Using shrink sleeves for your product packaging is a smart move. This type of packaging is among the most impactful on the shelves today. There are different types of shrink sleeve materials however, and it is important to choose one that best suits your needs.
Here is a rundown of the main shrink sleeve materials available.
PVC is the most commonly used shrink material in North America and unsurprisingly the one with the lowest overall cost. It has several qualities including excellent shrink capabilities (40% to 65%). It also has high transparency, renders printing very precisely and is the easiest of all plastics to control during the shrink process. Finally has excellent seaming properties and is highly resistant to impact.
In recent years this material has been considered unsafe due to the use of plasticizers to make it more malleable. Plasticizers such as phthalates have been linked to Asthma, hormonal disruption and cancer.
Very recently though, manufacturers have begun offering PVC with non-toxic plasticizer alternatives. But since leading manufacturers are phasing out PVC altogether, this material may well have a limited long-term future.
Originally designed as an alternative to PVC, PETG was initially more expensive, but it’s price has been steadily declining as more manufacturers produce it.
It has the strongest shrink capability (up to 80%). It is important to note that because of this high shrink rate, PETG works well in hot air shrink tunnels but yields best results in steam tunnels.
PETG has better transparency than PVC . PETG is not known to cause health problems.
As with PVC, using this type of material on PP or PE bottles requires care because the thermal expansion and contraction of the bottles during the sleeving process can affect the uniformity of the final shape of the sleeve.
PETG is also not Ideal for light bottles as it’s high shrink force can affect their shape.
PLA is relatively new and considered the best among shrink sleeve materials for the environment. Not because it is recyclable but rather because it is compostable. In fact, PLA is a corn-based polymer made entirely of plant material.
It is quite stable at ambient temperatures and strong. This makes it Ideal for bundling.
Although PLA shows the most promise environmentally speaking, it is not currently composted on a large scale, so it ends up in the trash anyway. It is also the most expensive of all shrink sleeve materials.
Oriented polystyrene is a blend of styrene resins with specialized additives. It is currently the most used shrink sleeve plastic in Japan and rapidly becoming more popular in Europe.
It has a slower shrink rate than the other plastics, and is ideal for better control on unusually shaped containers. As it is quite flexible, it is very well suited for “Squeezable” bottles. In addition, it provides good transparency.
OPS is less stable than other shrink sleeve plastics at ambient temperatures and requires more care for storage and transportation. Its weak shrink force also makes it unsuitable for bundling products.
Each of these materials have many other characteristics that need to be taken into consideration when used. Furthermore, the nature of the product they are to cover also needs to be taken into account. Require guidance on the type of shrink sleeve plastic you need for your product? Please don’t hesitate to contact the experts!