When it comes to shipping, one of the most common packaging materials is stretch wrap.  Also called stretch film, it is used to wrap items on pallets, securing those products to themselves and the pallet itself throughout the shipping process or during storage. This reduces product damage and loss, as well as discourages pallet tampering and pilferage. 



Achieving dramatic annual savings with seemingly small changes in stretch wrap materials or application isn’t something that typically happens by accident or overnight. But with over 40 years experience partnering with a wide variety of businesses to identify and implement strategic programs, we’ve seen high impact success achieved using these simple methods.

Through our client collaborations, IPS has accrued hundreds of real world studies with valuable comparison data. Because we believe that it’s our responsibility to ensure existing and potential clients have easy access to core stretch wrap concepts, we’ve compiled this fact sheet as a foundation. It's more than enough to get started. 

And honestly? That's the most important part of the journey.


Starting the process with the basics is the first step in the right direction.  The only way to ensure you’re doing the best you can for your business is to understand the stretch wrap fundamentals: how different sizes and gauges impact your work, knowing the different varieties available, understanding how your pallet configuration can affect your film choice, and, finally, knowing if you should be hand wrapping or machine wrapping.


It may seem like an overwhelming process, but it doesn't have to be. The steps and facts of the process are easily consumable and insightful, including the terminology, systems, and products related to stretch wrap. With this core knowledge, you’ll be equipped to make the most profitable decisions for your business. Because, as the person who understands your business the best, you need the right info to make the right decisions.



Truly understanding stretch film means understanding the basics. Let's look at some of the fundamental concepts to get you up to speed.


Stretch Wrap Fundamentals: Cast vs. Blown

Typically, stretch wrap is used to hold boxes together on a pallet for transportation. However, it can also be used to protect products during storage as well. Stretch films comes in a variety of sizes (referred to in gauges), is manufactured using different methods, and is applied in two separate ways — by hand or with a machine. It is also offered in a a variety of specialty styles.

The two most commonly used types of stretch wrap are cast stretch wrap and blown stretch wrap.

Below, you'll find the major differences between the two, as well as the primary advantages of each.


Cast stretch wrap is manufactured using a cast extrusion process. Cast extrusion is a continuous technique during which thermoplastic material is melted and extruded through a flat die onto a chilled roll, where it is quenched and re-solidified. Cast stretch film has excellent clarity, requires less force to stretch, offers increased tear resistance, unwinds quietly from machines, and boasts a superior cling. There are both machine grade and hand grade cast stretch films available.

  • Generally less expensive than blown stretch wrap, due to reduced manufacturing costs
  • Increased clarity allows users to see wrapped products
  • Cast stretch wrap unwinds quietly compared to blown stretch wrap
  • Two sided cling allows the film to stay securely wrapped


Blown stretch wrap is manufactured using the blown extrusion process. The melted plastic material is extruded through a die, usually vertically, to form a thin walled tube. Air is introduced via a hole in the center of the die to create a balloon-like structure. On top of the tube, an air ring blows onto the stretch film to cool it as it comes off the line. This process allows blown wrap to be tougher and more resilient than cast stretch wrap. Blown stretch film typically has a greater load containment force.

  • Higher load and stretch capacity
  • Higher quality with a higher degree of memory once stretched, allowing loads to be better secured
  • Higher tear resistance is an advantage when securing loads with sharp edges

No matter whether you use cast or blown stretch wrap or whether you manually apply stretch wrap or use equipment instead, using stretch film to secure your pallets for shipment offers a diverse range of advantages.


We all like reducing costs while adding protection. Stretch wrap provides several key advantages when using it to secure your pallets for shipment.

Cost Reduction

  • By unitizing products with stretch film, you can greatly decrease handling costs.
  • Handling of individual boxes is more time consuming than handling a unitized load. Unitization saves countless man hours in the movement and shipment of pallets of products.
  • Because unitizing packaged goods increases the speed at which they are moved, carrier vehicles spend less time sitting idle at docks waiting to be loaded.

Added Protection

  • Enclosing products in stretch film greatly reduces the risk of theft. The loss of packaged goods is much easier to track if they are shipped out in unit loads rather than individually, reducing the likely occurrences of lost or stolen items.
  • Minimize product damage inside your facility by using stretch wrap, as wrapped goods moved by a forklift or pallet jack are less likely to sustain damage than loose boxes carried by hand.
  • Minimize shipment damages through the proper use of stretch wrap. It is less likely that heavy items are packed at the top of a palletized unit load when they are wrapped in stretch film.


When it comes to stretch wrap, choosing the right size is critical, as different sizes are gauged to handle different types of loads.


The force of load containment is critical to your load's integrity. The good news? Determining whether you are using the correct gauge doesn't take an engineering degree.

Don't let anyone tell you differently: in stretch wrap, size DOES matter.

Did you know? The saran wrap that you use at home is approximately the same as 40 gauge stretch wrap. That gauge of stretch wrap could secure around 1,000 pounds on a pallet load.

Did you know? Your Ziploc sandwich bag is approximately the same as 150 to 200 gauge stretch wrap. That gauge of stretch wrap could secure up to a 3,500-pound pallet load.


Traditionally, manufacturers made a standard gauged stretch film for customers to use that was affordable and worked well to secure a variety of loads. That standard most often ranged from 60 gauge to 150 gauge, and was able to secure between 1,500- and 3,500-pound loads. Over the years, 80 gauge stretch film became the industry standard and is now known as the most versatile stretch film thickness on the market.

Today's most common options include:

  • Standard or “true gauged” stretch wrap
  • Eco or micron stretch wrap
  • Hybrid or multilayer stretch wrap
  • Pre-stretched stretch wrap

Standard or True Gauged Stretch Wrap

For years, before petroleum prices got out of hand, standard or true gauged wrap was what most manufacturers produced. Today, you have to specifically request it. This standard stretch wrap offers a great amount of stretch, tear resistance, and strength. However, using standard hand stretch also comes with unnecessary waste because users cannot reach the maximum stretch potential of the wrap. Better, more economical options are found in the other types versus this traditional wrap.

Eco or Micron Stretch Wrap

This film is often called different names by different manufacturers, but, in general, is considered an equivalent film. It typically comes in a 57, 60, or 63 gauge. The main contrast between this stretch wrap and traditional wrap is the thickness of the material and the amount of stretch potential. A micron stretch wrap is often stiffer and will not stretch as much as standard wrap. However, the micron stretch wrap is more affordable, stronger, and often promotes less waste.

Hybrid or Multilayer Stretch Wrap

Like eco stretch wrap, hybrid stretch film is also considered an equivalent  that can replace lower gauged wraps, typically coming in a 47, 51, or a 53 gauge. It is stiffer and has less tear resistance than micron film. The major benefits include a lower purchase cost, lighter rolls, less physical exertion when applying, and a stronger wrap. Its multiple layers make the film stronger than a true gauged film of the same thickness, but it does not come in higher gauges.

Pre-Stretched Stretch Wrap

An excellent, green option for users wrapping lighter loads is pre-stretched stretch wrap. It is a true 80-gauge film that has already been stretched to up to 90% of its potential before being placed on the roll and shipped to the user. This makes it an affordable film that promotes less waste because users can reach the full stretch potential when applying the film with little physical exertion, meaning less film usage for maximum protection. Pre-stretched wrap is typically recommended for loads no heavier than 1,200 lbs.



Occasionally you’ll hear about the potential to save money by “down-gauging” your stretch film. It's possible that this could save you a few dollars, but every situation is different and you should only attempt to down-gauge with the help of a trained professional. Lowering your gauge may inadvertently cause you to use more wrap, meaning you'll see no savings and you may actually be putting your pallet loads at risk of damage. That being said, there is also a potential that you may benefit and see more cost savings by actually increasing the gauge of your stretch film.

It’s important to remember that there are many hidden costs associated with down-gauging, which is why we only recommend undertaking the process with help from a packaging professional.


Decreasing the gauge of stretch wrap by too much may cause issues with the load containment force, thus putting you in the bad position of needing to increase the number of wraps. In the end, you may not see any savings and, in fact, may be spending more on additional wraps, increased material waste, and the overall cost per load.   


Lighter gauge stretch films are more likely to experience breaks, either from machine variations, edge damage during handling, or defects. Will you have to spend extra on labor costs because you have to keep restarting the wrapping process after a break in the film? Will you need multiple wraps to cover those film nicks and ensure the load integrity? All costs have to be considered.


Thorough testing should be completed before considering switching to a lower gauge. Weight, pallet configuration, and packaging environment must play a role in considering a lower gauge wrap. Loads can change over time, affecting your packaging during both storage and shipping. If your pallets and products aren't receiving protection, then down gauging hasn't saved a thing.


Did you know that pallet configuration impacts the type of stretch wrap you choose? It’s important to understand your most often used pallet configurations in order to make right selection when it comes to which gauge of stretch wrap you purchase.


Type A Loads are uniform in shape with a load size that closely matches the pallet dimensions. Clearly, these are the easiest loads to wrap and very few potential wrap puncture points exist. 

These pallet loads are most often seen at manufacturing locations where a single product is prepared for shipment and every load is identically wrapped for placement on trucks.




Type B Loads are irregular in shape or the load size does not match the pallet dimensions, meaning several wrap puncture points exist. Far more film selection judgement is required with Type B loads. 

These loads tend to appear at smaller manufacturing locations and distribution centers. They usually contain two or three products en route to a single destination.



Type C Loads are the worst of all for stretch wrap. With Type C, no two loads are the same — sizes and shapes range all over the place and sharp points are found just about everywhere. 

These types of loads are typically assembled at distribution centers that supply retail store locations and each load may contain dozens of different products.





You'll find advantages and disadvantages to both hand wrapping and machine wrapping pallets. Determining what's right for your business starts with a basic evaluation.

Stretch Wrapping Equipment

When you begin to determine whether implementing stretch wrap equipment is right for your facility, consider the following:

  • How many loads are you currently wrapping and how many loads do you foresee wrapping?
  • How are you currently wrapping and how many people does it take?
  • What types of loads will you wrap? Will the loads be uniform boxes, irregular shapes, fragile, etc.? Are the loads heavy, light, stable, unstable, etc.?
  • Are you experiencing shipping damages? If so, do you know what is causing the damage?
  • Are you operating multiple shifts?

Choosing the right stretch wrap equipment should be a careful consideration for any business. Manual efforts cannot effectively stretch the film like a machine is able. This has negative consequences on holding strength and unit stabilization, and workers may compensate by using more wrap or you may see increased damage rates as products shift on the pallets, even though they should be secured. Machine wrapping allows you to obtain the highest material performance while eliminating many negatives associated with manual wrapping.

If you are wrapping 15 or more loads per day, it is more cost-effective to use a stretch wrap machine than to continue wrapping manually. At that level, machines justify their costs by reducing labor expenses, lowering material usage, decreasing damages, and minimizing the potential for injuries.

Hand Stretch Wrap Machine Stretch Wrap
Stretch film waste Stretch film savings up to 66%
Up to 10% pre-stretch capacity Up to 250% pre-stretch capacity
12 loads per hour 55 loads per hour
Uneven packaging Professional packaging appearance
Tedious and time consuming Quick and easy
Manual labor Minimal operator involvement


Stretch wrap equipment allows businesses to obtain the highest levels of performance from the material, while eliminating the negatives of hand wrapping at the same time. The more the material is stretched, the lower the waste and the greater the savings. Other advantages include reduced labor costs, greater load stabilization, and less damage to pallet loads during transportation. Material and labor savings, alone, can justify the initial cost of stretch wrap equipment in about a year.

When stretch film is applied by a machine:

  • Production rates increase
  • Labor costs decrease
  • Injuries decrease
  • Quality increases
  • Optimized, consistent wrapping increases
  • Material waste decreases

In addition to increased productivity and decreased liability, most stretch wrap machines pull the stretch wrap at least 200% before applying it to the load. This results not only in optimizing its load force capabilities, but also in legitimate savings of up to 50% of material costs.


We've given you the basics and you're well on your way to making some very smart decisions about your stretch film processes. Now is the time to dive deeper with one of our specialists.

Get Our Free eBook

If you're ready to start looking into including stretch wrap equipment at your facility, IPS Packaging & Automation has put together an eBook with all the essential information you need to make the most informed decision. It will:

  • Define the facilities that benefit the most from automating
  • Teach you the key ideas to keep in mind as you investigate
  • Give you 8 things to remember when selecting the right stretch wrap machine for your application
  • Show the 4 main ways to justify the cost of the right stretch wrap equipment
  • Decide on the right supplier to help you navigate the process

Stretch wrap machines save money through material and labor savings, as well as improve load stability and decrease damage rates. And if money is the biggest concern, know that when correctly utilized, most equipment pays for itself in less than a year.

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