Brown corrugated boxes are ubiquitous and are often overlooked in everyday settings. We see and interact with them, sometimes daily, without giving them much thought – whether in a retail store as a clerk restocks shelves or as e-commerce shipments box delivered to our doors. Or maybe you are responsible for sourcing them, and all you know is if you need boxes. You may even have heard them referred to as cardboard boxes. That’s ok. Those not directly involved in corrugated manufacturing shouldn’t have to think about them; they should be able to trust that the corrugated manufacturer and the product manufacturer have worked together to ensure the boxes are doing their intended job. If you are sourcing boxes, keep reading; there are a few things you need to know.
Not all brown boxes are created equal. When those involved in the corrugated packaging business see a box in any setting, we judge it. Sometimes harshly. Sometimes we are impressed. Why? Because we know what a quality box looks like. The crumbled side of a poorly made box and damaged content hurts our hearts a little. We know there is a better way, and we want to help.
First, a Little History
The building block of this packaging workhorse was born in London in 1856, according to Forbes. However, corrugated wasn’t invented to make boxes; it was patented as a material to help top hats retain their shape. In 1871, the first patent to use corrugated paper as a packaging material was for wrapping around bottles to protect them from breaking. Three years later, single and double facings were added to prevent the corrugated paper from stretching.
It wasn’t until 1894 that the first double-faced corrugated boxes were created for light express deliveries. Things changed significantly in the packaging world in 1903 when a cereal manufacturer secured an exception to the railroad’s wooden box requirement. With the railroad’s approval, the use of corrugated boxes for shipping took off. As they say, the rest is history. Today brown corrugated box materials (i.e., corrugated boards) have been standardized for the most part, and brown corrugated boxes are used to move goods by truck, rail, and sea.
The Strength of The Brown Corrugated Box
The popularity of using corrugated boxes over other materials to transport goods lies in their strength and weight. Advances in corrugated design have allowed corrugated boxes to become lighter and stronger, bringing down the costs associated with shipping.
The strength and ability to provide protection lie in the corrugated board’s inner wavy sheet known as flutes (also called medium) of corrugated board. The corrugated board comprises layers of linerboard (the outside sheets) and medium. When the medium is combined with the linerboard and adhesive, its rigid arches allow the corrugated board to sustain a lot of weight that is applied perpendicularly to the flute columns. The space within the flutes provides cushioning protection. Flute size matters. As they get larger, they provide greater strength, but printability and foldability increase as they get smaller and closer together.
The quality of the linerboard can impact box quality. Paper is strongest with large virgin fibers. When paper gets recycled, the fibers are smaller. Most corrugated sheets are going to contain recycled content. Most corrugators recycle postproduction waste. You may have seen corrugated board slightly grayish in color that easily rips. This is likely from China. Often corrugated board from China has a low fiber quality. Because of the lack of virgin fibers in that country, corrugated material gets recycled repeatedly.
All About Flutes
Flutes are designated by letter according to when they were developed, which had nothing to do with size or strength.
- A-Flute — This is the original flute design. It provides the most cushioning and vertical compression strength.
- B-Flute — This size has more flutes per foot than A, but the height of the arches is shorter, which provides better crush and puncture resistance.
- C- Flute — Most of the shipping boxes you see will have this flute. It provides well-rounded characteristics of good crush resistance, stacking strength, and printability.
- E and F-Flutes — These are considered micro flutes because of their thinness. F flute is half the thickness of the E-flute but has 30 percent more flutes per foot, giving it an excellent surface for printing. E-flute is often used to replace retail folding cartons, and F-flute is often used for fast food clamshell containers.
How It Stacks Up
We already mentioned that corrugated board combines linerboard and medium that is glued together. There are four different configurations, and the stacking combination can determine the strength. Different linerboard and flute combinations can be used to meet specific needs.
- Single-Face: One sheet of the linerboard is glued to one corrugated medium with the flutes exposed.
- Single-Wall: Two sheets of linerboard interleaved with one corrugated medium.
- Double-Wall: Three sheets of liner board are interleaved with two sheets of corrugated medium.
- Triple-Wall: Four sheets of linerboard are interweaved with three sheets of corrugated medium.
Extra Protection By Design
The most surefire way to safeguard your product makes it to its destination unscathed is to ensure the box is appropriately fitted to the product. Oversized boxes allow products to move around during transit and potentially get damaged. Or they require extra internal packaging materials to secure them, which wastes resources. Optimizing your packaging can ensure your product is protected and save you money.
A packaging assessment can ensure your packaging is optimized and find other cost savings opportunities through the supply chain.
Trust Tyoga For Your Brown Corrugated Boxes
When you trust us for your corrugated packaging, you get a partner with more than 50 years of experience in the industry. As a part owner of a sheet feeder operation with access to the largest paper mill system in North America, we can provide innovative solutions using various liners and mediums. Our solutions will help you to be more cost-competitive while meeting your most challenging needs. To provide another layer of protection, we can even assist you with transit protection to minimize freight damage and increase load efficiency.
Contact one of our packaging specialists to discuss your corrugated and transit protection needs.