Printed fluted packaging: Solidboard, Z-flute, Micro-flute (N-flute, F-flute and E-flute)
Club stores are setting new standards in packaging design and packaging requirements due to their offering (larger size packaging) and their in store logistics (less secondary packaging, in store pallets). This paves the way towards innovative packaging materials that should combine excellent resistance to vertical crush and outstanding printing and folding performances. This post gives an overview of available substrates to fulfill these needs, from Micro-flute to Z-flute and Solidboard.
Micro-flutes are a light weight yet durable corrugated board available in a wide range of flute and liner combinations to meet your exact requirements. Micro-flute packaging makes up 5-7% of total US corrugated shipments, according to Assn of Independent Corrugated Converters (AICC). There are several types of micro-flutes available on the market. Thickness and number of flutes are the main differentiators.
Among micro-flutes, E-Flute has the lowest number of flutes/foot (94) but still gives it a great crush resistance and a flat enough surface for high quality printing applications. The thin board profile of E-Flute (it is one-fourth the thickness of C-Flute) reduces box size and saves storage space. Because of its thin profile and cushioning properties, E-Flute can substitute for conventional folding cartons or solid fiber containers. But E-flute is too thick to be directly printed on most of offset presses.
F-Flute is nearly half the thickness of E-Flute and is a popular choice in the corrugated industry. The idea for F-flute originated in Europe to reduce the fiber content of packaging. Converting to F-Flute can reduce the total amount of fiber in packaging.
There is not a significant amount of difference between the two flutes. F-flute is about half as thick and E-flute and has about 35 percent more flutes per inch (128 for F-flute vs 95 for E-flute). F-flute does offer a considerably superior printing surface and – with the right containerboard grades – the ability to be printed through offset presses and converted on folding carton machines. We are seeing an increasing use of E/F today, although it is still small. F-flute has also fallen into favor with fast food and prepared food operations seeking to minimize their carbon foot print and find a sustainable alternative to polystyrene containers.
It is the finest flute that Ds Smith manufactures. It has been specifically engineered to allow direct litho printing. It is lightweight, offers exceptional protection and has a superior surface for printing thus making it ideal for decorative packaging applications.
F and N-type micro-flute are getting an increasing interest in the Packaging industry, which is very concerned about its carbon footprint (less fiber consumption, lighter packaging, smaller volume of the packaged good for warehousing and transportation) and still wants adequate protection for the product. This is especially true for goods requiring both particular care and elegant packaging (fine foods).
Solidboard is also an appropriate option for highly protective packaging. Solidboard is made with a core of recycled/virgin board which is laminated with several layers of paper and carton. Because its production is a lamination process, very specific need can be addressed. Depending on the type of each lamination layer and the type of glue used, Solidboard may offer a high resistance to water, grease, and other barrier properties.
Solidboard is made by gluing together layers of cardboard and paper using waterproof adhesive (PVA). That makes solidboard very well suited as packaging for products that must be transported in moist conditions or require special protection. The packaging can also be very easily adapted to the customer’s wishes and demands without compromising the quality.
What makes solid board packaging so special?
- High moisture resistance for use in damp environments.
- High density gives rigidity to packaging.
- Smoothness allows it to be flexo and offset printed.
- Suitable for easy addition of precise folding and cutting lines.
- Limited thickness allows cost-effective handling and storage.
Z-flute is specifically targeted for club stores food packaging. Graphic Packaging’s Z-flute packaging combines lightweight with compression strength to withstand the rigors of shipping, stacking and consumer use. The “Z” stands for “zero” because unlike traditional corrugated paperboard, it has no flutes between the two exterior walls.
Z-Flute® technology provides the strength of a corrugate package with the performance characteristics of a folding carton due to the strategic lamination of paperboard strips (not on all the inner surface of the packaging).
“Z-Flute® is also engineered for strength and aesthetic advantage, is created with a “board-to-board lamination,” Dan Keefe says (Graphic packaging Marketing Director), so that the paperboard’s corrugation is replaced by lamination of board strips on the inside of the package, not the outside. The “club store” phenomenon, stores like Sam’s, Costco, and others that sell products in bulk and therefore require larger product packaging, inspired Z-Flute®.
Z-Flute® packaging offers many benefits to club manufacturers
- Package Strength – Z-Flute (zero flutes) packaging is generally compared to corrugated packaging which uses flutes in between the layers of paperboard for strength and support. Z-Flute eliminates the need for fluting.
- Reduced Secondary Packaging/Disappearing Pallet – Due to the packaging strength of Z-Flute the requirement for high-wall trays is eliminated. Display trays are eliminated with the Z-Flute product unless the customer’s manufacturing process requires it. Without the need for display trays the palletized product sells down without any extra display packaging to dispose making it more efficient for the club operator and creates a cost benefit for the manufacturer.
- Smoother-running Packaging Lines – Z-Flute is made from a paperboard with excellent material performance characteristics. The result is higher manufacturing efficiencies in set up and filling on packaging lines.
- Less Space Required – Z-Flute fluteless packaging takes up less space than corrugated. This eliminates the bulk and means there are fewer pallets of packaging to be shipped received and stored.
In the food and beverage, cosmetics and pharma industries, Solidboard, F and N-type micro-flute are becoming a material of choice because of their enhanced printability and folding capabilities and still offering a more rigid packaging than E-flute.
Do not hesitate to contact us if you need further information.