What have shirt collars and cuffs got to do with corrugated?

Corrugated Roller PressPlenty. Back in nineteenth century England, corrugated roller presses, cranked by hand, were used to produce the required ruffles for shirt collars and cuffs. By 1856 these presses had been adapted to generate corrugated paper, replacing the plain paper that had previously been used in the cylindrical liners to keep the shape of the tall, stiff hats favoured by the gentlemen of the day. The new cylinder was stronger and its flutes provided cushioning in the sweatband.

The first ue of corrugated paper in North America is thought to have been in 1871 when it was used to wrap bottles and the glass chimneys for kerosene lamps. Over the next 20 years, further mechanical adaptations occurred with the first “cellular board boxes” as they were called, being introduced in 1894. These corrugated fibreboard boxes were much lighter and less expensive than wooden boxes, which they gradually replaced.

There’s a lot more to a corrugated box than meets the eye.

Essentially, a corrugated box is used to ship goods from one point to another or as a storage container. Whether carrying small appliances, automobile parts, or food products, the box has to be strong and durable enough for the job at hand.

Manufacturing the corrugated box begins by producing corrugated board, which gives the box its strength, durability, and adaptability. (By tearing a piece in half, you can clearly see the make-up of the corrugated board. A fluted layer is sandwiched between a bottom and top layer of linerboard.)

Here's how corrugated board is produced. Linerboard (a special type of flat cardboard sheet) is softened with steam to make it pliable. The pliable linerboard is then fed between huge metal rollers that have special meshed, gear-like teeth; to press the board into a series of permanent wavy curves (flutes). Next, a cornstarch adhesive is applied to the tips of the flutes (bottom and top) to which linerboard is glued. The result - corrugated board - is used to make the familiar corrugated box.

These flutes, which are essentially a series of connected arches, give the corrugated box its extraordinary strength. (The strength of the arch is well documented in construction and architecture. For example, the Romans were well aware of the strength of the arch and used it widely in their buildings.)

These days, corrugated box design has become a lot more sophisticated than in the past, its strength often being dictated by its use. For example, some boxes not only have to withstand the rigours of travel, but they are often stacked to great heights. If the boxes are not designed to specific strength requirements, collapsing under the load could be a real problem. For these reasons, the industry has developed numerous combinations of corrugated board types, flute sizes, weights, and strengths for virtually any shipping or storage application.

The corrugated box can be custom-designed to fit any shape (thus reducing head space between the product and the package). It is also made largely from reused/recycled material. The balance is old boxes, and sawdust and shavings from logging and wood-processing operations. In Canada, corrugated boxes have an extremely high recycling rate. For more data on recycling rates and environmental issues, click Paper and Paperboard Packaging Environmental Council (PPEC).

Versatility: a shipping box, a merchandising display, a pallet, even furniture!


The uses of corrugated have gone far beyond the humble brown shipping container or appliance or pizza box. Its lightness, strength-to-weight ratios, and direct printing qualities have seen it transformed into merchandising displays, corrugated pallets capable of supporting several tonnes of product (such as a helicopter) and even into furniture and temporary homes in earthquake or disaster relief zones.

Humble brown has gone high-tech

The box looks simple but the truth is that today’s corrugated container is designed with sophisticated computers, engineered to create custom packaging with superior structural integrity. Ongoing research and development programs continuously improveHumble brown has gone high tech image. strength-to-weight ratios, printability, moisture barriers and recyclability, reducing costs and ensuring consistent performance.

High TechDesigners use computer-aided design (CAD) systems and computer-automated cutting tables to create solutions for a wide variety of products ranging from fresh produce to electronics to blood platelets. Whether the issue is fragility of the enclosed product, temperature control, low packaging weight, optimal stacking strength or greater shipping density, today’s designers come equipped with state-of-the-art tools.

Innovations in flute design have increased the number of structural options available to designers. Jumbo-flute, micro-flute, diagonal-flute, wave-flute (waves that go in multiple directions) and double-fluted corrugated are just some of the recent advances that offer structural and strength-to-weight ratio advantages over other packaging materials. And because the fluting is denser there is less ripple effect on the linerboard, making the packaging more receptive to high quality, direct printing.

Eye-catching, full-colour graphics

Graphic design is perhaps one of the fastest growing areas within the corrugated industry. Brandowners and retailers who rely on graphically enhanced corrugated packaging to sell products drive the demand for eye-catching full-colour graphics. When used effectively, graphics showcase the product packaged inside by highlighting its important benefits and features.

Many manufacturers who need high volumes of packaging use pre-printed linerboard to produce their corrugated. High quality, direct printing on corrugated is available for companies using shorter runs. Set-up charges are minimal in comparison to many other alternatives and there is a quicker turnaround since manufacturing steps (like applying a litho label) are eliminated. Silk screening directly on packaging is often used to print displays and to customize packaging for regional promotions.

Industry offers modular stacking system to reduce costs

The North American corrugated industry has come up with a modular stacking system that allows containers to be stacked uniformly on pallets with interlocking tabs. The voluntary standard (called the Corrugated Common Footprint) establishes industry compatibility by providing a uniform platform while still allowing designers to satisfy individual customer needs in marketing and distribution. The Common Footprint was initially applied almost exclusively to corrugated containers used to ship produce from the growing or initial packing location to retail outlets. However, its use is now being expanded to other sectors such as case-ready meats.

For growers and shippers, the Common Footprint offers low cost packaging solutions and recyclability, optimal cube utilization, product protection through custom design, and a wide variety of box designs and material construction.

World of Corrugated PackagingFor the retailer/distributor, it lowers labour costs in the distribution centre and the retail store by reducing training and handling requirements. It also facilitates distribution for global sourcing since the standard is compatible with the common footprint standard for boxes produced in Europe (FEFCO) and in Japan. The footprint also reduces shrink by limiting the need to handle the product in store and provides display-ready options including direct-to-display tables, special displays and end caps.

For the consumer, the Common Footprint means consistently fresher, more attractively displayed produce that has been less handled before it reaches the store.

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