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Enhancing your protective cases with foam inserts

Richard Coombes: Last Updated 16th February 2024
Posted In: Guides and Advice | Transit Protection xx 31623

Get the Most Out Of Your Cases

Ensuring your protective cases offer the highest levels of performance

If you aren’t using protective cases with foam you are not achieving the highest level of protection for your high value, rare or fragile equipment or products.

It is that simple.

Using the correct foam inserts can be the difference between your products arriving with your customer in one piece, or being damaged enough to be unusable or returned.

Protective cases with foam
Protective cases with foam offer the highest level of protection of any form of packaging

They can be the difference between your field technicians or engineers turning up on site only to find their equipment or tools or damaged and missing, and that therefore they cannot complete the job.

They can be the only thing protecting your specialist equipment – potentially costing thousands – from becoming damaged in transit (and the associated cost of repair, replacement or even writing off the item).

They can be the difference between your business developing a reputation for reliability and dependability, or being perceived as continually letting your customers down (and throwing away potential repeat business in the process).

When you start examining the impact that not using foam correctly – or at all – can have on your business, it can be truly eye-opening.

Quick Reference / Contents

01: Physical Benefits of Foam Inserts

What are the advantages of using foam inserts for cases?

So why are foam inserts important protection? How do they achieve the protection required? How can you actually tell if they will work?

The answer to all of the above is combining knowledge of foam materials used for case inserts (and in particular Plastazote® polyethylene foam), with an in-depth design process.

Saying that there are 3 main ways in which protective cases that use foam will offer protection for your items. These are:

  • Eliminating movement within the outer case
  • Absorbing shock / impact
  • Protecting specialist surfaces

Please continue reading for further information on how foam inserts enable this, and the improvements it can make to your equipment cases and the transit protection they offer.

02: Eliminating Movement Within the Outer Case

One of the key ways to reduce transit damage

The first point to consider when looking at protective foam inserts is the way in which they prevent movement of the tools or equipment within the exterior case.

There are 2 ways in which this could cause damage.

Firstly, any equipment that isn’t secured within the case could potentially be damaged by colliding with the walls of the outer case. This is actually highly likely, as every time the outer case is handled or even picked up, the contents will shift and collide with the walls of the exterior container.

Secondly, and very similar to the above, is that if there are multiple tools or items within an exterior case, then these can collide with each other, causing them to potentially become damaged.

If this seems obvious, then in truth it is because it is.

Foam inserts eliminate movement
Foam inserts eliminate movement within the outer case, which is a major cause of transit damage

However, taking this a step further is the use of precisely tailored recesses for your equipment.

Even if you are using foam, but the “pockets” where the items are kept are simply square holes (as would be achieved using PICK N PLUCK™ foam, then the equipment will still have some movement within these recesses. Whilst the foam is effectively cushioning this, it does mean that a degree of the forces applied to the case during handling or transit will be transmitted to your items.

If your items are fragile, or highly calibrated, this can still cause issues.

This is why foam inserts that have been tailored precisely to your products or equipment using 3D modelling and CAD design offer the highest level of protection. In effect, they completely eliminate all movement of items within the case.

Foam cushioning protection
Foam cushioning protection can actually be calculated to specific levels using specialist software

03: Absorbing Shock / Impact

Cushioning protection from mishandling

Despite eliminating movement of parts or items within a transit case, they will still be subject to forces exerted on the case if mishandled.

This may be through the case of being dropped, thrown into the back of a vehicle, or even just the long-term effects of vibration on a specialist item.

However, it is actually possible to use predictive software to create foam inserts that absorb these forces through controlled deceleration of the items within.

This means that if a case is dropped within a specific height range, upon impact the foam will compress before returning to its original shape, effectively cushioning the items held within.

Moulded protective cases
Using a well paired protective case and foam insert can completely absorb any shocks / impact / vibration that it may be subjected to

Different densities of foam can be used to provide a level of cushioning that is aligned with the surface area, the fragility of product and impact force, ensuring that the level of protection provided is tailored to your specific equipment.

The result?

A complete eradication of damage caused in transit to your high value or business critical items.

04: Protecting Specialist Surfaces

Preventing scuffs, scratches, marring and blemishes

Finally, specialist surfaces such as highly polished components or even painted surfaces can be rejected due to surface imperfections.

Even this can be exceptionally costly to your business, especially when factoring the costs of return transit, the admin and cost of arranging replacements, repairing or writing off the damaged items and the reputational damage that you could suffer.

However, by eliminating movement within transit, plus providing a non-abrasive finish, foam inserts can also protect from visual damage as well as the more commonly reported structural issues.

Foam protection for specialist surfaces
Specialist surfaces, or those that are highly polished, varnished or painted, can also be protected by foam

05: Aesthetic Options

Enhancing appearance and presentation

So whilst protecting your high-value items can often be absolutely critical to your business, there, in fact, a number of other ways in which you can enhance your protective cases with foam inserts.

These tend to be more focused on the appearance of your cases but, can actually have a number of more practical benefits too (such as improving workforce productivity for example).

These are as follows

  • Layering colours / shadow-boards
  • Laser etching information
  • Presentation of items

Please continue reading for further information on how these could make improvements to your equipment or transit cases.

06: Layering Colours

Creating a "shadow board" effect

A commonly used process when creating foam inserts is to laminate different colours of foam on top of one another, and then when the recesses for tools etc. are created, it allows a contrasting colour to show through.

Known as “shadow boards” and often referred to as tool control foam too, this actually has a key benefit (besides looking good).

In essence, it allows you to quickly see if any tools or equipment is missing from the case.

Foam shadowboards
Foam shadow-boards not only look great, but they can actually help with preventing loss of tools

If you glance at the case and can see a bold area of colour (for example a bright red or blue) it instantly tells that an item is missing. This can prevent your field staff from leaving items behind on site, as well as stopping them from setting off to a job only to find they are missing a critical bit of kit to complete the task.

This not only helps to reduce the number of tools that are lost (and the costs of replacing them – which could be significant the more specialist they are) but when coupled with the protection offered by the foam can vastly increase the lifespan of your equipment.

This type of foam can even be used to prevent catastrophic damage to engines and larger machinery by highlighting if a tool has been left within the item that was being serviced or repaired.

07: Presentation of Items

Use within sample cases

Although not strictly relevant to protective cases, foam can also be used for the presentation of samples and products.

Whilst this may be a way of improving your sales pitches (and foam inserts work exceptionally well with sample cases), there may be potential applications where it will be useful to clearly and attractively present the tools and equipment that a case contains.

This is easily achieved by not only the layered foam process detailed above, but also by utilising foam that matches your brand identity and colours.

There is a wide range of Plastazote® colours available (this guide gives a full breakdown of those available), meaning it is possible to create a case insert that is not only practical and aids productivity, but that is visually striking too.

08: Laser Etching Information

Add logos, branding and / or other useful information

Any foam insert for your protective cases can also be enhanced using what is known as laser etching.

This is a process whereby a laser is used to etch or engrave text, icons or even logos onto the surface of the foam.

Whilst this can provide an obvious branding opportunity, the practical applications are almost limitless.

For example, the basic names or part numbers of the tools stored within the case can be etched next to the relevant recess, allowing the end user to much more quickly identify the correct tool or part that they need.

It is possible to add basic instructions, health and safety information, batch numbers and indeed any information that may aid your staff or the end user do their job more quickly and efficiently.

09: Further Options

Other enhancements for your protective cases

Whilst foam inserts should always be considered when sourcing protective cases (and are the single biggest factor in determining the levels of protection for your items), there are actually a number of other options for customising your protective cases.

For example, specialist bezels for mounting electronics can be applied to the majority of waterproof equipment cases available on the market. Similarly, certain case types (EXOCase and roto mould cases for example) can actually be supplied with specialist housings for electronics equipment pre-built into the case.

This is in addition to adding wheels, straps and additional handles to specific cases to aid manual handling, as well as stacking features and feet that allow for the lifting of larger cases with forklifts.

There are also aesthetic enhancements for cases, such exterior print, labels and other branding options too.

In Summary

Why you should enhance your cases with foam inserts

Combining the right foam insert with the right protective case can have a number of benefits for your business and operations.

From reducing to completely eliminating transit damage (and therefore improving customer satisfaction), to improving the productivity of your service engineers, the benefits can be far ranging and have a significant, positive impact on your company success.

If you have any further questions, or would like any advice on sourcing and creating suitable protective cases with foam inserts, please do not hesitate to get in touch with a member of the team at GWP.

Further Reading...

About the Author

Richard Coombes

Richard Coombes

General Manager | GWP Protective

Having originally joined GWP Protective back in 2004, working on the factory floor, Richard now heads up the business as General Manager. [Read full bio…]

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