Hand Film vs Machine Film: What's the Difference?

We all know that to do a job right, you need the right tools for the job. A nail gun may do an excellent job fastening a pallet together, but if you’re trying to cut a piece of lumber the best nail gun in the world won’t help nearly as much as a plain old saw.

The same is true of stretch film. With all the options available, it’s easy to get caught up in the price, gauge or size. Before getting into those details, ask yourself the first and most obvious question:

Does your application require machine film or hand film?

There are more differences to these films than just how they are applied. Sometimes a product won’t need a machine to wrap it, and other times doing it by hand becomes a fool's errand. Knowing the difference between the two film categories is the first step in optimizing your load containment.

First, let’s talk about the mobility of either roll. Hand films are sold in lighter rolls (usually under nine pounds) to reduce worker injuries. Machine films usually begin around 28 pounds per roll. Even the way they’re shipped is significantly different in terms of convenience to move; hand films are often sold in cases of four rolls to a case, which is fairly simple to transport in a warehouse. Machine films are sold in bulk with up to 20 to 40 rolls on a pallet that requires a forklift or pallet jack.

Machine Film Vs Hand Film

Sometimes that hassle to move the film around the plant actually saves time. Machine film can stretch up to 300% of the available footage of film, usually stretching 10 times more than that of hand film of a matching gauge. If you don’t have to stop to get more film between loads, you’re definitely saving time. That extra stretch also saves money, as it can do more work than that of its hand film partner with less film.

However, the investment in a stretch wrapper and its film may be more trouble than its worth. In a high speed distribution center with a large number of docks, there may not be an efficient work flow to and from the wrapper. In that case, hand film is the time saver and a money-saver by removing the need for an unnecessary stretch wrapper.

If you have any questions about what film is best for you, let us know! We’re always happy to share our packaging knowledge. If you already know what film you need, check out for your small quantity orders.

Author: Paige Greene