Often the terms stretch wrap and shrink wrap are used interchangeably, but these versatile materials have different purposes and are applied differently. Stretch wrap is an elastic plastic material that can be stretched tightly over material loads to secure the load for shipping. By contrast, shrink wrap is often used to bundle smaller items together. Shrink wrap can be applied loosely and then heated to shrink it down to create a vacuum seal that protects items from environmental forces like weathering or dust. Stretch wrap typically comes in continuous rolls of plastic in varying degrees of strength and load capacity. Each type features properties specific to their intended application. For example, some wraps are meant to conceal contents from view for security purposes. Others are specifically designed to protect shipments from moisture, dust or static. Stretch wrap can be applied by hand or machine, depending on the job. The gauge is the measure of the wrap's thickness, which varies depending on purpose. Generally the higher the gauge, the higher its resistance to breakage. General-purpose 80-gauge wrap is the industry standard, and can secure loads up to 2,400 lbs. Higher-gauge wraps tend to be a little more expensive, so it's important that you choose the gauge that's right for the load. It's also important to keep in mind that while higher gauge wraps are thicker, and a bit more expensive, the higher strength means you don't need to wrap around loads as many times as a thinner gauge wrap, so you use less and help reduce the incidence of worker fatigue, especially if this is a task that is repeated throughout a worker's day.Pre-stretched wrap is mechanically stretched almost to the breaking point and offers a lighter-weight option to the industry standard 80-gauge films while providing the same performance for load stability and tension. These wraps can also help to prevent worker fatigue because they require less energy to apply. Some newer options, such as the high-performance technology wraps, now offer better puncture resistance and strength at lower gauges. Here's a quick look at the most common stretch wrap gauges, and their applications.