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Bubble wrap
Bubble wrap
Square-shaped bubble wrap for house insulation
Square-shaped bubble wrap for house insulation

Bubble wrap is a pliable transparent plastic material used for packing fragile items. Regularly spaced, protruding air-filled hemispheres (bubbles) provide cushioning for fragile items.

In 1957 two inventors named Alfred Fielding and Marc Chavannes were attempting to create a three-dimensional plastic wallpaper. Although the idea was a failure, they found that what they made could be used as packing material. Sealed Air was co-founded by Fielding in 1960.[1]

The term "bubble wrap" is owned by Sealed Air Corporation, but has become a generic trademark.[2][3] Similar product names include bubble pack,[note 1] [4] air bubble packing, bubble wrapping and aeroplast.

Design

Bubble wrap, standard and with colored markings as electrostatic discharge materials, and in different bubble size
Bubble wrap, standard and with colored markings as electrostatic discharge materials, and in different bubble size

The bubbles that provide the cushioning for fragile or sensitive objects are generally available in different sizes, depending on the size of the object being packed, as well as the level of cushioning protection needed. Multiple layers may be needed to provide shock and vibration isolation, while a single layer may simply be used as a surface protective layer. Bubble wrap is also used to form some types of mailing envelopes.

Bubble wrap is most often formed from polyethylene (LDPE) film with a shaped side bonded to a flat side to form air bubbles. Some types of bubble wrap have a lower permeation barrier film to allow longer useful life and resistance to loss of air in vacuums.

The bubbles can be as small as 6 millimetres (0.24 inches) in diameter, to as large as 26 millimetres (1.0 inch) or more, to provide added levels of shock absorption during transit. The most common bubble size is 1 centimeter.[5] In addition to the degree of protection available from the size of the air bubbles in the plastic, the plastic material itself can offer some forms of protection for the object in question. For example, when shipping sensitive electronic parts and components, a type of bubble wrap is used that employs an anti-static plastic that dissipates static charge, thereby protecting the sensitive electronic chips from static which can damage them. One of the first widespread uses of bubble wrap came in 1960, with the shipping of the new IBM 1401 computers to customers, most of whom had never seen this packing material before.[6]

In 2015 Sealed Air launched an "iBubble Wrap" design, the bubbles of which are connected in strips. This allows the wrap to be shipped flat to retailers (taking up around 1/50 of the space in transit), who can inflate it with an air pump prior to using it for packaging. The connection between pockets means that the bubbles on iBubble Wrap cannot be "popped".[7]

Amusement

A child playing with bubble wrap
A child playing with bubble wrap

Since bubble wrap makes a satisfying popping sound when compressed and ruptured, it is often used as a source of amusement. Acknowledging this alternative use, some websites provide a virtual bubble wrap program which displays a sheet of bubble wrap that users may pop by clicking on the bubbles, while the Mugen Puchipuchi is a compact electronic toy simulating bubble wrap popping. Products such as Pop-Its, which can be inverted and popped again, rose significantly in popularity in 2021, marketed as a stress reliever.[8]

Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day is celebrated on the last Monday of January.[9][10][11] The last Monday of January was designated as Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day after a radio station in Bloomington, Indiana, received a shipment of microphones wrapped in bubble wrap and broadcast the sound of their wrappings being popped.[12]

Alternatives

A similar but recyclable form of packaging, sometimes marketed as "paper bubble wrap", consists of thick paper with a heavily embossed pattern, which can be wrapped around objects to protect them in transit.

See also

References

Notes
  1. ^ The term "bubble pack" can also refer to a blister pack
Citations
  1. ^ "Bubble Film and Bags". Packaging Knowledge. Retrieved September 28, 2010.
  2. ^ Petch, Michael (December 2, 2019). "The hype and rise of 3D printing and Avi Reichental". 3DPrintingIndustry.com. Retrieved December 17, 2019.
  3. ^ "Has bubble wrap become a generic trademark?". genericides.org. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  4. ^ "Bubble pack". Your Dictionary. Retrieved July 19, 2014.
  5. ^ Bubble Wrap Sizes
  6. ^ Time-Life Books (Aug 2016). American Inventions: Big Ideas That Changed Modern Life. Liberty Street. ISBN 9781683306313.
  7. ^ Chao, Loretta (July 1, 2015). "Revamped Bubble Wrap Loses Its Pop". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved June 20, 2017.
  8. ^ Tate, Allison (July 7, 2021). "Viral 'popit' toys are the new fidget spinners. What are they?". Today. Retrieved August 29, 2021.
  9. ^ "StorageMart Celebrates National Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day". Inside Self-Storage. February 3, 2012.
  10. ^ River, Nate (January 26, 2009). "For Stress Release: Bubblewrap Appreciation Day". Regular Folks United. Archived from the original on March 20, 2012. Retrieved September 23, 2009.((cite web)): CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  11. ^ "Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day". Sealed Air North America. Archived from the original on January 24, 2011. Retrieved February 27, 2011.
  12. ^ Barron, James (January 25, 2010). "Celebrating Half a Century of Loud, Soothing Pops". The New York Times. Retrieved May 1, 2013.
Further reading