wrapping equipment.
You can use stretch wrap for a wide range of applications and surfaces.
A couple of layers of stretch wrap will keep your products safe from moisture, dust, and other hazards. Specialty stretch wrap can even protect your products against UV rays.
What To Know About Shrink Wrap
Shrink wrap (also known as shrink film) is a completely transparent film customarily used to wrap and protect a single product. The film is wrapped around a product and then exposed to high heat through the use of a heat gun, heat tunnel, heat oven, or other heating device. This causes it to shrink and tighten around the product. The tight seal protects against dirt and dust, and even improves stability during shipping and storage. There are three main types of shrink film: PVC, polyolefin, and polyethylene. PVC is lightweight and useful in a variety of different applications. Its versatility has led it to become the most popular and commonly used type of shrink wrap worldwide. However, PVC is also notorious for being unsafe for both people and the environment. Polyolefin is impressively durable and, like PVC, relatively inexpensive. Polyethylene is considered remarkably strong. It is split into three main forms: low-density, linear low-density, and high-density. Each form is designed for use in different applications. As with stretch wrap, you can apply all kinds of shrink wrap by hand. However, using a case packer or shrink-wrapping machine allows for much greater speed and reliability.
The Advantages of Shrink Wrap
Just like stretch wrap, shrink wrap comes with numerous advantages. Here are some of the most notable:
Shrink wrap excels at protecting products against the elements and contaminants such as dirt and dust.
Less Surface Damage
When applied correctly, shrink wrap will protect your products from surface damage during transportation and storage.
If you’re worried about the weather or an accidental spill ruining the integrity of your product, there’s good news—some types of shrink wrap come ventilated. This quality significantly reduces the likelihood of moisture damage.
Is stretch wrap the same as shrink wrap? Not exactly. Many qualities set shrink wrap and stretch wrap apart, including:
Both shrink wrap and stretch wrap are made from plastics—but what kind of plastics? Most stretch wraps are made from polyethylene, while the majority of shrink wrap is made from polyolefin. PVC was the primary plastic used in shrink wrap manufacturing for many years, but most companies have started to move away from it due to the harmful byproducts it releases during manufacturing. In fact, PVC is banned in many places, including Canada, Spain, and a select number of U.S. cities.
The stretch wrap application process relies on the film’s elasticity to secure pallet loads. The shrink wrap application process, on the other hand, requires the use of a heat source to shrink the film around the product.
You’re most likely to find stretch wrap used in warehouses and distribution centers to prepare pallet loads for storage or shipment. These places typically use normal stretch wrap for most applications, but several types of specialty stretch wrap can provide products with additional protection or security. These include UV, vented, anti-static, and colored stretch wraps.
Shrink wrap is more commonly used to protect a single product or combine several smaller products, but, like stretch wrap, it can also secure pallet loads. The most common uses for shrink wrap include protecting products on store shelves, preserving food and beverages, and shielding products that are vulnerable to the elements, such as boats.
Which One Should I Choose?
Now that you understand the difference between shrink wrap and stretch wrap, you might wonder which kind you should use. To determine whether your business needs shrink wrap, stretch wrap, or both, ask yourself these questions:
- What kind of products do I need to package?
- What kind of potential dangers will they face?
- Are these products getting shipped separately or together?
Your answers to these questions should help you figure out which kind of film best suits your business’s operations.
If you’re looking for state-of-the-art secondary packaging machinery to help you quickly and reliably wrap your products, check out Robopac USA’s selection of automatic stretch wrap machines and other wrapping equipment. Our machines come equipped with innovative R-Connect and CUBE Technology, which preserve product integrity and allow you to connect to your equipment from afar. Come and shop with us today!