FIBC stands for Flexible Intermediate Bulk Container. They are more commonly known as Bulk Bags, or sometimes Big Bags. The packages are classified as intermediate containers because of their size; typically having filled weights between about 500 and 3000 pounds when filled with material. Obviously not small enough to be moved easily by hand, but also not large enough to be classified as a full bulk container, such as a truckload or railcar. FIBCs were originally developed in Europe in the eighties, but were widely adopted thereafter in the Americas and even other developing industrial nations. Use of FIBCs today permeates nearly all industries in which dry bulk solids are handled including Food, Chemicals, and even Pharmaceuticals.
The most common materials used in FIBC construction are Polypropylene, a tough relatively inert thermoplastic, and Polyethylene, typically used for inner liners.
Other more exotic materials include Polyamide (Nylon), various metallic foils, carbon infused plastics, steel and silver cored wire fibers, Polyester, and more.
Top Inlets and Openings Body Webbing or Lift Loops Bottom Outlets or Discharge Spouts Ties, Clips, and Buckles Other Specialty Parts
There are many common types of FIBCs available in the market place. The most commonly used FIBCs are constructed in the U Panel or Circular configuration and might incorporate a simple PE liner or no liner at all.
Much of how Bulk Bags are referred to has to do with their construction, i.e., 4 Panel, U Panel, Circular, or their application, such as Type B, or Baffle Bags.
Below is a general list of commonly referred to terms used when describing FIBCs. For FIBC available through Procon Pacific, please visit the Products section.
Circular or Tubular 4 Panel U Panel Baffle
Food Grade Bags UN Bags Multi-Trip Bags Chemical Bags Conductive or Static Dissipative Bags Valve Bags or Liquid Bags
Type A – No Electrostatic Protection Type B – Surface Breakdown Voltage of <6kV Type C – Electrically Conductive or Groundable Type D – Static Dissipative
Typically, FIBCs are filled from the top through a sized inlet spout or open top. Filling operations range from the extremely economical and simple to the highly expensive, hygienic, and sophisticated with dust control, bulk densification mechanisms, and fully automatic multi-stage filling cycles. Discharging typically occurs through the bottom of the bag via sized outlet spout, or other style.
Discharging, or emptying processes are much the same as with Filling and run the gamut from simple manual operations to highly automated and sophisticated discharging systems.
Even though much sophistication and automation has been built into the higher end processes and equipment designs over the years, filling and discharging FIBCs still largely involves manual intervention and dedicated operators to handle certain parts of the filling and discharging processes.
The design and flow of your FIBC handling process is extremely important and should be carefully thought out. The best bag in the world will still fail to work efficiently, and may not work at all, if the surrounding process is not well thought out and designed for every specific material and process application. Please consult with an experienced FIBC expert when designing a new process or if you feel you need help in this area. We have several trusted contacts in the industry and would also be happy to refer you to them for more information.
Transportation of FIBCs is not as diverse as their designs or applications. Depending on their contents, FIBCs can be transported by most all normal means of industrial transportation including truck (enclosed or sometimes open trailer), rail, ship, or even air. Often, ISO containers are used if there will be multiple modes of transportation used. This eliminates the need to actually transfer each individual bag to a new vehicle or container and significantly reduces the risk of package integrity loss during transit.
With almost any bulk bag application, it is important to consider all of the final characteristics of the filled package including weight, shape, bulk density, and package design (lined, unlined, etc.) Bulk density, mentioned earlier, is particularly important. Usually, it is highly beneficial to insure that the material within the bag is brought to more than 90% of its fully tamped bulk density before transporting the package. The reason for this is simple, a packaged that is not properly “densified” during or directly after the filling process contains a higher amount of air, and is more unstable, thus creating a high risk of material shift and possibly package failure, which can be very dangerous. Again, please consult with an expert if you have any questions in regard to this part of the handling process.
Most common designs of FIBCs have a very long shelf life of more than five years. However, the common construction materials used in the production of FIBCs do have the potential to exhibit creep or stress relaxation over time. This means that the packages may not act as originally designed if stored for very long times or if they are exposed to more harsh storage environments with elevated temperatures, humidity swings, etc.
Some FIBCs, such as those that contain special chemical coatings, may in fact have relatively short shelf lives due to the chemical breakdown of that coating. This includes some designs of Antistatic liners and even the FIBC fabrics themselves. It is important to ask the shelf life question if you are considering using antistatic packages or have electrostatically sensitive environments. Can FIBCs be used in flammable or combustible environments? The short answer is Yes. Some FIBCs are designed to be used in these environments. These bags are called Type C or Type D and they differ in how they protect against dangerous static discharges. Please consult other information on this site or with a trusted expert in the area for a more thorough explanation.
There are a number of things that we would recommend you consider when evaluating an FIBC supplier. Below is just a brief list to get you started.
Expert resources available throughout the organization from sales associates, account management, design, production, QC, and supply chain management.
Cost effectiveness of goods and value added in the form of service & support. In the FIBC world, you get what you pay for, so it helps to understand and prioritize your key technical and financial needs.
Reasonable mechanisms in place to mitigate risk of supply interruption.
Capability to track production and quality control throughout the life of individual FIBCs or each individual production lot.
Adherence to appropriate quality control standards for your application including ISO, AIB, HACCP, etc.
Other satisfied clients. Feel free to ask your prospective FIBC supplier for references.