Packaging Terms

We want to help you make the best consumer packaging choices for your product. To better navigate the options open to you, we have compiled relevant terms you may hear out in the market or from us. Please click on a letter to see definitions listed for that letter.

A

Antistatic agent

A compound used for treatment of materials during the production process which serves to reduce or eliminate buildup of static electricity that can attract and retain dust on a container surface at retail.

Applied ceramic labeling (ACL)

The process of screen-printing decoration onto a glass container with a vitreous enamel paint which is then baked.

Aseptic processing and packaging

The filling of a commercially sterilized cooled product into pre-sterilized containers, followed by aseptic hermetical sealing, with a pre-sterilized closure, in an atmosphere free of microorganisms.

B

Barrier, additive

A barrier that is blended into the resin before pelletization to reduce ingression of oxygen, carbon dioxide loss and ultra-violet exposure.

Barrier, coated

A sprayed lining applied in a secondary, post-molding process to protect the product contained within against oxygen entry or loss of carbon dioxide.

Barrier, multilayer

Barriers sandwiched in and among layers of virgin HDPE/PP or PET.

Biodegradability

Susceptibility of a chemical compound to depolymerization by the action of biological agents.

Bleed

Printing that goes beyond the edge of the sheet before trimming. Artwork and background colors can extend into the bleed area and after trimming, the bleed ensures that no unprinted edges occur in the final trimmed document.

Blow fill seal

Technology where a container is formed, filled, and sealed in a continuous process without human intervention, in a sterile enclosed area inside a machine. It is widely considered to be the superior form of aseptic processing.

C

Cap, child resistant

A safety closure designed to reduce risk of children accessing dangerous drugs or chemicals. Required by legislation to be used with certain products.

Cap, crown

Beverage bottles are frequently closed with crown beverage caps.  These are shallow metal caps that are crimped into locking position around the head of the bottle.

Cap, dispensing

A closure offering a means through which the product may be more easily and conveniently accessed. Includes such features as pour spouts, triggers, sprayers, pumps, sifters and measuring attachments.

Cap, lug

A cap closure for glass containers in which impressions in the side of the cap provide a grip when the cap is give a quarter turn, as compared to the full turn necessary with a screw cap.

Cap, screw

A cylindrical closure having a thread on the internal surface of the cylinder capable of engaging a comparable external thread on the finish or neck of a container, such as a glass bottle or collapsible tube.

Cap, snap-on

A type of closure for rigid containers.  The sealing action of a snap-on cap is effected by a gasket in the top of the cap that is held to the neck or spout of the container by means of a friction fit on a circumferential bead.  Material of construction is either metal or semi-rigid plastic.

Cap, tamper evident/resistant

A closure which uses special features like break-away components that can’t be re-attached or radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags to deter or provide evidence of tampering.

Cap, two-piece vacuum

Standard CT (continuous-thread) or DS (deep-screw) caps, equipped with a separate disk or lid that is lined with sealing for vacuum-packing processes.

Case

A nonspecific term for a shipping container.  In domestic commerce, ‘‘case’’ usually refers to a box made from corrugated or solid fiberboard. In maritime or export usage, ‘‘case’’ refers to wooden or metal box.

Closure

The joint or seal that is made in attaching the cover to a glass container.  Also, the type of closure, such as friction, lug, and screw top.

Closure, friction fit

An interference fit or friction fit requires some force to close and open, providing additional security.  Paint cans often have a friction fit plug.

CMYK color model

This is a subtractive color model used in color printing.  It refers to the four inks used in some color printing:  cyan, magenta, yellow and key (black).  Ink is typically applied in the order of the abbreviation.

Components

Components can be either input items or product items.  Examples of components are labels, caps, containers, seals, cartons, cases, and the product such as liquids, pastes, pills, hardware, and powders.

Computer-aided design (CAD)

This term implies the use of a computer and drafting software such as AutoCAD (trademark) to produce and store prints for layout, installation, machining, assembly, and fabrication.

Container glass

A type of glass for the production of glass containers, such as bottles, jars, drinkware, and bowls.  Most container glass is soda-lime glass, produced by blowing and pressing techniques, while some laboratory glassware is made from borosilicate glass.

Contract manufacturer

An outside company contracted to manufacture or package a product.

D

Dealkalization

A process of surface modification applicable to glasses containing alkali ions, wherein a thin surface layer is created that has a lower concentration of alkali ions than is present in the underlying, bulk glass. This change in surface composition commonly alters the observed properties of the surface, most notably enhancing corrosion resistance.

Detergent

Surface-active material or combination of surfactants designed for removal of unwanted contamination from the surface of an article.

Drop test

A test for measuring the properties of a container by subjecting the packaged product to a free fall from predetermined heights onto a surface with prescribed characteristics.

E

Embossing

A process in which an image or lettering is created by carving, molding or stamping it on a plastic or glass container so that it stands out in relief.

Extrusion

The process of forcing a material in plastic condition through an orifice.

Extrusion coating

The coating of a molten web of synthetic resin on to a substrate material. It is a versatile coating technique used for the economic application of various plastics, notably polyethylene, onto paperboard, corrugated fiberboard, paper, aluminum foils, cellulose or plastic films.

F

Flame treatment

A process by which the surface molecular structure of a plastic component is chemically changed to improve label and ink adhesion as well as ensure coatings retain luster and metallization.

Feasibility studies

Experimental studies on a process or equipment to access what results are achievable and/or what will be required to produce a desired result.

Finish, blown

A finish which is blowmolded at the same time as the bottle. It is lighter than other finish applications, but results in uneven inner walls across the entire finish height, limiting sealing options.

Finish, captured

A finish formed by compressing the resin between the blowpin and the neck ring. By packing the finish in this way, it provides a smooth sealing surface and holds a consistent internal diameter from the top sealing surface to ~150” down into the finish. Allows extrusion bottles to utilize closures that seal on the inner finish walls, such as plugs.

Finish, injected

A finish where the design is injection molded to the final geometry and is more dimensionally accurate than other finish types. This, combined with a smooth inside wall throughout the entire height of the finish, makes it reliable for sealing and consistency.

Flavor scalping

A term used in the packaging industry to describe the loss of quality of a packaged item due to either its volatile flavors being absorbed by the packaging or the item absorbing undesirable flavors from its packaging.

Freight on board (FOB)

The term used to signify that the seller is required to bear all costs required to place the goods aboard equipment of the transporting carrier. The stated FOB point is usually the location where title to the goods passes to the buyer. The buyer is liable for all charges and risks after passing of title.

G

Glass, beveled

Made by taking thick glass and creating an angled surface cut around the entire periphery.  Bevels act as prisms in the sunlight creating an interesting color diffraction which both highlights the glass work and provides a spectrum of colors.

Glass, frosted

Produced by sandblasting or acid etching clear sheet glass.  It has the effect of rendering the glass translucent by scattering of light during transmission, thus blurring images while still transmitting light.

Good manufacturing practices (GMP)

A document that describes agreed-to best or optimal procedures for manufacturing.

H

Headspace

The vertical distance between the level of the product (generally the liquid surface) and the inside surface of the lid in an upright, rigid container.

Hermetic seal

The quality of being airtight.

Hermetically sealed container

A container designed and intended to be secured hermetically against the entry of microorganisms and to maintain the commercial sterility of its contents after processing.

High-density polyethylene (HDPE)

A resin with high melt strength and processibility, making it an ideal material for extrusion blow molding (recycling code 2). HDPE is resistant to many different solvents, and is applicable for a variety of products like pharmaceuticals, motor oils, dairy, personal care and household care items.

Hot stamping

Dry printing method in which pre-dried ink or foils are transferred to a surface at high temperatures. The non-polluting method has diversified to include a variety of colors and processes.

I

Impact strength 

The ability of a material to withstand mechanical shock.

Induction sealing

Also known as cap sealing, it is a non-contact method of heating a metallic disk to hermetically seal the top of plastic and glass containers.

J

Just-in-time (JIT)

First used by Toyota in Japan, it has been successful in reducing inventory while maintaining high throughput and increased quality. In simple terms, JIT means that regardless of what disasters happen in the packaging process, you have the excess capacity to guarantee the highest probability of attaining the exact delivery window required by the customer with quality packages.

L

Label

Any display of written, printed, or graphic matter on the container of any consumer commodity, affixed to any package containing a consumer commodity.

Label, cut and stack

A high quality, multicolor spot or full wrap label applied to a container with adhesive.

Label, fold-out

A label option used when package is not large enough for a single label to carry all required information.

Labeling, in-mold

The use of paper or plastic labels during the manufacturing of containers by blow molding, injection molding, or thermoforming processes. The label serves as the integral part of the final product, which is then delivered as pre-decorated item. Combining the decoration process with the molding process cuts the total cost, but can increase the manufacturing time.

Label, pressure sensitive

A self-adhesive label applied with light pressure.

Label, roll-fed

A full wrap label which provides a similar look to that of a pressure sensitive label but at a lower cost.

Label, shrink sleeve

A polymer plastic film label applied when passed through a heat tunnel. Shrinks or molds to a variety of plastic container shapes, providing wrap-around messaging surface.

Label, smart

Regular label stock with a radio-frequency identification (RFID) chip embedded under the surface. Used to collect and process information for identification and tracking purposes.

Laser marking

Similar to the idea behind etching, this process uses a laser beam to create white letters or designs on a plastic container.

Liner

Generally, any liner material that separates a product within a container from the basic walls of the container.

Living hinge

A thin flexible hinge (flexure bearing) made from the same material as the two rigid pieces it connects, rather than cloth, leather, or some other flexible substance. It is typically thinned or cut to allow the rigid pieces to bend along the line of the hinge.

Low-density polyethylene (LDPE)

A resin made from the monomer ethylene (recycling code 4). It is not reactive at room temperatures, except by strong oxidizing agents, and some solvents cause swelling. It can withstand temperatures of 80 °C continuously and 95 °C for a short time. Made in translucent or opaque variations, it is quite flexible, and tough but breakable. Used for manufacturing various containers, dispensing bottles, wash bottles and plastic bags.

M

Mechanical shock

A sudden acceleration or deceleration caused by impact, drop or kick.

Metallized films

Polymer films coated with a thin layer of metal, usually aluminum. They offer the glossy metallic appearance of an aluminum foil at a reduced weight and cost.

Modified atmosphere

The practice of modifying the composition of the internal atmosphere of a package (commonly food packages, drugs, etc.) in order to improve the shelf life.

Molding, extrusion blow (EBM)

A manufacturing process in which a hollow tube is placed in a blow cavity where the entire bottle and finish are blown at once. Allows for handle formation and does not require both a preform and blow tooling. However, the inner wall is not smooth and the outer tolerances have a wide range of variation.

Molding, injection

A manufacturing process for producing parts in which pellets are melted down into a liquefied resin and flooded into a mold. This allows for precise molding of the exterior and interior geometry throughout the entire product.

Molding, injection blow (IBM)

A manufacturing process in which pellets are melted and injected into a preform that is the same length as the final bottle, so no stretching is required.

Molding, injection stretch blow (ISBM)

A manufacturing process where resin pellets are melted down and injected into a preform. The preform is placed into a blow mold, where the heated preform is stretched and blown using pressurized air, and conformed to the design and geometry of the mold. It provides a superior seal because it retains its original intended geometry.

Molding, rotational

A manufacturing process which involves a heated hollow mold filled with a charge or shot weight of material. It is slowly rotated causing the softened material to disperse and stick to the walls of the mold. In order to maintain even thickness throughout the part, the mold continues to rotate at all times during the heating phase and to avoid sagging or deformation also during the cooling phase.

Mylar

A synthetic polyester fiber or film.

N

Neck

The part of a container where the bottle cross section decreases to form the finish.

O

O-ring

A closure liner or gasket made of pulp or foam cap liner. Gives a closure the ability to adjust to manufacturing variation to ensure a tight seal.

P

Packaging, anti-counterfeiting

Packages engineered to help reduce the risks of package pilferage or the theft and resale of products. Authentication seals and security printing help indicate that the package and contents are not counterfeit. Anti-theft devices, such as dye-packs, RFID tags or electronic article surveillance tags, can be activated or detected by devices at exit points and require specialized tools to deactivate.

Packaging, primary

The material that first envelops the product and holds it. This usually is the smallest unit of distribution or use and is the package that is in direct contact with the contents.

Packaging, secondary

This is outside the primary packaging, perhaps used to group primary packages together.

Packaging, tertiary

This is used for bulk handling, warehouse storage and transport shipping. The most common form is a palletized unit load that packs tightly into containers.

Paneling distortion

Sidewall collapses of a container caused by development of a reduced pressure too high to vacuum inside the container.

Pasteurization

A relatively mild heat treatment of food, intended to destroy all organisms dangerous to health, or a heat treatment that destroys some but not all microorganisms that cause food spoilage or that interfere with a desirable fermentation.

Permeability

The passage of a gas, vapor, or liquid through a barrier without physically or chemically affecting it.

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET)

A versatile resin with notable thermal performance and unparalleled clarity (recycling code 1). PET is most commonly used for soft drinks, water, juices, teas, food, personal care products and spirits, and is the preferred resin for products that are hot filled (heat set)

Polypropylene (PP)

A resin which offers high temperature resistance, and when combined with multilayer EVOH, provides effective barrier to oxygen and moisture while enabling moderate levels of clarity in various molding processes (recycling code 5). PP is most commonly used for hotfill applications, especially in hotfill food. Additionally, PP is the only rigid plastic that can be used for retort.

Polystyrene (PS)

A synthetic aromatic polymer made from the monomer styrene, a liquid petrochemical (recycling code 6). Polystyrene can be rigid or foamed. General purpose polystyrene is clear, hard and brittle. It is a very inexpensive resin per unit weight. It is a rather poor barrier to oxygen and water vapor and has a relatively low melting point. Polystyrene can be naturally transparent, but can be colored with colorants. Uses include protective packaging, containers, lids, and bottles. It is very slow to biodegrade and therefore a focus of controversy.

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)

The third-most widely produced plastic (recycling code 3). It can be made softer and more flexible by the addition of plasticizers. PVC has high hardness and mechanical properties. The heat stability of PVC is very poor. When the temperature reaches 140 °C, PVC starts to decompose. It is often used for non-food bottles.

Printing, digital

A process in which a computer-generated image is transmitted directly to an output device. Used with paper, photo paper, glass, metal, marble and other substances. Technique for printing on applied labels.

Printing, flexo

A process which utilizes a flexible relief plate and water based inks. Used with plastic, metallic films, cellophane, and paper. Technique for printing on applied labels.

Printing, gravure

A process in which a copper plate is coated with a light-sensitive gelatin tissue, exposed to a film positive, and then etched. Used with paper or cardboard. Technique for printing on applied labels.

Printing, offset

A process in which the inked image is transferred from a plate to a rubber blanket, then to the printing surface. Used with paper, canvas, cloth or wood. Technique for printing on applied labels or directly on container.

Printing, silk screen

A process which utilizes a mesh-based stencil to apply layers of ink onto a surface. Used with textiles, ceramics, wood, paper, glass, metal and plastic. Technique for printing on applied labels or directly on container.

Product stability (K value)

The ability of the product to be handled in a stable and consistent manner. A beer bottle, for example, has all the features necessary to make it a stable and consistent product: cylindrical parallel shape; relatively low center of gravity; heavy, smooth base for stability and low friction; relatively hard to break; a shape that remains stable throughout the packaging cycle.

Prototype

An early sample, model or release of a product built to test a concept or process.

Q

Quality control

A system for assuring that commercial products meet certain standards of identity, fill of container, quality sanitation and adequate plant procedures.

R

Roll on pilfer proof (ROPP)

Tamper-evident device suitable for beverages or pharmaceuticals.

S

Shelf life

The length of time that a product will maintain market acceptability under specified conditions of storage.

Source reduction

The mass and volume of packaging (per unit of contents) can be measured and used as one of the criteria to minimize during the package design process. Usually “reduced” packaging also helps minimize costs.

SPI resin identification coding system

A set of symbols placed on plastics to identify the polymer type. The primary purpose of the codes is to allow efficient separation of different polymer types for recycling.

Spray coating

A process in which a plastic or glass container is sprayed with a coating to create a customized color, effect or even a textured finish. May be applied to the container as a whole or in sections to create dimension.

Stock keeping unit (SKU)

An industry term that details the assortment or variety of items shipped in ‘‘one’’ physical case.

Sustainability

The quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance. In relative terms, this is a lifecycle assessment which considers the material and energy inputs and outputs to a package, the packaged product, the packaging process, the logistics system and waste management.

T

Thermoforming

A manufacturing process where a plastic sheet is heated to a pliable forming temperature, formed to a specific shape in a mold, and trimmed to create a usable product.

Torque

The rotational force applied during application or removal of a closure from a bottle.

V

Vacuum forming

A simplified version of thermoforming, whereby a sheet of plastic is heated to a forming temperature, stretched onto or into a single-surface mold, and held against the mold by applying a vacuum between the mold surface and the sheet.

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