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How to use pick ‘n’ pluck cubed foam inserts – a detailed guide

Matt Dobson: Last Updated 29th April 2024
Posted In: Guides and Advice | Transit Protection xx 31179

Low Cost Foam Protection

Find out how to get the most from your pre-cut cubed foam inserts

Whilst GWP Protective focus on creating custom engineered foams that are precisely tailored to specific items, for one-offs and very low volumes pre scored or “cubed” foam inserts are a much more cost-effective option.

Commonly supplied in Peli™ & Storm case™ options (where the cubed foam is called PICK N PLUCK™ foam), this type of foam insert is easy to modify yourself to create approximate recesses to the shape of the items you are looking to safely store / transport.

Pick n pluck foam
PICK N PLUCK™ foam supplied by Peli is a great low cost way to protect your products - but is only suitable for one offs or very low volumes

As with engineered Plastazote®, this type of foam can be used to enhance the protection of items stored within the case by adding an enhanced level of cushioning against impact. They can also be used for keeping multiple items organised within a single case.

The foam inserts are manufactured in such a way that the end user of the case can tailor the foam to practically any item, creating a truly bespoke protective case system at considerably lower cost than fully engineered solutions.

This guide will show you how to use pre-scored foam inserts and therefore get the most out of your protective equipment case.

Quick Reference / Contents

01: What is Cubed Foam?

Standard foam supplied with many cases

Before going through the step by step process for creating your perfect cubed or PICK N PLUCK foam insert, it is important to first explain what this type of foam is.

Usually, when you purchase a case with the option of cubed foam, you will receive at least 2 pieces of material (although it is often more for the larger cases).

The bottom or base layer will be a heavier, denser foam that is used to provide cushioning at the bottom the case. This does not need modifying and should be used as supplied.

The upper layers will comprise of what is known as the cubed foam. This foam is “pre-cut” into 1-centimetre cubes, which are still partially joined together.

What this means is that these smaller sections of foam can be removed neatly and easily, allowing for detailed profiles to be created. It also ensures as well as different shapes, different depths can be created in the pre-scored foam insert.

Excellent results can be achieved if a little time and patience is used with the resulting protection offered by the case being very effective. The below guide provides a step by step “how to” guide on getting the best results from your “diced” foam inserts.

Please continue reading to find out how to use this type of foam inserts.

Step by step – creating your tailored foam insert

Please see below for a successful, 6 step process to creating your tailored cubed foam inserts.

Remember to take your time and avoid distractions to get the best results.

Step 1

Work out the optimum layout

The first stage is to mark out the shape(s) you wish to remove from the foam.

Lay out the items on the foam to work out the best configuration/orientation within the cases (this is particularly important when working with multiple items).

As a rough guide, for light weight items leave a minimum separation of 1/2″ (1.5cm), especially delicate light weight items (e.g. cameras, laptops) the suggested separation is 1″ to 1-1/2″ (2.5cm to 4cm), and for heavier items (with a weight of approximately 10 to 20 lbs.) leave 1-1/2″ to 2″ (4cm to 5cm) of separation.

One other thing to bear in mind is that, for maximum protection, it is also best to keep equipment inside the pre-cut grid area.

Step 2

Marking out the profiles

Once you have decided on your preferred layout, it is wise to mark the boundaries of the areas to be removed. Cocktail sticks, toothpicks or pins/needles all work well for the purpose of this.

With the various objects in place, insert the position markers around the object.

When the object you are marking out is halfway between one row of the pre-cut section sections, always choose to go in one row towards the object. This will ensure a much more snug fit and offer greater protection of the items being transported.

Remember to always err on the side of caution. If the space is too small, it is always possible to remove more foam at a later point (as it is obviously a bit harder, although still possible, to put it back in).

Step 3

Pre-cutting the foam

While it is not necessarily required, many people find it can be helpful to “pre-cut” the foam before plucking / removing it.

Although it is quite easy and straight forward to remove the pre-scored foam without doing this, the rows of foam cubes are stuck together quite well and pre-cutting the profiles can eliminate the risk of removing additional sections of foam accidentally.

Always remember to take your time and, if you are careful, you can skip this step if you feel confident enough.

Step 4

Removing the foam cubes

With the layout and areas of foam to remove identified, it is now time to start removing the required sections.

To pluck out the foam, simply place your fingers into the gap between the rows you have marked off and with a steady, consistent action begin pushing down and pulling towards you. You should find that the foam begins to separate before breaking off.

It is a good idea to try and remove large sections of foam at a time, as opposed to the individual cubes.

Pick and pluck foam guide
Remember to take care when doing the actual plucking of your foam, to avoid removing too much by accident

This will provide 2 benefits, firstly saving you time, but will also give you large blocks of foam that you can use elsewhere if required.

It may be possible that you can use some or all of the “excess” foam to improve the fit by re-adding it, as it can be stuck back in with a suitable glue or spray adhesive.

Step 5

Testing and Modifying

At this point, you should have well-defined sections cut into the foam for the items that are going to be put into the case. This is a good time to test the fit by placing the items into the relevant sections.

If the cut-out sections are too small you can remove further foam, or if they are too large then you can add some of the excess foam back in as described above.

Pick and pluck foam sets
Peli PICK N PLUCK™ foam sets usually come in a number of layers, making it easier for you to work on them

Step 6

Enjoy using your new case!

From start to finish, this process should not really take much longer than around 30 minutes.

This does, however, depend entirely on both the complexity of the items you will be storing/transporting in your case, plus the size of the items and the case itself.

As a very rough guide, a quarter of an hour should be about right for a simple, large item, while closer to an hour should be expected for numerous, intricate shapes.

Always remember to take your time, be patient, and you will end up with a foam insert that will offer a great level of protection.

Custom Foam Inserts

When should I use custom foam inserts?

The obvious drawback of using cubed foam inserts is the time required to modify the layout. Whilst this is not an issue for one or two cases if you have 5 or more cases it may become impractical – particularly if you are creating complex profiles.

Other drawbacks include the inability to use multiple colours of foam (i.e. for branding or tool control), plus the overall look will not be as professional as custom cut foam. This may be important when used for sales or sample cases that are shown to potential customer for example.

Calculated packaging performance
High performance foams such as Plastazote® have undergone extensive testing to create accurate performance data

Finally, it must be noted that whilst diced foam offers good levels of cushioning, this is considerably less than a custom engineered foam insert.

In fact, it is possible for the custom foam to have exact levels of required protection calculated and designed into the insert. This makes engineered foam more suitable for items which are exceptionally fragile, expensive or important.

In Summary

Get the most out of your cubed foam inserts

Whether you are using Peli cases supplied with PICK N PLUCK™ foam, other types of cubed foam, or are considering custom Plastazote® inserts, you can find further information on all of the foam options available from GWP by clicking here. Alternatively, for any questions or advice, please get in touch using the details below.

Further Reading...

About the Author

Matt Dobson, GWP Group Marketing Manager

Matt Dobson

Marketing Manager | GWP Group

Matt has worked in the packaging industry for approximately 8 years, having joined GWP Group as Marketing Executive in 2012. [Read full bio…]

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