Your online product has just been delivered to you, and chances are that it is packaged in a corrugated box. In fact, the majority of products ranging from electronics, snacks, farm produce, merchandise, and beverages to household goods, everything is shipped in them. And the reason, well, they can be made into different properties, strengths, and shapes to cater to product specific packaging requirements. For instance, you can use heavy-duty bins for pumpkins, trays for fresh produce, pizza boxes or Amazon boxes sturdy enough to withstand the extreme shipping conditions. This reliability is a result of decades of engineering expertise and durable construction that brings a lot of value to businesses all over the globe. The emergence of paper as a more sustainable packaging alternative to plastic has only added to its popularity.
Two types of cardboard boxes
They are made from paper that is thicker than regular paper used for documents or writing, has a thickness of around 0.01 inches, and are sometimes called chipboard boxes as well. They are single-layered cardboard boxes and typically used for greeting cards, cereal boxes, donut boxes, etc. they manufactured via a process called pulping which includes mechanically or chemically grinding wood down, paperboard boxes — which can be bleached or unbleached — are typically used for baked goods, food or cereal, drugs and toiletries such as soapboxes, gift boxes, and shirt boxes.
These boxes are comprised of many layers of paperboard and are more common than paperboard boxes. They can be single face board, single wall, double wall or triple wall depending upon the requirement. The 3 layers: inside layer, fluted medium, and outside layer.
Boxes get strength not just from having more layers but from their middle layer as well which is rounded in triangles. These boxes are ideal for shipping heavier and more fragile products. Some common examples are moving boxes, pizza boxes, and corrugated shipping boxes, commonly known as mailing boxes.
Flutes in corrugated boxes
The corrugated boxes are designed with a middle layer between the liners that have arched or triangled shapes to create ‘flutes’. The size of them needs to be considered before deciding on the type of corrugated box. Flute shape and size determine the strengths and overall design of the box. There are five primary flute shapes- A, B, C, D, and E. Among them, B, C, and E are the most commonly used.
The triangle shape according to structured engineers is one of the strongest geometric designs and that’s why this shape can be commonly seen on bridges or rooftops. The same principle is applied at the micro-level for the corrugated boxes to strengthen them. The shipping is priced by the volumetric weight whether through the ocean or air freight. And the fact that corrugated is light and strong makes it the frontrunner ahead of wood and metal for packaging.
How corrugated boxes are engineered
The primary raw material for corrugated boards comes from wood fiber that is harvested from forests. It is the largest source of producing virgin fiber and after harvesting, trees are replanted to fulfill the future supplies. The other source of raw material is recycled fiber from recycling plants.
The logs from harvesting are barked to be used as bio energy and debarked logs are moved on to the chipper. They are cut into chips and then tested for size consistency. These chips are steamed with water and chemicals under pressure to produce pulp of cellulose fibers- the basic substance from which paper is made.
The cellulose fibers are further washed and prepared for binding together into the paper. A large volume of water is mixed to make the mixture slurry- around 95% of water and 5% fiber. Then the mixture goes through many drying procedures before the final containerboard or paperboard consists of 92% of water and 8% fiber.
The containerboard rolls are then transported to converting facilities to make corrugated fiberboards which then become familiar to everybody around the world- Amazon, pizza and produce boxes.
Preferred packaging material
The durability and strength of corrugated boxes have made companies all around the world rely on them more and more. There are reasons for relying upon them:
It’s two layers of linerboard with the central fluted layer between them provide long-term protection to the delicate items during transit. The outer layers provide rigidity while the inner fluted layer acts as a cushion to absorb the sudden shock during fall or shipping.
One of the most appealing qualities of corrugated boxes is the multiple options in customization they bring to the business. They are available in varied sizes and shapes, allowing companies to choose the perfect box that fits their needs.
These boxes enable companies to promote their brand through labeling options.
They are among the least expensive packaging materials available on the market. The easy manufacturing process, low labor cost, and recycling options have made corrugated boxes the first choice among different businesses be it small, medium or conglomerates. In addition to that, due to their durability and cushioning effect, there remains no need for extra expensive product wrapping.
Myth: Corrugated boxes can be recycled indefinitely
These boxes are made from paper, which is sourced either through forests or from recycling plants. However, paper cannot be recycled indefinitely, rather it can be reused only fo4-6 times. And with each recycling, its fibers degrade and become shorter and weaker. As a result, it is required to introduce some virgin fiber to maintain the strength and quality of the cardboard being produced. Having said that, they are among one of the eco-friendlier options available out there for packaging.
Leading cardboard makers
International Paper and WestRock, America based companies are the two biggest players who have taken a lion’s share of the global cardboard market in the past decade. The next time you come across a cardboard box, take a second to flip it over and look for a logo at the bottom, and you’ll likely find that it came from one of these two companies. International Paper and WestRock are massive business empires hidden in plain sight whose products not only enable American commerce, but also extend into the political landscape and shape foreign countries.
Reliable, durable, and easily transportable are the qualities that are commonly associated with corrugated boxes when it comes to packaging that is suitable for both domestic and international shipments.
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