These two terms are often used interchangeably for packaging purposes. Yes, both are used to wrap and secure items that are being packed, stored, or transported. However, stretch film and shrink wrap are two entirely different materials with distinctive properties and uses.
First, we have stretch film. Stretch film is typically bigger and longer than shrink wrap and has the ability to expand. It is usually a clear plastic material (similar to saran wrap) that is made out of polyethylene plastics. The film is designed to bundle multiple products together or to provide stability to a package of items (usually on a pallet). Stretch film tends to cling together as it is wrapped over itself, creating an easy seal, and tension is required for strength and security.
Stretch film is applied two different ways: manually or with a machine. Manual application of the film simply involves an individual holding the spool of film and walking around the package to secure it. Application with a machine can be done with either a semi-automatic or automatic mechanism. Typically, a company would want to invest in one of these machines if they were wrapping more than 15 loads a day. They not only increase efficiency but also reduce the total amount of waste produced. In addition to the clear stretch film, there are many other varieties available. Here are a few: UV stretch wrap, vented pallet wrap, anti-static film, colored stretch film, and pre-stretched stretch film.
In contrast, shrink wrap does not have the same stretchy or clingy saran wrap properties. Instead, it is made from polymer plastic films and is designed to package a single product or hold items together. Shrink wrap is placed loosely around the item once and cut around the product using a heat sealer or shrink wrap bar. This film provides a tamper-proof barrier and protection from moisture and dust during transportation or storage. If shrink wrapping has been properly applied, you should have no issues with chafing or damage and the package should represent a professional wrapping job. Some advantages of this film include fewer odors when sealed, a stronger overall seal, and more flexible storage. Also, shrink wrap has the option of being ventilated, therefore reducing any damage that can occur from moisture.
Multiple industries use shrink wrap for a number of different tasks. For instance, it can be used to wrap buildings or roof parts especially after some disasters (such as hurricanes and tornadoes). It can also facilitate safer removal of asbestos and other hazardous materials. This film is especially popular when it comes to CD/DVD manufacturers and food items such as cheese and meats.
Shrink wrap and stretch film are certainly intended for different purposes. Nonetheless, it is good to know that both of them are recyclable and have numerous uses. Now that you are familiar with the distinctions between these two, it is easier for you to determine what type to order from your service provider.