The folding carton created the packaging industry as it is known today, beginning in the late 19th century. Basically, a folding carton is made of paperboard, and is cut, folded, laminated and printed for transport to packagers. The cartons are shipped flat to a packager, which has its own machinery to fold the carton into its final shape as a container for a product. The classic example of such a carton is a cereal box.
Invention and development
In the 1840s, cartons were made by hand and held together with tacks and string, and used only for expensive items (such as jewelry). Although Charles Henry Foyle is described by some as the "inventor" of the paper carton, mass production of the cartons was invented, partly by accident, at the Robert Gair Company in Brooklyn, New York. Machinery at the end of the press had been set up carelessly by a pressman, and machinery cut through the material. This ruined the press but gave them an idea: printing and cutting could be done with one machine. Previously, cutting of printed cardboard had been done manually. From the mistake in 1879, Gair developed a process for mass production of boxes. In 1897, the National Biscuit Company (Nabisco) became the first large company to adopt the new cartons, for Uneeda Biscuits. Other manufacturers soon followed. With inexpensive packaging now even common items could be placed in a showy carton and each carton became its own advertisement. The product was also protected, and the contents had a longer shelf life. This trend was to continue with force, through the 20th century. This could be seen as a contributing factor in the so-called 'throwaway' culture of America. The environmental impact of product packaging has gained attention from consumers and businesses alike, and this awareness has created a steady trend since the mid to late 1990s, on the part of manufacturers, to use recycled material and/or reduce overall materials usage.
Folding cartons are now a $80 billion industry. Typically, cylinder board made from pulp from reprocessed scrap paper is used for most packages. Cartons for food are made from a higher grade and lighter solid sulfate board. Because of the limitations of cutting machinery, the thickness of the board is limited to 0.81 mm (0.032 in), and folding cartons are generally limited to holding a few pounds or kilograms of material.
Size is important for obvious reasons when trying to fit a product into a folding carton. It is important to know how to properly read and write measurements according to the industry standard. There are three dimensions to the basic folding carton; Length (L), width (W), and depth (D). In written form the dimensions should appear in that order (L x W x D). Imagine the carton in 3-dimensional space with the tuck opening away from you. The length would be in the direction of the X-axis, the width is the dimension of the Z-axis, and the depth is the dimension of the Y-axis. When determining the size be sure to measure from the middle of the score. To ensure accuracy, measurements should be taken to at least 1/16th of an inch. An image showing the corresponding sides can be found online; Folding Carton Dimensional Image.
- Hanlon, Kelsey, and Forcinio; Handbook of Package Engineering (CRC Press, 1998)
- Soroka, W, "Fundamentals of Packaging Technology", IoPP, 2002, ISBN 1-930268-25-4
- Yam, K. L., "Encyclopedia of Packaging Technology", John Wiley & Sons, 2009, ISBN 978-0-470-08704-6
- http://www.paperbox.org - Folding Carton History on the Paperboard Packaging Council website
- http://www.nationalcarton.com/howtomeasureafoldingcarton.html - National Carton: How to Measure a Folding Carton
- http://monarchcustompackaging.com/folding-carton-styles- folding carton styles