Plastic totes are used in a large number of industrial and consumer contexts. On factory and warehouse floors, especially in businesses where small items are manufactured or stored, plastic tote bins are used in large quantities by employees to collect newly manufactured products or to gather customer orders from storage.
Plastic totes are used extensively for shipping, short and long-term storage and in private households. A given tote design can have useful applications in many industries because of the durability of its materials, the low cost of production and the recyclability of many plastic tote materials. Totes are ideal for product storage in manufacturing contexts because of the customizability of their design; they can be molded with supports specifically made to fit and protect the contents of the tote.
Liquid-containing totes save on plastic material by having the container itself fabricated into a semi-firm bladder and placed inside a protective metal cage which can be reused indefinitely. Totes designed to transport liquid often have a bottom spout protected by a metal cage while solid and semi-solid storing totes have strong sides, bottoms and lids for easy material access.
Plastic totes are created by injection molding or blow molding. Both processes begin with a collection of plastic resin in a hopper that is then directed into a conveyance channel. A large screw in the conveyance channel then forces the resin, which in its undeveloped form is called stock, toward the mold cavity. A mold cavity is a shaped recess that is designed to shape liquefied plastic into useable products.
As the stock approaches the mold, the pressure of the turning screw and heating elements along the conveyance channel heat the stock to near-liquid state. The stock is forced into the mold where it takes shape. In injection molding, the process would be over at this point. Blow molding, however, has a few more steps. After the plastic enters the mold and takes it shape, compressed air is forced into the mold; this creates a hollow recess in the middle of the newly molded product.
After the molding process is complete, the products are removed from the molding machines, cleansed of imperfections (if present) and either shipped or sent for further processing. Once distributed, plastic totes can remain in use for years. Some manufacturing companies even offer tote cleaning as a value-adding service.