Maybe it should be called the Incredible Shrinking Stretch Film.
A new company, Easiwrap International Corp., has launched what might be a truly ground-breaking film for wrapping pallets: When you tug on the corners of the film, it shrinks to fit as tightly as a pair of Spandex leggings.
``The reactivity of the film starts with that tug,'' said Al Striano, executive vice president of the Nutley, N.J., company.
``When applying the film, you wrap the pallet loose. Just a slight tug in the corner orients the molecular structure and starts it shrinking.''
While that concept might sound a little like cutting-edge science fiction, the company has started extruding the polyethylene-based, oriented film at a plant in Dublin, Ireland. Now it is looking for a U.S. manufacturing home to open within 14 months, preferably in the upper Midwest, Striano said.
The concept has some industry observers agog, even in a market where pallet stretch film is considered a commodity business. One industry executive, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Easiwrap is selling a unique product.
``I tested it myself,'' the executive said. ``It was apparent to us that it had characteristics that no other film exhibited. You can throw the pallet against a forklift and it wouldn't nick.''
The film was the brainchild of Irish engineer Phillip Dorn, who invented both the technology to make the blown film and the proprietary mix of materials that go into it, Striano said. Dorn patented his pre-stretch film process and the engineered palletizing wrap itself.
The 35,000-square-foot Dublin plant has three extruders running around the clock. Customers include food and beverage distributors, window fabricators and building supply firms.
Easiwrap is near Nutley-based film distributor Preferred Plastics & Packaging Co. Inc., which is marketing the film to the U.S. market.
Easiwrap founders include President Randy Swickle, Dorn and Striano. Striano is a former senior vice president with Ranpak Corp., a maker of protective packaging in Painesville, Ohio.
Easiwrap bills its products as ``stretch film that acts like a shrink film.'' The film shrinks upon touch for 20-30 minutes after it is wrapped around a skid. The company has two products: Wraptite and Superstretch, the later of which can stretch up to 300 percent.
``Basically, think of an elastic band that pulls away from the pallet,'' Striano said. ``It will snap back in place like a rubber band. Conventional film sags like a big bow, and that's what creates damage on a truck.''
Protection is the film's main selling point, he said. In transit, the film resists nicks by forming a tight fit. It also saves film usage by adhering exactly to the product, making the cost per pallet more competitive, he said.
That could give Easiwrap some advantage in the 2 billion-pound-per-year stretch film industry, where price is a key selling factor among similar, commodity-based products. The firm is competing in a market where, at least until now, price and tonnage move product, said consultant Huston Keith, principal of Marietta, Ga.-based Keymark Associates Inc.
``That's basically the name of the game in that business,'' he said. ``Companies are constantly doing what they can to reduce cost. The question is whether they can get additional penetration in this market just by offering an interesting new process.''
But the company is taking on that challenge. It wants to hire three more regional sales managers and develop business partnerships, including a possible venture in the Asia-Pacific region, Striano said.
In addition to searching for a Midwest manufacturing base, Easiwrap is considering other locations in the Southwest and Southeast, Striano said. Production will stay in Dublin until U.S. satellite plants are built, he said.
By this fall, Easiwrap will produce as much as 1 million pounds a month of the film globally, he said. The company will not discuss the proprietary material blend or customized process used to make the film.