Evolution of the Shrink Sleeving Technology – A Technical Perspective

Shrink Sleeve Applicator, Tunnel, Conveyor for bottle

The introduction of the shrink sleeving technology occurred more that 35 years ago when the need to replace coating on pipes arose instead of the bituminous material used. Then polyethylene was the main material used combined with adhesive to make it more effective.

As the technology advanced new methods were developed involving cross linking of the polyolefin to achieve greater strength.

With the invention of the polyolefin came the need to develop equipment that could be used for applying the shrink film which is the shrink sleeve machine. The technology behind the shrink sleeve applicator machine is that when warm air is blown to the sleeve, it shrinks firmly on the object being covered creating an air tight seal.

Challenges in product handling that led to development of shrink sleeve

  1. The main challenge leading to the introduction of shrink sleeves was the relative ease with which products packages got damaged ruining the look of the product.
  2. Breakages of seals leading spillage and interference of the products.
  3. Printable shrink sleeves allow product descriptions and branding to be done thus improving on marketing.

International Standards Regulating Sleeving Machine Standards

The regulation and quality of packaging machinery is laid down by the International standards organization ICS 55.200 packaging machinery.

This standard lays down the requirements of a packaging system such as elimination of heavy metals and hazardous substances, provision for re use of the packaging, material recovery, Energy recovery, and degradation when disposed off.

Production Demands Enhancing Development of the Sleeve Applicator

The need to increase the total output of the organization to match consumer demand was one of the factors that led to the development of the shrink sleeve machine.

Currently sleeve applicator machines are available that can sleeve up to 50 units per minute .This is very important as it can deliver a greater volume of finished products.

Products being transported over long distances also need to be held firmly together in batches for easier handling, stacking and even counting.

Safety Considerations in Operation of Shrink Sleeve Applicator

The nature construction of the shrink sleeve applicator machine is such that safety considerations have been brought to the fore front. Heat delivery is one of the major issues that could be injurious to the operator. The machine is constructed in such a way that sleeving is done inside a tunnel or a protected environment for maximum safety.

In addition, the programmable logic control of the modern systems has sensors installed to detect any abnormal changes in the temperature and immediately shut down or regulate the energy to acceptable levels.

Raw Material Considerations for Shrink Sleeving

Various considerations need to be made while determining the shrink sleeve to use. Currently most manufacturers prefer to label their own containers and then go on to introduce the clear shrink sleeve. Clear polymeric shrink films are preferred as they enhance the appearance of the final product making it more appealing to the consumer. 


Shrink sleeve technology has come a long way in the packaging industry. The development of shrink sleeving systems was occasioned by the need to hold batches of products tightly for transportation and enhance the aesthetic appeal of the products as well as hold material safely within the package. The manufacture of shrink sleeve applicators is regulated by the ISO standards and safety considerations are factored in during the construction of the machine.

This article is posted by Arjun Rao – CEO of Multi Pack Machinery Company.

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