Shrink wrap is a plastic film that holds things together and protects them from dust and weathering. You can wrap it around just about anything—whether it's one thing or a bunch of things—and then heat the film to create a tight-fitting, self-sealed package. You can use shrink wrap to bundle small items together and to protect big stuff like dry-docked boats.
Shrink wrap is sometimes confused with stretch wrap, but the two packaging materials are very different. Stretch wrap is an elastic film that stretches tightly around a load and is frequently used to wrap pallets for shipping. Shrink wrap is applied loosely and shrinks tightly with heat. It's frequently used to wrap individual products or bundles of products for sale.
There are several ways to apply shrink wrap:
Shrink wrapping offers a wide range of benefits.
When heat is applied to shrink wrap, it creates a very tight seal. This plastic seal then fully protects the shrink wrapped contents. Once sealed, the items are no longer vulnerable to the damage that can be caused by dust, dirt or moisture. Some types of shrink wrap even offer UV protection, to keep your packages safe from the sun’s harmful rays.
Shrink wrap is made from one of three durable plastics: PVC, polyolefin or polyethylene. PVC is a traditional choice for wrapping packing for CDs, software boxes and office supplies. Polyolefin can be used to wrap food products and is also used for more premium retail applications. Polyethylene films can be extremely thick and sturdy for industrial applications.
Shrink wrap thickness is measured in mils or gauge (ga). To convert mils to gauge, multiply by 100. For example, 1 mil is the same thickness as 100 ga. Higher numbers mean thicker wrap, and thicker wrap is stronger.
Since shrink wrap both seals and holds its shape once applied, any tampering will be noticeable immediately. For this reason, many pharmaceutical companies now shrink wrap their products, as well as food manufacturers. Some types of shrink wraps used by banks and government agencies change color when the plastic has been stretched, to show that the sealed items have been touched.
Shrink wrap can be designed with colors, words, pictures and logos that promote your products. From your production floor until it reaches the end user, your product isn’t just wrapped in plastic—it’s wrapped in your brand. This is a marketing tool that can increase brand awareness, and make you more visible to your customers.
Many foods that need to be preserved, either for transport or to extend shelf life, are preserved in shrink wrap. Food-grade polyolefin shrink wrap is a regular choice for food production companies.
Shrink wrap is one of the few packaging materials that's useful for any size project. Small electrical wires are often shrink wrapped to prevent exposure to moisture. Game pieces, candies and hardware can all be bunched and shrink wrapped. On the other end of the spectrum, shrink wrap kits are sold to weatherize boats and greenhouses. Freight on trailers and trains can be shrink wrapped for easier transport. Even entire buildings have been shrink wrapped to prevent chemical leaks or exposure from hazardous materials.
The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.
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