In case you missed it, Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day was January 30. In reaction to that yearly announcement, PlasticsToday posted an online poll January 31 to gauge just how much our audience of plastics industry professionals appreciate the iconic cushioning…or don’t. Dozens of our web visitors participated.
Well, it didn’t turn out to be much of a contest, with two-thirds (68%) voting that they like Bubble Wrap.
Not to burst anyone’s bubble, though, we also found that one-third were either lukewarm or downright don’t like it.
It turns out that Bubble Wrap inventor and maker Sealed Air has heard the voice of the customer with a solution that answers both of those potential shortcomings: Bubble Wrap IB, an on-demand inflatable version that was introduced in January 2016.
It is sold and ships as a flat role of plastic film that’s then inflated by a machine that fills the plastic cells with air. By inflating at the point of use, Bubble Wrap IB can reduce the number of trucks required to supply a customer’s operation by nearly 97%.
The cushioning’s design diminishes its poppability.
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“Rather than each cell filling with air individually, air is pushed through a row of cells and then sealed,” explains Pam Davis, global communications manager - product care. “Eventually, each row in the pattern is inflated which creates a continuous channel of bubbles. Bubble Wrap IB doesn’t pop because when a cell is pressed, the air moves across the channel into the cell next to it. Basically, the air moves rather than escapes and it's the escaping that causes the pop.”
But for those who want their Bubble Wrap IB to keep its pop, there’s a workaround. “With a twist and some added pressure, Bubble Wrap IB will pop,” Davis adds.
The product has proven to be a highly successful introduction.
"Because Bubble Wrap IB can be inflated by the user in whatever quantity is needed, when it’s needed, it’s become the most successful solution in Sealed Air's inflatable packaging line," says Kim Gillis, global executive marketing director for Sealed Air. "With Bubble Wrap IB, companies can create packaging on site to fit precise needs, which helps reduce freight costs, simplify order fulfillment, and optimize the efficiency of shipping facilities."
Bubble wrap continues to evolve
In conjunction with Appreciation Day and within the last month Sealed Air sought input from consumers as to what the next shaped wrap would be. The "Pop the Vote" contest was created to promote the new Bubble Wrap IB Expressions line, which offers inflatable shapes such as stars and hearts and greetings such as thank you and happy birthday. Consumers and fans in the “Pop the Vote” contest cast ballots for a favorite among three categories of shaped cells.
Next page: The winner is...
The specific shapes were:
Greetings – Thank You, Congrats, Hugs & Kisses XOXO;
Shapes – Ice cream cone, Sun, Flower, Dog Bone, Music Notes; and
Patterns – Basket wave, Cable knit, Chevron.
The winning design revealed February 17 was Dog Bone, which received the most overall votes among all the designs that were presented, according to Davis.
Fascinating Bubble Wrap facts
We wrap up our coverage of the iconic cushioning with these historical tidbits: Bubble Wrap originated in 1957 as a new wall covering formed by laminating two plastic sheets with air bubbles in between. At least that’s what inventors Alfred W. Fielding and Marc Chavannes set out to create.
Not surprising, it didn’t catch on as interior décor. However, the material's light weight and insulating properties proved useful first as greenhouse insulation and then as the world-famous packing material.
It was so successful that in 1960, Fielding and Chavannes founded Sealed Air Corp. with Bubble Wrap as the company's signature brand.
The rest, as they say, is part of packaging history.