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Foil packs v Cartridges; What is the best packaging for your adhesive

Thomas Besley | 5 min. read

When it comes to choosing the type of packaging for your one-component adhesive or sealant, you will be presented with the choice between foil packs or cartridges. You may not have previously put much thought into which packaging type you are going to use. But it shouldn’t be that way.

Here at Forgeway, we manufacture over 3,000 tonnes of adhesives every year. We know that cartridges are the most popular packaging type for one-component adhesives and sealants. However, we know that foil packs have many advantages that you may not have thought about.

This article will go over both types of packaging and will assess whether you should stick with the traditional cartridge system or should switch to using foil packs.

Both types have their benefits and drawbacks. This article will discuss everything you need to know about cartridges and foil packs. By the end of the article, you will know whether foil packs or cartridges are the best packaging type for you.

What is a cartridge?

A cartridge is a plastic cylinder that contains the adhesive or sealant. It will have a plastic bung in the bottom of the cartridge that keeps the adhesive or sealant in place. There is also a plastic cap on top of the cartridge that you will need to cut off before you can use it. A nozzle will then screw onto the thread, and you are ready to go. 

Once you apply pressure onto the bung, the adhesive or sealant will come out the top of the cartridge.

You can get two types of cartridges; thick-wall and thin-wall. As the name suggests, they just have different thicknesses of plastic. Thick-wall cartridges typically contain 290ML of the adhesive or sealant, whereas thin-wall cartridges typically contain 310ML. 

Higher performance adhesives and sealants usually would not come in thin-wall cartridges. This is because thick-wall cartridges help protect the product inside and ensures greater stability due to the prolonged shelf-life.

Advantages of choosing a cartridge

  • Lighter weight – This is because the cartridge is smaller and contains less adhesive or sealant product than the typical foil pack. This makes it easier to work with because it is more agile and manoeuvrable. Ultimately, cartridges are easier to use in tighter and confined spaces due to their light weight and relatively small size.
  • The applicator gun is more widely available – Cartridges have been the go-to packaging type for years. This means you will have no difficulty in finding the appropriate applicator gun. Foil packs are relatively new. Finding the correct applicator gun for foil packs can be difficult and expensive as they are not so common.
  • Greater protection – The plastic shell on cartridges is a lot harder and more durable than foil packs. You will struggle to puncture and damage a cartridge. However, you can puncture and damage foil packs relatively easily. While it’s easier to puncture a foil pack, we rarely actually see this happen. If this is a big concern and you want to mitigate the risk, a cartridge is a safer bet.

Disadvantages of choosing a cartridge

  • More waste – Cartridges contain less adhesive or sealant product and are more difficult to get every last bit of product from the cartridge. So if you were applying adhesive to 400m² of substrates, you would get through 10 290ML cartridges. If you were to use 600ML foil packs, you would only get through four.
  • Plastic tax – Not only will you find there are more cartridges to dispose of, but the cartridges themselves are also fully plastic. Governments worldwide are clamping down on the use of plastics. This means that the cartridges themselves are becoming more and more expensive because of taxes.
  • Less adhesive/sealant – Unless you get a bespoke size that is similar to or smaller than 290ML, you will need to replace cartridges a lot more often. Because 290ML of adhesive or sealant is less than half of 600ML, you will have to replace the cartridges more than 2x as frequently.
  • Bung malfunctions easily – If you apply too much pressure on the cartridge, the adhesive will squeeze out behind the bung causing a mess. 

The bung can malfunction causing the product to leak out

What is a foil pack?

A foil pack packaging system is very similar to a sausage. They have a composite foil skin that surrounds the adhesive or sealant. The skin is then sealed off at both ends. That’s why we typically refer to foil packs as ‘sausages. 

To get the product out, you just need to remove the seal on one end of the sausage and place it into the applicator. There is no thread to screw a nozzle on. The nozzle comes with the applicator.

Getting a 400ML sausage gun ready

You can get varying sizes of the foil pack. The most common size is 600ML though. The other common size is 400ML as it is more compact than the 600ML foil pack. However, you can arrange for specialist bespoke sizes if you need them.

Foil pack vs cartridge
You can get 400ML or 600ML foil packs

Advantages of choosing a foil pack

  • Less environmental impact – Because the foil packs are less than 20% plastic and compress to less than 10% of the size of cartridges, there is a lot less waste. Less wastage means there is less environmental impact.
Foil pack v Cartridge
You can fit 10 compressed 600ML foil packs into one 290ML cartridge
  • Improved shelf-life – Here at Forgeway, we have a unique 4-layer foil pack design. Whilst not all adhesive and sealant manufacturers have this design, the same improved shelf-life will apply to all foil packs. 
  • Increased efficiency – 600ML foil packs have the upper hand when it comes to how much adhesive or sealant you can get from them. This means you don’t need to stop and replace the foil pack as often as you would have to with cartridges.
  • Easier to discharge – There is no bung malfunction that you will have to worry about when using foil packs. There isn’t much that can go wrong when applying adhesives with a foil pack.

Disadvantages of choosing a foil pack

  • Easier to damage – The foil pack isn’t so tough or durable as cartridges. Whilst it is still very difficult to damage foil packs, they wouldn’t be able to withstand damage as easily as cartridges.
  • Can’t reseal very easily – With foil packs, you will struggle to leave a half-empty foil pack overnight without the adhesive or sealant curing. Cartridges are much easier to reseal so you can leave them half-empty.
  • Application devices aren’t as common – Cartridges have been around for centuries. Foil packs haven’t. The applicating devices you need for foil packs are not as commonplace as cartridge applicators.
Adhesive manufacturer supplying sealant
Cartridge applicator guns are very common

Foil pack or cartridge; Which should you choose?

Now you know what makes each packaging type so different, you will understand the benefits and drawbacks of using each option. Now you need to make a decision about which packaging system is best for you. 

Here at Forgeway, we are specialists in adhesive. We supply adhesives in both cartridges and foil packs. When customers ask us which type of packaging we would suggest, we always suggest using foil pack ‘sausages’.

Foil packs cause significantly less environmental impact than cartridges. 290ML cartridges will give you more than 20 times the amount of waste than 600ML foil packs. but they are also a lot cheaper. We guarantee you that foil packs will always cost you less than cartridges. This is because the foil sleeves themselves are one-tenth of the cost of cartridges.

Despite the cost and environmental impact, you may find that you still like how cartridges are not as cumbersome to use, and are less likely to get damaged. 

If you want help deciding whether you should choose foil packs or cartridges, a member of our team will be able to help. 

Or if you have decided which type of packaging is best for you, you can download our ‘how-to’ guides for each type of packaging.

Thomas Besley

Thomas is the Content Manager here at Forgeway. Thomas' job is to translate the technical jargon from the ivory tower of academia into easy-to-read content that everyone can understand. Forgeway's mission is to answer every question our customers and prospective clients ask, or are apprehensive to ask.