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Packaging - Glossary - P

  • Packaging Processes

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    The Glossary of the International Trade Centre (ITC) on the technical terms used in the packaging sector is a database designed to provide updated information on the specific terminology used in the packaging industry. This Glossary is a tool placed at the disposal of users for information only. It is not designed to replace the appropriate professional advice in any way. Users are invited to submit their comments and observations by email to Mr. Frederic Couty, Senior Adviser, Export Packaging at the following email address: fcouty[at]intracen.org

    Select an alphabetic above to access the glossary.

  • P


    1.(Noun) Bundle of items wrapped up, tied together or otherwise contained for carrying.

    2.(Verb) To put items into a box, bundle, bag, bale, wrap, etc. for storage or transportation.


    1.(Noun) A sealed wrapping or box containing either a retail-sale quantity of a product (consumer package) or a product or a number of items or smaller packages in transport quantities, for transportation and storage (transport package).

    2.(Verb) To put a product into a package or to make a package around a product.


    The general term for the functions, materials and overall concept of a coordinated system of preparation of goods for handling, shipment, storage, marketing. Distribution and use at optimum cost, and compatible with the requirements of the product.

    Packaging converter

    A manufacturer who transforms one form of packaging material into another more developed form or into a container.

    Packaging costs

    All costs associated with the chain of packaging operations — from developing the package concept to the packaged products to the consumer and disposal of the package.

    Packaging industry

    General term including all manufacturers of packaging materials and packages. Sometimes defined to include also manufacturers of packaging machinery.


    A bottle design used primarily in the pharmaceutical industry. The bottles have large finishes with respect to bottle size, making bottles easy to pack.


    The packaging of product in small packages, e.g. tea in packets.


    1.(Noun) Material or product placed around an item or items inside a package to cushion them. See also: Cushioning.

    2.(Verb) See: Pack.

    Packing table

    A location at which items are assembled and loaded into containers or packages, usually manually or semi-automatically. The table may be equipped with wrapping materials, cutting devices, weighing devices and materials for sealing and labelling.


    A sheet or cushion which can be made of corrugated board, plastic or other cushioning materials used for extra protection or for separation of layers of items within a package (layer pad)

    Pad Printing

    Direct transfer of ink by means of a pad. The process is similar to that of rubber stamping; it is used on small areas and also to print parts of irregular shapes that are otherwise inaccessible.


    A container of circular cross-section, generally a cylindrical or truncated cone in shape, fitted with a handle. May be made of metal, reinforced fibre or plastic.


    A shallow portable platform of wood, plastic, metal or fibreboard or combinations thereof, to facilitate handling of goods and packages by forklifts, storage and transportation of materials as a unit load.

    Pallet cover

    A large, usually polyethylene, bag designed to cover or envelop a pallet load. Bags may be individually made to size or may be produced from rolls of plastic tubing on site at the time of loading.


    A large machine which arranges and loads items or packages on to pallets.

    Pallet pool

    A source of standard size and construction pallets to which member users contribute pallets and from which they can take pallets up to the limit of their credit at no charge. The standard EUR pallet used in pallet pools is 80 cm x 120 cm.


    (1) An assembled side, end, top or bottom of a box or crate. (2) A face or side of a paper-board container. (3) A section of a label. (4) Generally, any fiat or smooth section of a con­tainer, especially that suited for the application of a label. (5) (verb) To raise or depress part of a fiat surface to improve the appearance, stif­fen the surface, or alter the capacity. (noun) The section created by paneling. (6) (verb) To distort a round package by forcing in the sides to produce one or more small, flat surfaces.


    Side wall collapse of a plastic container occurring during aging or storage, often caused by migration of the contents and resulting reduced pressure inside the container.

    Pantone Matching System (PMS)

    A series of standard colours commonly used by package designers and manufacturers. Communication of specified colours can be made with a code number on a tear-.away chip taken from the Pantone System book.


    The general name for a wide variety of fibrebased materials primarily made from vegetable or wood fibre base, formed from a water suspension by withdrawing the moisture through a fine wire screen.


    A form of paper, the distinction being that paperboard is heavier in basis weight, thicker and more rigid than paper.

    Paper calliper

    The thickness of a paper stock measured in millimeters.

    Paper grain

    The alignment of cellulose fibres (or other type of fibres) in a sheet of paper; when specifying dimensions, "grain long" or "grain short" may be indicated by a line above or below the appropriate dimension of paper.

    Paraffin wax

    An inert hydrocarbon wax derivative of crude petroleum. Grades with different melting points can be produced. Principal uses are as paper coatings or impregnations for water resistance or to provide slip and gloss to a surface.


    Also vegetable parchment. A high quality material for presentation and gift packaging, made by passing paper prepared from cotton fibre and/or pure chemical wood pulps through a bath of sulphuric acid after which the sheet is thoroughly washed and dried. It is odourless, grease resistant and has very high wet strength over a long period of time and does not disintegrate in water or salt solutions, either hot or cold.


    A tubular cylinder of molten glass or plastic from which a bottle or other form is blown. A bottle blank.

    Partition (dividers)

    A wall or panel which separates sections or units within a container. A set of paperboard pieces slotted so that they interlock when assembled to form cells into which articles may be placed for protection during shipment.

    Passive Tags

    Passive tags contain no internal power source. They are externally powered and typically derive their power from the carrier signal radiated from the scanner.


    (1) An adhesive composition having a char­acteristic plastic-type consistency, that is, a high order of yield value. An adhesive prepared by heating a mixture of starch and water and subsequently cooling the hydrolyzed product. (2) Any preparation of similar consistency or body, such as tooth paste, etc.


    The application of an adhesive to surfaces to bond materials together as in the fabrication of paper bags.

    Peeling bond

    The  type of bond occurring when two adhered surfaces may be pulled apart without tearing the adherents. The amount of force necessary to separate the two sheets determines the strength of the adhesive bond. Use of qualifying words such as "strong peeling" or "'weak peeling" helps to describe bonds of this type. Contrasts with a tearing bond, which pulls the adhered materials apart before the adhesive separates.

    Peelable lid

    Type of flexible lid, generally sealed on top of a tray, and which seal strength is weak enough so as to allow it to be easily pelable through délamination.


    Printing press which a sheet turning device enabling both the front and reverse side of the substrate to be printed in one pass.


    Holes or slots in a film or sheet, usually small in size, to facilitate opening of a package, by tearing along the line of perforations or to allow ventilation.


    Property of a packaging material or container which allows the diffusion of gases or liquids through them.


    A numerical representation of the acidity or alkalinity of an aqueous solution. The number seven represents a neutral state; decrease in pH from seven to zero indicates an increase in acidity by a factor of 10 for each unit change. Increase in pH from seven to 14 indicates a similar increase in alkalinity.


    Thermosetting plastic materials, hard, dense, extremely stiff, and having very good heat resistance. Used for closures.


    A polymer whose properties are changed on exposure to natural light.


    A common unit of measurement in print copy preparation and typesetting; one pica equals 12 points, and there are approximately 6 picas in 1 inch.


    Component of a printing ink that provides the colour.

    Pilferproof seal

    A seal which is resistant to pilfering generally with some indication that pilfering has occurred.

    Pillow pack

    Horizontal form-fill-seal pouch, used for single or small groups of objects such as chocolate bars, biscuits, etc.

    Pinch-off (plastic bottles)

    The bottom of the parison that is pinched off when the mould closes.

    Pin hole

    A microscopic sized opening in a web of plastic film, aluminium foil or other impermeable material. An excessive number of pin holes will reduce the barrier properties of the material, thereby making it less effective for its packaging purpose.


    A material added to a plastic during manufacture to improve its processing qualities and/or increase the flexibility of the final product.

    Plastic Recycling Code

    Code printed or embossed on the base of plastic containers, or on any other plastic pack, consisting of a triangle formed by three arrows, with a number in the center and distinguishing letters under the triangle. The number codes are: 1) PET = polyethylene terephthalate, 2) HDPE = high density polyethylene, 3) PVC = vinyl, 4) LDPE = low density polyethylene, 5) PP = polypropylene, 6) PS = polystyrene, and 7) Other.


    From the Greek “plastikos” meaning “malleable” or “mouldable”. Any of a large group of synthetic materials of high molecular weight consisting of combinations of carbon with oxygen, hydrogen or other elements which while solid under normal conditions can be made to flow into various shapes and sizes, with the application of heat and pressure. The two basic types of plastics are thermoplastic and thermoset, the former plasticizing on heating and the latter becoming rigid.


    (1) Short name for tinplate, black plate, terne plate, aluminum plate or any other basic rolled metal sheet. (2) (verb) To cover or coat with metal, as to plate steel sheet with zinc, tin, etc. (3) A flat piece of metal, rubber or other material, etched, engraved, embossed or other­wise processed with a design to be used as a transfer medium. The plate may also be curved or cylindrical for use on a printing press, A printing plate.


    (1) A type of closure designed to be inserted into the opening of a container. May be held by friction or by screw threads. (2) A threaded closure part for metal drums. Usually marketed with a receiving flange which is fas­tened to the drum body or head by welding or other method. (3) A bung. (4) The removable top furnished with certain types of cans.


    1.One of the layers in a lamination.

    2.One of the walls in a multi-wall paper sack.

    3.One of the layers in a spiral wound can.


    Multiple thin layers of wood (veneer) glued together, usually with the grain of adjacent sheets being at right angles to each other.

    Point-of-purchase packaging

    Packaging designed to intensify the customer's desire to purchase a product at the place where it is sold or displayed. Advertising can also contribute to the point-of-purchase appeal of a packaged product.

    ‘Polluter pays’ principle

    Principle that the producer of a product or package (and other potential wastes) should take financial responsibility for its recovery or disposal after use.


    A polyallomer is an essentially linear copolymer with repeated sequences of ethylene and propylene. It combines some of the advantages of both polymers. Polyallomer is autoclavable, and offers much of the high temperature performance of polypropylene. It also provides some of the low temperature strength and flexibility of polyethylene.

    Polyamide (PA)

    See: Nylon film.

    Polycarbonate (PC)

    Polycarbonate is window-clear, extremely strong, and rigid. It is autoclavable, and the toughest of all thermoplastics. PC is a special type of polyester in which dihydric phenols are joined through carbonate linkages. These linkages are subject to chemical reaction with bases and concentrated acids at elevated temperatures (e.g. during autoclaving), and make PC soluble in various organic solvents, raising toxicity concerns about its use in food packaging. For many other applications, the transparency and unusual strength of PC offset these limitations.

    Polyester (polyethylene terephthalate, PET)

    A plastic resin formed by the reaction of ethylene glycol with terephthalic acid. The resin is extruded into films or bottles in which the material is then oriented to produce the desired properties of strength, temperature resistance and permeability.

    Polyethylene (PE)

    A plastic resin of high molecular weight resulting from the polymerization of ethylene gas. The resin can be converted into film, sheet, bottles and injection moulded containers. It represents the largest volume of all plastic resins produced, with approximately 50% used in packaging applications.

    Polylactic acid (PLA)

    Thermoplastics resin, of natural origin, essentially startch, and biodegradable, used for producing rigid transparent pacakging suc as salad tray


    A large complex molecule formed by chemically binding/linking together a number of identical smaller units (monomers). When different monomers are involved, the product is called a copolymer


    The general classification of the family of polymers made from unsaturated hydrocarbons. The most common are polyethylene and polypropylene.

    Polypropylene (PP)

    Plastic resin derived from the polymerization of propylene. Extremely versatile material in the packaging industry. The resin is noted for its clarity and excellent ability to withstand frequent flexing, relatively high melting point and good strength. PP oriented (OPP) and biaxially oriented (BOPP) films have excellent properties and wide applications in cigarette wraps and snack food pouches.

    Polypropylene Alloy

    A physical blend of polypropylene and high density polyethylene resulting in characteristics common to both resins, with additional barrier to migration of essential oils.

    Polystyrene (PS)

    Plastic resin derived from the polymerization of styrene. The most transparent of commonly used packaging resins. High permeability of the film permits products to “breathe”. Used frequently to wrap fresh produce. The resin can be made to foam by the infusion of pentane gas. Expanded Polystyrene foam (EPS) is the most commonly used of the plastic foams. For injection moulding, the resin can be formulated to vary its impact resistance. “Long” “Medium” “High” impact grades are available, depending upon the application. Polystyrene is also transformed by extrusion into mono or multi-layer sheets which are then thermoformed into particularly yoghourt pots


    A polymer containing a specific sulfone linkage. These thermoplastic materials exhibit exceptionally high temperature and low creep properties.

    Polyurethane (PU)

    The plastic material formed by the reaction of polyester chains with isocyanates. The result is a foam which can be extruded into relatively thin sheets, moulded into slabs or made to form inside the pack as in situ cushioning at the time of packing.

    Finally it may be used as adhesive between to layers.

    Polyvinyl acetate (PVAC)

    A plastic resin prepared by the polymerization of vinyl acetate. The emulsion of this polymer in water is widely used as an adhesive in general packaging applications.

    Polyvinyl alcohol (PVA)

    A plastic resin prepared by the hydrolysis of polyvinyl esters. The film is water soluble, but provides a good barrier against moisture and gases. The copolymer of ethylene vinyl alcohol (EVOH) is not water soluble and when dry is an excellent gas barrier.

    Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)

    Generally copolymers of vinyl chloride with small quantities of vinyl acetate. Widely used in packaging in the form of film, sheet and bottles. Good chemical resistance but relatively high oxygen permeability. Its incineration may emit hydrochloric acid. This is the reason why it has been displaced by PET in most bottle applications

    Polyvinylidene chloride (PVDC)

    Also known by the proprietary name of SaranTM. In the form of films or coatings has excellent gas barrier properties.


    The property of material to allow air to pass through. May be expressed as the rate at which air flows through a given area under specified conditions.

    Portion pack

    A package containing a small quantity/portion of product to permit usage without damaging or destroying the remainder of the package and other units of the product.


    Planning and designing a product and its package to be suitable for, and appeal to, particular markets and market segments within a competitive situation.


    A generally small, flat bag normally pre-made either sealed on three sides, or folded and sealed on two sides, prior to filling.

    Pouring spout

    A usually reclosable device attached to a container to facilitate directional dispensing of liquid or powder contents.

    Pourout Finish

    A glass container finish with an undercut immediately below the top, so designed to facilitate pouring without dripping. It is used primarily by prescription drug and other pharmaceutical and chemical companies.


    In plastics conversion, an injection moulded parison which is subsequently blow molded during a second operation to form a plastic bottle.


    Packaging, normally of perishable produce, performed at a centralized location rather than at the point of sale. System commonly used for fresh meat and produce sold in supermarkets. Can be used to denote any packaging in advance of goods normally sold loose or packed at the time of sale.


    Adding price marking and other codes or labels to a package at the wholesale or retail level. Modifying the package to get it ready for retail sale.

    Prepress operations

    All preparation activities required to launch printing press production, starting from finished artwork.

    Press proof

    A proof produced by a conventional printing process, including colour separation, stripping, plating, and press operation.

    Pre-sensitised plates

    A lithographic printing plate that is coated during manufacture and shipped to the printer in coated form.

    Pressure forming

    A process for making hollow plastic articles by forcing heat-softened thermo­plastic sheet into a mould cavity, using mechanical or hydraulic (air) pressure. Generally used to make thin-wall, single-use containers and package inserts.

    Pressure-sensitive adhesive

    A permanently tacky adhesive which requires only slight pressure at room temperature to adhere to a surface. Often applies to labels or tapes (self-adhesive labels, self-adhesive tapes).

    Pressure Sensitive Label

    A die-cut label coated with a pre-applied pressure-sensitive adhesive, requiring only pressure to adhere it to a package or product.

    Primary package

    The unit container which is ac­tually in contact with its contents.


    First coat in a surface finishing process. Main purpose is to promote adhesion of principal coating materials to the substrate.


    The extent to which the properties of a substrate allow good reproduction of a design (good quality print) by the printing process used.

    Print gain

    Increase in the width of a standard printed mark due to sqeezing of the ink. Measured by means of a printability gauge.


    Printing system that can be put into full production immediately on receipt of an order.

    Print registration

    Accurate placement of a printed image both with other images on which it is superimposed and with the area being printed.


    A machine for the successive printing, slotting (the cuts between adjacent flaps), creasing and trimming of corrugated and solid fibreboard blanks. Combined with a Folder-gluer, the machine is called a casemaker.

    Printing ink

    A substance used for printing, usually consisting broadly of colouring pigments dispersed in a liquid medium. Drying methods may be by absorption, oxidation /polymerization, evaporation, precipitation, or radiation curing.

    Process art and printing

    Printed designs incorporating the complete colour spectrum of shades and tones by using halftones and blending three ‘process colours’, cyan, magenta and yellow (also referred to as CMY), and black (referred to as the “key colour”, K).

    Process colours

    Four specially formulated colour pigments used to print process colour separations: magenta (red-blue), cyan (blue-green), yellow (red-green) and black; also called process red, process blue, process yellow, and process black.

    Promotional package

    A special package used to introduce a new product or stimulate sales of an existing product. May be of special design and may contain a premium gift, or special offer. Usually produced in limited quantities.


    (1) Resistant to movement through, impermeable, as in as greaseproof, water­proof, moistureproof, gasproof. This term implies complete resistance, or zero passage; but in packaging, there are no flexible materials, except metal foils free from pin holes, that afford absolute or complete proofness. However, some heavy gauge single films and laminated or coated films can come close to achieving absolute proofness. (2) (verb) To apply special protective qualities. (3) A test photo­graphic print or trial impression from a printing process, produced for examination and necessary corrections. (4) verb: to "pull’, or produce, a proof.


    Trials of printing plates and other means of print reproduction by production of a proof, to determine the accuracy and quality of the print in advance of production.


    The gas generating the pressure which serves to discharge the product from an aerosol container.


    Package or system which is the intellectual property of a particular material supplier, converter or packer, and so either not commercially available or only available under license.

    Prototype Mould

    A simplified mould construction often made from a light metal casting alloy or from an epoxy resin to provide samples of actual moulded article for evaluation and testing prior to production mould manufacture.

    Pull/Push closure

    Injection moulded two piece dispensing closure. Closure is opened by pulling up and closed by pushing down the spout. Overcaps are optional.


    Wood or other vegetable fibres obtained by chemical cooking or mechanical treatment of wood or other cellulosic materials in a water medium. The raw material for paper, cellophane and other cellulose-based products.

    Puncture resistance

    A measure of the ability of a material to resist puncture or penetration.

    Puncture test

    Determination of the resistance of fibreboard to puncturing. Usually achieved by using a pyramidal metal point driven into the specimen by the swinging action of a pendulum.


    To flush a jar, bottle, can, bag, or vial with a gas, such as nitrogen, to remove another undesired gas (usually atmospheric oxygen) prior to filling.

    Psychographic target

    Target market selected on the basis of potential customer’s lifestyle, personality and attitudes.

    Push-up bottom

    A  con­tainer base with a central indentation  to resist pressure, improve stability and collect residues, as in the case of champagne or wine bottles.

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