Cardboard Fundamentals (2023)

Cardboard Types

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For our needs there are three types of cardboard that matter the most: corrugated fiberboard, paperboard, and mat board.

Corrugated Fiberboard, a.k.a. 'Cardboard Box'

This is the cardboard you'll get with most shipping boxes, including your Adafruit packages! Typical corrugated fiberboard is made of three ply construction -- two smooth outer faces with a wavy, fluted corrugation layer sandwiched in the middle.

Cardboard Fundamentals (1)

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By Richard Wheeler (Zephyris) - Taken from, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Corrugated fiberboard is excellent for project construction because it is easy to cut, bend, fold, and drill, yet has quite a high strength to weight ratio. This strength is due to the stable arches inherent in the fluted corrugated inner wall.

Here are some primary types you'll encounter:

  • Single face board
  • Single wall double face board, a.k.a. '3 ply'
  • Double wall board with AB flute, a.k.a. '5 ply'

Just like a piece of wood, corrugated fiberboard has a "grain" to it. This is due to the orientation of the corrugation layer. The fiberboard is much more resistant to bending against the grain and easier to bend with the grain.


There are a number of different thicknesses of corrugated fiberboard made. The most common are designated by the fluting letters 'A', 'B', 'C', 'D', 'E', and 'F'. The most common, used in most typical shipping boxes, is 'A' flute, which is 3/16" (4.8mm) thick.

The thin cardboard in the Nintendo Labo kits, for example, is E-flute which is 1/16" (1.6mm) thick.

Cardboard Fundamentals (2)

By Chris 73 / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0,

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Paperboard, a.k.a. 'Carton'

Also called 'chipboard', this is the single ply cardboard you find at the back of a notepad in a thick form, or making up your cereal box in a thinner form.

Cardboard Fundamentals (3)

Paperboard doesn't have the strength of corrugated fiberboard, but it is much easier to bend and fold, which makes it ideal for forming small "papercraft" boxes.

Cardboard Fundamentals (4)

Paperboard is also used to make tubes, such as those found in wrapping paper, paper towel, and toilet paper rolls.

(Video) Cardboard Sculpture Techniques

Mat Board

Mat board is the material used in picture frame matting. It is a multi-ply, coated fiberboard with at least one smooth side. Great for cardboard circuits, as explained in this blog post by Bunnie.

Cardboard Fundamentals (5)

Mat board circuit image by Bunnie Huang, 2018, CC BY-SA 4.0

This guide was first published on Jun 29, 2018. It was lastupdated on Jun 29, 2018.

This page (Cardboard Types) was last updated on Apr 30, 2018.

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What are the properties of cardboard? ›

The key qualities of cardboard include absorption power, insulation qualities (heat, sound, vibration), air permeability and shape stability. The cardboard bands do not break and there are no tears or seams in them.

What is the main component of cardboard? ›

Waste corrugated cardboard is mainly composed of cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin, accounting for 52.02, 6.79, and 10.43% of the total composition, respectively.

What are the three types of cardboard? ›

For our needs there are three types of cardboard that matter the most: corrugated fiberboard, paperboard, and mat board.

What is the main purpose of cardboard? ›

The primary goal of cardboard packaging is to protect goods (usually solid items) that need to be stored and transported. This is a broad way to look at cardboard packaging, because the reality is that cardboard can be used to store everything from electrical goods to household items.

What is the raw material of cardboard? ›

The raw material of paper and cardboard is cellulose that is a very precious material. Cellulose is procured from specially grown plants and trees. The main reasons of preferring paper and cardboard for manufacturing are easy process, affordable carriage advantages and resistance.

What is the process of cardboard? ›

From the paper mill, rolls of kraft paper are transported to a corrugating, or converting, plant. At the plant, layers of kraft paper are crimped and glued to form corrugated cardboard, which is then cut, printed, folded, and glued to make boxes.

What chemicals are used in cardboard? ›

Kraft processes achieve pulping by using a mixture of sodium hydroxide and sodium sulfate to separate the fibers that link cellulose. If the process is bleached, additional chemicals, such as surfactants and defoamers, are added to improve the efficiency and quality of the process.

What are the layers of cardboard? ›

The most basic form of cardboard that you can get hold of is composed of three elements, a layer of 'fluted' material, placed between two layers of paper, referred to as the inner and outer liners. The center fluted sheet is glued to the two liners during manufacture, which adds rigidity and stability to the board.

What gives cardboard its strength? ›

The main strength of corrugate comes from it's concertina like zig zag shape. Being contained within fluting by strong adhesive, cardboard is strongest along the length of the material and it's this structure that gives it strength to support both sides.

What is the strongest form of cardboard? ›

The strongest type of cardboard is corrugated fibreboard if we were being very general about it. However, if you wanted to get more specific, the 5-ply variation which is double wall corrugated, making it perfect for heavy-duty situations.

What is cardboard actually called? ›

Paperboard, sometimes known as cardboard, is generally thicker (usually over 0.25 mm or 10 points) than paper. According to ISO standards, paperboard is a paper with a basis weight (grammage) above 224 g/m2, but there are exceptions. Paperboard can be single- or multi-ply.

Did you know facts about cardboard? ›

Whilst paper has been around since around 2AD, cardboard as a packaging material was not really used industrially until 1817 when Sir Malcolm Thornhill made the first single skin cardboard boxes. Corrugated cardboard was first developed as a way to make tall hats stand up straight, with a British Patent issued in 1856.

Is cardboard eco-friendly? ›

Cardboards are environmentally healthy packaging options. They're designed to withstand light to heavyweight, resist moisture to an extent, and even preserve our food. It's also excellent that aside from the manufacturing process, cardboard boxes are entirely environmentally friendly.

How strong is cardboard? ›

A typical piece of corrugated cardboard can hold 200 lbs. per square inch. The arched design provides more benefits than just strength.

Why cardboard is a good material? ›

In terms of transportation, cardboard is also very durable making it the best packaging material for business. It helps to prevent moisture from infiltrating the product; this is an essential factor for products that need to withstand long transportation times, as well as protecting food products.

What type of paper is cardboard? ›

Cardboard is a generic term for heavy paper-based products. The construction can range from a thick paper known as paperboard to corrugated fiberboard which is made of multiple plies of material.

Does cardboard decompose? ›

Cardboard is relatively biodegradable. Given time, microorganisms and other decomposers will break the fibers of the cardboard down and produce soil.

What is the life cycle of cardboard? ›

Phase 1: Used cardboard is placed in recycling bins. Phase 2: Cardboard is cleaned, shredded and pulped. Phase 3: Pulp is mixed with virgin fibers and dries into sheets. Phase 4: Recycled cardboard is ready for reuse.

What is the glue in cardboard? ›

Typically, the glue used to make corrugated fiberboard is starch based. Starch based glues are eco-friendly as they are derived from natural carbohydrates derived from roots, tubers and seeds of higher plants such as maize, potatoes, wheat, rice and tapioca.

Is cardboard acidic or alkaline? ›

As corrugated cardboard is made of wood pulp it is acidic and the corrugations are perfect habitats for insects.

What is thick cardboard called? ›

Carton Board – Carton Board is stiffer and thicker than boxboard. It has a medium to high compression and moisture resistance. Unlike cardboard, it is solid, and not fluted. Chop edge (or just chops) – the length of the board / sheet.

What's the R factor of cardboard? ›

We searched about the minimum thickness of cardboard that it is needed in order to reach a low R-Value — high thermal resistance. In a board that we found here, we calculated that with a 6 cm cardboard insulation we have R-value=0,67 and R-value=0,5 for 8 cm .

What GSM is cardboard? ›

Here are some examples of different types of paper/cardboard so that you can get a better grasp on using GSM to measure cardboard thickness: 35 to 55 GSM is often used for newspapers. 90 to 100 GSM is often used for printer paper. 120 to 140 GSM is often used for posters.

Is cardboard water resistant? ›

Cardboard boxes themselves are pretty susceptible to moisture and water. Therefore, many of us want to form their cardboard boxes waterproof either to avoid wasting it from oil and grease within the product or the merchandise itself is dear and susceptible to water.

Does cardboard absorb water? ›

Cardboard and water

Cardboard absorbs moisture from the air as well as any surface with which it comes into contact. Cardboard also absorbs moisture when it makes contact with significant amounts of water. Regardless of the quality of the construction of a pallet, wet cardboard turns into 'mush' over time.

What will replace cardboard? ›

Alternatives to Cardboard Boxes
  • Recycled & Eco-Friendly Plastics. Just because plastics aren't normally environmentally friendly doesn't mean you can't use recycled ones. ...
  • Cornstarch Packaging. ...
  • Seaweed Packaging. ...
  • Mushroom Packaging. ...
  • Biodegradable Air Peanuts. ...
  • Inflatable Air Pillows. ...
  • Corrugated Up-cycled Cardboard.
23 Oct 2018

What kind of cardboard is waterproof? ›

The boxes made with waterproof corrugated cardboard are manufactured with recycled papers laminated with a PE layer in one or both sides. Because of the PE layer, it is guaranteed that the boxes or other packaging manufactured from this material resist water and grease damage.

Who first made cardboard? ›

The cardboard box that we recognize today was created by accident in the 1870's by an American printer named Robert Gair. Mr. Gair was making paper bags in his shop when he accidentally cut a paper box where it was only meant to be creased.

Is cardboard natural or manmade? ›

Cardboard is made from natural materials which makes it compostable; meaning it can breakdown in natural elements and leave no harmful toxins. In fact, adding unbleached cardboard to your compost heap can be very beneficial.

What are the 3 P's of packaging? ›

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What are the 5 Ps of packaging? ›

Packaging actually has its very own 5 Ps, the perfect tool to understand and improve the efficacy of a product's pack. These are: Promote, Position, Present, Provide and Protect.

What is the problem with cardboard? ›

Since cardboard is biodegradable, it produces Methane (the greenhouse gas) as it breaks down. If you don't recycle cardboard, then it will end up in landfill and increase the amount of Methane that is released into the atmosphere. As a result, it will take up unnecessary space and contribute to global warming as well.

What are the disadvantages of using cardboard? ›

The Paper and Cardboard Con's

Less durable: Cardboard is much less durable than plastic and can be susceptible to mould, fire, and water damages due to weather. Stacking difficulties: Cardboard is not able to hold as much weight as plastic and so cannot be stacked as easily without breakage.

Is cardboard easily flammable? ›

Corrugated cardboard is highly flammable, which can make it easier for a potential fire to take hold and spread. In addition, piles of cardboard waste can block emergency exits that need to be used in the event of a fire.

Is cardboard stronger than plastic? ›

In summary, cardboard has a clear advantage over plastic when it comes to breaking down, although it does release greenhouse gasses in the process.

Does cardboard absorb shock? ›

Finally, this study shows that cardboard box corner is an excellent cushion and an efficient shock absorber insofar as the deformation is dimensionally smaller than the value to reach the object to be protected in the box.

What are the mechanical properties of cardboard? ›

Corrugated paperboard is an orthotropic material that has three symmetry planes for the elastic properties. It has different mechanical properties in each direction (machine direction (MD, x), the cross direction (CD, y), the thickness direction (TD, z) due to the shape of the flute.

What are the properties of corrugated cardboard? ›

The Properties of Corrugated Cardboard
  • Protection of Goods. The protection provided by corrugated cardboard is the main reason why so many companies use it for delivering products. ...
  • Corrugated Cardboard Is Cost-Effective. ...
  • Sustainable Packaging. ...
  • Ideal for Customisation. ...
  • Corrugated Cardboard Boxes Are Easy to Handle and Store.
5 Mar 2020

What are the thermal properties of cardboard? ›

Ogden rates cardboard with a thermal conductivity rating of 0.5 and water with a conductivity rating of 1.6 expressed in gram–calories per second per square centimeter measured in degrees Celsius.

What chemicals are used in making cardboard? ›

Kraft processes achieve pulping by using a mixture of sodium hydroxide and sodium sulfate to separate the fibers that link cellulose. If the process is bleached, additional chemicals, such as surfactants and defoamers, are added to improve the efficiency and quality of the process.

What is the thickness of cardboard? ›

B flute is 3 millimeters thick or 1/8” (0.125”) C flute is 4 millimeters thick or 11/64” D flute is 2 millimeters thick or (. 085”)

How does temperature affect cardboard? ›

Cold temperatures can degrade the strength of your cardboard boxes and other corrugated materials. Plus, if you're using any boxes that are held together with glue, they could fall apart. Damp conditions can also affect material quality and deteriorate the cardboard over time.

What temperature is cardboard safe? ›

Cardboard is a combustible material. This means that it will ignite or catch fire under a particular temperature. The ignition point of cardboard is 427 F. This means, technically if the cardboard isn't heated to the point of 427 F it won't catch fire.

Is cardboard eco friendly? ›

Cardboards are environmentally healthy packaging options. They're designed to withstand light to heavyweight, resist moisture to an extent, and even preserve our food. It's also excellent that aside from the manufacturing process, cardboard boxes are entirely environmentally friendly.

Is cardboard eco friendly yes or no? ›

Cardboard is biodegradable and can be used as compost material. So when you have a piece of cardboard that is not recyclable or reusable, you can compost it. Unlike plastic, it won't break down after 100 years into toxic microfibers.


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