Definition of terms related to the shipping of packages, air cushion pillows and more.

Many of us are new to the pack and ship industry. Our small businesses grew out of hard work and determine. But now I don't know enough about how to efficiency get my products to our customers. Below are a few key terms that may help you through your transition to becoming a shipping mogul!


Air cushions:

Air cushions, often called air pillows; they are the inflatable packaging made on demand, when needed and can include void fill, 4x8” 8x8” square bags of bubble material for wrapping and protecting.


Air cushion machine:

The air cushion machine is the device used to inflate rolled film into the shapes created during the manufacturing process. Air cushion machines cannot create an air pillow shape, then can generally only inflate and seal “film” of air cushions, 4x8” square bags, bubble etc. In the past, the industry was created so only large shippers, such a Toys R Us or Amazon could afford these super-efficient air cushion machines. Machines were given for “free” in exchange the user had to purchase a contracted amount of rolled film product every month. Currently, anyone can afford an air cushion machine, small businesses can enjoy the cost saving once only enjoyed by large companies. Cost savings in material, time to pack and saving in storage space. Air cushions are the lightest product protection available, which means less shipping costs.


Air pillows:

Air pillows synonymous with air cushions; they are the inflatable packaging made on demand, when needed and can include void fill, 4x8”, 8x8” square bags of bubble material for wrapping and protecting.

 Air pillow machine: See: Air cushion machine

Air transfer technology:

A few innovative manufactures have created a patented air cushion bubble film that allows air to transfer from one pocket of cushions to another. Air cushions with air transfer technology have been proven (through repeated drop tests) to reduce damage claims. Air transfer technology allows the air to move around, meaning a cushion will rarely pop like traditional bubble. When a traditional bubble pops it can no longer protect during that shipment, hence the value of air cushions with air transfer technology like bubble wave air cushions. The world’s largest shipping organization recommends air cushions with transfer technology to their shipping stores.


Block and brace:

To block and brace is to hold products in position so they do not shift during transportation. Block and brace materials can vary greatly, from air cushions (square bags 4x8” or 8x8”), paper, foam, newspaper, corrugate (cardboard) etc. The trend is to use the most lightweight product possible, air cushions – which help keep shipping costs low.


Bubble wave wrapping:

Bubble wave air cushions are a popular type of bubble that cushions products during shipment. It is ideal for wrapping products as a way to protect them and can be used as void fill and to block and brace products. One of the reasons for the popularity of bubble wave air pillows is that it is designed with air transfer technology, which allows air to move from cell to cell, helping cushion products when a master shipper sustains impact, thereby reducing damage claims.


Bubble Wrap®:

Bubble Wrap® is a registered trademarked name and one of the original types of protective air cushioning packaging. Bubble Wrap® is the product we all know and love, which not only protects products during shipment but is fun to pop, wear, etc. Bubble Wrap® bubbles comes in a variety of sizes to protect very small products to large ones. Since it is a tradename, only contracted partners can legally use the name Bubble Wrap® so it is frequently called “Bubble” or “Wrapping Bubble” etc., to avoid any legal issues.
Bubble Wrap® is a legal trademark of Sealed Air Corporation. Office Crannies is not affiliated with Bubble Wrap® or Sealed Air Corporation. For more info see Sealed Air’s website or Wikipedia.


Corner protection:

This technique requires that a corner of a shipping box is lined with air cushions, “bubble” wave types of materials are ideal to use, generally done to “block and brace” a product in position to prevent it from rubbing against the corrugate and getting damaged during transit.



Corrugate outside the shipping industry is commonly referred to as card board.


Cubic feet:

Using the measurement guide of cubic feet is the only way to compare different types of packaging; apples to apples. To test cubic feet, use a mathematical equation which is: Length (feet) x Width (feet) x Height (feet) = Volume in cubic feet (written as Xft3). If you need to convert cubic feet to inches: divide the final number by 1728. Or you can simply get an empty box and fill it completely with packing peanuts then Kraft paper then air cushions. After filling a similar size box with all three of these packing types, you can measure how much of each material it takes. In the calculations and measurement testing we have participated in, air cushions is the clear winner in cost versus volume, always providing the best cubic foot cost. 



Dunnage is generally related to filling a larger gap between products so they do not move or shift during transportation. In the trucking industry, they are usually large sealed brown Kraft bags, 2-4 feet tall that get inflated with air and hold products in place. The same approach is used on packing a box, but with “square bag” air cushions generally 8x8” or larger to fill big air pockets in a box.


Film (rolled film):

Flat rolled film is the material used to inflate predesigned patterns of air pillows. Film is manufactured with a variety of plastics, many manufactures use recycled HDPE pellets that get melted down and made into sheets with a printed shape into them, for example “bubble wave” is a shape created at the time of manufacturing which get inflates by an air cushion machine. Film is generally specific to a type of air cushion machine and is not interchangeable between manufactures.


Kraft paper:

Kraft paper is supplied in heavy wide rolls in a variety of thicknesses. It can be crumpled and stuffed into boxes for product protection. In the past it was one of the key materials used in product protection packaging. Kraft paper is now viewed as heavy, costing too much to ship and too scratchy, sometimes scuffing products. In drop tests, air cushions outperform Kraft paper.


Loose fill:

Loose fill has become to known as packing peanuts. Loosefill or loose fill is made of polystyrene or EPS encapsulated polystyrene plastics. Loosefill comes in a variety of shape and is used primarily to fill the nooks and crannies of packages that contain lightweight non fragile items. Loose fill is very lightweight and was a great invention during the 1960’s. Although loosefill is made of recycled content, it is viewed as a scourge on society because of the messy lightweight material is hard to control and can end up as litter. Many states have banned the use of regular loose fill.


Master shipper:

Master shippers can be a cardboard box of any size that contains a product or another box, commonly referred to as a box-in-a-box. Master shippers are used to transport one or many products to their final destination, ideally without any damage to the products inside.


Pack and ship:

Pack and ship refers to order fulfillment, the process of employees pulling products off of a warehouse shelf and putting it into a master shipping carton. Depending upon how many products needed to pick per order, this can be a time consuming (expensive) process, so managing the way it’s done and looking for efficiencies is a critical part of any companies profit and bottom line. Utilizing air cushion machines to make air cushions on demand, when needed, has been a big part of cost savings and efficiency techniques used by large and small companies alike.



Packing protects products during transit and helps reduce damage claims. Packaging in the context of this industry refers to a master shipper cardboard box, that gets filled with products then inserted with “packaging” – air cushions, air pillows, packing peanuts, loose fill, Kraft paper, foam in place, are typical forms of “packaging”. In the box packaging helps ensure that products arrive to the end customer undamaged.


Packing peanuts:

Packing peanuts are synonymous with loose fill. Traditionally packing peanuts resemble the look of peanuts or popcorn, and fill voids in master shippers to cushion and protect light weight products during shipment. Many states have banned many types of packing peanuts made solely from polystyrene.


Packing popcorn:

Packing Popcorn was the original packing material. Real popcorn was used to cushion products during shipment. In the 1960’s this was one of the most effective packaging material available. Packing popcorn did have its down side, it attracted rodents. An innovative packaging engineer started using paper straw ends and his design help revolution the packaging industry. Now, packing popcorn is most frequently known as packing peanuts.


Pick and pack:

Pick and pack is the process of selecting products off the shelf, usually stored in a warehouse or garage, that correspond to an order that needs to be put into a box, ensure the items are protected (with products like air cushions) and shipped. Of course, the goal is efficiency, efficiency in size and weight of the package and efficiency in time - time is money.


Poly bubble mailers:

Poly bubble mailers are lined with 3/16" bubble (larger sizes of bubble are also available) to gently cushion and protect small items. Polyethylene bubble mailers are water-resistant, tear-proof and usually come with a self-adhesive label, making the packing process quick and easy. Bubble mailers protect delicate products such as necklaces and other jewelry. Extra smooth surface is perfect for handwriting or labeling.


Poly mailers:

Poly mailers envelopes are lightweight, protective mailers made from a durable, moisture resistant, tear resistant polyethylene film. These plastic envelopes are thin, lightweight and weather-proof and come in a large assortment of sizes. Poly mailers are ideal for shipping soft goods, such as clothing, towels, etc.


Void fill:

Void fill are packaging materials the take up large spaces or fill in pockets of air in a master shipper. Commonly used void fill are square air cushion bags – 4x8”, 8x8” 8x10” or packing peanuts, or Kraft paper. Void fill packaging materials not only take up space but also protect the products inside the box.




Toys R Us and Amazon are legal trademarks their respective owners. Office Crannies is not affiliated with Toys R Us or Amazon.