Exploring Forming Films: When and How Do You Choose a Forming Film?


In our previous discussion, "A Film is Not Just a Film," we delved into the process of selecting the right packaging film for your application, emphasizing the critical role it plays in safeguarding the integrity of medical devices and pharmaceuticals. Now, let's take a deeper dive into a specialized category of packaging films: forming films.  

As we discussed before, packaging films can have different layers and functions—an exterior layer, barrier layer, and sealant layer. These pouching films, in many cases, serve as a great layer of protection for your medical packaging needs. However, forming films have an added advantage. The films can conform to the unique shapes and contours of your products. This is the key difference between traditional films and forming films

Forming film

Forming films are designed to conform closely to the shape of the product they encase. This close conformity ensures a snug fit around the medical device or pharmaceutical product, providing optimal protection by minimizing the risk of damage during handling and transportation. To create this unique fit, the forming of the film takes place in a thermoforming packaging machine. In this process, the films are heated, formed into the right shape, and then the product is loaded into the film, and sealed to the top web. Some examples of a top web material would be a Tyvek® or medical grade paper. With this being a highly automated process, forming films are often chosen for high volume products.

The forming film process does have some important considerations. Heat is used to mold the film to the shape of the product; therefore, it is important to select the right thickness of the film. When drawing the film around the product, the film gets stretched, if the film is too thin it could potentially cause a failure. In an effort to avoid this, I recommend that you always reach out to your supplier to discuss the appropriate thickness of your forming film with their packaging experts.

Another important decision you must make is about the structure of the forming film you will need. There are three widely used forming film structures:



Has good formability and great mechanical properties such as puncture resistance, which gives you options to downgauge. Additionally, the clarity of the film is excellent. Limitations of this structure are that you need higher temperatures to form the film and when exposed to chemicals like isopropyl alcohol it can become brittle over time.


Has excellent formability and holds the form very well. Mechanically, it also has excellent stability through sterilization and resistance to flex cracking. Limitations are that ionomers are more expensive than PE structures and the mechanical properties of PA’s are better.

Polyolefin with EVOH (Ethylene-vinyl alcohol)

Has a high barrier for oxygen and moisture and is a good contender for improved recyclability. Limitations are again, that the mechanical properties that are not as good as PA structures. Also, if using gamma sterilization, you need to be careful with PP films. It is widely known that gamma radiation can cause embrittlement and discoloration in a PP structure, which can worsen when aging the film.

In summary, forming films are specialized packaging materials, offering superior conformability and excellent barrier properties optimized for the unique needs of the healthcare industry. They are mostly used for high volume products. When selecting a forming film for your product, it is important to make sure you choose the right structure and thickness of the film.

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