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What is the Difference Between Stretch Film and Shrink Film?

If you have spent any amount of time in the packaging world, it is likely that you have heard these terms incorrectly confused for one another. They are both made from plastic and they look similar, but they serve very different purposes in the packaging and shipping process. Knowing the difference could save you a headache caused by ordering one when you needed the other.

Stretch Film: When products are palletized for shipping, stretch film is wrapped around the load to provide stability. As the name suggests, the film is stretched 200-300% while it is applied either by hand or machine. The properties of stretch film cause it to try and return to its original size, resulting in a tight and secure load for shipping. Stretch film also provides some protection from moisture and dust, can be a deterrent from pilferage, and improves stability of the load for internal handling. Stretch film is made of polyethylene plastic.

Shrink Film: Shrink film is typically used to bundle multiple products or to protect individual products, often as retail packaging. The film is wrapped and sealed around the contents, creating a loose bag. When heat is applied, either by heat gun or a heat tunnel, the air is evacuated 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.

Whether your application calls for stretch film, shrink film, or both, additional information will be needed to find the right film for you. A variety of sizes, strengths, and thicknesses are available in both types and it is recommended that you involve a packaging specialist when making your decision. Sales representatives at Piedmont National have extensive experience with both types and will be happy to assist you today.


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