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Intermediate Bulk Containers (IBC): Versatile Solutions for Safe Transport and Storage


Intermediate Bulk Containers (IBCs) have emerged as indispensable tools in various industries for transporting and storing bulk liquids and granulated substances. These versatile containers offer a cost-effective and eco-friendly alternative to traditional packaging methods. In this article, we will explore the uses, applications, and construction of IBCs, as well as their outlets and methods of connection.

Uses and Applications

IBC containers find extensive use in diverse industries, including chemicals, pharmaceuticals, food and beverage, agriculture, and more. They are ideal for transporting and storing liquids, chemicals, powders, and granulated materials. The high-capacity range, typically from 200 to 3000 liters, allows for efficient transport and storage, reducing the need for frequent refills and minimizing logistical challenges.

In the history of industrial applications, various methods of transporting and storing bulk materials have been employed. Before the advent of modern IBC containers, industries relied on different solutions based on their needs:

Barrels and Drums: Wooden or metal barrels and drums were common in the past for storing and transporting liquids, chemicals, and food products. They were widely used but had limitations in terms of capacity and reusability.

Tank Cars and Tank Trucks: Large tank cars and tank trucks were used for transporting bulk liquids and chemicals over long distances. While effective for industrial-scale transportation, they were not as versatile or easily handled as IBCs.

Flexitanks: Flexitanks are large, collapsible, and flexible containers that can be placed inside standard shipping containers for liquid transport. They are suitable for single-use applications but lack the reusability and handling convenience of IBCs.

Jerrycans and Totes: Jerrycans and totes were utilized for smaller-scale applications, but their capacities were limited compared to IBCs.

The emergence of modern IBC containers in the 20th century revolutionized industrial bulk transportation and storage. IBCs offered a balance of capacity, reusability, easy handling, and protection for various substances, making them more efficient, economical, and environmentally friendly than many alternatives used in the past.

Origin of the First IBC Container

The exact origin of the first IBC container is a bit challenging to pinpoint to a specific individual or company, as the concept of bulk containers had been evolving over time through various iterations and innovations. However, one of the earliest known developments of the IBC concept dates back to the 1970s.

The modern IBC design that we are familiar with today, which typically consists of a large, rigid container with a pallet base and a valve for dispensing, was developed by the Japanese chemical company, Daihatsu Kogyo Co. (now known as Daihatsu Diesel MFG. Co., Ltd.). The company introduced their "Daijumbo" container in 1974. This container had a capacity of 1000 liters (about 264 gallons) and was designed for transporting chemicals.

Around the same time, other companies in Europe and the United States were also working on similar bulk container concepts, but Daihatsu's design was one of the pioneers in the industry and significantly contributed to the development and popularization of IBCs.

Since then, many other companies worldwide have entered the IBC manufacturing market, offering various designs, materials, and capacities to cater to different industries and applications. The IBC industry has seen continuous growth and innovation, solidifying its place as a fundamental solution for bulk liquid and granulated material transportation and storage.

Key Features of IBCs

Pallet Base: IBCs are equipped with a sturdy pallet base, facilitating easy handling and transportation using forklifts or pallet jacks. This feature ensures smooth movement within the facility or during loading and unloading processes.

Valve or Tap: An essential component of an IBC, the valve or tap located at the bottom allows controlled dispensing of the contents. Various valve types are available, enabling precise flow control to prevent wastage and spillage.

Gasket and Seals

Gasket and Seals: To maintain the integrity of the container and prevent leaks during transport, IBCs are fitted with high-quality gaskets and seals. These ensure a tight and secure closure, safeguarding both the contents and the environment.

Sealants used in IBC containers are carefully chosen to withstand harsh environments and ensure the integrity of the container's contents. As IBCs may be exposed to sunlight and various challenging conditions during transportation and storage, the sealants possess specific features to meet these demands. Some essential features of sealants used in IBC containers are:

UV Resistance: The sealants are formulated to resist degradation and damage caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight. UV-resistant sealants prevent premature aging, cracking, or weakening of the seals, ensuring the container remains leak-proof.

Weather Resistance: Sealants for IBCs are designed to withstand extreme weather conditions, such as high temperatures, humidity, rain, and temperature fluctuations. They maintain their flexibility and sealing properties, even in varying climatic conditions.

Chemical Resistance: IBCs often carry a wide range of liquids, chemicals, or granulated substances. Sealants must be resistant to chemical exposure, preventing corrosion or degradation when in contact with various contents.

Flexibility and Elasticity: The sealants need to be flexible and elastic to accommodate the movement and vibrations that may occur during transportation. This feature ensures a continuous, secure seal that can adapt to slight deformations in the container's structure.

High Adhesion: The sealants should adhere firmly to the IBC's materials, such as HDPE or metal, to create a strong bond and maintain an effective barrier against leaks.

Long-Term Performance: IBCs are often used for both short-term and long-term storage and transportation. The sealants are formulated to maintain their sealing properties over extended periods, ensuring the container's reliability and safety.

Non-Toxic and Food-Grade: In applications where IBCs carry food products or pharmaceuticals, the sealants used must be non-toxic and compliant with relevant food safety regulations.

Easy Application: Sealants should be easy to apply during the manufacturing process, ensuring efficient production of IBCs with consistent sealing quality.

By incorporating these features into the sealants, IBC manufacturers can offer containers that are robust, reliable, and capable of withstanding challenging environments, protecting the contents and ensuring safe transportation and storage for a wide range of industries.

Outlets and Ways of Connection

IBC containers offer different outlets and connection methods to suit specific applications:

Gravity Dispensing: For straightforward applications, the IBC's bottom valve can be connected to a discharge hose or pipe to allow gravity-fed dispensing. This method is efficient for transferring non-hazardous materials to various containers or production lines.

Pumping Systems: When dealing with viscous liquids or chemicals, using a pumping system to transfer the contents from the IBC is common. Pumps can be connected to the IBC valve, enabling controlled and precise transfer rates.

Bulk Transfer: In industries where large quantities of substances need to be transferred to storage tanks or industrial processes, IBCs can be connected to a bulk transfer system using specialized fittings and hoses.


Connectors commonly made of materials like polypropylene and nylon are favored for several reasons in various industries, including applications in IBC containers:

Chemical Resistance: Both polypropylene and nylon exhibit excellent resistance to a wide range of chemicals. This property is crucial in applications where the connectors come into contact with various liquids or chemicals, ensuring they do not corrode or degrade over time.

Durability: Polypropylene and nylon are durable materials with good tensile strength and impact resistance. They can withstand mechanical stress and load without cracking or breaking, making them suitable for industrial use, including in IBC connectors that may be subject to handling and transportation.

Lightweight: These materials are relatively lightweight, which is advantageous for IBC connectors as it helps reduce the overall weight of the container. A lighter connector contributes to the IBC's ease of handling and transportation.

Cost-Effective: Polypropylene and nylon are affordable materials, making them a cost-effective choice for connectors. This is particularly important for large-scale production of IBC containers, where cost efficiency is a significant consideration.

Low Water Absorption: Both materials have low water absorption rates, which helps maintain their mechanical properties even in humid or wet environments. This characteristic is essential in ensuring the long-term performance of IBC connectors, preventing them from weakening due to moisture exposure.

Resistance to Temperature Extremes: Polypropylene and nylon have good temperature resistance, allowing the connectors to maintain their properties even in a wide range of temperatures, from cold to moderately hot conditions.

Ease of Machining: These materials are relatively easy to machine and form, allowing for precise manufacturing of connectors with consistent dimensions and performance.

FDA and Food-Grade Compliance: In applications where IBCs are used for transporting food products or beverages, both polypropylene and nylon can be formulated to meet FDA and food-grade requirements, ensuring the connectors' safety and suitability for such applications.

Overall, the combination of chemical resistance, durability, lightweight nature, and cost-effectiveness makes polypropylene and nylon popular choices for connectors in IBC containers, providing reliable and long-lasting solutions for various industrial and commercial needs.


Intermediate Bulk Containers (IBCs) have revolutionized the way industries handle and transport bulk liquids and granulated materials. Their robust construction, varied outlets, and connection methods make them versatile tools for a wide range of applications. As companies strive for more efficient and sustainable solutions, IBCs continue to play a crucial role in streamlining logistics, reducing waste, and ensuring the safe handling of valuable and hazardous materials.

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