Large shrink wrap film is typically sold for scaffold shrink wrapping or shrink wrapping boats and other large industrial products. However, because different shrink wrap films can look and feel quite similar, picking the right film for the job can be confusing. This quick guide will help you get it right.
Although shrink wrapping pallets and small products started in the 1970’s, it wasn’t until the 1980’s, when it became possible to manufacture thicker and wider shrink wrap films, that the idea of shrink wrapping much larger products, such as boats, become popular.
Boat shrink wrap, sometimes called ‘marine grade’ is typically used to create winter storage covers and road transport covers for yachts and motor-boats and is used by many boat manufacturers to protect their products between the factory and the customer or dealer.
Although boat shrink films are reasonably heavy duty and ‘industrial’ in nature, they are thinner than those used for wrapping scaffolds and large industrial products. Marine grade films are typically 180-200 microns thick, white in colour, and supplied in a large choice of widths from from 4m to 12m, (typically in 1m increments.) This means boats can be wrapped in one ‘go’ (with no joins between sheets which can look untidy) whilst minimising ‘offcuts’ and wastage.
Rolls of wrap can be quite heavy, from 50-90Kg; the weight of the roll is not so important for boat shrink wrapping as it is for scaffold wrapping because the roll tends to stay at ground level (perhaps on a roll stand) and the film is pulled up and over the boat.
Boat shrink wrap is normally supplied as ‘standard’ grade - i.e. it does not contain any flame retardant additives, but it does usually contain ultra violet inhibitor (UVI) to give at least 1-2 years life span outdoors.
No flame retardant additive and a thinner grade means that boat shrink wrap film is the lowest cost shrink wrap to purchase. The exception to this is where boat shrink film is required to encapsulate a structure over a yacht or motor boat, to protect work such as deck repairs, painting etc. For these ‘repair and refit’ tents, (which can cover even the largest superyacht), a flame retardant boat shrink wrap film of 200-250 microns will generally be the standard choice.
It is possible to use a boat / marine grade shrink wrap film for wrapping industrial products - such as machinery and equipment - to create storage and shipping covers. However, for very large or ‘demanding’ applications, specific ‘industrial grade films’ will give better performance.
All shrink wrap, whether for encapsulating boats, large industrial products or scaffolding is ‘industrial’ & heavy duty in nature. However, if we think of boat shrink wrap as being at one end of the scale in terms of thickness, specification and cost and scaffold shrink wrap at the other, then industrial grade shrink wrap usually refers to those shrink wrap films in the range that sit somewhere in between.
At 200-250 microns thick, industrial grade films tend to be thicker than boat wrap (180-200 microns) but not so thick as scaffold wrap (250-320 microns).
Industrial grade shrink film is used to wrap a wide variety of industrial products - from large machinery & equipment to modular buildings. The purpose is very similar to boat shrink wrapping - to protect items between the factory and the end customer.
Industrial grade films tend to be available in a more restricted range of sizes and do not usually contain the flame retardant additive. They will generally be a little more costly to buy than boat shrink films (due to the extra thickness and so extra roll weight) but are not as costly as scaffold wrap films (which combine both weight and special additives such as flame retardants to make them acceptable for use on construction sites.)
The use of shrink wrap for encapsulating scaffolding has developed since the 1990’s. Although scaffold wrapping films can range in thickness from 250 to 320 microns, the most common film used in the UK is 300 microns.
Why does scaffold shrink wrap need to be much thicker than wrap used to cover boats and industrial products?
It is however possible to use a 190 or 200 micron thick flame retardant micron film for shrink wrapping scaffolding that has been erected indoors. This is typically the case for factory partitions or screening.
Scaffold shrink wrap films have a much more limited range of widths and roll lengths than boat shrink wrap film. Boat shrink wrap will typically be available in 4m, 5m, 6m, 8m, 10m, 12m and even 16m widths to allow for a multitude of boat types & sizes but scaffold wrap is typically available as a 6m or 7m wide roll. Why? Because for scaffold wrapping there will not be a roll size big enough that can encapsulate a scaffolding/building in one go.
In most cases a scaffold shrink wrap film is installed in sections, with each section covering 3 ‘lifts’ of scaffolding (around 6m drop in total). Using a 7m wide film allows for this 6m drop with extra top and bottom for overlapping and heat welding around the scaffold tube. Heat welding / joining sheets is completely acceptable and normal part of the scaffold shrink wrap process.
The length of scaffold shrink wrap rolls is generally in the region of 15-20 metres. This is to keep the roll to a ‘manageable’ weight’ for transport by hand around the construction site and scaffolding. A 7m x 15m roll of scaffold wrap will typically weigh in the region of 30Kg to allow for manual handling.
The exception to the rule of using a 6/7m roll width for scaffold wrapping is where the shrink wrap sheeting is being used to create a temporary roof over a scaffold structure. In this case, keeping the amount of welds / joins between sheets to a minimum is a higher ‘priority’ than the roll weight, therefore a much larger 12m wide, 250/300 micron, flame retardant scaffold wrap is used which can be unrolled across the roof quite easily.
To meet the strict ‘health & safety’ standards of the construction industry, unlike boat and industrial grade films, scaffold shrink wrap is nearly always flame retardant. The main flame retardant standard used throughout Europe is EN13501. If a film is sold as flame retardant then this should be printed on the shrink film sheeting and your supplier should be a able to give you a copy of the certification.
Although construction grade scaffold shrink wrap is mostly used for wrapping scaffolds it is not restricted to just this use. Our in house installation teams from time to time use scaffold shrink wrap for wrapping large plant, machinery and equipment - any application where the most robust shrink wrap covering possible is required.
Buying a shrink wrap film that is over specified for your project, could result in you spending more money than you need, but simply choosing the cheapest shrink wrap may also result in spending more money on tapes to repair the sheeting or having to do the whole job again. Hopefully this guide has given you the information to make an informed decision.
Choose a boat shrink wrap film for the widest choice of sizes, most economy (slightly thinner and no flame retardant). Choose an industrial grade shrink wrap for a thicker, more robust ‘all round’ product that will not generally be flame retardant . Choose a scaffold shrink wrap film for the thickest, most robust product that will almost always be flame retardant.
Whether you are buying a shrink wrap for covering boats, machinery or a scaffold you will need a film that has been designed for the job in hand and that means a film that will heat weld properly and that will shrink powerfully and consistently. For more information on the technical aspects of choosing a shrink wrap film why not read our shrink wrap buying guide.
For more information, get in touch with our friendly team on +44 (0)1477 532222 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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