Shrink Film 101

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Shrink Film- a material made up of polymer plastic film. When heat is applied it shrinks tightly over whatever it is covering. There are a variety of uses for Shrink wrap and shrink film. Some common uses of shrink wrap are for wrapping food, gift baskets, boxes, toys, books, soaps, etc. Below is a breakdown of the two most commonly used types of shrink wrap.Shrink Wrap

PVC Shrink Film- A type of shrink wrap used for a variety of applications. The PVC stands for Polyvinyl chloride. Polyvinyl chloride is the third most produced plastic in the world. PVC shrink wrap was the most commonly used shrink film, until replaced several years ago by polyolefin (POF) shrink wrap. 

Common Uses of PVC Shrink Film- PVC shrink wrap uses include: packaging boxes, CD and DVD packaging, software, small canisters, and other non-edible items. 

Drawbacks of PVC Shrink Film- Sealing Strength, storage issues, and sealing by-products are common drawbacks of PVC Shrink Wrap. The plasticizer in PVC Shrink wrap hardens in cold conditions and softens under hot conditions, therefore compromising the strength of the seal and the plastic. PVC shrink wrap also releases small quantities of hydrogen Chloride into the air and carbon deposits onto the sealer. Proper ventilation is required when sealing PVC shrink wrap.

Polyolefin Shrink Film - A type of shrink wrap that has become the preferred choice for packaging products both edible and non-edible. Polyolefin Shrink wrap is preferred for a variety of reasons including: fewer odors when sealed, stronger seal, and more flexible storage. Polyolefin shrink films do not have any chlorine; therefore they do not produce hydrogen chloride gas. Polyolefin shrink wrap does not have any plasticizers, so temperature is not an issue. Polyolefin can be stored in a wide range of temperatures and does not harden and soften in different environments like PVC shrink film.   

Common Uses of Polyolefin Shrink Film- Polyolefin shrink film is used for almost every kind of application. Applications include: toys, sporting goods, printed wrap, foods, stationary and cards just to name a few.

Drawbacks of Polyolefin Shrink Film- Cost and machine compatibility are the two major drawbacks of Polyolefin shrink film. Polyolefin is commonly more expensive than PVC shrink wrap. Many packagers prefer PVC because of this reason. There are types of polyolefin shrink wraps that are more compatible with machines, but Polyolefin machine compatibility has been an issue of packagers.

Cross-Linked Polyolefin Shrink Film- Irradiation is applied to standard polyolefin shrink film to make the film stronger, and capable of better seal strength. Cross-linked shrink film is sterile and FDA approved for direct food contact. It offers excellent clarity to display packaged products. To view in further detail about the making and history of cross-linked shrink film view our blog post titled What is cross-linked shrink film.

Cross-linked shrink film also leaves less residue on sealers, promoting longer sealing blade or wire life. Cross-linked shrink film is made for use with high speed machines and high output operations.

Common Uses of Cross-Linked Polyolefin Shrink Film- Cross-linked shrink film is used with the same products as standard polyolefin shrink film. Cross-linked film is often used in high output operations. It can also be used for heavier products a standard polyolefin shrink film can not properly package.

Drawbacks of Cross-Linked Polyolefin Shrink Film- Cross-linked shrink film requires higher seal and shrink temps than a standard polyolefin shrink film. Higher temps can damage and deform products sensitive to heat. Higher seal and shrink temps. also require higher energy costs.

Thickness

Material

Characteristics

Avg. Shrink Temp.

Avg. Shrink Rate

Common Uses

45 gauge

Cross-Linked Polyolefin

Thin film with minimal puncture resistance and soft to the touch

Excellent Clarity

350°-400° F

25%-35%

Business cards, baked goods, light uniform products

60 gauge

Polyolefin

Thin film that is soft to the touch with light seal strength, Excellent Clarity

350° F

30%

Printed products, small toys, board games, baked goods

60 gauge

Cross-linked Polyolefin

Thin film that is soft to the touch with stronger seal and increase puncture resistance, Excellent Clarity

350°-400° F

25%-35%

Higher output packaging of light toys, crafts, souvenirs, and other light objects

75 gauge

PVC

Standard film thickness that becomes rigid after heat is applied, Good Clarity

275°-325° F

30%-40%

DVDs, CDs, non-consumable goods

75 gauge

Polyolefin

Standard Film thickness, soft to the touch with good puncture resistance and seal strength Excellent Clarity

350° F

30%

Most Common Shrink Film, Everything from pizzas to wood and metal products

75 gauge

Cross-linked Polyolefin

Stronger than standard 75 gauge polyolefin, better with high speed machines Excellent Clarity

350°-400° F

25%-35%

A large variety of product often weighing less than 12-15 lbs.

100 gauge

PVC

Thick and durable film that firms and becomes rigid after heat is applied good clarity

275°-325° F

30%-40%

Heavier books, dog bones, shrink banding around bottles products up to 20 lbs.

100 gauge

Polyolefin

Soft to the touch with good puncture resistance and seal strength, Excellent Clarity

350°-375° F

30%

Used for shipping products and wrapping products up to 25 lbs.

100 gauge

Cross-linked Polyolefin

Same as the 100 ga. polyolefin with stronger puncture resistance and seal strength,

Excellent Clarity

375°-425° F

25%-35%

Heavier products up to 30 lbs, in high output operations

200 gauge

PVC

Strong rigid film with good tear and puncture resistance, Fair Clarity

300°-325° F

25%-35%

Banding around bottles and shrink sleeves

2-20 Mil

Polyethylene or Polypropylene

Heavy duty film that can range from fair clarity to none at all

300°+ F

20% or less

Heavy duty applications from bottles of water to boats and buildings

 

Frequently Ask Shrink Wrap Questions 

How Do I Measure For Shrink Film?

Measuring for shrink film is fairly simple, but is determined by the type of shrink product you intend on using. See below for measurement formulas for each type of film. Remember if the exact size needed is not available go to the next size up. All of our shrink film has a shrink rate of at least 30%.

Centerfold Shrink Film Measurement Formula

Width + Depth x 2 x 1.1÷2 = Centerfold Film Width Needed

Shrink Bag Measurement formula

The same formula as above to determine the bag width, for length add an additional 1-2 inches to allow room for making a seal.

Shrink Tubing Measurement formula

For squared objects use the same formula as above, but most people use tubing for cylindrical objects. If measuring for a cylindrical object use the formula below.

Circumference x 2 x 1.1÷2 = Tubing Width Needed

When Do I use Shrink Film and when do I use Stretch wrap?

Shrink wrap is commonly used to protect and package a single product, like toys or a CD. It also is used to help bundle multiple products together. It is often used to bundle soda, water bottles, and various other packaged products together.

Usually stretch wrap is used to hold boxes and products together on a pallet for transportation. It can also be used to hold other objects together for transportation or storage. Stretch wrap can come in a variety of specialty films. Some examples are: UV stretch wrap, vented pallet wrap, anti-static stretch film, colored stretch film, pre-stretched stretch film, etc.

Is shrink wrap and stretch film recyclable?

Both shrink wrap and stretch film are recyclable. Check with your local recycling center and be sure they accept soft plastics.

Do I need a special shrink wrap machine?

Different applications require machinery. When using shrink wrap, a heating instrument will be needed to shrink the film. There are a variety of instruments to use depending on what you are trying to accomplish. Common instruments are heat guns, L-Bar sealers, I-Bar Sealers, and shrink tunnels. View: A complete guide to shrink wrap machine cost and usage.

Shrink Wrap Machine

Will a shrink wrap machine cut & seal the shrink wrap all at once?

Yes, most shrink wrap sealers cut and seal the shrink wrap film in one motion. Once sealed and cut, the scraps can be easily peeled away and heat can be applied to the shrink wrap. The heat will reduce the size of the shrink wrap film and help to conform it to the product.

Can a hair dryer replace a shrink wrap heat gun?

No, if you are after a professional look a heat gun is strongly recommended. The wrap needs to reach 300 degrees Fahrenheit to properly shrink the film. Shrink wrap heat guns are very affordable. Click on the link to view our shrink wrap heat guns. 

Shrink Wrap Heat Gun

What are shrink wrap bags?

Shrink bags are pre-measured bags commonly made from PVC shrink film and come in a variety of sizes. They offer the ability to place a product or prproducts within the bag for a quick and easy seal. Shrink bags are used for packaging a variety of products including: CD's, DVD's, gift baskets, assorted products, etc. If you are packaging products that will come into direct contact with food, polyolefin bags are required.

Shrink Wrapped DVD

How do I measure for shrink wrap tubing?

Start by measuring the circumference of the object that will be shrink wrapped. Once the circumference is identified, add 10% to the circumference. Divide the final number by 2 and that number will be the width of shrink wrap tubing you will need. If the width of shrink wrap tubing needed is not available, it is fine to go with a larger size. PVC shrink wrap tubing can shrink up to 40%. View: How to measure for shrink tubing.

What gauge of shrink wrap do I need?

We recommend a 75 gauge shrink wrap for products less than 12 pounds. A 100 gauge shrink wrap is recommended for products up to 30 pounds in weight. To view our gauge conversion chart, click here.

How do I measure for shrink wrap bags?

Measure the product being shrink wrapped around its widest point. Add 10% to that circumference and divide the number by two. This number will give you the width of the shrink wrap bag you need.

Next, measure the product to be shrink wrapped all the way around from top to bottom. Once that number is determined, add 10% and then divide by two. This number will tell you the length of the shrink wrap bag needed. View: How to measure for shrink bags with illustrations.

Shrink Wrap Calculator

Common Shrink Wrap Terms

Centerfold Shrink Film- Film that has been folded in half lengthways to make wrapping easier and quicker.

Crow's Feet- Wrinkles diverging out from a finished package's corners

Dog Ears- Triangular projections of unshrunk film at the corners of finished packages. Common in packages wrapped with PVC shrink wrap.

Gauge- A measurement used to describe film thickness. One gauge is equal to .254 Microns. View our gauge conversion chart for further clarification.

Impulse Sealer- A sealer that uses a heating element that is pulsed with voltage during sealing.

L-Bar Sealer- A sealer where the sealing surface is in the shape of an backwards "L". A common sealer for people wanting to seal faster than using an impulse sealer.

Shrink Wrap L-Bar Sealer

Lap Seal- Making a seal using two layers of shrink film lapped over each other.

Machine Direction- The direction the film is manufactured and moves through the sealing equipment.

Memory- The ability of a shrink film to maintain characteristics after sealing

Optics- The visual properties of a shrink or stretch film.

Polyolefin- A polymer produced from a simple olefin (also called an alkene with the general formula CnH2n) as a monomer. Shrink film made from this and is commonly referred to as POF shrink film.

PVC- Polyvinyl Chloride, a thermoplastic polymer that is the third most produced plastic in the world. PVC shrink film is a common shrink wrap used for various applications. 

Shrink Tunnel- Equipment that uses a chamber to produce heat with a continuous conveyor running through the chamber.

Shrink Wrap Shrink Tunnel

Tear Resistance- The ability of a film to resist tear. Using a shrink film with a higher tear resistance is important when wrapping heavy products or products with sharp edges.

Industries That Commonly Use Shrink Wrap

Games & Sporting Goods- Manufacturers, resellers, wholesalers, and retailers commonly use shrink wrap for wrapping a variety of goods and products. PVC shrink wrap is commonly used for these items. It helps to detour and detect tampering and is an affordable form of packaging.

Shrink Wrapped Board Game

Printing & Paper Products- Many companies in this industry use shrink wrap to protect their products and goods as well as detouring and detecting tampering.

Shrink Wrap over stationary

Food- One of the largest industries that commonly use shrink wrap. Wrapping in shrink film helps to remove oxygen contact from the food and can reduce waste. POF (Polyolefin) shrink wrap is the common shrink film used for food packaging. Be sure the POF shrink wrap you choose is FDA approved for food contact.

Hardware & Housewares- Many manufactures and retailers in these industries commonly use shrink wrap to detour and detect tampering. They also commonly use shrink wrap to bundle multiple products together.

Shrink Wrapped Tools

Electronics- The electronics industry commonly uses shrink tubing and shrink wrap. Shrink tubing is commonly used in electronics for  abrasion resistance and environmental protection for exposed electrical wires in various components. They also commonly use PVC shrink bags, and centerfold PVC shrink wrap to package a variety of products in.

Pharmaceuticals- This industry makes use of shrink wrap to help seal caps and offer the ability to detect tampering.

Miscellaneous- There are a variety of other industries and uses for shrink wrap. The marine industry commonly uses shrink wrap to winterize boats and protect them from environmental elements, there are multiple uses for shrink wrap across many industries and U.S. Packaging & Wrapping LLC. would love to assist you with your shrink wrap needs.

Common Shrink Wrapping Problems

Wrinkles- One of the most common problems found with companies new to shrink wrapping. Wrinkles in the shrink film after heat is applied means more heat should be applied to the film. If using a shrink wrap gun apply more heat to wrinkled areas. If using a heat tunnel either slow down the belt speed or increase the heat.

Shrink Film Wrinkles

Dog Ears- Shrink film bunched up in the corners of the package. Another very common problem when shrink wrapping. Dog ears will happen in almost any shrink wrapped package, but excessive dog ears can be prevented by applying more heat to the shrink film.

Shrink Film Doge Ears

Ballooning- Excess air trapped inside the sealed shrink film. Ballooning happens after the seals have been made and heat is applied. It is hard to determine which products will balloon. If ballooning is experienced, small needle sized vent holes can be used to prevent future ballooning. We sell perforated shrink film rolls and bags to prevent ballooning.

Burn Holes-  Burn holes are when to much heat is applied to the shrink film being used. If using a heat gun, back heat gun further away from the heat gun. If using a shrink tunnel, speed up conveyor or decrease heat.

Shrink Film Tears- Tears in shrink film are often caused from the type of shrink film being used or the thickness of film being used. If experiencing tears, a thicker film should be considered or a different kind of film should be used. If using PVC switch to a polyolefin or a polyethylene.

Shrink Wrap Videos


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