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Blister Packaging, Part 1

By Tom Weber

May 20, 2020

Go into any department store, grocery store, or convenience store across the globe—staying six feet apart and wearing a mask, of course—and one of the first things that will draw your eye is the products on display in blister packaging. You’re no doubt familiar with them: thin plastic bubbles mounted to highly decorated paperboard, designed to showcase the products they contain.

There are many reasons blister packaging is so popular. It is unparalleled at highlighting the enclosed product, often augmenting its contents with attention-grabbing design and colorful graphics. Blister packages put the actual product the consumer will buy in clear view at the point of purchase, helping to generate or confirm buying interest. For manufacturers, blister packaging can be a relatively simple and economical way to get products in front of consumers.

They can also help protect the product when it’s on display and when it’s in transit. Consumer product manufacturers considering using blister packaging for their products should take into account a number of factors that can impact how effective the packaging will be, both from a marketing and an economic standpoint. Here are a few considerations you’ll want to keep in mind when determining what kind of blister packaging and blister card composition may be right for your products.

What Are the Main Types of Blister Packaging?

Blister packages encompass a wide range of packaging options for a host of products found in consumer goods, pharmaceuticals, and food-service applications, to name just a few. When it comes to consumer goods, there are four primary types of packaging: top-of-card or face seal, card-to-card (two pieces), fold-over card (one piece), and hinged blisters, commonly called “clamshells.”

For our purposes, we’ll focus on the two types that feature polyvinyl chloride (more commonly known as PVC), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), and recycled PET plastic blisters mounted to blister card stock:

  • Topof-card. The card is printed and top-coated with a heat-seal adhesive, and the plastic blister is sealed to the print surface. This type of card is the original blister package configuration and has been used in many high-volume small-part packages. The problem with this kind of blister card is the amount of manufacturing steps that may be required to coat the preprinted sheets.
  • Card-to-card. Also known as front-and-back cards, these are blister packs that consist of two separate cards that are bonded together to sandwich the plastic blister flange between them. In this process, the heat seal is applied to the paperboard on the paperboard’s backside, most of the time requiring a C2S type of blister stock to control the blister coating holdout to ensure adequate adhesion is
  • Fold-over card. Fold-over card packages consist of a single longer card that is folded over at the midpoint to trap the plastic blister between the two sections. In this process, the heat-seal blister coating is again applied to the backside using a C2S grade of blister paperboard.
  • Hinged blisters. Hinged blisters are completely plastic and typically consist of one plastic blister folded over and are often heat-fused at the edge. They can be difficult to open, usually requiring a knife or a pair of scissors. While this resistance to opening may help reduce shoplifting at the point of purchase, it tends to also result in frustration as we consumers struggle to get them open. (There’s even a name for this frustration: “wrap rage.”)

For What Products Are Blister Packages Best Suited?

The versatility of blister packages makes them an appealing option for a very diverse array of products. They are particularly well suited to small higher-value consumer goods, products that consumers want to visually examine.

Blister packages are also a great option for products that may have an unusual shape and thus are not good candidates for a folding carton package; plastic blisters can be formed into almost any shape, and blister cards allow them to be hung with a point-of-purchase display or racked for high-visibility display anywhere in the retail establishment, regardless of how asymmetrical the product may be. The rack or hanger holes are easily movable to determine the exact center of gravity of almost any product configuration, which also lends itself to an ease of use and display at the retail level.

As important as choosing the right blister package for the right product is choosing the best materials and coatings for blister packaging. In the next issue of BoxScore, I’ll break down these factors and even offer insight into recyclability and testing procedures associated with blister packaging, all to ensure the best possible utilization of this viable packaging option.


PortraitTom Weber is president of WeberSource LLC and is AICC’s folding carton and rigid box technical advisor. Contact Tom directly at asktom@aiccbox.org.