Packaging Types: A layman’s guide to packaging essentials
To those not directly involved in the packaging industry, the term “packaging” might simply be associated with products or activities related to enclosing (“packing”) products into boxes and cartons, ready for transportation. To industry experts though, “packaging” is all of that – and a lot more!
So, what exactly is packaging, and what value does it add within the production cycle. In layman’s terms, Packaging can be described as a collection of processes and best practices that go into designing and producing wrappings, coverings and containers for goods and supplies.At a primary level, packaging aids in:
- Presentation – where a product’s brand is easily discernible due to its distinct packaging
- Protection – where packaging shields products from physical damage
- Profitability – where packaging products helps to create more cost-effective bulk-units of individual products
- Handling – so that products can be safely and conveniently moved individually or in bulk
- Identification – with distinctive labels and trademarks applied, packaging helps distinguish similar products from one another
- Containment – with packages containing pre-weighed and pre-measured quantities/amounts of a specific product
- Labelling – by labelling packages with pricing and storage information, products can more easily be put for sale or located within crowded storage locations
With all of these characteristics put together, packaging operations provide significant value-add to the entire production and distribution cycle.
- Packaging Types
The type and specification of packaging used varies based on the products being packaged. Some of the more common packaging types include.
- 1) Shrink wrap packaging
Shrink wrap packaging is a polymer film that is used to wrap products in a clear, transparent plastic material. When treated with heat, the film shrinks tightly around the products being covered.
- 2) Shrink bundling
When the need is to “bundle” multiple single products into a group (e.g. 20-pack of 1 liter soda cans), shrink bundling is used. The package is covered in a Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE) film by passing it through a heat shrink tunnel.
- 3) Shrink sleeve
A heat shrink sleeve is a shrinkable plastic tube used to package products. They are extremely durable, and can also come in printed form so that they also serve the purpose of branding or labelling.
- 4) Tamper band
Tamper bands, also called tamper-evident bands, are security rings placed around lids, caps and covers of individual or bundled products. If unsealed/tampered with, the bands serve as evidence that the product/package was previously opened.
- 5) Modified Atmosphere packaging
Modified Atmosphere packaging is a packaging technique that substitutes the air inside packages with a mix of protective gasses. This helps protect the packaged products from atmospheric interference, thereby increasing shelf life.
- 6) Blister; Clamshell Packaging
Blister packaging is a form of pre-formed packaging made from clear plastic material, and is commonly used in the pharmaceutical, consumer products and food industry. It is designed as a thermoformed plastic cavity in which the product is stored/stored, and then sealed. A blister pack that folds into itself (like a clam shell) is called Clamshell packaging.
- 7) Sealed Tray Food Packaging
Usually a standard in the food industry, sealed tray food packaging typically comes as pre-shaped thermoform trays, into which food items, edibles and other delicate items are packed. The trays are then sealed firmly to ensure freshness and avoid spilling when tilted over.
- 8) Bagging, Sealing
Some products rely on packaged bags, such as snacks (Potato Chips), Sugar, Coffee or other staples. The products are bagged into containers (bags) made from various materials, and then a heat sealer is used to ensure the products are sealed tight (air tight) so that they maintain freshness and quality over an extended shelf life.
- 9) Fin Seal / Flow Wrap Packaging
Fin seal Packaging, also known as Flow Wrapping, is a mass volume, high-speed process of wrapping products, such as snacks, magazines and printed materials, in a sealed tamper-resistant film. While the Fin seal is run along the back part of the package, the two ends of the package are also heat-sealed.
- 10) Vertical Form Fill; Seal Bagging
Vertical Form Fill seal (VFFS) bagging is a process where products are filled into a variety of forms, for example bagged or tubular, and then sealed air-tight to preserve freshness of the products. The film used in the bags can be a simple single-layered film, or can be multi-layered material – depending on the type of product being filled and sealed inside.
- 11) Folding Carton Packaging
This type of packaging is usually ideal for light-weight products, and uses low grammage folding cartons boxes made from cardboard. Packages can be pre-printed with branding marks, and may be folded in various ways. Some cartons also have window patches that enable visibility into the product inside the packaging.
- 12) Strapping, Banding
In instances where the products being packaged need to be held fast, they are bundled and strapped together using straps or bands made from various materials, including steel, polypropylene, nylon, polyester or other composite materials. Once strapped and banded, the package is held, stabilized and reinforced because of the fastening effects of the band.
- 13) Case Taping
Some packages need to be sealed with multiple smaller packages or individual product containers inside them. The individual component products/containers are placed in a casing (carton) and then folded and sealed with tape. Depending on the packaging requirement and carton design, taping can occur either on the top of the carton, or at the bottom, or at both ends. This process is an ideal replacement for labour-intensive hand-held tape gun sealing.
- 14) Corrugated Case, Tray Packaging
Corrugated cases are typically boxes made using corrugated fibreboard, and are commonly used in packaging, shipping and storage of products. Tray packaging is a process that uses pre-formatted trays into which products – usually those that you wouldn’t want to shift or move during transit – are placed. The tray is then folded into pre-designed shapes, with the flaps glued together. Depending on the packaging requirements, the trays may be shrink-wrapped, or placed into corrugated cases to complete the final package.
- 15) Stretch Wrapping, Pallet Containment
When products are packaged and shipped in bulk, pallet containment is a critical factor that determines whether the products are properly packaged and safe to ship. Products, usually in cases or cartons, are stacked on a pallet and then stretch wrapped all around in film to secure the load. If the load isn’t properly stretch wrapped, it can dislodge and be a safety issue. In layman’s terms therefore, containment is the “hugging factor” that enables the stretch-wrapping to keep the load affixed to the pallet.
Choice of packaging
While these are the basic packaging types, there are a number of others that are used across various industries. Additionally, combinations and derivatives of the above packaging types may also be deployed in special circumstances. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) offers industry guidelines on packaging types, specifications and requirements.