Boxes 101: Selecting The Right Corrugated Box

Posted by Marty Boyer on

From thinking outside of them, to inside of them, there’s plenty to know when it comes to selecting the right corrugated box to suit your company's shipping needs.

“It’s just a box.”

If you aren’t in the shipping industry, the above sentence is likely one you’ve either heard or said, when it comes to packaging your goods. But there’s much more to a box than that. It not only protects the cargo your customers are counting on, but also your customer’s first exposure to the type of service you provide based on how meticulously you do so. On top of that, a box can be a way to promote and convey your brand when accompanied by images or graphics. (Can you recognize an Amazon package from a distance?)

In short, there are a lot of uses for boxes … And there are a lot of different types of boxes, too. Learn the basics of the products you can find at 3D Corrugated by discovering the basics here.


It’s in our name, so we’re pretty well-versed on them … But if you don’t work with them on a regular basis, you might not exactly know what a corrugated box is and how it differs from a standard cardboard box. While they might their origins in the same place, they’re not the same. 

Think of the difference like this: Whereas cardboard is really just heavy-duty paper stock like that of a greeting or baseball card, corrugated board is stronger and composed of three layers: A liner (both inner and outer) and fluting (also called the medium). Whereas the liner is the flat material typically found outside surface of the board, the medium is what makes an arched shape (“flutes”) between the liners that supports the box. (In layman’s terms, they’re the little waves sandwiched in between each side of the smooth surface you’d see when an unfolded box lays on its side.)

Corrugated board typically consists of a paper pulp material cut from timber, making it lightweight, durable and – since it comes from natural material, environmentally responsible at the same time. To make a box, corrugated cardboard stacks are cut and folded in a variety of shapes and sizes and – like magic – you have your box.


Knowing what a corrugated box is just the beginning of the process to finding the right one to meet your needs. The next thing to figure out is what flute – no, not the musical instrument – is right for you.

Corrugated flutes are the “S” or triangle-shaped waves/arches that make up its board – a.k.a. its corrugation. Flutes give the box its strength, cushioning and reinforcement that make up the board. 

Flutes typically consist of five different sizes, each of which is identified by one of five letters: A, B, C, E and F. Each letter corresponds to the thickness of the flute’s profile, with A being the strongest on down to F. Flutes are what help boxes prevent damage by resisting pressure applied from various angles with the open space between the flutes providing both cushioning and insulation in the event of temperature changes as it travels.

By the letters, a/an:

• A Flute is the strongest of all, at one-fourth of an inch in height.

  • B Flute is about one-eighth of an inch in height.
  • C Flute is typically good for printing and is about eleven sixth fourths of an inch (4 millimeters) in height and is also the most common all-purpose flute.
  • E Flutes are one-sixteenth of an inch height; pizza boxes are typically E flutes.
  • F Flutes are one-thirty second (0.8 millimeters) of an inch in height; a fast-food hamburger box is a typical use of F flutes.

Once you figure out your flutes, the next thing to do is figure out is the strength of the box’s boards. These are a bit simpler as there are just four primary types:

  • A single face board only has two layers – a linear layer and a corrugated layer. It’s typically used inside of boxes to add extra cushioning since it is not as durable as other corrugated boards.
  • A single wall board is the most common type of corrugated cardboard, consisting of two outer liners and a middle layer of corrugation.
  • A double wall board has two layers of corrugated fluting wedged in among three liners (think of a sandwich with the liners being the buns and meat in the middle of two layers of toppings above and below)
    • A triple wall board is composed of two sets of a liner on top of luting on top of another liner and are the strongest of all. 


Like people, boxes can come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. When it comes to corrugated boxes, there are four dominant styles regardless of length, width or depth. They are:

  • Regular slotted containers (RSC): This is the most common box you see. Typically, square or rectangular in shape, this box has flaps that are usually the same length with two outer flaps that meet in the middle when closed. Half slotted containers (HSC) are the same of RSCs, just without one set of flaps.

    • Full overlap containers (FOL): are similar to RSCs except both sets of the outer flaps overlap each other to cover the full width of the box. They also have wider flaps and are extra thick on the top and bottom of the box.
  • One piece folder (OPF) boxes consist of one piece of board that is creased so it can be folded into a box with a solid bottom. These are often used for records, books and other printed materials. 
  • Full telescope design (FTD) boxes feature a separate top and bottom that fit over one another with flaps that join on the tube or end panels. (In plain English, one end slides or fits over the top of the other.) These are often used for stacking or fragile items due to their additional strength on its sides.


Selecting the right box for the job along with selecting the right company from which to buy from- are two important cost saving factors you’ll want to take into consideration when getting ready to place your order.  

First, shipping as a practice can be expensive. Using boxes that aren’t properly sized to the item can add unnecessary costs. Also, costly can be the effect of selecting a box with a flute not strong enough for the items inside to be protected (leading to damage in transit). 

Second, just ordering boxes can be an expensive process in and of itself. This is why purchasing items from a box company in Cincinnati like 3D Corrugated, that offers local pick-up, can save you greatly by omitting the need to have your boxes shipped.

Whatever your box needs, 3D Corrugated will gladly help you figure out the perfect corrugated box for you and your business – from off the shelf to custom designed packaging. Learn more about how we can help you meet your shipping needs today by emailing or give us a call at (513) 241-8126.


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