Corrugated boxes are made by special corrugated box machines. In today’s guide, we will give you a detailed introduction to corrugated boxes, please read on to learn more.
1. What is a Corrugated Box?
A corrugated box is a disposable container whose sides are made up of layers of material that include an inside layer, outer layer, and middle layer. The middle layer is fluted, which means it is styled in rigid, wave-shaped arches that provide cushioning and support for weighted materials placed in a corrugated box.
The common cardboard box has been around for over 200 years. The practice of adding flutes for corrugation began in the middle of the first industrial revolution. Over the years since its development, the corrugated box has become the most common form of shipping container and is found in every aspect of material management and transport.
2. How Corrugated Boxes Are Made
Though the construction of a corrugated box may seem to be a simple and easy process, various elements have to be considered prior to beginning manufacturing. As with all manufacturing and shipping equipment, corrugated boxes are designed and engineered to determine what they can hold, how much, and their strength.
The first step in box manufacturing is to examine the various elements of the box, which are construction, flute size, burst strength, edge crush strength, flat crush strength, the heaviness of the cardboard sheets, the weight of the paper, and types of surface treatments.
1) The Important Elements of a Corrugated Box
The following are the important elements of a corrugated box.
#1. Corrugated Box Construction
There are three types of walls for a corrugated box: single, double, or triple.
- Single Wall – This is the simplest corrugated wall design, with a single outer layer and inner layer with fluting between the two layers.
- Double Wall – The double wall design adds an additional layer of fluting to produce a box capable of handling heavier and larger items.
- Triple Wall – As the name implies, triple wall corrugated boxes have three layers of flutes. Each layer has differently-sized flutes to add stability. The added layers maximize cushioning and compression strength.
#2. Corrugated Flutes
There are five common types of corrugated flutings, which are A, B, C, E, and F. Though these are standard, manufacturers and designers can create and construct customized versions, which can be combinations of the standard versions or unique, unusual designs.
- A – is the original type of flute at 36 flutes per foot and is used for double wall applications and thick corrugated padding.
- B – has the second highest arch size with 49 flutes per foot and has stacking strength and crush resistance.
- C – most commonly used flute with 41 flutes per foot for cushioning, stacking, and printing properties.
- E – second common flute, environmentally friendly with 90 flutes per foot.
- F – has small, tighter flutes, and is environmentally friendly with 128 flutes per foot.
Aside from the five above flute styles, there are specialty flutes that are combinations of the above flutes or that fall between the regularly used flutes, such as D flutes. Other special flutes include EE, EF, and BC, which are used with double-wall flute profiles. Flutes such as N and O are rarely used and are extremely small at less than half a millimeter.
#3. Mullen Test (Burst Strength)
The burst strength of a corrugated box refers to the amount of force that can be applied before the material ruptures, cracks, or falls apart. The Mullen Test, which was developed over 130 years ago, applies force to the face of the corrugated material until it bursts. The results of the test are given in pounds with a rating. For example, a box rated at 200# can withstand 200 pounds (90 kg) of force per square inch. The results of the Mullen test offer data regarding the amount of force per square inch required to burst through the paper on a corrugated box.
The Mullen test is an indicator of how a box will endure its treatment when it is being shipped individually and subjected to the rough handling of assembly operations and mail carriers. As it moves through the multiple distribution channels, the contents of the box are more likely to move inside and possibly cause a puncture.
The flaw with the Mullen test is that the fluted medium doesn’t add to the bursting strength of the box. This isn’t to say the medium isn’t important because 50% of the stacking strength of a box comes from the medium. This is where the Edge Crush Test comes in.
#4. Edge Crush Test (ECT)
The ECT test measures the vertical compression strength of a box and serves as an indicator as to how well a box will react to being stacked for shipping or placed on a pallet. It is a sensible and reliable test to determine how well a box will hold its form during transit and while being handled. The ECT test is a “performance-based” property test rather than a “material characteristics” test.
The ECT of a box can be influenced by several factors, which include humidity, the amount of time a box remains stacked, the amount of crushes from going through a production machine, and the stacking pattern. A box that tests with an ECT of 55 will be able to withstand 55 lbs (25 kg) of pressure.
#5. Basis Weight
The basis weight is a measurement of the weight of cardboard sheets before being made into boxes and is the weight, in pounds, of a ream of paper. Since paper comes in different sizes and widths, the basis weight can vary and must be calculated by measuring and weighing a piece of paper.
#6. Paper Weight
The weight of cardboard is dependent on how thick the cardboard paper is. The weight of the paper to make the sheets of corrugation is measured in pounds, which can vary from 26 lbs. to 42 lbs (11.8 to 19 kg).
During the production of corrugated boxes, coatings, and finishes are applied to protect the stability of the box and give it a certain appearance. There are two basic types of coatings, which are aqueous and UV.
- Aqueous – Aqueous is a clear fast-drying coating that serves as protection for the surface of a box. It can be high gloss or matt and protects against wear and dirt.
- Ultraviolet (UV) – Ultraviolet is cured under ultraviolet light and is resistant to scratches and scuffs. It is more expensive than aqueous coating but lasts longer and is sturdier.
2) How Corrugated Boxes are Made
The following are steps of how corrugated boxes are made.
#1. Producing Corrugated Board
The machine that produces the corrugated board for corrugated boxes is called a corrugator. The main elements of a corrugated board are liners that are flat-facing of the board and come from various grades of paper. This central element is made from the long fibers of softwood trees. The fluted portion is made from shorter fibers found in hardwood trees.
Huge rolls of paper are combined in a single facer that produces the fluted form. To create the flute, the paper is steam heated to 338 ° F (170° C). The fluted paper is attached to a single sheet of the liner by the application of glue at a controlled temperature to the peaks of the flutes and pressed flat by pressure rollers. This produces the single-faced web.
The single-faced web leaves the single facer and moves on to the double glue unit and double backer. To produce a double wall corrugated paper, two single-face webs are fed into the unit as well as the liner. In the double glue unit, the exposed flute tips have glue applied to connect the outside liner. During the process, the liner and fluted single-face web are constantly heated at controlled and monitored temperatures to cure the glue and ensure a secure bond.
After leaving the double backer, the corrugated board is pulled through the dryer, scored, and cut to the required lengths.
The various lengths of the board are stacked to be fed into the box printing and creation equipment. Depending on the type of boxes, they are printed with logos, designs, and an assortment of colors.
#2. Finalizing Corrugated Boxes
The scored, printed, and cut corrugated boards are fed into a trimmer that perforates the boards to create flaps and handles. This process can complete as many as 90 boxes per minute.
Once the boxes have been sufficiently formed and trimmed, they are sent on to the folding machine that bends the box along the score lines and applies glue to the sections that will be joined together to complete the forming of the box.
3. Uses for Corrugated Boxes
What we consider to be the common shipping box is one of the most used shipping tools available to manufacturers for use in shipping their products. Since corrugated boxes can be designed and produced to fit nearly every shipping need, they are one of the most omnipresent and accessible logistical devices.
Corrugated boxes are famous for their structural rigidity and protective cushioning for shipping fragile and delicate items. There are countless advantages to using corrugated boxes that can be customized to fit any type of shipping need.
An important reason that corrugated boxes are used by industry is the ability of box manufacturers to print on the boxes and place a company‘s logo. A clean image of a company‘s logo goes a long way to promoting its brand and making it recognizable. Boxes are an inexpensive way of making a company‘s image unique and distinct.
1) Uses for Corrugated Boxes
Here are uses for corrugated boxes.
#1. Food Industry
In the manufacturing process of corrugated boxes, the glue used to connect the flutes and liners is made from water and starch to avoid contaminating fresh fruits and vegetables. There are many benefits to using corrugated boxes for shipping food. The most important of the benefits is their safety and resistance to bacterial infection. Various research studies have shown that corrugated boxes keep food fresher longer.
#2. Office Supply and Stationary
The main concern when shipping or storing office supplies, especially paper, is the possibility of supplies being damaged in transit or while sitting on a shelf. The strength and cushioning of corrugated boxes prevent this from happening and remove the worry of having damaged work materials.
In the e-commerce industry, boxes serve multiple purposes, the most important of which is an efficient and highly responsive supply chain, a critical part of e-commerce. Corrugated boxes are the backbone of the e-commerce supply change and have been growing in use over the last two years. A challenge for the e-commerce industry is the shipment of smaller quantities to a growing number of unique and unusual destinations. Corrugated boxes offer the type of security and safety that the e-commerce industry demands.
Online shopping has led to a rapid rise in the use of boxes for the shipment of textiles. Billions of dollars are being invested in shipping materials that will guarantee safe, reliable, and damage-free delivery. Since customer satisfaction is the key to maintaining and keeping customers, corrugated boxes have become a significant part of the planning for meeting customer demands.
It is estimated that over 50% of customers will return to a company if the textiles they receive are packaged properly. Corrugated boxes make it possible for textile manufacturers to personalize boxes to fit the product and the customer, which ensures repeat customers.
Great care has to be taken when choosing boxes for the shipping of electronics and electronic components. These types of items are fragile and can be damaged easily by not being packed correctly. For this reason, corrugated boxes are used and supplemented with packing materials for added protection. The greatest concern is the amount of stress placed on components in the handling of the box. The shock from such stress can damage a circuit or loosen a connection. The cushioning found in a corrugated box alleviates worry and prevents damage, ensuring that an electronic product arrives on time in perfect condition.
Much like the needs of the electronics industry, materials shipped for healthcare needs require the same type of care and concern. Delicate and sensitive medical instruments can be easily damaged by poor packaging and mishandling. In the case of medications, there are several requirements regarding shipping conditions to ensure that they arrive safely. The wide assortment and selection of corrugated boxes make it possible for pharmaceutical companies to ship their products with confidence, knowing that medications are well-protected and safe.
Shipping materials for the battery industry have to meet strict guidelines and regulations for safety and legal compliance. The fiberboard used to produce these specially designed boxes follows the established guidelines of the corrugated box industry. Aside from the use of specially produced liners, each battery shipping container has to be clearly marked regarding the contents with appropriate safety guidelines.
The shipping of auto parts requires careful preparation since they come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes. The basic rule is to protect the part to be shipped from harm by providing packing material that is sturdy, able to handle weight, and cushioned.
The choice of container is highly dependent on the parts to be shipped, which can vary from lug nuts to carburetors. Large parts need a box that won‘t burst or be destroyed by handling. Box manufacturers and part suppliers have charts that offer guidance regarding what type of box to use for certain parts.
For publishing companies, the shipping of books, documents, magazines, and other printed material has the major problem of weight since a large amount of printed material can be significantly heavy. Once the problem of weight is resolved, the next concern is moisture, which can severely damage printed matter.
Though the exterior of corrugated boxes is coated with protective finishes, it is important to line the interior of the box with plastic or some form of wrapping material as an extra layer of protection from moisture. The most obvious solution is to use boxes that have a triple thickness of fiberboard.
4. Types of Corrugated Boxes
Corrugated boxes are designed to fit any type of shipping need, which can run into thousands of different shapes, sizes, thicknesses, and designs. This does not include customized boxes ordered to meet specific requirements.
Though there are many thousands of types of boxes, there are basic attributes from which the more complicated designs have grown. Whenever a box is opened, it is expected to have a lid, top, sides, bottom, and inner space. These are a corrugated box‘s basic features and expectations. The manipulation and change of those basic components lead to a wide array of different types.
The first assumption regarding all corrugated boxes is that they are sturdy, durable, and long-lasting and have been shaped, formed, and processed to meet a required need and set of stipulated conditions.
1) Types of Corrugated Boxes
Here are the types of corrugated boxes.
#1. Slotted Boxes
A slotted box is made from a corrugated fiberboard that has been scored and slotted so that it can be folded and shaped to form a corrugated box. Of the many types of boxes, the slotted type is the most common and widely used. There is an endless number of products, chemicals, and parts that can be shipped or stored using slotted corrugated boxes.
The term slotted box encompasses and defines an assortment of box designs that are described below.
- Regular – Flaps are of the same length, with the two outer flaps being half the width of the container, which meet at the center of the box when folded.
- Half – The half-slotted corrugated box is exactly like the regular version but is missing one set of flaps to form the top.
- Overlap – The flaps are the same length, with the outer flaps overlapping. To secure the shape, the overlapping flaps are stapled. This design has greater length than width.
- Full Overlap – All of the flaps are the same length, with the top and bottom flaps overlapping for greater support for heavier items.
- Center – For a center-slotted corrugated box, the inner and outer flaps have different lengths and meet in the center when folded.
- Divider – The divider container is similar to the other slotted versions but has a pre-glued, internal divider in the center of the interior.
#2. Telescope Boxes
Telescope boxes get their name from their two sets of foldable sections, body, and cover, that make up their design. Once the body and cover are folded, they fit over each other. The cover serves as the lid, while the body in the container receives the shipped item.
#3. Rigid Boxes
A rigid corrugated box comes in three pieces with two end pieces and the body of the box. The two end pieces or panels are folded into the ends of the box, with the remainder of the box being one piece that folds together. The flaps or joints are the part of the box that makes it rigid.
The self-erecting version of a rigid corrugated box is one piece of scored corrugated fiberboard that can fold into a slotted or telescope-style container.
#4. Folder Boxes
Folder corrugated boxes are like the self-erecting rigid type. They consist of one piece of corrugated fiberboard that has been scored so it can be folded together. The types of folders include one-piece, five-panel, and tray.
The one-piece has a flat bottom with flaps that form the sides and ends, with the extensions of the side flaps forming the top. The five-panel version folds in one direction, with the second and fourth panels being the top and bottom and the fifth panel being a side. Trays can be five or four-panel. The five-panel version has a top, while the four-panel one does not.
#5. Tucktop Auto Bottom Boxes
The tucktop corrugated box was designed for quick, efficient, and easy setup. The structure of the box has been completely pre-glued. Initially, the box is flat, with the bottom tucked into the body of the box and the top flaps and top extended. When the sides of the box are separated and opened, the bottom flattens to allow items to be loaded. The assembly of the box takes place in one rapid motion.
A variant of the tucktop auto bottom corrugated box is the tucktop snap lock bottom, where the bottom is not pre-glued, and is formed by four flaps that fold together. The differences between the two are setup time and cost.
#6. Double Cover Corrugated Boxes
The body of a double-cover corrugated box is formed by a square or rectangular tube. The top and bottom of the box are interchangeable telescopic covers. The pieces are stored flat. When required, the top and bottom telescopic pieces are slot-assembled and the tube is opened to allow positioning of the telescopic pieces.
A version of the double-cover corrugated box is the interlocking type, which is a more secure and tight-fitting version. There are interlocking flanges on the covers and tube to reinforce the structure of the box. The design is for shipping heavy items such as appliances and heavy equipment.
2) Virgin Corrugated Board vs. Recycled Corrugated Board
The following are the differences between virgin corrugated boards and recycled corrugated boards.
#1. What is a Virgin Corrugated Board?
The process of producing corrugated boards involves taking wood fibers that are pulped and converted into corrugation. The first time that this happens is referred to as virgin corrugation, where the corrugation does not have any recycled content.
#2. What is a Recycled Corrugated Board?
After the virgin board has reached the extent of its usefulness, it is repulped as many as five times before it can no longer be used. During repulping, the fibers of the corrugated board become shorter and weaker. The result of the repulping and production of virgin corrugated board is recycled corrugated board.
#3. Advantages of Recycled Corrugated Board
- More environmentally friendly
- Reduces the rate of deforestation
- Easy to recycle
- Do not go to a landfill
- Reduces the amount of methane emitted into the atmosphere
- Appealing to eco-friendly consumers
#4. Advantages of Virgin Recycled Corrugated Board
- Fibers are stronger
- Last longer due to the strength of the fibers
- Can endure heavy products and use
- Holds up better against heat and moisture
- Superior protection for products
- Can be recycled
5. Benefits of Using Corrugated Boxes
After careful study of corrugated boxes, it is easy to see how valuable they are as a shipping tool. Their main advantage is their strength and durability, even though they are made of molded paperboard and glue. Each type of box is designed to perform under a wide variety of conditions, from places where it rains constantly to extreme heat. This flexibility is the reason that corrugated boxes are an essential part of world shipping.
1) Benefits of Using Corrugated Boxes
The following are the benefits of using corrugated boxes.
#1. Protective against Outside Elements
The productive strength of corrugated boxes includes their ability to keep moisture and bacteria out. They serve as a stable cushion and come in sizes that can vary according to the items to be shipped.
Corrugated boxes keep products safe during long-distance transportation, shipping, and handling. The type of corrugated protection can be adjusted for fragile and delicate items using varied thicknesses and sizes.
The wavy fluted medium provides a lightweight layer of protection. Corrugated fiberboard offers excellent protection against the elements as well as the wear and tear of shipping. The lightweight corrugated fiberboard makes it a better shipping material than wood or plastic. It’s also far less expensive and easier to recycle, making it better for the environment and pocketbook.
#2. Customizable to Demands
Though there are standard shapes and sizes of corrugated boxes, they can easily be manufactured to fit any type of circumstance and demand. An additional part of their customization is the ability to have their sides or top and bottom printed with company logos and designs.
Coatings, treatments, different adhesives, and flame resistance can all be applied. Corrugated boxes come in all sizes to be easily folded into different shapes to make a perfect fit.
High-quality custom designs make a product recognizable. Good quality shipping materials reinforce the values of a company‘s operation and the power of its brand. By having a well-engineered and creative display on a corrugated box, a company creates a stronger, lasting brand identity.
#3. Cost-Effective and Reusable
The main reason that corrugated boxes have become so widely used is their cost compared to other forms of containers. Their use does not require increased labor, expensive tooling, or specialized equipment. Once they have met their usefulness, the corrugated fiberboard can be returned for recycling and remanufacturing.
#4. Compatible with Branding
Every company is constantly devising methods to make their image and name known. One of the least expensive methods for achieving this goal is by placing the name and brand on a corrugated box, which can have any form, color, design, or configuration. The smallest company can appear to be a major competitor by creating a sophisticated and quality design to put on their shipping boxes. Custom branding impresses customers and presents a professional appearance.
#5. Biodegradable and Eco-Friendly
The most important feature of corrugated boxes is their ability to be recycled and repurposed. In this age of environmental awareness, every company is striving to develop a way to protect and sustain the environment. Since over 70% of the material used to produce corrugated boxes is recyclable, corrugated boxes are an essential part of a company‘s efforts in proving it is environmentally wise. According to governmental regulations, corrugated boxes are assembled using glues and materials that are non-pollutant and ecologically friendly according to governmental regulations.
#6. Lightweight Materials
A major factor in any shipping operation is the control of cost, which can be increased by shipping heavy materials in heavy boxes. Since corrugated boxes are lightweight but strong, they are the perfect solution to weight shipping problems. Regardless of their weight, corrugated boxes still have the strength to ensure the safety of any product.
#7. Flexible Paper Types
One of the advantages of corrugated fiberboard is its many types, including single, double, and triple-walled, which can be produced from a variety of paper types depending on shipping needs. Any product that a manufacturer can produce can be shipped using a corrugated box.
#8. Inexpensive and Custom Printing
Corrugated fiberboard is an inexpensive material for printing company graphics, logos, brand names, and graphics. Included in the production of most fiberboard is a customizable printing process for the application of designs. Custom printing is a vital part of the branding process and is one of the least expensive since it does not require additional advertising costs or an advertising agency. The layer of flute protection and flat surface for printing make corrugated boxes the bridge between marketing and logistics.
The use of corrugated boxes provides companies with the opportunity to creatively develop their professional, personalized logistic tool. A well-designed and engineered box can be tailored to fit the culture and personality of a business. The extra effort to create a company corrugated box will differentiate a business from its competitors and place a professional image in its market.
#9. Product Safety
A corrugated box is an insurance policy for products that have to travel long distances through various conditions to make it to market. The flutes and walls of a corrugated box may be the only defense a product has against the environment and the ill-treatment it may receive during shipping. The extra cushioning is protection against shocks, abrasions, vibrations, and being tossed about on a plane, truck, or train.
Aside from preventing damage from abuse, corrugated boxes can protect the most fragile products, such as perfume, colon, and chemicals, from exposure to dirt, grime, dust, and bacteria. The fiberboard of a corrugated box serves as a shell casing that ensures the safe delivery of products.
A major dynamic in modern business is sustainability, where only as much is used as needed to match what is being resupplied. Corrugated boxes fit easily into the sustainability model since they can be repurposed at the end of their usefulness and put back into the supply chain. This factor removes the concept of diminishing returns since a company can never run out of corrugated material or boxes.
#11. Meets Global Recycled Standard (GRS)
The GRS is owned by the Textile Exchange, an organization with several industry partners that support joint climate and biodiversity initiatives. The range of products covered by the GRS under the Textile Exchange goes beyond the limitations of the textile industry to include a wide range of products that have recyclable content.
Included in the certification standards for the GRS are social, environmental, and chemical criteria to verify responsible practices.
The GRS certifies organizations using various parameters, which include:
- The Reclaimed Material Declaration Form guarantees that materials that would have gone into landfills will be reclaimed.
- A Transaction Certificate identifies the transfer of ownership and must declare the pre-and post-consumer recycled content of the materials.
- A corrugated box is a disposable container whose sides are made up of an inside layer, outer layer, and middle layer of material.
- As with all manufacturing and shipping equipment, corrugated boxes are designed and engineered to determine what they can hold, how much they can hold, and their strength.
- Over the years since its development, the corrugated box has become the most common form of shipping container and is found in every aspect of material management and transport.
- Since corrugated boxes can be designed and produced to fit nearly every shipping need, they are one of the most omnipresent and accessible materials.
- A Box Maker‘s Certificate is stamped or printed on a box telling the user or freight carrier the requirements that a box meets. It identifies the manufacturer, box specifications, and compliance.