Packaging Advice

Hand-Held Tape vs Machine Tape

6 mins

The first variation of tape was invented in 1845 by a surgeon called Doctor Horace Day as he used rubber adhesive to the strips of fabric to keep the material on patient’s wounds. Before that, rope and string were used to hold materials together. Luckily, there is no need for that anymore as now hand-held tape and machine tape exist!

There are many who get the differences between machine and hand-held tape confused. Even though the actual materials the tapes are made from are often the same, there is a difference when it comes to the length of the rolls. Hand-held packing tapes are small rolls for hand applications whereas machine tape rolls are large and need to be used on an automatic taping machine.

In this article, we will be discussing hand tape vs machine tape, the differences between them, the benefits, and discovering which is best for your packaging operations.

Hand-held packaging tape

Hand-held packaging tapes are small rolls of adhesive tape to suit a hand dispenser for manual packaging sealing applications. The benefit of hand-held tape is that with the rolls being smaller, it means hand-held tape is more flexible and so allows you to carry it around wherever required.

Hand-held packing tape is produced in 75m, 100m, and 150m length rolls to fit a manual hand dispenser. The rolls are available in a variety of widths to suit a range of different applications with 48mm width being the most common size. It is also available in different adhesive types which are hybrid, acrylic, hot melt, and natural rubber.

Some of the benefits that come with hand-held tape with the tape dispenser include:

  • Hand-held tapes are portable and easy to use.
  • They are relatively inexpensive and appear to be a less expensive carton sealing option.
  • Most people are familiar with them so little training is needed.

At Swiftpak we supply both desktop and hand-held dispensers to support a range of self-adhesive tapes. Our hand-held dispenser has a built-in brake that adjusts easily to accommodate tapes of varying unwinding speeds, allowing you to add extra tension for more secure bundling, reinforcing, and sealing of your products. It is important to note that with hand-held dispensers you should always double check that your tape is compatible with it as the cores of the tapes are different and so it is not one size fits all.

Packaging Tape

Despite the few benefits listed above, hand-held tape does come with some significant disadvantages too:

  • To ensure the carton is properly sealed, packers often use several strips of tape on the package which reduces productivity. It also means more tape has been used than necessary and increases material costs and can contribute to harmful waste in the environment.
  • Plastic tape often tears and when it does, it is difficult to find the starting point so taping can proceed, which further reduces packer productivity.
  • Tape guns can become heavy and awkward to use over time and can lead to repetitive strain injury.
  • Taping a box manually is slower and more time consuming than taping a box via the use of machinery.

Machine Packaging Tape

Anyone who works in packaging or in a warehouse knows there is nothing more important than efficiency. Machine packaging tape is longer than hand packaging tape and is ideal for packaging high volumes of boxes. It is generally available in 1000m length rolls to be dispensed on an automatic packaging sealing machine and comes in different adhesive types such as Hybrid, Acrylic, Hot Melt, and Natural Rubber.

There are many benefits to adding a taping machine to your packaging operations. Some of these benefits include:

  • Increased productivity: allows workers to apply tape faster than they would manually, it’s more efficient as it can be perfectly taped with just a push of a button and there is less scope for packaging errors.
  • Consistent sealing: Eliminates the potential of over-taping and messy finishes and creates a more professional looking package.  This is because with an automated taping machine, the perfect amount of tape needed can be set so it can automatically seal the box the same way every time.
  • Cost saving: Applying the tape manually can lead to over taping which contributes to material waste. By using a taping machine, you can reduce costs by shrinking material wastage and the increasing productivity.
  • Reduced damaged returns: With the stronger, more secure sealing that automatic taping machines provide, it means the chances of the tape peeling off during transport and storage is reduced, so there is a much higher chance that your product will remain protected.
  • Lower injury chances: Repetitive strain injury risks are much lower if you use a taping machine as automation removes a lot of input usually required by someone to complete the manual tasks.
  • The Government Relief: From 1st April 2021 until 31st March 2023, companies investing in new plant and machinery assets will be able to claim a 130% super-deduction capital allowance on the plant and machinery investments, as well as a 50% first-year allowance for qualifying special rate assets.


As you can see there are many more benefits that come with a taping machine when compared with the standard manual hand tape. The main cons of using a taping machine are they are of course more expensive to invest in when compared to a hand-dispenser, also if your packaging operation

uses a variety of different shaped boxes then one taping machine might not be the right solution as you would need to change the settings for each box size. Apart from that, when you weigh up the pros and cons, it is a very worthy investment.

At Swiftpak, we would recommend using our high performance Supatak Machine Tape as it performs well throughout all temperature ranges including deep freeze, and is resistant to splitting, abrasion and moisture. 

Hand-held and Machine Tapes from Swiftpak

Whether you choose hand-held packaging tape or invest in a taping machine depends on your individual packaging operation. If you are looking for a tape that is more flexible that you can carry around with you then hand-held tape could be the option for you. However, a taping machine would be a worthwhile investment, particularly if you are trying to pack high volumes of boxes.

At Swiftpak, we have a range of automated taping machines that are easily adjustable and provide consistent quality seals for your products. Contact our packaging experts today to find out more about how our hand-held tape and machine tape can be used to benefit your packaging operation.