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Large Cardboard Boxes - a Modern Marvel of the Shipping Industry

Jan 22, 2011
Back in the days shipping and moving boxes were made from "classic" cardboard - layers of paper which are stacked and attached to each other with adhesive. Needed strength was reached by simply stacking more layers. in reality, cardboard is just a common name for the thick paper boxes are made of. The proper term is corrugated fiberboard. The history of both classic cardboard and corrugated board goes hand in hand for the most part with cardboard being the older material.

As the area of industrialization settled in, stacking papers on top of each other was not sufficient enough anymore. A stronger inexpensive product was needed to allow factories to ship their production to customers and other businesses in remote locations. Using wooden boxes to confine products was not an option either. Corrugated fiberboard nicely took that hole in the world economics and proliferated rapidly to all areas of life and industry. The new material allowed for exceptional design of light, durable and inexpensive packaging materials. The large flat outside areas of the large shipping and moving boxes allowed for plenty of almost free advertising. Raw materials were abundant and green or recycled packaging were not a factor as yet.

The building block of cardboard and removal boxes is containerboard. It is a heavy thick paper used in the production of linerboards and corrugated flutes. A typical shipping box would normally have and inside plain liner, flutes and an outside printed liner. For the most part the containerboard in all three components is identical - the one on the outside of the box can be slightly different since the printing machines, inks etc. might have slightly special requirements. Containerboard can also be seen as corrugated case material (CCM).

Containerboard can be made from virgin or recycled fibers. Generally, some recycled fibers go into the production of 70 percent of the boxes nowadays. Some economics come into play to compare prices of recycled vs. virgin raw materials. Recycled fibers may contain traces of inks, adhesives, dirt so they often need to be bleached to improve printing qualities or appearance to conform to product specs. Corrugated cardboard remains one of the most highly recyclable material where the recycling ratio is up to 70-80 percent. This is a lot higher than the number from plastics recycling or thermoform packaging for example.

A fundamental element in cardboard and shipping boxes are the corrugated flutes. They are unique in their quality to handle weight, absorb pressure and courier handling while in motion and provide some air and weather proofing for the products inside. The wavy flutes come in several sizes and types depending on the number of flutes per lineal foot or meter. Typically larger flutes (less flutes per lineal foot) designate better stacking capability of the box plus better air insulation. Smaller and larger number of flutes would normally suggest a stronger box with better edge crush test and puncture resistance parameters.

While incorporating corrugated flutes in a cardboard box sandwich was a major innovation and improvement in shipping supplies, the wavy structures have been known to humanity for a long time before that. Their roots begin with the advance of construction. For a long time, including modern times, flutes/arches are used in bridges, flyovers and other arch-style structures. Their exceptional features allow to horizontally spread space across in a secure manner when a certain load is to be expected. What is more, the flutes absorb some pressure and shocks as boxes are in motion and change delivery vehicles protecting the goods and products inside.

Packing tape is the finishing touch which goes on a cardboard box together with a shipping label. Its usage is often what distinguishes a shipping box from its moving counterpart. Packing tape comes in a variety of flavors - clear, brown or with company-printed backing with logos etc. A special note on packing tape is that duct tape and the bight and color tape which painters use are a poor choice for shipping or even moving containers. Masking and frog tape have paper backing and are designed to attach to surfaces gently so that they can be lifted off just as gently and leave no traces behind. Filament tape is another kind which incorporates pieces of plastic or fiberglass inside to make it extremely strong and durable - it is very useful when sending heavy packages or items of unusual, pointy size. Plastic and metal straps come after filament tape - they can be used in the packaging process for some tiles or slabs. Packing tape will secure and finalize any shipping box and should cover all bottom and top sides of a box for extra safety while in motion.

Proper parcel packing is no rocket science; yet some basic rules should be complied with. Boxes for moving can be packed in a hurry and even left unsecured. Due to the short distances which they travel, they stand good chances of arriving at the destination intact. Shipping boxes on the other hand, require a lot more due diligence and preparation effort to ensure that packages do not fall apart when a courier changes means of transportation. New boxes are preferred with the proper characteristics such as designed product weight, edge crush test, puncture resistance and air insulation. Following these guidelines would make a shipment a lot less likely to mailing accidents and cause more smiles on the receiving end of the product as opposed to extra phone calls and insurance claims.
About the Author
Naria McGregor has been involved in the the shipping and corrugated board industry for over a decade. She maintains a few blogs with news and updates on corrugated fiberboard, shipping best practices, packaging trends, green initiatives etc. They can be followed from the large cardboard boxes central. In addition, her other blog is Large shipping boxes.
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