Even if you’re not a packaging pro, there’s no doubt you’ve encountered polythene layflat tubing in your day to day life. It’s one of the simplest, most cost-effective and useful ways to package products. But what is layflat tubing – and how is it used?
What is layflat tubing?
Polythene layflat tubing (or LFT for short) is a seamless tube of plastic, which is squashed flat and wound onto a reel.
It can be unrolled to any length – then cut and sealed around an object, to protect it in transit and storage. Unlike other plastic wraps and films, layflat tubing only has to be sealed at the ends – which saves time on packaging production lines. It is also more versatile than fixed-length long narrow bags, as it can be worked to any length, with no wastage. Layflat tubing can be used in both automated and manual packaging operations, but it is more common on semi-automated and manual lines due to the variable nature of the products it’s used for. Speaking of which…
What is layflat tubing used for?
Polythene LFT is probably the simplest way to make right-sized packaging for a range of items, especially products made to varying lengths:
- Sports equipment
- Flatpack furniture
- Foods – fresh, frozen and ambient
- Rugs and carpets
- Musical instruments
- Outdoor equipment
The list goes on and on. NPF Packaging works with clients in the medical, automotive, fashion, retail and food sectors to name but a few. That’s because polythene is such a brilliant material for packaging. It offers excellent protection from moisture and scratches, dust and dirt – even from UV light, when treated with additives. It’s lightweight, durable, versatile, and even printable. It doesn’t cost as much as some other packaging products, and it’s fully recyclable.
It’s food safe, too.
Layflat tubing is just one of the many configurations of polythene for packaging – but it’s a great solution for manufacturers that build to order, or whose core products have a variable length that would otherwise require multiple packaging solutions. It requires little more investment than a dispenser and a heat sealer for a professional finish.
How to use LFT: what you’ll need
Thankfully, you don’t need much to make use of layflat tubing. All you need is a work surface (with a dispenser for your LFT roll), something to cut it to length with and something to seal it with, if required.
A simple setup for narrower widths could simply be a pair of scissors and staples or tape to seal the ends. Alternatively, the ends can just be tucked in. This isn’t always the best solution; it can end up causing some wastage, especially where ends are folded over – and it’ll look a little less than perfect.
For a more professional finish, and where a seal is required, a heat sealer is recommended. Available in most widths, these create a watertight seal at the ends of your LFT packaging, with a clean cut.
Polythene LFT thickness and width
Polythene LFT thickness can range from 32 gauge to 1,200 gauge, or 8 to 300 microns (mu). 8mu is incredibly thin and light – for comparison, a human hair is around 30 or 40 mu thick!
Learn more: Polythene thickness guide
32 gauge, ultra-light duty polythene is great for simple and undemanding tasks; butchers bags, for example, can be made with this kind of superthin polythene. Due to the blend used to get such a thin result, clarity might not be as good – but the additional opacity isn’t too noticeable when the material itself is so thin.
A thickness of 1,200 gauge (300 mu) is about a third of a millimetre, which doesn’t sound like much – but polythene is unbelievably strong stuff, and a thick sheet of it is surprisingly difficult to deform or cut without tools.
This is classed as super heavy duty polythene, which can be useful for packing and storing aggregates and reclaimed rubble, as well as other heavy, jagged materials. It’s also potentially useful for specialist packaging services, like moving precious museum artefacts.
The thickness of LFT used should be appropriate for the item being packaged – and for large metal automotive components, furniture and other bulky items, heavy duty layflat tubing (500 to 800 gauge) would be more than adequate.
NPF Packaging supplies LFT in widths from 19 mm, suitable for slim items, like pens.
Our maximum width goes up to 9,600 mm (that’s about the length of a double decker bus). But calculating the width you need is a little trickier than just matching it to the width of your product.
How to calculate the width of LFT you need
To calculate the width of layflat tubing you need for your product, you first need to know the product diameter. Let’s make it easy, and work with a value of 100 mm for our product width.
You might think that a 100 mm wide product would fit perfectly inside 100 mm LFT – but remember, LFT is folded flat, and so the 100 mm width is half the circumference, not the diameter. Once it’s opened up, the 100mm wide product won’t fit. You need a width of LFT that can package the product comfortably when it’s opened, and finding the right size takes a little help from our old mathematical friend, Pi.
To fit over a product with a 100 mm diameter, multiply the required diameter by Pi (3.14159) – this will give you the total circumference of material required, approximately 314 mm. To get the right layflat tubing width, you need to divide this measurement by 2 (because LFT is folded flat). This gives you 157 mm, which will be a very tight fit. The nearest round number is 160 mm, which will comfortably package a 100 mm-wide item.
Other polythene LFT specifications
The versatility of layflat tubing means that it comes in a huge range of specifications.
The kind you’ll need depends on the final use: for example, with frozen foods, polythene additives need to be added to the poly blend to prevent cracking in low temperatures. For UV protection, you’ll need another blend that contains a UV inhibitor (UVI). A UVI prevents the polythene film from breaking down when stored outdoors. The LFT can also be opaque, to prevent sun damage to the product.
These details should be specified when you order your layflat tubing, to make sure you get the right product – and NPF Packaging is always on hand to advise you on the best solution. Get in touch with a member of the team today.
Bespoke Packaging Solutions – from NPF Packaging
Order our fully recyclable polythene layflat tubing, specified to your exact requirements.
Get a quote now, or call us on 01773 820415.