The benefits of a foam-in-place system

Getting packaging decisions right is crucial for any company that has a need to ship products. If an order arrives broken at the buyer's door – whether the buyer is a consumer or another business – that relationship will also be damaged.

Depending on what a company regularly ships, packaging decisions can be relatively simple or complex. Shipping fairly durable items, such as books or clothing, minimizes the risk of damage. Boxes or even bags with minimal void fill should do the trick. In these instances, it's important to contain and protect, but there is little chance of breakage.

Other items are more sensitive to shock and motion during transport. Expensive electronic items, anything made of glass or ceramics and other delicate items require more forethought into the packaging decisions. If they have a unique shape, this could cause even more difficulty in deciding which protective packaging solution is best.

An all-inclusive solution
One popular type of packaging for these instances is foam-in-place. This is for good reason: Foam is incredibly shock-absorbent, and foam-in-place systems are highly versatile.


Foam-in-place systems involve two chemicals combining in real time to form a unique foam mold around the product itself. The mixture is collected in a polyethylene bag to protect the item itself, then rapidly expands, encapsulating the product in its own custom shell.

DoItYourself noted that the item is typically placed in the box or container in which it will be shipped first. Once the foam is applied, the package is ready to go. However, a company can also create a wooden mold for an item so the foam protection can be created without the item actually being present.

Storage ease
When making packaging decisions, there are more factors at play than effectiveness and consumer satisfaction, though these are two of the most important ones. Beyond them, however, businesses must think about ease of use, the ability to stock up on an item and cost-effectiveness.

In each of these aspects, foam-in-place systems have an advantage.

When the two chemicals come in contact, they rapidly expand as much as 200 times in size. This makes for thick and sturdy packaging around the item, but it also demonstrates how little room the pre-combined liquids take up. They can be stored away easily without getting in the way of other tasks that need to be accomplished or other materials and goods that need to be stored in the same location.

A foam-in-place system can keep motors safe during transport.
It's important to keep motors safe during transport. A foam-in-place system can absorb shock and vibrations during transport.


Learning curve
Using foam-in-place systems can also be very easy to learn for packers. According to Packaging World, Pregis' foam-in-place system, Maxwell, accomplishes this effectively. The system comes complete with an interface that allows the owner to provide instructional videos or photos to help packers understand how to operate the device. This is important considering the versatility of foam-in-place systems typically leads to many different items being packaged with it.

"In packaging operations which rely on FIP, workers are typically asked to package many different types of products," John Gee, IntelliPack Systems' national sales manager, explained. "Maxwell is capable of providing specific instructions regarding both material usage and bag placement for optimum protection. The operator can look at the screen to follow easy-to-understand photos or videos. These are also ideal for training and troubleshooting. Maxwell takes the guesswork out of the FIP packaging operation."

This also allows for a package to have great protection without excess packaging materials. In today's world where dimensional weight is a concern for businesses trying to keep shipping costs down, this is essential. Packers can also control how much foam is used for an item, giving them the ability to ensure the result isn't wasteful yet the package arrives perfectly intact.

Custom casing
Since the product forms the protective casing around the item quickly, production can be sped up. Packers won't need to strategize wrapping techniques or carefully-placed void fill materials because the foam creates a shell as unique as the shape and size of the item.

For those businesses shipping delicate or irregularly-shaped items, a foam-in-place system could be the best way to ensure packages are delivered with care.