Corrugated cardboard serves as a durable, lightweight and economical material used primarily for packaging, along with unconventional applications ranging from toys to advertising displays to furniture. One of the least expensive containers ever developed, corrugated cardboard boxes ship more than 95 per cent of U.S. products, reports the American Forest & Paper Association.
Corrugated paper appeared in the mid-1800s as a liner that stiffened hats. Its first use in packaging, in 1871, provided a protective wrap for glass bottles and chimneys. A sheet of heavier facing adhered to either side of pleated paper become the first corrugated cardboard boxes.
Each sheet of corrugated cardboard contains at least three layers of heavy paper called containerboard. Smooth layers on the outside make liners or linerboard, while the wave-shaped layer in the middle creates the corrugating medium, or fluting. Conventional thicknesses range from 1/32- to 1/4-inch; combining two or three boxes forms double- or triple-wall cardboard.
Paper fluting forms a series of connected arches that support many times their own weight -- especially when arches' ends anchor to a paper facing, acting like springs or cushions to resist crushing and impact. With a high strength-to-weight ratio, structural rigidity and excellent tear, tensile and burst strength, corrugated cardboard makes a superior packaging material.