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MATERIALS

CORRUGATED

All corrugated cardboard has a layer of corrugated fluting and at least one liner. Fluting and liners can be combined in different layers to create different types.

Board Styles

  • Single face – Uses: Interior packaging
  • Single wall – Uses: Shipping cartons
  • Double wall – Uses: Industrial cartons
  • Triple wall – Uses: Shipping crates, Chemical containers

Flute Types

  • A – Flute Height: 1/4”
  • B – Flute Height: 1/8”
  • C – Flute Height: 1/4”
  • E – Flute Height: 1/16”
  • F – Flute Height: 1/32”

In order to measure the bursting strength of a corrugated box – or how many pounds of pressure it would take to rupture the material – we use the Mullen Test. Corrugated boxes will be labeled with 200 #, 275 #, 350 #, etc. The higher the number, the more durable the box will be. 200 # indicates that the box can withstand pressure of up to 200 lbs per square inch before bursting.

FOLDING CARTON

Folding Carton Features:

  • Good for lightweight products
  • Typically has to go inside another bigger shipping box
  • Not too bulky, No sharp edges
  • Looks more retail (not industrial)
  • 100% recyclable

Most Common Types of Folding Carton:

  • SBS (Solid Bleached Sulfate): A coated solid white board which provides a clean look and an attractive appearance. This is a virgin board.
    • Maximum 24pts thick
    • Off-set printed up to 8 colors in addition to varnish for a polished appearance
    • Common Uses: cosmetic packaging, food packaging, pharmaceutical packaging
  • CCNB (Clay Coated Newsback): The clay coating creates a smooth surface for a crisp print on the top of the board, and the back is a lighter grey color made from recycled newsprint.
    • Maximum 28pts thick
    • Cheaper than SBS
    • Common Uses: food packaging (indirect food contact; e.g. in cereal boxes and cracker boxes), POP (Point of Purchase) counter displays

RIGID CARTON

Rigid boxes consist of basically two parts – a lid and base. The shapes and sizes of rigid boxes vary greatly – square, rectangular, circular, etc. But in the packaging industry rigid box styles are usually categorized and described by the type of lid used.

Full Telescope Lid: lid covers the entire base of the box, e.g. chocolate and candy boxes

  • Tray with Sleeve (or Slipcase or Shell or Slide): full telescope style box with tray that slides into a “sleeve” or “shell”

Partial Telescope Lid: lid covers part of the base of the box

  • Neck Box (or Shouldered Box or Shoulder Box): partial telescope style box with a tray glued inside the base and protruding up past the top of the base. This protrusion creates a “neck” and the top edge of the base becomes the “shoulder”.  Sometimes the tray is glued to the inside of the lid instead of the base.

Classic Shoebox Lid: lid has a lip that is traditionally 1 inch deep

Hinged Lid: lid is attached permanently and stays closed using gravitational forces or with a magnetic strip or a ribbon binding – these boxes are great for frequent-use products that are meant to be stored in their packaging in-between uses

  • Flip Top (or Cigar Box): classic hinged lid style box – traditionally used for cigars
  • Book Style: hinged lid style box that when closed, resembles a hard cover book – commonly used to package luxury food items, beauty products and consumer electronics
  • Clamshell Style: hinged lid style box comprised of two joined pieces of packaging material, which completely surround the item or product

PLASTIC

Types of Plastic:

  1. PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) – transparent, glossy, very tough
    • clear die cut boxes, clamshell food boxes, multilayer pouches
  2. HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene) – hard and tough with a waxy exterior
    • suitcase boxes with handle (50% bioplastic)
  3. PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) – can be soft or hard depending on additives
    • blister pack
  4. LLDPE (Linear Low-Density Polyethylene) – waxy and slippery to the touch, tough
    • inner layer of multilayer pouches
  5. PP (Polypropylene) – high clarity, high gloss, and excellent tensile strength
    • single layer pouches
  6. PS (Polystyrene) – usually colored white, brittle but tough, good insulator
    • single-use food containers and cutlery
  7. Acrylic or Polymethyl Methacrylate (PMMA) – transparent thermoplastic used as a lightweight, shatter-resistant alternative to glass
    • cosmetic jars/bottles/tubes

Types of Foam Inserts:

  • Polyurethane Foam – highly versatile, provides immense durability and resilience
  • Polystyrene Foam – immensely moldable, highly resistant to water vapor and moisture, very high thermal resistance
  • Polyethylene Foam – lightweight and shatterproof, ideal for products that require high levels of shock absorption

WOOD

Types of Wood Packaging Materials

  • Plywood: It comes in various thicknesses and has almost zero chance of splitting. Boxes and crates made of plywood will usually be strengthened by battens through the structures’ internal parts. It has the advantage of being resistant to termites, mold, heat, and moisture when appropriately treated. One of the most popular types of plywood is Baltic birch plywood, because it’s highly durable, tough, and reasonably-priced.
  • Oriented Strand Board (OSB): This material consists of strands of different types of wood pressed to form boards. It has similar properties to plywood, but the structure is more homogenous and devoid of a grain pattern. OSB’s advantage is that it becomes waterproof if treated with wax.
  • Douglas Fir: This is one of the stronger softwood types, with a hardness of 620 (Janka scale). It is commonly used for construction material, and it makes good packing crates, boxes, and even pallets as it bears loads rather well. It has a remarkable strength-to-weight ratio.
  • Spruce: This material has a great demand because it is a tonewood. It is almost as hard as Douglas fir with a Janka hardness rating of 510 and it is commonly used to make jewelry and trinket boxes. Boxes made out of spruce are very attractive because of the striking, uniformly-spaced grain pattern.
  • Pinewood: Pine is one of the softest softwoods and much softer than many types of hardwood. It has a Janka hardness rating of 380 to 420, depending on the type that you use. Pinewood has a high resistance to impact and is relatively stiff, which helps to make excellent boxes. It also comes in extremely dry condition, which helps to keep the contents dry and mildew-free. It takes in nails and screws easily, making it easy to seal the boxes.

METAL

Types of Metal Packaging Materials

  • Aluminum: Aluminum is commonly used to make cans and foil packaging. For example, Lifesavers and other candies are sold wrapped in aluminum foil. Beverage companies are using aluminum cans to package everything from soda to craft beer to wine. Some of the benefits of aluminum include its ability to resist rust and corrosion, its weight and its shelf life. Aluminum is also very easy to recycle. Most of the aluminum cans used today contain at least 70% recycled content.
  • Tin: Tin cans aren’t entirely made of tin. When tin is used in packaging, it’s actually applied as a thin layer on top of steel. One of the main benefits of tin-plating is that it helps to improve a package’s ability to resist corrosion.
  • Steel: Steel cans are often used for packaging canned foods. When steel is used for packaging foods, it is usually coated with a different metal, such as tin-plate, to enhance its ability to resist corrosion. Like aluminum, steel packaging is widely recycled and is easy to recycle. Steel without tin is one of the strongest packaging materials available. It’s often used to make large barrels or drums that hold items to be sold in bulk or for wholesale. Tin-free steel can also be used to make bottle caps.

SUSTAINABLE

Bioplastic (plant-based plastic)

  • Starch-Based Biomaterials: Cornstarch-based packaging, in particular, has become very popular over the last decade. It derives from corn, it’s versatile in its applications, and it is much eco-friendlier than plastic packaging although it has many properties similar to those of plastic.
  • Plant-Based Biomaterials: Polylactic Acid (PLA) is a popular biodegradable plastic made from lactic acid. It can be used in place of traditional petroleum-based plastic and typically comes from agricultural waste, including plant starch from corn, sugarcane or beet pulp.
  • Biodegradable Packing Peanuts: They come from natural substances such as starch and wheat. They are lightweight and inexpensive, and they won’t harm marine life if they end up in rivers, lakes or oceans.

Edible Cellophane Wrappers are largely made from starch, but can also be made from milk protein. They can be consumed with the food and they give you the opportunity to add vitamins, minerals, and even flavors by embedding them in the film.

Molded Pulp is recyclable, compostable and biodegradable. It is made by combining water and recycled paper, most often kraft off-cuts, recycled newspaper or a combination of both, which are then heated to give strength and rigidity.

Compostable Packaging is packaging which is manufactured from renewable plant-based materials and has been certified to compost within an industrial composting process to fertilize the soil, along with food and garden waste.

PRINTING

OFFSET LITHOGRAPHY

This technique is a combination of 2 older printing methods – lithography and offset, and is an indirect printing system. It’s the most prominent technique in packaging today due to its versatility in printing and high image quality.

How it works:

A plate is engraved with the image to be printed, inked and pressed into a rubber roller to be then transferred to the printing surface which must be flat. There is either a silicone layer or a dampening system in place to repel the ink where it should not be printed.

Advantages

  • Able to print on a variety of surfaces – folding carton (most common), cardboard, plastic, corrugated material, metal and more
  • High print quality (high resolution)
  • Availability of specialty coatings such as high gloss or matte soft touch
  • Color gradients in graphics appear completely smooth
  • High volume intake and productivity – some machines can handle up to 15,000 impressions per hour

Disadvantages 

  • Print surface must be flat and no more than 24 pts thick
  • Not feasible for short run or low volume projects

Best for: folding carton, rigid carton, pouches, plastic

FLEXOGRAPHY

This technique is like a modern version of the letterpress. It gets its name from the use of a flexible relief plate in the process and is often used in the printing of food packaging.

How it works:

Flexography is a direct process where the rubber printing plate transfers ink directly to the printing surface. The image is first engraved onto the plate with a laser. Then the ink is transferred from its chamber to an anilox roller where a blade removes the excess ink. After this is completed, the ink is pressed onto the printing surface, and the product is coated in the desired finishing.

Advantages

  • Variety of print surfaces – corrugated paper (most common), folding cartons, paper sacks, plastic bags, food wrappers
  • Lower cost per unit compared to Offset

Disadvantages

  • Print quality is less than Offset (low resolution)
  • Color gradients are not as smooth (colors don’t mix)
  • Cannot produce photo quality images

Best for: corrugated, paper, plastic

DIGITAL/INKJET

Digital printing has grown rapidly within the industry in recent years. Its popularity is due to its precision and efficiency.

How it works:

This technique is very straightforward – the image is transferred from a device (e.g. a laptop) directly onto a variety of printing surfaces. In manufacturing, a large-format or high-volume inkjet or laser printer is used.

Advantages 

  • High resolution & great quality of photographic and fine art print
  • Low cost per unit for short-runs
  • More efficient than silkscreening

Disadvantages 

  • Does not offer as many coating options (see Offset printing)
  • Cannot use metallic ink
  • Colors may be difficult to match
  • Large volumes are more costly

Best for: folding cartons, corrugated, pouches

SILKSCREEN

How it works:

This process uses mesh to transfer ink onto a print surface with the use of a blocking stencil to guide ink placement. Machines move a blade across the screen to fill the open mesh sections with ink. Finally, the blades reverse which causes the screen to momentarily touch the surface. When screen printing, you can only add one color at a time. This means that multiple screens would have to be used in sequence to produce a multicolor design.

Advantages

  • Can print on any surface – PP non-woven, cloth, fabric, wood, ceramics, glass, metal
  • Surface does not have to be flat
  • Results are long-lasting (the composition of the ink contributes to the high quality allowing the design to last longer)
  • Feasible for short-run and long-run projects

Disadvantages

  • Each color has a separate application – can be time consuming depending on the design
  • Need to create new screens and mesh designs for each project
  • Can be expensive

Best for: plastic, fabric, wood, metal, glass

ROTOGRAVURE

This is a direct and rotary technique of printing, ideal for very high volumes.

How it works:

This process includes a rolling cylinder which is engraved with the image that has to be printed. Once completed, it is inked and pressed directly onto the print surface to transfer the image.

Advantages 

  • Low cost per unit when running high volumes
  • Premium quality print

Disadvantages 

  • Does not offer many coating options
  • Only feasible for high volumes

Best for: folding cartons, pouches

LASER ENGRAVING

Apart from printing, it’s also possible to label your packaging with laser engraving. Laser engraving is frequently used to engrave the product’s item, series, or batch number onto the packaging. Logos, symbols, and other line graphics can also be added via this process.

How it works:

To make packaging suitable for laser engraving, a special additive is first added to the material during production. Depending on the material and additive, different color effects can be achieved during laser engraving. The pattern results from the laser beam either oxidizing or removing the material, leaving a mark wherever the beam touches the surface.

Advantages

  • Cleaner and more environmentally friendly (no paints or solvents)
  • Faster production (faster setup, faster marking, no cleanup)
  • Ability to mark in three dimensions (e.g., round objects)
  • Very precise marking (useful on very small objects and in tight spaces)
  • More permanent (markings won’t rub off after repeated use)

Best for: wood, glass, metal

FINISHES

LAMINATION

Lamination is the process of applying a clear plasticized protective film (polypropylene, cellulose acetate or polyester) to an entire printed surface. It improves the printed surface’s sturdiness, water resistance and tactile feel, reinforcing its quality. Lamination is applicable on all papers from 170g, and it can be matte, gloss or satin.

MATTE LAMINATION

Matte lamination is a great no-shine finish that gives a subtle, smooth texture to your print. It provides a refined, elegant effect, while accentuating the brilliance and contrast of the colors involved.

GLOSS LAMINATION

The opposite of matte, gloss lamination is a high-shine laminate with a sparkling effect. Reflecting light, it enhances colors by accentuating the depth of blacks, and gives a bright, glowing appearance.

SATIN LAMINATION

Called “soft touch” or “peach skin”, satin lamination gives excellent protection while providing a pleasant feeling in the hand, silky and soft. An original mark of quality that only this first-rate finish can offer.

VARNISHING

Varnish is a transparent, hard, protective finish or film primarily used in wood finishing but also for other materials. Varnish is traditionally a combination of a drying oil, a resin, and a thinner or solvent. It helps protect printed surfaces and prevent staining.

MATTE VARNISHING

This type of varnishing gives a smooth and non-glossy look to the printed surface. It softens the appearance of printed photographs or images, and makes small text easy to read and soft on the eyes.

GLOSS VARNISHING

This type of varnishing improves the appearance of printed surfaces by giving them a glossy look. The coated layer reflects the light and thus, it makes the color more prominent, bright, and vivid.

SILK VARNISHING

This type of varnishing is a great middle ground between a matte and gloss finish. Silk varnishing is ideal if you want the benefits of gloss alongside the benefits of the matte finish.

UV VARNISHING

In this type of varnishing, the ultraviolet technique is applied to produce a transparent finish to your printed materials. With the help of UV lighting, the coating is dried. This type of varnish makes colors more attractive and vivid and also, provides a smooth and glossy layer to the printed surface.

ALL OVER UV VARNISH

In this type of varnishing, a UV seal is applied all over the printed surface. A gloss UV varnish is the most common type of all-over UV varnishing. Sometimes, silk and matte varnish are also available with all over UV varnish.

SPOT UV VARNISH

In this type of varnishing, a UV varnish is applied only on selected areas or spots of the printed surface. Spot UV varnish effectively gives texture and focal interest to different areas of the printing surface while leaving other areas untreated.

EMBOSSING

Embossing raises parts of the print for emphasis and texture. It adds a tactile dimension to your design. Images and text are literally felt. Embossing adds physical depth to the embossed elements and thus, shadows and highlights are also produced in the design. Embossing is generally applied in conjunction with other techniques like foil stamping or spot UV lamination to enhance the effects of both techniques.

DEBOSSING 

This is one of the more traditional printing techniques available in the market and is the opposite of embossing. A letterpress is used to depress or indent certain portions of the page. Debossing is mainly used for pressing logos.

FOIL STAMPING

Foil stamping is the use of a malleable metallic material (foil) applied to the print surface by using heat and pressure. A variety of foils can be used, including gold, silver, pigmented, holographic and security foils. Foil stamping adds reflective properties to various elements of your design, and it’s mainly used to highlight text and logos. It is usually done in combination with embossing.

THERMOGRAPHY 

Thermography produces a raised finish to selected areas (logo, texts, etc.). This is a less expensive technique to highlights particular areas of the printed surface. Different thermographic powder gives different finishes:

  • Metallic powder gives a metallic sheen to the surface
  • Glitter powder gives a sparkling and dazzling effect to the surface
  • Fluorescent powder makes the colored finish brighter and vivid

DIE CUTTING

Die cutting is a fabrication process that uses specialized machines and tools to convert stock material by cutting, forming, and shearing. A specialized piece of metal tooling called a die cutter is used to cut a specific section out of a material and create custom shapes. The manufacturer uses dies, which are carbonized steel shapes with sharp, raised designs. A die design consists of solid metal, with sections cut out into a pattern or picture. Once cut, your material will replicate the die – the solid sections will remain, while the apertures will be cut away.