Your guide on how to choose the correct type of void fill
There’s many different types of void fill available and it can get pretty confusing trying to decide which is best for you. Below we explain the various considerations and which void fill products do which jobs, so you can make a better decision about which voidfil will be best for you.
There are 4 main different types of void fill. Each types does a different job and is needed in different applications. Understanding which type of void fill applies to your products and packing process is key to finding out which void fill is best for you.
Block and Brace: This method is often used for strong heavy items like car parts, tools, or motors, it’s where you use voidfil to wedge an item in a box to stop it moving. This method needs a strong voidfil that is matched to the weight of the items so it resists crushing and keeps your items held tightly.
Protective: Often void fill needs to adequately protect items from bumps and bashes as it travels through courier systems. For this you need a soft squashy void fill that will act as a cushion. You should use this method if you are packing delicate and fragile items that need a soft ride.
Wrapping & Coiling: If your items are both heavy and delicate you will need to wrap or coil your protective packaging around them. For this you need a strong and sturdy void fill, one that won’t compress too much or move around in transit. In this application the wider the void fill is the better as it is quicker and easier to wrap with.
Top Fill: When just filling a void in the top of a box you can use the lightest and most cost-effective voidfil methods. Look for one that gives the highest volume per £ and match with a dispenser that dispenses the void fill quickly.You will most likely have some large voids to fill in some parcels and a fast dispenser will help speed your packing up.
The 4 Void Fill Issues to Watch Out For
There are some common issues with void fill that you need to watch out for. Understanding these issues and which ones apply to your packing process can help you pack more effectively at a lower cost.
Crushing: Some voidfils tend to crush if heavy items are being packed. When this happens spaces appear in the box and items can start moving around as well as the protection levels being reduced because the padding is crushed. Paper is particularly prone to this but you can get machines that crumple the paper in different ways to support more weight so always test various paper systems to find the one that works best for your products.
Settling: Void Fill often settles when it is vibrated during transit. You can see this best with loosefill, try filling a box with loosefill and then shake the box gently, you will see a gap appearing in the top of the box. If this happens during transit it leaves room for your items to move around and bang against each other increasing the risk of damage. Larger pieces of void fill don’t settle as much, so air pillows and foam packing is very good for this. If you notice settling becoming an issue, try shaking the box before sealing and topping up if needed.
Void Fill Migration: Void Fill migration is when void fill moves around in a box during transit. When this happens often the items you packed move towards each other or towards the bottom/sides of the box risking them hitting together or being damaged by impact. Air pillows and loosefill are prone to this kind of movement so if void fill migration is an issue try a paper void fill. Paper void fill locks into itself and reduces the movement and migration.
Product Migration: This is often linked with voidfil migration and it is when the items you packed can move around in the box. Loosefill is particularly bad for this as any heavy items tend to settle towards the bottom of the box and push the loosefill out of the way. Using layering techniques with air pillow void fill and keeping the pillows joined together is a good way of reducing product migration.
Space Filling: Making sure even the smallest gaps are filled with void fill can help reduce voidfil and product migration. Smaller air pillows and lighter paper void fills are easier to stuff into smaller spaces, if your pillows are too big or your paper void fill is too sturdy they won’t fit.
How to know if you do actually need void fill
Understanding if you actually do need void fill could help you save hundreds of pounds. Some online stores just void fill because they always have done and in some cases they don't actually need to! Below we explain when you need void fill and when you don't.
What Void fill is Good For: Void fill does two primary jobs, it fills voids in a box (hence the name) and also protects and cushions the items you are packing. Some voidfils are better for filling voids and others are better for protecting and cushioning. It’s a good idea to ask yourself, is filling voids or protection the most important? Void fill that just fills voids tends to give a lower cost per parcel but it won’t offer the same protection levels so asking that question helps to identify which void fill would be best for you.
When You Don’t Need Void Fill: If your products are sturdy or if they are already supplied in ‘Mailer Ready’ packaging you most probably don’t need to spend money on void fill. A standard test is the 1metre drop test where you drop a parcel from 1m on each side of the box without the contents becoming damaged. Remember that it’s only a small percentage of parcels that are dropped or badly treated so balance the cost of packing with the cost of damages (remembering that the true cost of damages is a lot more than just the cost of the damaged item).
Rather than filling voids in your boxes with void fill there are a few alternatives you can explore that may work better for you. All of these options help to remove costly void fill from your parcels and provide other options to protect and pack online orders without it.
Film Retention Packaging: Retention packaging is a method of packaging where the item being packed is retained in the centre of a box by a layer of stretchy or shrinkable film. This leaves a crumple zone all around the item to protect it from damage. By retaining the product in the box you are eliminating the need for void fill and as a result reducing the amount of packaging you use.
Strapped Retention Packaging: This method is similar to the film retention packaging above but instead of the layer of film one or two straps are used. Using strapping in place of the film is better for heavier products as the strap can take more weight and higher tensions can be achieved.
Air Cushion Packaging: This is a type of packaging that blows up like a balloon around your items carefully holding them in a bubble of air. This is a very quick and cost effective method of packaging and allows you to pack many different sizes of items with just air for void fill.
Cardboard or Foam Fittings: If your items are regular sizes and shapes you could save time and money by getting a specially shaped fitting designed. Even the most complex shaped items can be packed very simply by using CAD design programs to create a custom fitting. Because the fitting is designed specially for the product it fits in quickly and easily helping you to pack faster and more efficiently.
Variable Height Boxes: Boxes that can be altered in height lets you reduce the box size to the size of the items inside, this means you don’t have to fill the space with void fill. Boxes like this often have multiple creases up the height of the box so you can cut down the corners and fold the closing flaps to the relevant height.
Size Adjustable Boxes & Wraps: Some box and wrap designs allow you to change the length, width and height of the box giving you a box that you can change to suit the size of the item that you are packing. This completely removes the need for void filling. Postal wraps are also faster to pack with than standard boxes so they are an all round winner.
Pulp Packaging: Internal fittings manufactured from pulp paper and moulded to shape are a very environmentally friendly method of packaging. You often see these used to pack items like electronic goods and household items. Although they are a low cost and effective way of packing large volumes of similar sized items they have their limitations when packing different sized and shaped items.