Vacuum packing is a method of packing and storing sensitive items such as food and electronics in a way that prevents damage via desiccation, humidity or bacteria by sealing in an airtight environment.
Methods of packaging that functioned to modify the atmosphere around an item can be tracked back to the 19th century, although our first recorded use of vacuum packing machines was around the time of World War II when air as removed from packages of food to extend the shelf life. After that, the first vacuum packing machines began entering the industrial market in the 1940s with the first commercial vacuum packing machines for use in the home reaching the shelves in 1963. These models of vacuum packing machines were bulky, heavy and costly to use outside of an industrial setting. The modern compact vacuum machine design that we are accustomed to however weren’t invented until 1984. These machines in comparison to the previous models of vacuum packers were lighter and compact by utilising technology such as thermoforming sealers and double-chamber vacuum sealers.
Typically, vacuum packing machines consist of a plastic bag attached to either a single or double vacuum chamber packing machine that create an air vacuum within the bag, thus removing all air within the bag before heat sealing to prevent air from entering the package. Alternatively, thermoforming vacuum packing machines form thermoformed pockets around the product to be stored before vacuum sealing around the product enabling a tighter seal to be achieved. Importantly, vacuum packing machines should not be confused with shrink packaging. While vacuum packing uses a suction action to physically remove atmospheric oxygen from the product, shrink wrapping merely uses to heat to apply a tight film around a product but does not alter the atmospheric content.
Using vacuum packing machines is an effective way of storing food items because by removing atmospheric oxygen aerobic bacteria and fungi are unable to grow and subsequently spoil food. Consequently food items, especially those that would typically expire very quickly can have their shelf life extended dramatically by using vacuum packing machines.
An alternative use for vacuum packing machines is to reduce the size of large household items for storage. Storing bulky items such as duvets and clothing can be eased by using a vacuum packing machine to remove the air surrounding the item to leave it more compact for storage. Vacuum packing non food items will also protect them from damage by humidity, water, dust and household pests.