The Modernization of Protective Packaging

We have all seen it in one form or another. In packages ordered online, wrapped around fragile products or in our hands as we satisfyingly pop bubble wrap. From everyday household items purchased online to high-value products like electrical and computer components. If there’s a possibility of damage to your product, there’s a protective packaging solution to keep it safe.

Over the years, as businesses attempt to streamline and optimize packaging solutions, protective packaging has evolved. Traditional methods are still very effective and commonly used today, but advances in materials and packaging equipment have helped propel protective packaging into the next generation. Solutions now offer automated packaging options to help reduce labour and waste, while increasing processing speeds for high volume packers.

The History of Traditional Protective Packaging

Protective packaging has been in use since the creation of Kraft Paper packaging in the late 1800’s. This recyclable method is still in use today. In 1954, Polyurethane foam became widely available for commercial use which lead the way for foam packaging peanuts in 1962. Around the same time, in 1957, Sealed Air created Bubble Wrap. Originally intended as wallpaper, this product transitioned into protective packaging in 1961. Since then, protective packaging has continued to evolve as manufacturers develop more efficient and environmentally friendly solutions to meet consumer demands.

Traditional Protective Packaging Today

Many of the traditional methods of protective packaging are still in use today. These methods offer business adaptable, all-purpose packaging solutions that can be used for different package types.


1. Inflated Bubble Packaging

Bubble products are some of the most popular and versatile protective packaging products on the market. These sheets of regularly spaced air-filled bubbles provide the cushioning and protection we rely on for shipping and protecting products. Available in multiple configurations, inflated bubble packaging is available in varying grades that adjust the size of the bubble.Larger bubbles offer more protection while stronger materials ensure heavy products will not pop the bubbles prematurely.

Modern inflated bubble products can be made from a high percentage of recycled material. Other types of inflated bubble packaging will offer recycling solutions to end users.

2. Kraft Paper

Paper Void Fill is industry standard for environmentally friendly, recyclable and compostable void fill solutions. This cost-effective material offers an on-demand type packaging system, as packers only use the material required to create a ball, rope or brace.

Traditional Kraft Paper packaging has not changed in years. However, the addition of Kraft Paper packaging equipment has helped to improve its efficiency and productivity in the packaging environment. 

3. Foam Packaging

EPS Foam Peanuts or Loose Fill have been around for decades and is used in a variety of packaging formats. Loose Fill protective packaging is made from Expanded Polystyrene (EPS), the same material as foam coffee cups. More recently peanuts have been manufactured out of renewable bioplastics. These environmentally friendly products are bio-degradable and do not hold a static charge.

Foam sheeting products have been used as protective packaging for over 20 years. Foam sheeting can be easily trimmed to size and holds strong cushioning and surface protection capabilities. Foam sheeting is commonly used to wrap products that can be easily scratched or marked. This has made it a top packaging material for auto parts manufacturers to protect painted or finely finished parts.

4. Angleboard and Edge Protectors

Angleboard and edge protectors are uniquely designed and engineered protective packaging product that helps to prevent damage during the stretch wrapping or banding process. Angleboard and edge protectors are made from a wide variety of materials based on the packaging environment and the strength needed.


Contemporary Protective Packaging

As businesses evolve and production rates increase, companies found themselves searching for improvements over standard packaging. This lead packaging manufacturers to develop machines to increase efficiency and optimize resources. Protective packaging equipment began to emerge and revolutionized traditional protective packaging. The traditional, manual methods of the past formed the basis for a new revolution of protective packaging automation.

Automated protective packaging equipment helped businesses improve labour efficiency, maximize material use, reduce waste and maximize floor space. These on-demand systems help to optimize the packaging area to reduce clutter and improve packer efficiency.

On-Demand Protective Packaging Solutions

One of the biggest changes in protective packaging is the evolution of on-demand protective packaging. Protective packaging equipment has given businesses the ability to increase their packaging speeds by streamlining the packaging process for high volumes.


1. Kraft Paper Packaging Machines

The traditional method of using Kraft Paper was often time-consuming and the manual process was not consistent. The packer’s ability determined the sturdiness of the paper bracing. Modern Kraft Paper packaging machines use the same base material but are able to produce a consistent bracing material. Equipment like the FasFil® System produce preformed void fill packaging material in either batch or on-demand formats.


2. Bubble On-Demand

Bubble on-demand systems reduce the storage space used by traditional rolls of pre-filled bubble packaging. These handy machines create lengths of inflated bubble packaging from uninflated films. As the film passes through the machine, air is blown between the layers to fill the bubble. Once filled the film passes through the seal wheels, closing the filling channel. One truckload of Sealed Air’s I.B. Express can replace 40 truckloads of traditional pre-filled bubble wrap. On demand bubble systems dispense bubble sheeting in multiple sizes and eliminates the labour required to trim large sheets down to size.

Bubble On-Demand Equipment

3. Air Pillow Packaging

Air pillow systems use the same technology as on-demand bubble systems, but with a slightly different result. Air pillows are much larger in size than bubble packaging which makes it optimal for bracing products inside a box. Where bubble wrap is wrapped around a product to provide cushioning, air pillows are used to fill large spaces to prevent movement. The light air pillows reduce shipping weight and are made from durable plastic films to prevent leaking and tearing. This ensures your product is held firmly throughout the shipping cycle. The on-demand system offers the same space-saving benefits as a bubble on-demand machine, with one roll replacing the need to stock pre-made dunnage or box bracing material.

Air Pillow Machines

4. Foam-In-Place Packaging

The Instapack Foam-in-Place packaging systems use liquid components that combine and cause rapid expansion and hardening. As the foam rises it fills any void spaces creating a protective shell. One of the most versatile packaging solutions on the market today, each pack is specific to the product it is protecting. Foam-in-Place systems are optimal for packaging products that are very fragile or very heavy that require bracing for transport.

Foam-in-Place Systems

  • Instapack 900 Series – Automated System

  • Instapack RT System – Manual System


5. Custom Protective Packaging Systems

When products being packaged are very delicate or expensive, custom protective packaging solutions are often the best choice. These systems are engineered for specific packaging situations and are made to the strictest standards. Each custom protective packaging system is easy to use and offers an incredible customer experience.  

The Korrvu® line of protective packaging utilizes patented technologies to hold fragile and valuable products firmly in place during shipping. Each Korrvu® packaging system is individually engineered but can be flexible enough to be used for multiple products of similar dimensions. Whether shipping electronics or high-end custom metal products the Korrvu® systems can help to provide a simple and effective packaging solution for your business.

Transitioning from Traditional to Contemporary Protective Packaging

Crawford Packaging has help businesses update and modify their protective packaging solutions in a diverse range of industries. This lead to our revolutionary new protective packaging program, Protect It Right. Protect It Right audits and reviews existing protective packaging practices, materials and equipment to identify areas of inefficiency. Improvements are then implemented to increase productivity and reduce per pack costs. Through Protect It Right clients have discovered ways to reduce their protective packaging costs by up to 30%.


Protect It Right

  • Increase Productivity

  • Reduce Packaging Waste

  • Reduce Consumption

  • Reduce Shipping Damages

  • Reallocate Labour

  • Consistent Standards