The Difference Between Stretch Film and Shrink Wrap

If you have worked in the packaging industry or have in-house packaging within your organisation, it is likely that you have heard of both shrink wrap and stretch film. Because they look so similar, it can be easy to get them confused, but even though they look alike, they both serve a completely different purpose in the packaging and shipping process. Knowing the difference between them could save you a big headache caused by ordering one when you actually need the other.

Items which have been wrapped in polyolefin shrink wrap

Stretch Film

When products are put on a pallet for shipping, stretch film is wrapped around the load to provide stability. As the name suggests, stretch film is stretched 200-300% which is either applied by hand or by a machine. The assets of stretch film cause it to try and return to its original size, which results in a tight and secure load for shipping. Stretch film also provides some protection from moisture and dust, can be a prevention of theft and improves the stability of the load for internal handling. Stretch film is made of polyethylene plastic, and there are numerous types out there on the market.

The advantages:

  • Protective – It is secure and protects products from dust and moisture and can also protect from the sun with UV film options.
  • Cost Effective – Stretch wrap is less expensive than other types of pallet wrapping.
  • Adaptable – Stretch wrap has a variety of films to suit each application, and it is even appropriate for different types of surfaces.

Shrink Wrap

Shrink wrap is typically used to bundle multiple products or to protect individual products, often as retail packaging. The shrink wrap is wrapped and sealed around the contents. When heat is applied, either by heat gun or a heat tunnel, the air is removed, and the film shrinks tightly around the contents. Shrink film is made of polyolefin plastic and can be pre-printed to create an appealing retail package.

There are many types of shrink wrap film including PVC and polyolefin shrink wrap. Shrink wrap can really help a business become more efficient as it has the ability to protect products from damage caused by weather conditions, UV rays and water.

The advantages:

  • Protective – Shrink wrap is great for protecting products from weather or moisture damage along with dust and dirt.
  • No surface damage – If shrink wrap has been properly applied you should have no issues with chafing or damage during transportation or while being stored.
  • Breathability – Shrink wrap has the option of being ventilated; therefore, reducing any damage that can occur from moisture.

As you can see, stretch film and shrink wrap are completely different. Shrink wrap is used as a packaging solution for items within the food, pharmaceutical and retail industry, but stretch film is usually used for transportation purposes.

Here at Kempner, we have a range of shrink wrap films and shrink wrap machines on offer. For a competitive quote or any advice, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Image credit: Rob Igo under Creative Commons

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