Let’s clarify the difference between the horizontal and vertical axis in pallet wrapping. Orbital wrapping machines wrap the stretch wrap around a horizontal axis. Horizontal turntable wrappers wrap the stretch wrap around a vertical axis – like a flagpole. I think the use of the word horizontal for the turntables is the reason for the confusion, even within the packaging and material handling industries. This matters for people about to buy a pallet wrapping machine because some products or pallet loads are more efficiently and effectively wrapped using an orbital wrapper on a horizontal axis while others can be wrapped on a horizontal turntable wrapper around a vertical axis just fine. But some pallet loads just won’t work very well on one or the other.

When wrapping around a horizontal axis, the pallet load stays in place and the orbital wrapping machine spins the stretch wrap around the axis. When wrapping around a vertical axis like a flagpole, the turntable wrapping machine and stretch wrap roll typically stay in place and the pallet load spins around the axis while sitting on a platform. This setup naturally restricts the pallet sizes it can wrap to the size of the platform. If you’re going to be using a standard, square pallet every time, then this may not be an issue. With an orbital wrapper, the inner diameter of the wrapping ring determines the size of the pallet and pallet load that can be wrapped.

The spinning action of the pallet load around the vertical axis on a turntable wrapper also creates centrifugal forces that try to push the load off the pallet during the wrapping process – it’s like sitting in the Mad Hatter’s tea cups at Disney. If you’re wrapping heavy boxes or products of a uniform size and consistent weight, and/or there’s a low center of gravity that can resist physics and stay on the pallet while being wrapped then this may not be an issue. A key takeaway to understand is that wrapping around a vertical axis only wraps the product to itself. The sides may be secured in plastic wrap but the top and bottom are left unwrapped and unattached to anything. This makes it easier to slip and slide in transit, and lift truck drivers need to pay close attention to avoid accidents.

Wrapping around a horizontal axis, on the other hand, allows the orbital wrapper to apply the stretch wrap 360 degrees around both the pallet and the load – this gives it a tight squeeze. It creates just the right amount of compression force to keep everything in place without shifting in transit or sliding when pulled from storage. This also allows all four sides of the pallet load and the top and bottom to be secured inside the stretch film and protected from the elements.

If you’re planning to wrap a number of different boxes or products of different sizes, shapes, and weights on the same pallet at the same time, or if you’re planning to wrap long products on rectangular pallets, or very lightweight or oddly shaped products, then wrapping around a vertical axis with a turntable wrapping machine probably isn’t going to work very well. Orbital wrappers can wrap anything that can fit in the wrapping ring. For extruded rods, profiles, and other long parts, wrapping moves continuously. Theoretically, they can wrap long products in infinite lengths, non-stop, forever, or until the stretch wrap roll runs out.

For some companies, it may make sense to automate the packaging process with both an orbital wrapper and a horizontal turntable wrapper. The buying decision depends primarily on the type of pallet loads, then on the volume, floor space, staffing levels, budget, and other factors.

Let me know if there are any questions or comments! abrizek@tabindustries.com