Should you use steel strapping or plastic strapping for your products? Both forms of strapping are widely used. It’s worth considering the differences between them so that you can make the best choice for each product and situation.
When choosing a strapping material, your first consideration is tensile and break strength. Tensile strength refers to the ability of a material to be stretched and tensioned. In contrast, break strength refers to the greatest forces of stress and tension that a material can withstand without breaking. a
Steel strapping and plastic strapping are available in many different strengths, and steel is no longer the clear choice when it comes to strength. Some forms of polyester and composite strapping are as strong as steel.
Steel strapping or plastic strapping?
Generally speaking, steel strapping is heavier than plastic strapping. It can also be challenging for workers to use—safety is always an issue when using steel strapping.
Basically, steel is dangerous because of its sharp edges and propensity for recoil. When it’s under tension and snaps, steel whips unpredictably: this is extremely dangerous to workers in the vicinity.
However, when you’re dealing with heavy and dangerous loads, steel strapping is a clear choice. Cost is always an issue, and steel strapping is cost-effective when compared to polyester or composite strapping. In addition, it’s available in different tensile strengths and can be tensioned and re-tensioned as often as necessary.
If you’re concerned with recycling, both steel and plastic strapping can be recycled.
However, there are differences between the two materials. For reasons of efficiency, safety, cost, and productivity, it’s essential to understand them.
Let’s look at both forms of strapping in more detail to consider the differences.
Steel strapping: traditional, secure, and can be re-tensioned as necessary
When you’re packaging and transporting heavy and bulky loads, steel strapping is traditional as well as expected. With heavy loads, the weight of the strapping isn’t an issue. And, as we’ve mentioned, steel strapping can be adjusted and retightened should a load shift in transport.
Additional benefits of steel strapping include:
- It’s designed with an emphasis on tensile strength with a minimum of stretch. For this reason, it’s much-used in heavy industries, such as the construction, logging, and mining industries.
- If corrosion may be an issue, steel strapping is also available as stainless steel. While more expensive, stainless steel has the same tensile strength as steel.
- In situations where goods might be damaged by the sharp edges of steel, edge protectors can protect goods.
Recycling is easy with steel, too; recycling has always been part of the steel industry: a full two-thirds of all steel is manufactured from recycled materials.
Plastic strapping: polypropylene, polyester, and composite
While many different types of plastic strapping, polypropylene, polyester and composite strapping are the most common.
Not only is polypropylene strapping lightweight, but it’s also popular because it’s so economical. Used in industries where light to medium loads are the norm, polypropylene isn’t suitable for heavy loads because of its low tensile strength.
With its inclination to stretch, polypropylene can be dangerous when used with heavy and bulky loads. Its stretchiness means that loads will shift in transport.
Another form of plastic strapping, polyester strapping, can be stronger than steel when considered by weight. With its increased stretch and lighter weight, it’s also less dangerous to workers than steel.
However, although its stretch-ability is advantageous for some loads where it maintains tension as loads shift, that propensity to stretch can also be a challenge. Over time, polyester strapping loses the ability to keep its tension.
Polyester strapping can be challenging in hard climates too. Unlike steel, over time, it can become sensitive to UV light, degrading its performance.
It’s worth considering that a benefit of polyester over steel is that it’s less prone to price fluctuations. In some forms (depending on tensile strength), polyester can be less expensive than steel too.
Sometimes known as “synthetic steel,” composite strapping is made from polyester yarns in a polymer coating and is the strongest form of plastic strapping.
Composite has all the benefits of a polyester: strength, even though it’s light, it’s also safe for workers because it has a high linear breaking strength.
However, the cost can be a challenge.
It can also be challenging to assess which forms of composite strapping are best for your products because it’s available in many different forms and widths.
If you’re considering composite strapping, ask your supplier to show you the independent testing results done on the strapping. This will enable you to check the product’s linear breaking strength, its system breaking strength, as well as its heat resistance.
Steel versus plastic strapping: choose the best product for your situation
Ultimately, when you’re looking for a strapping material, the material you choose will depend on your products. You have a wide choice in both steel and plastic, so you’re sure to find the right strapping for you.