By Suzy Biever
Many years ago in jolly old England, in the year 1856 to be exact, corrugated paper was patented and used as liner for the signature, iconical English tall hats. Not until 1871 was it patented by Albert Jones of New York City for packaging purposes. Today, corrugated boards and boxes are used to transport and ship many items, from glass to fruits and vegetables. Corrugations have evolved from top hat liners, to a diverse array of A, B, C, E, and F flutes comprising pizza boxes, bakery boxes, take out containers, and a variety of paper ware products. However, the alphabetical designations of the flutes don't correspond to the sizes of the flutes, but rather to the order in which the flutes were invented.
The arched, wave-like construction of these flutes plays an instrumental role in protecting items during transportation. Curved arches created by these flutes make boards exceptionally strong, and resist pressure applied from any angle. Sandwiched between two pieces of cardboard, the flutes can support a great deal of weight. The empty space located between the flutes and under the arches also provides cushioning, as well as insulation in the event of extreme temperature changes.
New classes of flutes are still being created to suit specialized packaging and shipping needs. Corrugations can also be found in such items as catering / deli trays, plates, and disposable bakeware. Hybrid boards containing combinations of various flutes can likewise be created and customized. However, flutes A – E remain the most common types. The C flute is the most common out of all of them, with 80% of boards and boxes containing this type of corrugation.
As a general guideline, larger and taller flutes, like the A flute, are better for compression and cushioning, while smaller, shorter flutes like the F flute offer excellent crush resistance and printing surfaces. The table below provides an outline of the sizes, qualities, and uses of each type of flute.