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How to Calculate the Right Size Shrink Film for Packaging

photo of a roll of clear shrink wrap film on white background

Shrink wrap sizing also referred to as package sizing is the process of calculating the appropriate size film for over-wrapping of a specific package with shrink film. There are many factors that must be considered when sizing the film to end up with the optimum sizing for your application and products. The actual product dimensions, the orientation of the package as it will be introduced into the film and the type of shrink wrap equipment to be used are all required information. Wrong dimensions, missing data or failure to obtain this information or incorrect specifications may result in inappropriate film size being calculated.

Each individual package has three specific dimensions which determine the base film width. These measurements should be made with the orientation (positioning) of the package as it enters the film identified.

  • Product Width: The dimension of the product in the transverse (parallel to the cut-off or cross seal) direction.
  • Product Length: The dimension of the product in the machine (parallel to the fold of the film, in cases of centerfold film) direction.
  • Product Height: The actual height of the product. In cases of products with uneven surfaces, the height should be considered from the bottom to the highest point of the package.
  • Product Orientation: When measuring a product for film sizing, remember to use the longer dimension as the product width (bearing in mind, it must not surpass the seal dimensions of the equipment being used).

What Are The Benefits of Calculating The Right Size Shrink Wrap Film?

  • Less Shrink Waste:
    • By orienting the package using the shortest possible dimension as the product length results in the smallest amount of waste, in cases of centerfold use or side seal applications.
  • Increased Packaging Speed:
    • A shorter product length results in faster cycling of product’s into and out of the sealing area. Over the course of a production shift this incremental time savings can produce large dividends.
  • Increased Film Roll Bag Yield:
    • Although a product requires the same square inches of film regardless of orientation, the amount of scrap produced is decreased.

Another consideration when recommending shrink film size is production speed. In many cases, the formula to calculate required film size turns out not to be a whole number. Although 1/2″ increments are available, most users opt for a standard inch size and we strongly recommend that you round your sizes up to the next inch marker and not down. Using films that are too narrow can negatively impact machine operation and production speeds and increase your overall packaging costs.

Once package orientation and dimensions are established, the next consideration is the type of equipment upon which the package is to be wrapped. Specific types of equipment dictate the use of either center folded or single wound film. Furthermore, some types of machinery demand the use of wider film sizes than others due to the mechanics of their operation.

When using the shrink film sizing formulas to calculate film sizes, be sure to use the formula for the type of equipment it is to be used on.


Crawford Packaging is a full-service packaging company located in London, Brampton and Waterloo, Ontario. From packaging to packaging equipment, installation and upgrades, and in-person equipment training and repair, we're focused on your business success every step of the way.