June 20, 2024

Maria Comp

Corrugated fiberboard, or simply corrugated, is the industry term for the kind of cardboard that is used to package goods and products for transit. It is also the type of cardboard used in Packsize machines. It may surprise you (or may not) that there are many different options to choose from when selecting corrugated for your packaging warehouse – and choosing a high quality one could be the difference between your products making it to their final destination in one piece or not. Why is this important? And how can you tell if your corrugated is high quality or not? Read on to find out.

What is Corrugated Fanfold?

You have no doubt opened more corrugated boxes than you can remember – and you may have noticed that a sheet of corrugated is composed of a wavy section (called the medium) sandwiched between two outer layers (called linerboard or just liners). The medium is made of ridges of fiberboard, which is what gives a sheet of corrugated fiberboard its structure. While a piece of paper, or even thick cardstock, will bend and flop when held horizontally, the waves in a piece of corrugated cardboard give it enough structure to stand up on its own and form stable boxes. This corrugation of the fiberboard is what gives it its name.

“Fanfold” is the other key term in the title. Similar to fanfold insulation and accordion sticky notes, fanfold corrugated cardboard is a long sheet of corrugated cardboard that is folded back on itself many times. As the top layer of corrugated is pulled, the rest of sheet trails after it. This is ideal for making custom-size boxes, as there are fewer limitations in the length and style of box that can be created. Because the corrugated is not cut into predetermined shapes and sizes, Packsize machines have more flexibility to create whichever box size best fits individual items.

Fanfold corrugated fiberboard is especially beneficial because it can be recycled and is much more biodegradable than plastic. As fanfold corrugated can be made into exactly the right size box, empty space in each box is eliminated, resulting in less corrugated used per box—not only a sustainable choice but also an economical one. Packsize software can even calculate which width of corrugated will produce the least amount of waste, maximizing the benefits of each bale of corrugated. Less empty space in the box also helps prevent damage when other items are stacked on top of it or if it gets jostled in transport.

Types Of Corrugated Fiberboard

Not all corrugated fiberboard is created equally. Differing sizes of fiberboard ridges, various weights of fiberboard, and different layering techniques create different strengths of corrugated with different levels of durability.

One of the key ways to categorize corrugated is by what type of “flute” it has. Flutes characterize how wavy the medium is, and different flute types have wider or taller ridges. C-flute corrugated is most commonly used because it performs well in a variety of applications. At a medium thickness of 3.8 mm (0.15 in.), C-flute corrugated ships well and can be printed on. B-flute corrugated is slightly thinner than C-flute, with a thickness of 3.18 mm (1/8 in.). B-flute is used for smaller products, and it folds into intricate shapes better. E-flute corrugated is only 1.58 mm (1/16 in.) thick and is frequently used for pizza and cosmetic boxes. There are larger and smaller flutes than those listed here, but these types are used most often.

In addition to different flutes, corrugated sheets can be single face, single wall, double wall, and even triple wall. Single face corrugated is composed of one liner and one layer of medium. It is less costly but also less durable. Single wall corrugated, what most people are familiar with, contains one wavy layer between two liners. Single wall corrugated is used so frequently because it provides moderate durability that works for shipping and storing many kinds of items and is at a medium price point. Double and triple wall corrugated is two or three layers of single face corrugated stacked on top of each other, creating a thicker and more durable (but more expensive) material.

How Do I Know Which Corrugated Is Best?

Various combinations of flute size and single or double layering creates many different strengths of corrugated. There are two tests that quantify corrugated strength: the Mullen test and the edge crush test (ECT). The Mullen test has been used for nearly a century to determine how much force is needed to puncture a box. Pressure is applied perpendicular to a flat piece of corrugated to determine its “burst” strength. Corrugated with a Mullen test rating of #200, for example, means that it can withstand 200 pounds per square inch before it bursts. The ECT originated in the 90s to determine how much force can be applied on the edge of a piece of corrugated before it crumples. Corrugated with an ECT rating of 48 means that it can withstand 48 pounds of weight per inch before collapsing. Because the ECT determines how much weight can be stacked on top of a box, it is more widely used today due to the demands of modern supply chains. Conversions between the two tests are only an estimation because they measure different qualities.

Depending on the industry, supply chain, and preferences of each customer, a different variety of corrugated will be needed. Using high quality corrugated, no matter what type, ensures not only that it performs correctly in a packaging machine, but also that it can endure the shipping and handling process. High quality corrugated ensures the greatest results out of a packaging machine—having an efficient packaging system is less significant if the product does not make it to the customer intact.

While higher quality often means higher cost, the most expensive corrugated option may not be the best for every scenario. There is a balance between the right weight and durability, and the price. Thicker, stronger corrugated often costs the most because there is more corrugated material per square inch, but not every scenario will require the most heavy-duty corrugated, and the most expensive option may not actually maximize value. 32 ECT C-Flute is most commonly used in Packsize machines as it is versatile and cost-effective, but it may be too flimsy for larger items like furniture. There is no one-size-fits-all corrugated solution, rather, using high quality corrugated means evaluating the individual needs of each customer and using the best performing corrugated for a specific situation.

Finding the ideal type of corrugated may seem like a daunting task, but the variability is what makes right-size packaging solutions so valuable—there is enough flexibility to customize a solution for each customer. Using the right kind of corrugated is a small but crucial part of what makes a supply chain run smoothly, and what ensures that consumers get the items they need.

Packsize clients have exclusive access to our superior supply chain, with high-quality corrugated, delivered at affordable prices, just in time. To learn more about our corrugated Z-Fold and find the best solution for your business, contact a Packsize representative today.

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