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Steel vs Plastic Strapping: Choosing the Ideal Strapping Material

Pallet banding, also known as pallet strapping, is the process of using metal or plastic bands to unitise, bundle or palletise products together. Banding and strapping are used in a wide range of industries – from shipping large pieces of lumber and industrial equipment to reinforcing cases in warehouses and other e-commerce fulfillment centers. Since banding different types of products together requires materials of different strength, flexibility and properties, there are many types and grades of materials that are used for that purpose.

Pallet banding

Banding is applied either manually with the help of a hand-tool, or automatically by using a machine. Either way, a band or strap is fed around the product and pulled through, before a fastening method secures the ends of the strap and removes the excess material. As briefly aforementioned, strapping and banding materials are available in different strengths with specific classifications and grades. It’s important to know the differences between band stainless steel and plastic strapping and their distinct advantages and disadvantages in order to make the right choice. How your products are transported will also affect the materials you should use.

The three most important characteristics you should pay attention to when choosing between the different banding and strapping materials are strength, recovery rates and elongation. Recovery and elongation and important for strapping loads that are susceptible to shifting. The movement of the load will apply tension to the strap, stretching it, so you’ll want the strap to elongate in order to reduce the impact of the inertia changes. The recovery ability of the band or strap indicates its ability to return to its original state.

steel strapping

Steel Strapping

This is the most commonly used and oldest strapping materials used today. It’s designed for heavy-duty tasks that require strong and secure strapping or banding. Steel, and band stainless steel is optimal for packaging heavy construction materials, industrial equipment and shipping steel coils. The features and benefits of steel strapping include: being able to handle large loads, sharp edges, hot temperatures, its high break strength, UV resistance, extreme durability and low elongation capabilities. Steel banding is applied manually with the help of a tension tool, and is then fastened by crimping a steel buckle around the ends. The excess steel banding is then cut and removed.

Plastic Strapping

Plastic strapping materials can be made of either polypropylene or polyester, and they’re available in a wide range of styles, strengths and finishes. Unlike steel banding, recovery and elongation are the two crucial factors for deciding which type of plastic band to use. Plastic banding is suitable for paper, lumber, reinforcing stretch wrapped pallets and fresh produce. Plastic banding is applied either manually with the help of a tension tool or automatically by using a strapping machine.

Plastic Strapping

Polyester strapping is the most common plastic/polymer strapping material due to its durability and strength. It features a high break strength, high levels of torsion, great elongation and high recovery rates, making it ideal for strapping and banding medium and heavy-duty loads, such as construction materials, loads that may expand, settle or contract during transit, loads that are susceptible to shifting environments or impacts like ships, and reinforcing heavy loads and packages.

The high level of recovery and elongation make polyester strapping suitable for packaging loads susceptible to shifting. The elongation helps minimise the impact of quick shifts in momentum. As the load shifts, the bands elongate, thus lessening the force of quick shifts, and its recovery capabilities pull it back into its original position.

Polypropylene banding is the most economical solution when compared to other banding materials. However, it’s designed for medium and light duty palletising, unitising and bundling. When put under consistent pressure, polypropylene banding can stretch without the ability to recover to its original length. On the upside, it has the highest level of elongation. Polypropylene banding is suitable for short transportation trips and loads protected from environmental impact.

Strapping Fasteners

Just like there are plastic and steel strapping materials, there are different types of buckles and fasteners used to fasten those materials. For steel strapping, metal buckles are the most common choice of fasteners, and they’re applied with a crimping tool. Besides metal buckles, there are plastic and wire buckles as well. Some sealers interlock the banding material and don’t need an external buckle. You can also create heat seals with a heat or friction welding process where the straps are melted to join together.

Conclusion

With so many different strapping materials and uses, it’s important to understand the purpose and goal of your strapping before you decide on the most suitable material. Will you be shipping short or long distances? Will you need more or less elongation? What type of loads are you shipping? Does the strapping material need to be UV-, rust- resistant? Are you shipping light, medium or heavy-duty loads? Answering all of these questions will allow you to make a well-informed buying decision.