How you package your product says a lot about your company. It’s not just about the pretty packaging that helps sell the product; it’s also about the time and care taken to package and ship to its final destination.
There are many variables along the supply chain that can impact the ability of your product to be sold. Things like theft, contamination and product damage due to a case sealing failure can stop that sale and cause a hit against your company’s bottom line, not to mention brand reputation.
While you can’t control everything your products may encounter in their journey to be sold, you can control things like the quality and security of your case seal. It starts with selecting the right packaging tape.
Not choosing the right packaging tape can result in case sealing issues such as packaging tape not sticking and loose case seals, which lead to production downtime, carton re-works, material waste, heightened labor costs and higher risk of product damage, contamination and theft in transit.
Here are a few helpful questions to ask when choosing a packaging tape for the job.
1. What exactly is a “good” packaging tape?
A good packaging tape is easy to unwind, offers good adhesion to the corrugated surface, provides strength and durability to withstand the distribution network and offers a strong hold, so the seal stays intact.
2. Does my sealing situation warrant an acrylic or hot melt packaging tape?
Packaging tapes differ in many ways, including construction. This is especially true when it comes to adhesive type.
Acrylic tapes, for example, are constructed with two layers—a film backing and an emulsion acrylic adhesive. The backing provides uniform thickness and durable performance, while a viscous, or liquid-like, adhesive offers good initial tack to the corrugated surface.
Acrylic packaging tapes offer several benefits to users, including good initial quick stick, stability over time, UV resistance to protect against yellowing, good adhesion in low temperatures and quieter unwind.
However, they also have some shortcomings, such as a bond that builds over time and limited holding power. The viscosity of the adhesive makes it prone to flow out, or fail, when external stress forces are met, including lifting, shifting, forklifts and general stress applied during storage and transit.
Hot melt packaging tapesare designed with three layers—a film layer like that found in acrylic tapes, a special release coating and an aggressive rubber-based adhesive layer.
Hot melt tapes generate an instant, permanent bond and superior holding power to corrugated surfaces. Given the aggressive nature of the adhesive, it would take an extreme amount of force to remove it once applied. In fact, the tape would be more likely to rip the corrugated surface than fail. Hot melt tapes may also be easier on production lines due to the release coating, which allows these tapes to unwind consistently and easily off the roll.
However, hot melt tapes may not offer the longevity, UV resistance and temperature range needed for some applications.
3. What “grade” of tape do I really need?
A grade of tape simply means a varying level of film thickness and amount of adhesive, which delivers different holding powers and tensile strengths.
Lower grade tapes are constructed with thinner backings and lower levels of adhesive, and are best for lightweight carton sealing. A higher grade of tape offers a thicker backing and more adhesive to handle heavier duty or high-security applications.
As you determine what grade you need, consider the carton’s size, weight and production/shipping environment. As these variables increase, so too should the grade of tape.
4. What are my production, shipping and/or storage environment like?
Where you produce and how your store your cartons can impact the quality of the seal. One of the biggest considerations is temperature, and that includes both the application and service temperature.
Application temperature is when the tape is applied; service temperature is where the tape is stored. Both can affect adhesion of the tape to the corrugated surface.
Keep in mind that some conditions like the cold, harsh environments found in produce packaging, meat and poultry processing, dairy facilities, cold weather storage and unheated warehouses in cold weather areas require the use of a tape that is specially designed for performance in those conditions. Acrylic tapes are often the go-to for cold applications, however, new advancements in hot melt technology make these a viable option, too.
Additional environmental factors to consider are humidity and dust. Acrylic tapes are best for humid environments, especially as hot melt tapes are hydrophobic, or “afraid of water, and may not perform as well. Acrylic tapes are also good for environments where dust and dirt are prevalent, especially as the tape’s liquid-like adhesive can easily move around these particles and still adhere well to the carton.
5. What exactly am I sealing?
Be sure to consider what you are sealing, whether plastic or a corrugated option such as recycled, thick or double wall, printed or waxed.
Recycled cartons are growing in popularly, however, the highly recycled content of these containers can make it hard for packaging tape to stick. That’s because smaller fibers and more fillers are used, making it difficult for the packaging tape to create a bond.
Acrylic tapes are often the best choice for “difficult” sealing situations, but hot melt technologies have caught up, making some specialized formulations an option.
6. How will the tape be applied to my cartons?
Packaging tapes can be applied in one of two ways—by hand in a manual process or by a tape applicator in an automated process.
For manual processes, either a hot melt or acrylic tape will suffice. Easy handling and unwind, good tack for initial grab to the corrugated surface and a strong film backing to prevent stretching and breaking are critical in these situations, as is choosing a “quiet” tape, especially for those working in close proximity to others. If you’re “shingling,” or stacking several strips of tape together to create the seal, look for a tape with good adhesion to backing.
In automated processes, hot melt tapes are the best choice. Hot melt tapes offer that additional release coating layer for easy unwind, which reduces tension that causes stretching and tearing. Hot melt tapes also provide instant adhesion to allow for immediate palletization of cartons, and excellent holding power to withstand stress applied by overstuffed cartons, automated pick-and-place or palletization processes, transit and storage.
Shear strength should also be reviewed when selecting a tape for an automated environment. This is the measure of an adhesive’s ability or inability to resist continuous stress. Shear strength is especially important in operations where robotic arms lift cartons. Suction cups adhered to the top of the carton add stress to the tape and could result in failure if the shear strength is not high enough. Other places where shear strength should be considered include overfilled or thick-walled cartons where there is an upward force on the tape seal, heavy content cartons where downward force is applied to the bottom tape seal, or in rigorous transportation situations, such as single parcel shipment, where external forces place stress on cartons.
A high shear-resistant adhesive will withstand external stress factors to keep the carton securely closed. A poor shear-resistant adhesive will release its bond quickly when stress is applied. This often leads to “flagging,” or the edges of the tape becoming unstuck and lifting at the corners of cartons.
There are many packaging tape options to choose from and many variables to consider when selecting a case sealing solution. Knowing your variables is key to achieving case sealing success.