You already know how useful paper shipping and display boxes can be, and how important they are for your business. But have you ever wondered how they are made? Who came up with the idea of shipping and storing products in paper? How is a corrugated cardboard box made? How can a machine create something from recycled paper that is strong enough to hold heavy items, such as furniture?
The idea of creating boxes and cartons out of thick paper was developed in England in 1817. It was in Brooklyn in the 1890’s that paper bag manufacturer Robert Gair came up with corrugated cardboard boxes. These boxes, which were much cheaper and easier to produce than wooden crates, soon became the standard for shipping and storage around the world.
To make corrugated cardboard, machines take a large sheet of recycled paper that will become the wavy inside of the cardboard. The paper is steamed until it is as hot as boiling water, which softens the fibers and prepares it to be shaped. Then it is run through a crimping machine, which looks like two giant gears with pointed cog teeth. The crimping machine produces fluted, wavy paper that cools and dries to a stiff finish. This paper is gently brushed along the top edges of the waves with glue and bonded to a flat sheet of lined paper on one or both sides. These layers can then even be glued to each other to produce cardboard that is several layers thick. When the glue dries, the resulting wall is tough, durable, and lightweight: perfect for shipping and protecting important products!
When customers order custom designed corrugated containers for their products, a designer carefully measures the product and completed box to make sure everything has the right amount of room. The walls should be thick enough to support the weight of the product, but not so thick the box becomes bulky or too heavy. There should be room for padding if it is needed. Special shapes and printing add eye-catching details and interest to the box. When everything is perfect, computers tell machines how to cut and crease the sheets of cardboard exactly. These flat, cut pieces are easy to bundle and ship. The cut pieces are then folded and glued in place, usually by another machine but sometimes by the customer.
One of the best things about corrugated cardboard products is how often they are reused and recycled at the end of their life. Nearly three-fourths of the boxes used in the United States are recovered and their materials used again. It’s a cycle that’s good for the earth, good for products, and good for business.