The difference between stretch wrapping and shrink wrapping

stretch film


Stretch wrap vs. shrink wrap. These two technologies are often thought to be the same. They both do “wrapping” so they must be, right? Well.. not necessarily. While they share some similarities, when you really look into it, stretch wrapping and shrink wrapping are very different.

Let’s dig in:



MATERIAL - Clear or colored plastic film

USE - Wrap around products

VERSATILITY - Adaptable to a variety of applications

EQUIPMENT AVAILABLE - Manual, semi-automatic, fully-automatic 



PURPOSE - Stretch wrapping is used to palletize or bundle products so they stay together in transit. Shrink wrapping is used to bundle products so they're protected from damage, dirt and debris in transit.

MATERIAL - Stretch wrapping using film that can stretch 25-300% to tightly secure products. Shrink wrapping requires material to be a certain size and thickness to properly protect products.

WRAP - Stretch wrapping is done manually or with a machine that wraps circularly around products. Shrink wrappers fully encase material around products.

HEAT - Stretch wrapping often does not use heat but our unique machines use heat to fuse material to itself to complete each wrapped bundle. Shrink wrap bundlers use heat to shrink loosely wrapped material tightly around each bundle.

PROCESS - The process for each is different:

  • Stretch wrapping
  1. Products are manually wrapped, OR
  1. Products are inserted into or onto wrapper
  2. Material is automatically wrapped around the product
  3. Bundle is removed from wrapper


  • Shrink wrapping
  1. Products are inserted into wrapper
  2. Wrapper creates loosely wrapped bag around product and transfers to heat tunnel
  3. Material is tightly shrunk around product
  4. Bundle is removed from tunnel


So, which technology is right for your product and application? That depends on variety of factors including product size, throughput, existing costs and transportation requirements.

Ready to get started? Give us a call! Our application experts can walk you through shrink wrapping machines and stretch wrappers to help determine which bundling solution is right for you and your products.

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