Taking time to think about the best protective packaging for your products is certainly worth the investment, but not overly exciting! Whether it’s for your own e-commerce operation or you’re fulfilling and despatching products for a customer – protective packaging can make a difference. It can improve on packing time, reduce breakages and returns as well as cost. Eco-friendly or more sustainable solutions may also be on your wish list. So out of the array of solutions on the market, have you considered Air Pillow film?
Perhaps you’ve been put off in the past because it looks like it might be a bit complicated or difficult to use. You might have thought it required specialist expensive machinery to get it up and running? So let’s see how it stacks up against void-fill and protective packaging alternatives.
Firstly, how does Air Pillow film work?
Air Pillow film works with Air Pillow machines to create sealed air ‘pillows’ or ‘cushions’. It comes as a roll of flat plastic perforated at specific intervals. This makes it easy to tear off exactly what you need. One edge of the film is attached to the Air Pillow machine and air is blown into the film and the side sealed creating a tough bubble of air. Essentially the bubble is 99% air and only 1% plastic! You’re effectively packing with air!
You can even control the amount of air that inflates the bubbles according to how fragile your products are. You’re also in charge of how fast the machine runs. If you have lots of parcels requiring similar levels of cushioning, you can set it up and run it quickly ‘go ready for packing’. Alternatively, if you want smaller amounts or the levels of cushioning are different or complex, slowing down the speed gives you greater flexibility and reduces waste.
How much do Air Pillow machines cost?
There are 3 machines available, of which two can be rented and one bought outright. The Airtech Meteor machine (pictured) is the entry-level machine in the range and can be bought for around £900. Another bonus is that it comes with 2 free rolls of film.
All other machines are available to rent, costing £35 per month per machine. However, if you have a contract of 3 rolls or more of film per month there is no rental charge for the machine.
Servicing and spare parts are also free of charge if you’re renting. An engineer would be available to fix your machine should anything not be working correctly. That’s great peace of mind to know that should you have any issues, you won’t be left on your own. Spare and replacement parts can also be posted out to you.
How much does Air Pillow film cost?
There are 4 different types of Air Pillow film – recycled, bio, degradable and ESD (Electrostatic dissipating)
The cost of the rolls does depend on the quantity you require, the width (200-700 mm wide) and whether you want them printed with your branding.
As an average cost, a standard 200 mm wide roll of film with 120 mm perforation lengths would be £75-£95.
Degradable film would be quite a lot more expensive, with a minimum order quantity of 65 rolls at a time. The film has a shelf life of 6 months so it’s definitely a solution for high packaging volume users!
Air Pillow film vs bubble wrap – costs, storage, plastic usage and other features
There are a couple of factors to think about when comparing air pillow to bubble wrap, which include:
Taking the standard 200 mm roll with 120 mm perforations as an example, 1 roll of this would equate to 18 bundles of 1500 mm bubble wrap.
Bubble wrap has a high cubit volume meaning couriers find it a challenge to deliver and this reflects in the cost.
On average one bundle of bubble wrap would cost £15-£25, so buying air pillow film would save on average £250 per roll when used as a void-fill.
Storing bubble wrap is similar to making up flat pack boxes and trying to store them that way; it takes up a lot of room but is easy to use when you need it.
The benefit of Air Pillow film is that the rolls are roughly 9” diameter and 200-400 mm depending on the width of the roll. Compared to 18 rolls of 1500 mm high bubble wrap, the storage space air pillow film rolls take is hardly comparable!
Depending on the environment qualities of your Air Pillow film or bubble, Air Pillow film is generally a better option to reduce your plastic usage.
Air Pillow films are mostly air (actually 99 %), so compared to bubble wrap there is a lot less plastic compared to air. The pillows are also about 10x thicker than bubble wrap.
Other benefits include
As well as the plastic usage, air pillows are very tough and not easy to pop compared to bubble (who hasn’t enjoyed popping bubble wrap in their lifetime 😊). This is due to the seal on the pillow, the thick construction of the plastic and pressure setting.
Air Pillow film machines provide a consistent film quality produced to match your usage. It takes longer to use a roll and as it’s easier to store so you shouldn’t run out too quickly.
There’s an air cushion type for every application, and it can also be used as a void fill. Bubble wrap isn’t really economical as void filling.
Air Pillow film looks professional and can be used with high-quality goods. It can also be printed with your logo to make the un-boxing experience even better for customers and end users!
Air Pillow film vs Loosefill chips – costs, storage, benefits and more
As a void fill, Loosefill chips are very flexible and easy to use.
Are you currently using void fill as well as another option for protective wrapping like bubble wrap? In case you didn’t know, Air pillow film can actually be used as both which in turn can simplify your processes.
So let’s look at the comparison between Air Pillow film and Loosefill
Taking the standard 200 mm roll with 120 mm perforations as an example, 1 roll of this does the job of roughly 12-14 bags of Loosefill
Couriers find Loosefill a challenge to deliver. This is because it has a high cubit volume and weighs very little. Delivery costs of Loosefill can vary vastly. If we take an average cost of £12 for 13 bags of Loosefill it would cost £156. Using Air Pillow film would save you on average £70- per roll! (And more if you’re currently using it as a protective packaging as well as Loosefill)
To be honest, Loosefill is a bit like bubble wrap. It’s a bit of a headache to store as each bag is 15 cubic feet. You can pile them up, but this is not the sort of thing you can keep in any normal sized cupboard!
The benefit of Air Pillow film is that each roll is roughly 9” wide and 200-400mm (depending on the width of your rolls). It’s possible to fit quite a few rolls of Air Pillow in the same area that you would store just 1 bag of Loosefill!
Plastic usage and environmental factors
The beauty about Air Pillow is that not only is it made from 50% recyclable plastic, it is also recyclable by the end user. These qualities really make it a protective packaging and void product of choice.
The Loosefill options stack up like this. Biofil is 100% biodegradable, conforming to EN-13432 standard. It is a natural product made from plant starch whereas Fastfil is made from 100% recycled product and is CFC free, however it will end up in landfill.
When it comes to reuse, both Air Pillow and Fastfil Loosefill can be used repeatedly. Although the Biofil is greener, we wouldn’t advise re-using Biofil as this tends to crush on repeated use with heavy items.
Flexible – when it comes to use, there are pros and cons for both. Loosefill is very simple to use and that’s why it is a popular choice. It packs quickly around products and is perfect for providing protection for irregular shapes and absorbing shock. It certainly fills narrow gaps better that than Air Pillow however, it doesn’t quite protect delicate and vulnerable corners like Air Pillow can. Air Pillow can be used to create multiple layers of protection whilst being flexible enough to act a void fill as well as protective packaging.
So where does this leave us?
Time and money savings are important for every business. Devoting storage space for your own profitable products in your warehouse rather than vast volumes of void fill may be another reason to look at alternatives. It may also be the perfect time to move to some more sustainable packing solutions too.
And what you might have thought of as fiddly and expensive option may actually be the space, time and money saving solution you were after all along!
Want to try it out? Please get in touch below.