The making of a box
A Jefferson Smurfit Group case study

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Page 4: Types of boxes

Jefferson Smurfit Group 3 Image 4There are many different kinds of boxes, of course, but we will consider two main categories, determined by the type of paper board used in their construction.

Corrugated Cases. Because of their strength, corrugated cases are the most common means of shipping goods from point of manufacture to point of sale. They are ordinarily used for shipping and storing sets of goods of the same size and shape and generally these individual goods are further contained inside other types of packaging, for example, the carton.

Cartons. Cartons are the type of packaging in which goods typically reach the consumer. For example, a breakfast cereal box is a type of carton and many of these cartons would have been shipped to the supermarket inside a corrugated case. Cartons do not need to be as strong as corrugated cases, as they have nearly reached their final destination when they are encountered by the consumer. They do still need to contain and protect their contents, but they also have the function of helping to sell the product they contain by being attractively printed and finished. Printed cartons also display valuable information: content and marketing details, weights and measures, details of the product’s origin and bar-coded information for pricing and stocking purposes.

Cartons are often primary packaging, i.e. packaging which reaches the consumer directly. Secondary and tertiary packaging would include, for example, the corrugated cases in which the products were shipped and other types of packaging not directly encountered by the consumer.

Making corrugated board

Jefferson Smurfit Group 3 Image 6Over 56 percent of the packaging used in the U.K. is made from corrugated board. The great virtue of corrugated board is its strength-to-weight ratio. Corrugated board is made of at least three layers of paper, assembled in such a way as to make their overall strength much greater than that of their individual layers. The technique involves corrugating or fluting the middle layer into a series of arches which give the finished board considerable rigidity. Different types and strengths of corrugated board may be constructed by varying the number of layers – called single, double or triple wall – and also the size of the internal arches. The paper used in the manufacture of corrugated board is an extremely sturdy grade of paper called linerboard which is measured in terms of weight (gsm). The main types of linerboard are kraftliner (made principally from virgin wood pulp, with smaller percentages of recycled fibre) and testliner (made from 100% recycled paper). The reels of paper are fed into a corrugator, which uses steam and starch to mould the paper into its fluted shape. After this, the outer layers are glued to the fluting and the finished board is cut into lengths and stacked. To produce corrugated cases, this finished board is processed through a machine called a converter, which cuts, shapes and glues the board into its final box form following the customer’s specifications. Corrugated cases are generally delivered flat to the customer.

Because cartons tend to be manufactured for a specific product and because the carton has an important role to play in grabbing the consumer’s attention and selling the product it contains, the first stage in the production of a carton is a consultation between the customer and the carton designer. The size and shape of the carton is determined through the use of CAD systems. A graphic artist using a CAG system will then produce a design for the colours, typography and illustration which will appear on the finished carton. This design will be separated into its constituent colours and rendered on film, from which printing plates will be prepared.

The carton board is fully printed first and then the shape of the carton is cut out, folded and glued. Cartons are also delivered flat and are assembled, either by machine or by hand, at the point where the product is inserted into the carton.

Jefferson Smurfit Group | The making of a box