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What’s the difference between a cardboard box and a corrugated box? Perhaps more importantly, which one is right for packaging and shipping your products?

While both materials are popular options in the packaging industry, they have very different qualities and uses. The more you learn about corrugated boxes, the clearer it will be why this is the right material to choose for shipping in almost every case.

Cardboard vs. Corrugated

When a company makes its first foray into packaging, it’s not unusual for personnel to assume that all boxes are made of cardboard. Although they are familiar with the term “corrugated,” they may think that this word is interchangeable with “cardboard.”

However, when you’ve been in the packaging industry as long as we have, then you know that there is a world of difference between cardboard boxes and corrugated boxes.

Let’s look at some of the primary distinctions between cardboard versus corrugated materials:

  • Cardboard boxes and corrugated boxes are made from different materials.
  • Corrugated boxes are far sturdier than cardboard boxes.
  • The construction process varies considerably between the two.
  • Each type of box is used in very different manners.

The Cardboard Box

“Cardboard” may be used to describe virtually any board that is made using heavy paper pulp. It is used to make everything from greeting cards to packaging for crackers. Corrugated boxes sometimes have some percentage of cardboard material in them, but this does not make them “cardboard boxes.”

Defining the Corrugated Box

When packaging manufacturers talk about “corrugated” boxes, they are referring to a certain material that usually is made of up a trio of containerboard sheets. Akin to thick paperboard, two sheets effectively are flat liners that are placed on either side of a rippled sheet. The manufacturer creates the corrugated material by gluing the three sheets in place using a starchy, extra-thick glue that is familiar to all in the packaging industry.

These individual sheets are then formed into boxes. Frequently, they are the shipping container of choice because they:

  • Are durable.
  • Can be printed on.
  • Are customizable.
  • Can be re-used.
  • Can be recycled.

Today, you may see corrugated boxes being used for product displays as well as shipping products, demonstrating just how attractive and versatile this packaging type can be. Select any type of colors, graphics, text, and designs that can be printed anywhere on the corrugated box. The result is a shipping option that is a perfect reflection of your company’s personality.

Now that we’ve explained the differences between cardboard and corrugated, it’s clear just how different these two types of packaging are. Cardboard is a fantastic material for keeping cereal safe or making a deck of playing cards, but it cannot be a substitute for corrugated boxes. Because they are made out of much thicker and more durable material, corrugated is the superior choice for shipping.

Where Did Corrugated Board Come From?

In England, way back in 1817, the first paperboard box was invented by Albert Jones. Using pleated paper that featured a liner on one side, this was the earliest commercial use of paperboard for packaging. That original design received some helpful innovation in 1874 when Oliver Long added another liner. The improvement was so revolutionary that Long was able to obtain a patent on it.

Today, manufacturing corrugated board represents a $28 billion industry in the U.S. alone. The industry is so huge that it is essential for manufacturers to stay on top of every improvement and innovation if they want to remain competitive.

One of the most recent improvements to corrugated boards came in 2014 when fluting papers were introduced. This material is not only more tamper-resistant but also has a lower basis weight. Additionally, manufacturing these fluting papers reduces water consumption by 61 percent and cuts greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 10 percent.

Why Do So Many Companies Choose Corrugated Boxes for Shipping?

It turns out that there are many reasons why a corrugated board is the perfect shipping material for almost every product on the planet. In fact, experts in the industry believe that nearly 95 percent of all products in the U.S. are shipped in corrugated boxes.

Perhaps the foremost reason that shipping professionals choose corrugated boards when it comes to shipping products is that this material simply offers better protection. Companies know that the multi-layered design of corrugated boxes means that even the most delicate items will have a stable cushion to protect them against bumps, breaks, and other damage. Additionally, corrugated provides a critical moisture barrier between any dampness that might interfere with the quality of your products.

Moreover, corrugated boxes are endlessly customizable. Whether you are going for a chic, minimalistic design that just features your company’s logo or want to dress things up with adhesive stickers, text, graphics, shapes, and a rainbow of colors, the sky is the limit with corrugated boards. This means that you have the option to tailor just about every facet of your company’s shipping containers. What message will you send to customers with every box that you ship? The answer is entirely up to you.

Did you know that corrugated boxes also provide you with a cost-effective option for packaging? It’s true! Corrugated boxes are easy to design, customize and make, doing away with the need for things like a lot of hands-on labor, costly tools, and machinery, or excessive bulk that doesn’t add to the protection of your products.

Many businesses further appreciate that corrugated boxes are a more environmentally friendly option than many alternatives. A corrugated board is frequently manufactured using a relatively high portion of recycled components. In fact, it is not uncommon for local recyclers to provide much of the raw material that goes into making corrugated boards. Corrugated board manufacturers also rely on sustainable and fast-growing pine trees to provide them with paper pulp. This means that the paper pulp is responsibly harvested from a plot of forest that can quickly be renewed. If you are looking for creative ways to reduce your company’s carbon footprint, this could be an important step to take.

Making corrugated boxes even more attractive is the fact that they can be reused. This material is so sturdy and durable that it can be used again and again without it suffering any damage at all. When you’re finally done using the box, it can be recycled so that the materials can be used again.

Choosing the Right Corrugated Box for Your Products

Corrugated boxes can be made into virtually any shape and size. Do you sell items that are oversized, heavy, and bulky? If so, then corrugated boxes are definitely right for your business.

On the other hand, corrugated boxes are precisely what you need when you sell and ship items that are tiny and delicate. If you want to ensure that even the finest, most fragile of your wares makes it to its destination without a ding, dent, scratch, or broken piece, then corrugated boxes are the way to go. Encase your products in corrugated with some bubble wrap or other filler medium to ensure that no harm comes to them. You can rest easy knowing that everything you ship will arrive in pristine condition.

From fresh produce to automotive parts, corrugated boxes are used to ship practically anything across the nation and around the world. You can trust this material to provide “just right” protection no matter what you’re shipping.

Let Mid-Atlantic Packaging Help You Make the Right Choice

While corrugated packaging is almost always the right material choice for shipping, it’s important to understand the different types of corrugated boards. For instance, the middle layer of flutes in the corrugated board can have different profiles that are categorized as A, B, C, E, or F.

“A” flute is the thickest, and it’s usually the style of choice if your products need more cushioning. This flute profile also provides better stacking strength.

“B” flute is the choice for automatic, high-speed packaging lines, especially for canned goods, while “C” flute is the most common profile of all. It’s been used for glass, furniture, and everything in between.

“E” and “F” flutes are not as thick and durable as the other profiles, but they may provide a more refined printing surface that is ideal for some customization applications.

Moreover, you’ll need to select a board type. This means choosing whether you want a single, double, or triple wall board. Your choice largely depends upon factors such as the size and weight of the products you are shipping. The more walls you add, the stronger the box will be.

Which flute profile and board type are right for your shipping needs? If you’re not sure, turn to Mid-Atlantic Packaging for helpful advice. Our many years in the industry can help us guide your company to a choice that is both functional and economical. Contact us today to learn more about corrugated boxes.