Polyethylene Foam is a soft, durable, lightweight, closed cell material. Its closed cell structure offers a protective packaging material with resistance to shock and vibration, as well as moisture and chemicals, preventing the growth of bacteria and mold.
What is Polyethylene Foam?
Polyethylene foam is a popular packaging material because of its high strength and tear resistance, it has the ability to absorb impacts and return to form after compression, with high resilience properties it can be stored for years in a compressed state and still return to its original form. Polyethylene foam can be used to cushion, protect and insulate items in a similar way to bubble wrap.
WHY IS POLYETHYLENE FOAM A POPULAR PACKAGING MATERIAL?
Polyethylene foam is a lightweight and thin material offering high levels of protection from scratches and scrapes. It is also used as a shock absorber to resist impact or as void fill in cartons. Foam is a non-abrasive material meaning it is safe to use on all surfaces including polished wood and shiny metals.
As foam is thin and one of the lightest protection materials available it keeps freight to a minimum, adding little or no extra costs. This with the bonus of it being reusable makes it a popular packaging material for e-commerce companies that offer returns.
Custom sizing is available, clients may customize the roll to the width best for their application and add perforations if desired, simply tear off the perfect size sheet, a convenient and labour saving option, especially when wrapping many similar sized items. Using custom size sheets also assists in portion control, reducing over packing.
What is Polyethylene Foam Commonly Used For?
Polyethylene foam is used for surface protection, shock absorption and sometimes insulating applications. It is used to package fragile and valuable items including electronics and automotive parts, polished wood products, glass, and kitchenware to name a few.
WHAT THICKNESS FOAM SHOULD YOU USE?
This is an important question, and requires consideration, firstly what is the application? Is the foam purpose; a surface protection, a shock absorber, or both? If the foam is strictly being used for keeping surfaces free from abrasion damage during transit, usually a thinner foam would be adequate protection.
However, the heavier the parts get and, especially if they are packed together inside the same box, there is a higher likelihood of impact between the products, causing paint chips and possibly even dents in the surface. In these instances, thicker foam providing a higher level of surface protection and shock resistance is better.
Lastly, as always, as labour is often a greater expense than materials it is the balance of material usage and labour that we’re trying to achieve. You can always wrap something more than once, but this option brings added labour cost to the packing process, which could be eliminated by using thicker foam.
Below is a basic guideline for suggested uses, however in some cases we recommend testing to ensure complete satisfaction is met:
- 1/32” Polyethylene Foam common uses; automotive parts, household appliances
- 1/16” Polyethylene Foam common uses; polished surfaces, glass & crystal, mirrored surfaces
- 3/32” Polyethylene Foam common uses; metal parts, artwork & plaques
- 1/8” Polyethylene Foam common uses; aircraft parts, furniture
- 1/4” Polyethylene Foam common uses; electronic equipment, interleaving between heavy components
- 1/2" Polyethylene Foam common uses; sharp edged products, heavy items, light fixture
Foam tubing is exactly what its name implies, a continuous sleeve of foam packaging that has the flexibility to be cut and sealed at your desired length, available in a variety of thicknesses, in both regular and anti-static material.
These customized foam bags or pouches are ideal for long or odd shaped items that are difficult to wrap, including polished wood items and metal pipes, light bulbs and golf clubs.
Anti-static foam is easily distinguished by its pink colour, it is used to cushion and protect delicate items including computers and sensitive electronic components from breakage, or surface scratches, while also preventing damage caused by electrostatic discharge.
Once wrapped in anti-static foam or sealed in anti-static foam pouches or bags, the product is protected from external static electricity.
LAMINATED POLYETHYLENE FOAM
Laminated polyethylene foam is becoming a more popular packaging solution, increasing productivity with the efficiency of wrapping components just once instead of twice, while gaining the protection and cushioning required.
Available in both regular and anti-static material, with your desired foam thickness and laminated to a variety of materials including bubble wrap, single face corrugated and kraft papers.
When the texture of bubble cells or packaging papers may affect the surface of the item being packaged, a layer of soft polyethylene foam is often used to wrap it first, followed by a layer of bubble wrap or paper packaging to provide a more robust cushioning required to protect the product.
So why take the time to wrap your item twice?
Laminated polyethylene foam is available by special order, the cost is similar to purchasing the two materials individually, the product is more professionally packaged, and labour expenses are reduced.
Laminated foam tubing is also available increasing packaging efficiency even further, with the flexibility to be cut and sealed at your desired length. Ideal for creating a pouch or bag for long or awkward shaped items.
MORE POLYETHYLENE FOAM OPTIONS
Cohesive foam sticks to itself, not to your product. It is used to cushion & protect large or small items from damage or abrasion and leaves no residue behind. Cohesive foam is ideal for making your own pouch, simply place your product or products on the foam and press the sides to form the desired package size.
Adhesive foam sticks to the product to ensure complete surface protection for delicate items, as it cleanly removes from the item it is an ideal packaging solution for awkwardly shaped objects.
Foam Pouches are available in custom sizes in regular or antistatic material, for convenient and efficient labour-saving packaging.
Foam sheets are a great solution for layering between items or when wrapping many similar sized products, offering portion control and therefore preventing over packaging. Thicker foam sheets are also used for foam fitments in cartons, crates or plastic cases.
FOAM PACKAGING OR BUBBLE WRAP?
Whether you choose to use foam packaging or bubble wrap, both materials are lightweight and have fantastic protective capabilities.
Bubble wrap is a more robust cushioning, offering higher impact resistance but may leave marks on reflective or polished surfaces.
While foam is generally thinner taking less packaging space, allowing you to fit more items in the carton and also offering characteristics more suitable for delicate surface protection.
DID YOU KNOW?
Polyethylene foam is 100% recyclable. It can be melted down and reused or remolded for similar applications.
Article written by SmartShield