Blisters and clamshells and bags – oh my. Packaging is a huge topic – as you can discover here – so where to begin? When it comes to packaging, we’ve pretty much done it all, from customized hangers and octagonal gift boxes to the standard packaging methods used for most consumer products. Our engineers can help design the layout and dimensions for packaging your products in a safe and cost-effective way.
Some products require no retail packaging or are intended to be sold in bulk. In those cases, we offer bulk packaging solutions to protect the product during transport. For products that would benefit from retail packaging, there is a wide variety available. However, most fall into a few basic categories. Shown below are some of the most common types of packaging methods we use.
Blister packaging is the most common type of packaging used for small consumer products. It consists of using clear plastic which is contoured to the shape of a product. The plastic is placed over the product and is typically heat sealed to a print card. This allows the consumer to view the item while still protecting it. It is an inexpensive and durable packaging method. With seal blisters, the entire product is normally covered with plastic, but part or most of the print card is left uncovered. Although there are more than three types of seal blister packaging methods, the ones listed below are the most commonly found.
Although clamshells are normally considered a form of blister packaging, they have unique characteristics which set them apart from standard blister packages . With clamshells, the entire product and print card are enclosed in plastic. There are two common methods for securing them. One is to use interlocking tabs, making them easy to open and also reclosable by the end user. The other method uses high frequency welding to heat seal them closed. This makes them more difficult to open and acts as a theft deterrent. Clamshells are generally more expensive than other forms of blister packaging. The main feature all clamshells have in common is they enclose the entire product as well as the print card. Since they rely completely on plastic for their strength, they can hold heavier items than a seal blister that relies partly on paperboard. This strength also increases their volume potential allowing clamshells to hold larger and more numerous items. In addition, they provide good stability because the front and back portions of the plastic can be designed so the product rests on its center of gravity.
Two-piece clamshells use two pieces of plastic which fit snugly together. Often the front and back part of the plastic is conformed to the shape of the product. However it is also common to make the back of this packaging flat, leaving only the front plastic conforming to the product. This type is usually sealed closed using high frequency welding, making it not resealable once opened. Welding them together provides greater assurance that the package does not come apart in transport or when dropped. In addition, two-piece clamshells are often used for electronic merchandise since the high frequency welding makes them difficult to open and acts as a theft deterrent. To prevent frustration by the end user in opening the package, a section in the back of the blister can be perforated.
Two-fold clamshells consist of using one piece of plastic which has a hinge-like bend at the bottom. The front and back is usually conformed to the shape of the product, resting the items on their center of gravity. This type of clamshell is also used more often than others as a container for multiple small items such as nails. In this case they do not conform to the product themselves. Both interlocking tabs and high frequency welding are used with two-fold clamshells.
Tri-fold clamshells consist of one piece of plastic that takes a triangular shaped when closed. This provides more stability for larger or heavier items. Whether the plastic is flat or conforms to the product varies greatly with this type depending on need. Like a box, tri-folds allows more versatility in retail store placement since they can hang or stand alone on a shelf. Both interlocking tabs and high frequency welding are equally seen. In the picture above, the tri-fold clamshell makes use of both of these closure methods. The interlocking tabs help to keep the product pieces in place while the high frequency welding ensures that the packaging will not open prematurely. Because more plastic is needed for tri-fold clamshells, it is generally more expensive than other clamshell types.
Plastic bags are used for individual retail packaging, bulk packaging, protection during transport and for consumer carrier bags. The properties of the bag (such as the level of strength, flexibility, resistances) can be tailored to meet a wide range of needs. In general, bags are considered “minimized packaging”. They are space-saving and light-weight and thus the cost of transport can be significantly less than other packaging forms. If recycled or compostable plastic is used as well, this can be one of the better eco-friendly packaging methods. There are a variety of uses for plastic bags when it comes to retail products. They can be used to protect merchandise during transport, hold bulk items together during shipment, as individual retail packaging or for after purchase carriers. The purpose of the bag and the contents it will hold effect what type of plastic should be used. While many bags are made with just one plastic, more than one plastic can be combined together to fit individual product needs. Bags are made in variable thicknesses and colors and can be embossed, compostable and have anti-static properties. The stronger and more rigid plastics can be used to make stand-up plastic pouches. These are usually used for food or liquids but can hold anything and will stand upright unaided. Plastic bags can also include various attachments such as adhesive glue strips, hooks, handles and zippers. Gussets can be added into the design of the bag to allow for higher volumes of products inside. There are some variables that will effect the extent of the plastic properties. The one that can make the biggest difference is the thickness. The thicker the material, the higher the tensile strength (the pull the plastic can endure before it breaks).
Most bags consist of one of the four plastics described below. Pictures/Images Bulk Packaging – PE Protection during transport – PE Carrier Bag – HDPE Wrap Packaging – LDPE Zipper seal – PP Retail Packaging – OPP Bedding Bag – PVC Stand-up pouch – Combination plastic Polyethylene (PE) is the most commonly used plastic worldwide and is also the most commonly used plastic in bags. Generally, it is lightweight, flexible and has good chemical resistance. One property of PE is that it is tough, meaning it stretches before breaking. This stretching allows the energy to dissipate instead of immediately tearing. PE also has relatively good strength, so it can take a lot of force to break it. Because of its low cost, PE bags are often used for bulk packaging as well as retail packaging. Two common forms of PE are Low Density PE (LDPE) and High Density PE (HDPE). LDPE is very flexible, tough and relatively transparent. It has moderate strength and is good in applications which require heat sealing. In packaging, it is often used to make wrap-around product labels and wrap packaging for products with multiple items. Most bread and thicker newspaper bags are also made out of this. HDPE is more opaque, stiff and has much better barrier properties than LDPE. It has high strength but lower stretch properties than other forms of PE. HDPE will also crinkle to touch. Many grocery bags are made out of this type of plastic. HDPE is slightly more expensive than LDPE.
Polypropylene (PP) is a strong plastic, meaning it can withstand a lot of pull force. It is semi-rigid and transparent in color, allowing consumers to view the product in high clarity. Compared to other plastics, it has a high melting point and is often used where a high chemical and moisture resistance is desired. Unlike PE, PP does not stretch very well. It is most commonly found with food bags since it is good at trapping moisture in and keeping air out. Oriented Polypropylene (OPP) has a high transparency, strength and good twist retention. The barrier properties of this plastic are better than most, having high moisture and chemical resistance. OPP bags are commonly used in individual packaging as well as in greeting card sleeves and flower sleeves. Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) is initially a very rigid plastic. However with the help of plasticizers, PVC can be made flexible. It is a heavy duty plastic in that it is both strong and tough, and has high barrier properties. This plastic is transparent. PVC is often used for bedding bags due to its strength and resistances to both fire and water.
Skin Card Packaging
Skin card packaging uses a paperboard covered with a heat sensitive adhesive or coating. With the product placed on top of the paperboard, a heated plastic film is draped over both of these, securing the product to the paper. For a tighter fit, a vacuum is used. This is a space-saving and economical means of packaging while still allowing the consumer to view the product. Another advantage is that all product pieces can be readily seen.
Print cards can be used in combination with another form of packaging or stand alone. There is a wide variety of paperboard and coating that can be used to get the desired look and effect. The blue Sweat Gutr card helps to illustrate, at a glance, the function of the product and how it should be worn. This card is used with a blister package that leaves part of the product exposed, enabling the consumer to feel the product material. Using print cards as the only form of retail packaging is economical, eco-friendly (especially if made out of environmentally friendly paperboard) and can effectively get the product message across. The Clean Bottle, shown here, only uses a print tag card. Being unconstraining, the tag card allows the consumer to look, feel and inspect the product before purchasing.
Color boxes are one of the most versatile forms of packaging. They can hold any number of items, the durability and size can vary depending on need, and the product can either show through or be completely boxed in. One innate box feature is it will stand upright on shelves without needing additional support. A hang hole can also be added for increased placement flexibility. Like the print card, it can be eco-friendly. Color boxes are often used as display boxes as well. If the product is light enough, a hang hole on the display box can give the retailer more flexibility to put the product in an area where it will sell the most.