Cardboard boxes are a form of container used for the packaging, shipment, and storage of various products.
The term ‘cardboard boxes’ is catch all term packaging or packaging materials, which is something you may be familiar with if you’re currently moving from one property to another.
Because cardboard boxes are used as a catch all term, it’s crucial to understand the different groups of cardboard which are available to you as a consumer, so you can know which one is best for you based on what you plan on using it for.
There are paperboard, corrugated fiberboard, and card stock boxes available.
All 3 of which we’re going to be talking about right now.
The two main types of cardboard
There are two main types of cardboard types which all cardboard falls under, they are:
- Paperboard Boxes
- Corrugated Boxes
In this article I will cover information on the main types of cardboard, its typical manufacturing process and give you a bit of information of what they might be best used for.
Paperboard is ordinarily 0.010 inches in thickness or less and is better described as being slightly thicker than standard paper.
The added thickness adds inflexibility and permits the material to be utilized to make boxes and different types of packing that are lightweight and are appropriate to hold numerous item types.
So, before we get into the manufacturing process of paperboard boxes, let’s highlight some types of cardboard boxes made from paperboard:
- Gift boxes & Shirt Boxes – These are both good examples of wider known folding paper boxes or collapsible boxes. They are easily shipped and stored on site in bulk when they have been folded flat.
- Cereal & Food boxes – You everyday cereals and many different types of processed foods will come in these types of boxes
- Bakers’ Boxes – Collectively known as baker boxes, you might find bakeries using these to keep your cupcakes safe after purchase.
- Drug & Toiletry package boxes – Pharmacies sell products like soaps and lotions which may be stored in this type of cardboard boxes.
Paperboard Box manufacturing process
The manufacturing process begins with pulping which is the separation of wood into individual fibers and is achieved by either mechanical or chemical methods depending on the firm’s preference.
Mechanical pulping – This process tends to involve grinding down the wood with silicon carbide or aluminum oxide to help break it down and separate the fibers from one another.
Chemical pulping – The process of chemical pulping is a little different, since it introduces chemicals to the wood at a very high heat, which will then help to break down the fibers.
Once the process has been complete, regardless of its mechanical or chemical pulping, the end product will now be spread out along a moving belt.
The remaining water is removed from the mixture by the natural evaporation process as well as a vacuum, the fibers are also pressed in a press to make sure that any moisture that has not yet been taken out from the mixture can be done so.
After the concoction has been pressed, the pulp is steam-heated using rollers and additional starch or resin may be added as needed, to help ensure the mixture is going to be as solid as possible.
Another series of rollers is then rolled over to make the paperboard as smooth as possible.
And there you have it, this is how paperboard is.
Next up, is corrugated boxes and this is the fiberboard people usually refer to when they mention cardboard boxes.
It is made up of several layers of paperboard, which is usually made up of two outer layers and two inner corrugated layers.
This inner layer is made up of a different kind of pulp, resulting in a thinner type of paperboard as the one mentioned previously.
Meaning it’s useless for general paperboard usage but once corrugated, makes it the perfect material for storing your precious belongings in.
Again, before I talk about the manufacturing process, I just want to highlight some of the uses corrugated cardboard boxes have:
- Moving boxes – Corrugated boxes are most commonly used as moving boxes when people want to safely and securely move their personal belongings from one home to another.
- Pizza boxes – Corrugated cardboard is also utilized for the purpose of pizza boxes, although the pizza itself contaminates the cardboard, which means it can’t be put back through the recycling process.
- Mailing boxes – Available at your local post office, these boxes are used to hold items which are due to be shipped locally or cross country.
Corrugated Boxes Manufacturing Process
The manufacturing process for making corrugated cardboard uses machines which can process the material without warping at high speeds, these machines are known as corrugators.
The medium, or the corrugated layer as its known, assumes a rippled or fluted pattern when its heated, wetted, and formed by wheels – an aesthetical look I’m sure you’re familiar with if you’ve ever used these boxes in your own home move.
Some sort of adhesive, which is usually starch-based, is used to help join the medium layer to one of the two outer paperboard layers.
These two outer boards, which are known as linerboards, are humidified so that joining the layers is easily achieved.
Once the final corrugated fiberboard has been structurally formed, the new structure goes through the drying and pressing process which is done by hot plates.
So, corrugated boxes as a whole are a much more durable form of cardboard boxes since it has been combined with corrugated materials, and as described within the manufacturing process above, they are essentially made up as a sheet sandwich.
With the outliers being paperboard and the inner layers being corrugated board.
Other types of Cardboard
Although corrugated cardboard and paperboard are the two main types of cardboard boxes you’re going to find, there are still a couple of others that have very specific use cases that you may have never heard of before.
Corrugated Wax boxes
As the name suggests, this type of box is a corrugated box which has been infused or coated with wax.
The use case is usually for iced shipments or when the items inside it are to be expected to be stored in something like a refrigerator for a long period of time.
This wax coating acts as a barrier and helps protect the cardboard from being damaged from the moisture within the cold environment, which could damage and contaminate the cardboard itself.
The thinnest type of cardboard available, card stock is slightly thicker than your traditional writing paper you may find within a printer although it still has the ability to be easily bendable.
Because of this, it’s usually used in things like postcards or as a thicker catalog cover and in some cases as book covers too.
It is used for these sorts of things because even though it is only a little bit thicker than paper, it is thick enough to the point where it can resist the basic wear and tear you’d expect to destroy paper.
The manufacturing process for this type of cardboard would be similar to how paperboard is made.
As discussed, there are two main types of cardboard boxes which you will come across in your everyday life, they are; paperboard boxes and corrugated cardboard boxes.
I have gone over the manfactoring process as well as some basic use cases as well as cover 2 other types of cardboard boxes that you may not have yet come across, due to their very niche use case.
Father of two who hopes that by sharing the things he learned, he can leave the world behind slightly better than he found it.