Most people don’t give much consideration to how corrugated packaging is made, only that it arrives on time. However, there is quite a lot of interesting methodology that goes into creating quality packaging products at a corrugated container company. It’s a really fascinating process.

In this article, we take you through the behind-the-scenes production of corrugated sheets for packaging. We dive into what a corrugator does, how different paper weights can be combined to meet performance requirements, how sheets are converted into boxes, and how packaging can be autonomously assembled by the end user.

We hope this will give those looking for packaging solutions greater insight into the many different packaging options available.

What Goes Into Creating Corrugated Sheets for Packaging?

Corrugated sheets contain of at least three layers of paper, an inside liner, medium, and an outside liner. The paper is available in different thicknesses or “Weights”. Companies carry a broad range of stock in order to meet specific performance requirements. The paper weights typically range from 23 pounds to 69 pounds.

It’s interesting (at least to us!) how this is determined. Imagine the roll of paper is rolled out much like a carpet to cover an area of 1000 square feet. The total weight of that material determines the rating.

In addition to the standard kraft paper, there are various white linerboards to provide better surfaces for finely detailed printing, as well as less expensive mottled boards where standard printing is adequate.

The advantage of having a broad range of paper to choose from is that you can combine different weights for specific applications to optimize efficiency and customize packaging. For example, a lighter-weight paper may be used as an inner liner and combined with a heavier outside liner to give it structure and provide a better printing surface.

Having a corrugator on site makes this type of customization easy to achieve. If there is an instance where an extra production run needs to be made at short notice, this can be done without major complications. With no reliance on external suppliers or manufacturers and having the right machinery and materials on site, it is possible for our team to fulfill urgent customer requests.

Die Cutting Corrugated Sheets for Packaging

The design and end use of the packaging will determine what types of die-cutting is used. There are two types: Rotary cutting and flatbed cutting.

In rotary cutting the die is circular, shaped like a giant cylinder that rotates. The sheet is cut as it passes through the rotating cylinder. A flatbed die cutter is much like a cookie cutter that stamps the entire design of the carton on a flatbed.

The difference between the two is speed. The rotary die cutter can cut up to 10,000 sheets per hour. This is significantly faster than a flatbed die cutter that averages between 5,000 and 7,000 sheets per hour. For retail products where volumes are high, being able to cut the corrugated sheets for packaging at a high speed helps to cut down on lead time and costs.

Equipment that creates corrugated sheets for packaging. This is a rotary die-cutter at York’s facility.Rotary Die-Cutter at York’s Facility

Precision is another important factor in die cutting. Piece-to-piece variation happens on rotary cutting dies as there can be a slight delay when the sheets are fed in. This can impact the accuracy of the cutting. Flatbed is often more consistent compared to rotary.

In addition, having machines that create folds and add tear lines for retail-ready packaging is a benefit to those in retail. It results in less tearing happening on packing lines and easier opening and set up at retail. Retail packaging and displays have a vital role to play in consumer purchasing decisions as referenced in this consumer purchase behavior study:

“More than one in six in-store brand purchases are made when the brand is displayed.”

Using the right materials and production methods for retail packaging and displays is vital to ensure that they function as intended in the store.

Automated Assembly Helps Optimize the Packaging Process

Once the boxes are manufactured they are usually transported in a flatpack state. To assist in the assembly of the boxes, special machines called case erectors or formers are used. This is done in several different ways depending on the design of the packaging.

For a simple design, a case erector opens the flat carton and folds the bottom panels of the box. The product can then be machine or hand-loaded into the carton and sealed for distribution.

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In the instance of a case former, the packaging would be die cut, slotted, or creased to show where and how it needs to be folded. In this case, the box is formed around a mandrel and glued after it is fed into the machine. The box can then move on to the next stage of being packed and sealed. Often this process, too, is automated.

Every small efficiency gained, from the process of creating corrugated sheets for packaging on-site to assembling boxes through automation, is aimed at helping customers save time and costs. This is a core value of our team at York Container.

How to Benefit from Our Corrugated Packaging Expertise

In this article, we explored in great detail how corrugated packaging is produced. As you can tell, there are many factors influencing its design and production.

Having a packaging partner with decades of experience in producing packaging is hugely valuable. It can help you avoid costly supply chain issues and instead create food or retail packaging that will help you stand out. Retail reports indicate that sales were down in 2023, which means everyone is looking for ways to grab customer’s attention – and packaging is a great method to do so.

Not sure where to start? The ideal starting point is to conduct a packaging review. This entails looking at the materials, design, and construction of your packaging. In addition, the types of board and printing have a critical role to play in representing the brand well. In the review, our team will assess the strength and durability of packaging and end with recommendations for improvements.

If you’re interested, read more about the different aspects of brown box packaging to understand more about the processes and packaging options available to you.