Corrugated boxes have become commonplace in most distribution and fulfillment operations thanks to their versatility and strength. Corrugated boxes have three or more layers, each made of thick paper. Single wall corrugated board comprises two sheets of outside linerboard and one corrugated medium, a wavy inner sheet known as fluting. This middle layer enables the carton to absorb minor shocks, and its rigid arches allow the corrugated board to sustain a lot of weight when applied perpendicularly. Varying the flute profile and linerboard thicknesses can change the characteristics and benefits of the box. Overall, this multi-layer structure provides boxes and cartons with excellent strength properties.
Corrugated cardboard is a versatile packaging material. Corrugated boxes are highly customizable to meet the needs of specific goods. Boxes can be produced in virtually any size, and the layer thickness may be increased as needed to improve the durability of the box.
How are Cardboard and Corrugated Boxes Different?
Cardboard boxes and corrugated boxes have some overlap, but primarily serve different purposes in the packaging realm. This section will lay out the differences between cardboard and corrugated packaging solutions.
Cardboard Boxes vs. Corrugated Boxes
Cardboard boxes are different from corrugated boxes in structure. Cardboard is a single layer of stiff pasteboard rather than the multi-layer design found with corrugated cardboard. Cardboard boxes, or folding cartons, are commonly used for consumer-facing packaging for various products, including cereal, beauty products, over-the-counter medicine, and much more. Cardboard boxes are useful for storing and displaying products, but typically aren’t strong enough to protect goods through the rigors of shipping. However, it is becoming common for brands with fragile or delicate products, such as cosmetics or glass, to replace folding cartons with micro-fluted corrugated packaging when protection is needed without sacrificing print quality.
The three-layer construction of corrugated cartons is much better suited for protecting goods during transit. The multiple layers in a corrugated box help to protect shipped goods from damage caused by rough handling, impacts, and other conditions commonly found in shipping. The fluted middle layer of corrugated cardboard also plays a small role in regulating temperature for goods inside the box. Coatings can be applied for special circumstances such as being in a high moisture environment.
Given the differing nature of their constructions, these two types of boxes usually serve different applications. However, they also frequently work in conjunction with one another. For example, online fulfillment operations may place a product in its standard cardboard retail box into a corrugated cardboard shipping box before mailing it to the end customer.
Types of Corrugated Boxes
Corrugated boxes come in a variety of types to suit varying packaging needs. Some of the most common types of corrugated boxes and cartons include:
- Half-slotted containers (HSC). These containers feature flaps only on the bottom. The top remains open or closes with a separate lid.
- Regular slotted containers (RSC). Regular slotted containers have equally sized flaps on the bottom and the top that facilitate closing.
- Telescope boxes. Telescope boxes refer to a variety of box types where the cover has wider dimensions that allow it to fully slide over—or “telescope”—the bottom part of the box.
- Folder boxes and trays. This box type consists of a single piece of board that folds to create the cover and sides of the box. Box designs may contain additional features that facilitate box closing, such as handles or locking tabs.
- Slide/sleeve boxes. Slide boxes consist of two corrugated cardboard sleeves facing in different directions. When one sleeve is inserted into the other, it creates walls on all sides.
- Rigid boxes. The body of the box is connected to the end pieces using glue or stitching to form a complete carton.
- Partitions. Partitions create cross-sections inside the box for the placement and separation of individual goods.
- Fold-up pads. These foldable corrugated layers can separate goods or act as box liners. This packaging is becoming increasingly popular in temperature-controlled food packaging.
Printing of Corrugated Boxes
Custom printed corrugated boxes can improve the customer experience and enhance marketing initiatives. Some of the most popular printing methods for corrugated boxes include:
Flexographic printing is a roll-fed printing process that gets its name from the flexible photopolymer plates that wrap around a color-specific cylinder. These custom plates feature raised areas consisting of the text and graphics for the printing job, and only the raised parts of the plate receive ink from the rollers. Colors are printed onto the substrate one at a time and sometimes dried using UV, infrared, or hot air drying systems, depending on the printer model and application.
Advantages of flexographic printing include:
- Can print on a broad range of packaging, including cardboard and corrugated cardboard, polybags, pouches, shopping bags, and more
- Suitable for bulk and high-volume orders
- Printing speeds from 500-2,000 feet per minute
- Extensive color palate covering most of the Pantone Color Matching System
- Compatible with solvent-based, water-based, and UV-curable inks
Digital printers can print complex graphics onto surfaces from a digital image file. This method is ideal when exceptional detail is required, though it can typically only handle low-volume orders. Some of the advantages of digital printing include:
- High-quality graphics
- Minimal set-up required
- No mess
Litho mounting and litho lamination both use lithographic printing, also called offset printing. A treated printing plate receives ink from rollers. The inked image is transferred from the plate to a rubber cylinder and from there to the substrate. Litho mount prints the graphic or branding elements onto a litho label, which is then affixed to the corrugated box. Litho lamination uses less paper because a top sheet is printed and affixed to a single face corrugated sheet (i.e., one linerboard with a fluted medium). The benefits of litho mount printing include:
- High-quality graphics
- Good for high-volume orders
- Ideal for graphic-intensive packaging
- Can cover full or partial carton as needed
How to Make Your Corrugated Packaging Stand Out to Customers
Using corrugated boxes doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice style for durability. With proper customization, your corrugated packaging can help you positively promote your brand and improve your customers’ experiences.
- Understand your customers. When developing packaging designs, use market research and customer experiences to inform your design choices. Tailoring your branding and graphics to your customers’ expectations will help you to establish brand recognition and customer loyalty. You can also tailor the features of your packaging to your customers’ desires, such as easy opening features for elderly customers or environmentally friendly packaging for socially conscious consumers.
- Consider color. Colors can breed familiarity and influence consumer behavior, making it important to strategically incorporate colors into your packaging designs. For example, white is associated with purity and is commonly used in soaps or cleaning products. Black may be associated with quality or durability, making it common for use in packaging for power tools or luxury goods.
- ‘Tis the season. Consider the holiday peak season and other holidays in your custom packaging. When appropriate, tailoring your packaging solution to various holidays, sporting events, or other relevant festivities can help to attract the attention of consumers.
Progress Container Display: Your Corrugated Packaging Specialists
Corrugated boxes provide a versatile packaging solution for retail and shipping applications. Progress Container & Display has extensive experience developing custom corrugated packaging solutions for consumer products in numerous industries. To see how we can support your branding and marketing initiatives, please contact us today.