FIBC Bulk Bags
|U-Panel Bulk Bags||Circular Bulk Bags||4-Panel Bulk Bags|
|Baffled Bulk Bags||Food Grade||Type C Bulk Bags|
|Type D Bulk Bags||UN Certified Bulk Bags||Custome Bulk Bags|
What Is an FIBC?
Similar to how many people who work outside of the healthcare industry aren’t familiar with advanced or technical medical terms, many businessmen and women who don’t use bulk bags in their operations aren’t knowledgeable about some of the language that is used when they are discussed. For instance, if you don’t use bulk bags, you might be asking yourself, “What does FIBC mean?”
The term, “FIBC,” is shorthand for “flexible intermediate bulk container.” FIBC is used to refer to different types of bulk tote bags and the other styles of bulk bags that companies use to store and transport free-flowing dry products and other materials. FIBC bulk bags are normally made using woven polypropylene, and they can usually hold between 2,000 – 4,000 pounds of product per bag. In addition to being known as bulk bags, flexible intermediate bulk containers are often commonly referred to as “big bags” and “bulk sacks.”
Types of FIBC Bulk Bags
Now that you know what bulk bags are and what FIBC stands for, it’s time to learn about the different bulk bags that exist. Certain characteristics distinguish different types of bulk bags from one another, including how they control static electricity.
When an FIBC is filled or emptied, the movement of the product the vessel holds can cause an imbalance of electrical charges on or in the materials that were used to make the bulk bag — which can cause a spark. Since this is a dangerous and potentially explosive occurrence in an environment that has flammable materials or combustible dust or products, it is critical to use the appropriate type of bulk bag.
Bulks bags are categorized based on their ability to control static electricity:
- Type A Bulk Bags: Made from non-conductive materials, including uncoated woven polypropylene fabric, type A bulk bags offer no protection against the buildup of static electricity. For this reason, these bags are not appropriate for use in transporting combustible products or in settings that are flammable or combustible. These bags can be used to ship or store non-flammable, non-combustible materials safely as long as there are no flammable gases or solvents in their vicinity.
- Type B Bulk Sacks: Similar to type A bags, type B FIBCs are constructed using uncoated woven polypropylene material. While these bulk sacks do have a low breakdown voltage, they are not viewed as antistatic vessels because they are unable to protect against static electricity. Type B bulk bags can be used to ship or store dry, flammable powders, but no flammable gases or solvents should be in the environment in which they’re used to do so.
- Type C FIBCs: Type C bulk bags are constructed from non-conductive polypropylene material that is interwoven with threads that are conductive. These bags are connected to the ground when they are being filled or emptied to minimize the dangerous buildup of static electricity. If a type C bulk bag is not grounded, but if it has a connection with the ground that has been compromised or the bag itself has suffered damage, the bag should not be used under any circumstances. Type C big bags can be used to store or ship flammable powders. They can also be used in environments that include flammable gases or solvents.
- Type D Big Bags: Type D FIBCs are made from antistatic and static-reducing materials. Similar to type C bulk bags, type D big bags are designed to protect against dangerous sparks and brush discharges which can be caused by the buildup of static electricity. Type D bags do not have to maintain a connection with the ground to be used safely, however. These bulk bags can be used to package combustible materials, and you can use them in combustible and flammable environments. Though, if the surface of a type D bulk bag becomes contaminated or the bag is covered with a conductive material such as grease, it should not be used for any application.
- United Nations Certified Bulk Bags: Representatives from the United Nations regulate the transportation of hazardous materials around the world with the goal of keeping both the public and the environment safe on local, regional and global levels. Before it can be considered UN certified, a bulk bag must be tested by an independent, third-party facility. The big bag undergoes various tests to ensure it meets the standards set by the United Nations, including a strength test. The bulk bag may also be subjected to the following additional tests:
- Top Lift Test
- Drop Test
- Topple Test
- Righting Test
- Tear Test
- Stacking Test
- Food Grade Bulk Sacks: If you’re wondering what food grade bulk bags are, this type of bulk bag is made to be used in a food grade operation to pack food products for storage or shipping. Food grade big bags should be produced in a facility that has a certified manufacturing scheme recognized by GFSI, such as FSSC22200 or BRC Global Standards for packaging. Here are a list of recognized schemes by GFSI. This type of bulk sack is used to transport many food goods, including rice, salt, oats, herbs, spices and flour.
- Circular vs U-Panel FIBCs: Circular and U-panel bulk bags differ from each other in multiple ways, including how they’re made, the type of material they’re used to store or transport and how much product they are used to hold:
- Circular FIBCs: A circular or tubular bag is made from just two pieces of material — a one-piece cylindrical tube and a bottom piece of fabric that is sewn onto the tube. Circular big bags are often used to transport up to 3,500 pounds. Because they don’t have side seams, tubular bags are often the preferred choice to transport finer products such as wheat, carbon and flour when a liner isn’t going to be used.
- U-Panel Bulk Bags: U-panel bulk sacks are crafted from three pieces of fabric, two sides and one larger piece that consists of one side, an opposing side and the bag’s bottom. Since these bags have more pieces of fabric, they are normally more expensive to produce than tubular bulk bags are.
U-panel bags are made to distribute weight evenly and to store or transport dense materials that are typically in the form of granules, powders, pellets or flakes. These bags have a 5-to-1 safety ratio and are often produced in various sizes capable of holding 2,000-pound, 3,000-pound or 4,000-pound loads.
Top and Bottom Types
In addition to being differentiated from one another based on their ability to guard against the buildup of static electricity and their construction, bulk bags can be distinguished based on other factors. These factors include the type of top and bottom a bag has.
Common tops found on bulk sacks include the following:
- Duffle Tops: A duffle top can be added to any kind of bulk bag, including circular and U-panel bulk sacks. A duffle top provides a bag with a fill opening that has the same width and depth dimensions as the bag it is on. This kind of versatile top works well with many kinds of filling machines and is useful in many filling procedures. Once a bulk bag is filled, the duffle top is closed to protect the product in the bulk sack.
- Spout Tops: Spout tops help to reduce the amount of dust that is generated when a bag is being filled. A bag with a spout has a chute on its top that product runs through to fill the bulk bag. While spouts can be customized to suit your specific needs, the bulk bag industry does have standards for the most frequent applications, with the most common measure being 14-inches in diameter and 18-inches in length.
- Open Tops: Open top big bags are exactly what they sound like: open. They don’t have a top panel to cover the contents and are, therefore, generally easy to fill with products that don’t need to be protected from external elements.
Depending on a variety of factors, the FIBC you need may have one of the following bottoms:
- Spout Bottom: Spout bottom bulk sacks have a spout on their bottom that is used to empty whatever product the bag is holding. The most common dimensions for a spout on the bottom of a bulk bag are the same as the ones used for a spout on the top of a bulk sack.
- Plain Bottom: If a bulk bag has a duffle top and a plain bottom, it’s normally emptied through its duffle top or cut open to remove its contents from the bottom. Bags with this type of bottom are typically used just one time.
- Full Bottom: A full bottom discharge bulk bag has a spout that’s used for emptying the bag, and it has the same characteristics of the bag itself. This sort of bottom is appropriate when a bulk bag is being used to store or transport materials that clump together into masses.
FIBC Bulk Bags Today
In recent years, advances in the bulk bag industry have enabled bulk bags to be used for applications in addition to just their traditional ones. The use of bulk bags in commercial settings is becoming increasingly common for a host of reasons, including the potential cost savings, the increased safety and the affordable packaging and storage options they provide. Over the past decade, the use of bulk bags has increased steadily, with a yearly growth rate of approximately 15 percent. Today, 42 million (estimated US consumption) bulk bags are used annually.
History of FIBC Bulk Bags
While it is unclear where bulk sacks were initially manufactured, they were being produced in the United States, Europe and Japan by the late 1950s or early 1960s. The first fabricated FIBCs were made using heavy-duty polyester or nylon treated with PVC, where cut sheets of fabric were pieced together to create a big bag. These bulk bags had lift slings that were placed around the bag, attached to a pallet designed specifically for the bag or attached to a metal device that would be used to lift the bag. The equipment used to handle the first bulk bags allowed them to be filled from the top and emptied from the bottom.
The first surge in the demand for bulk bags occurred in Europe when an oil crisis crippled the world’s economy and caused the price of oil to quadruple from $3 per barrel to $12 per barrel across the globe. While the crisis continued, oil-producing nations initiated a building program, which made it necessary for them to import large amounts of cement from European providers — and create a demand for bulk bags. At the time, Northern Europe, Spain and Italy shipped a combined total of 30,000 – 50,000 metric tons of cement to the Middle East per week.
Demand for bulk sacks in the United States didn’t increase significantly until 1984 — the year the U.S. Department of Transportation granted exemptions for FIBCs to be used to ship hazardous materials. Standards created by the Chemical Packaging Committee of the Packaging Institute were used to secure these exemptions until the U.S. Department of Transportation decided to formally identify FIBCs as officially approved containers for the transport of hazardous products in Title 49 CFR.
When a bulk bag is used to ship hazardous materials, the bag must have the relevant UN mark printed on it. According to Part 178 of Title 49 CFR, either a manufacturer or a third-party laboratory must certify that bulk sacks created to transport hazardous products meet the requirements set by law in the United States. In other countries where bulk bags are used, only a third-party laboratory is used to certify bulk bags created to ship hazardous materials.
Today’s bulk bags typically have a low package-to-product weight ratio, weighing only five to seven pounds while being able to hold one metric ton of product. Modern bulk sacks don’t require a pallet and can be easily handled with equipment that is typically found in a given warehouse. An FIBC has a standard filled diameter of 45 – 48 inches. This measurement makes it possible for two filled bulk bags to fit across the trailer on a commercial truck as well as in a shipping container.
The design of a bulk bag can be changed in accordance with your particular needs. If necessary, the height of a bag can be adjusted as well as the diameter and length of its top and bottom spouts. Your individual needs will also determine whether the fabric of your bulk bag will be coated and whether it needs to have a liner.
With members on five continents representing 24 countries, the Flexible Intermediate Bulk Container Association (FIBCA) was founded in 1983. Among other things, the organization strives to educate people about the benefits and uses of bulk sacks as well as how they should be handled. The FIBCA describes modern bulk sacks as follows:
A bulk bag or flexible intermediate bulk container (FIBC) is defined as an intermediate bulk container, having a body made of flexible fabric, which:
- Cannot be handled manually when filled
- Is intended for shipment of solid material in powder, flake, or granular form
- Does not require further packaging
- Is designed to be lifted from the top by means of integral, permanently attached devices (lift loops or straps)
How to Order
If you’re curious about how to order FIBC bulk bags, Midwestern Bag & Supply makes it easy to get the bulk sacks you need to help your business thrive and possibly reduce its operating expenses. While FIBCs are available in standard unfilled dimensions that range from 29x29x19-inches up to 42x42x90-inches, we can work with you to customize a bag to fit the particular measurements you need if the standard dimensions aren’t appropriate for what you’re going to use bulk bags for.
If you’re worried about how to store bulk bags properly to preserve their working life, you don’t have to be because you can take advantage of our stock-and-release program. By doing this, we’ll store your FIBC bulk bags and ship portions of your inventory to you on an as-needed basis.
If you need bags to transport hazardous materials or you want to use your bulk bags to promote your business, we can print the appropriate labels on your bags for you. If you’re new to packaging and are unsure what your options are, our seasoned, friendly sales staff will help determine your exact needs and identify the bulk bags that are best suited to your products and purposes.
We make it easy to order bulk bags from Midwestern Bag & Supply. You can request a quote using our website and contact us online whenever you have a question. Our helpful customer service representatives are available to handle all of your needs from 8am until 5pm CST, Monday through Friday every week. Our system is designed to let you trace the origin of your bulk bags all the way back to the fabric lot that was used to create each one, so you’ll always know your FIBCs are made using the finest materials available.
Let us focus on your FIBC needs while you focus on your business. Contact Midwestern Bag & Supply today at 877-311-3422