What are Corrugated Boxes? – The Different Uses and Types of Corrugated Packaging

Corrugated Boxes

Regardless of whether you’re a warehouse manager, a factory or machine shop foreman, or run a distribution center, you know how critical packaging is to your business’ success. Everything about manufacturing and distribution hinges on the ability of the company to package its products for shipment.

Packaging serves to protect the product, identify it, track it, and determine where it needs to go, but not all packaging is created equal. Corrugated boxes may solve your packaging needs.

What are Corrugated Boxes?

Most people have seen corrugated paperboard or fiberboard in commercial or industrial use. Corrugated boxes, also known simply as cardboard boxes, are composed of two or three fiberboard sheets.

One sheet is corrugated — it has a rippling or wavy pattern — and called the medium. The manufacturer then attaches to one or two sheets called liners. This increases the strength of the material considerably in comparison to non-corrugated packaging. The fiberboard is made from thick paper called containerboard.

Corrugation, which can also resemble ridges, increases the structural strength of the material. This is also true of non-packaging materials, such as steel and aluminum.

Types of Corrugated Packaging

There are various corrugated fiberboard box designs for different applications, from retail and commercial to heavy industrial. These include:

  • Single-faced: The medium, or corrugated sheet, is glued to a single sheet called a liner. This lightweight configuration provides strength while keeping cost and weight to a minimum. The most obvious way to distinguish single-faced cardboard is by the exposed flutes.
  • Single wall: The most common variety consists of one sheet of corrugated fiberboard, called the medium, sandwiched between two sheets of liners. Lightweight, this type provides a sturdy option for most consumer packaging requirements.
  • Double wall: Doubling the corrugated medium and liners, double-wall packaging provides a noticeable strength upgrade relative to the more common single-wall variety, which is good for transporting heavier consumer and industrial products.
  • Triple wall: Tripling the layers of corrugated material, this type provides the greatest strength, rigidity, and crush resistance for shipping heavy items, such as automotive and machine parts, heavy castings, etc. These also provide good stacking strength for economizing on space in delivery vehicles.

How Strength is Determined

When selecting corrugated shipping cartons, you need to know that what you’re buying can stand up to abuse. The standard test for compressive strength is the edge crush test (ECT), which compresses a section of corrugated board between two plates until it reaches a peak load. It provides the ECT value as a numeral.

For example, 32 ECT, which is the value of a standard single-walled box, corresponds to a minimum load per carton of 40 lbs. Heavy-duty double-wall fiberboard has a value of 48, which is the equivalent of 80 lbs. As a result, if the product you intend to ship weighs up to 40 lbs., an ECT rating of 32 is sufficient.


Corrugated cardboard has flutes — arches in the material that increase structural strength over a flat fiberboard sheet. Depending on the number and configuration, these flutes increase rigidity to ensure the material won’t bend when subjected to a load. Aside from rigidity, it also increases resistance to vertical compression and cushions the contents.

Fine fluting provides an excellent surface for printing logos. More coarse fluting configurations are highly suitable for transit packaging, where durability is essential.

Types of Corrugated Boxes

Corrugated Boxes

Other than the design of corrugated packaging, there are a wide variety of boxes to serve every packaging problem you can imagine—ranging from the simple complex.

  • Slotted: One of the most common types of cardboard boxes made from a single piece of corrugated fiberboard and stored flat.
  • Telescope: A two-piece design consisting of one box that overlaps another; this type can accommodate irregularly sized and shaped items.
  • Folders: With a solid bottom, these boxes have scored sections that allow you to fold it around the product.
  • Storage file boxes: A two-piece design that consists of a box with hand holes and a lid for storing paper files, such as legal documents.
  • Bin boxes: A highly affordable option, these are corrugated boxes you can use to store small items, such as parts and tools. Some can be stacked top to bottom.

While not a type of box, interior packing pieces allow you to add dividers and partitions to protect individual components and package contents during shipment. These range from separate cells for glass products to die-cut parts that manufacturers design to suspend products and keep them away from the box’s walls.

Brand Recognition

If you’re a manufacturer or shipping company, your use of corrugated packaging can increase brand awareness, as this material is highly presentable for advertising purposes. The printing surface retains logotype well and can complement retail packaging.

Final Thoughts

At Shelving & Rack Systems, Inc., we work with warehousing managers and logistics personnel, so we know from experience how critical packaging solutions are to efficient distribution. How you package your goods determines how safely your inventory is transported from the factory or warehouse to the end user. Call us at (800) 589-7225, and we can provide you with a variety of packaging solutions to meet your distribution needs.