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Phillip Akhzar | April 27, 2018 | 9 Minutes Read
The world of packaging is deceitfully complex. When considering the different packaging options, you may feel overwhelmed with the selection.
Don't worry, that's normal.
We've put together a comprehensive list of the main things you need to know about packaging. We'll cover the different packaging types, the available printing options for each, typical use cases to help you understand which is best for you, and some examples. Here are the packaging types we'll be covering:
This is the typical brown cardboard box that you're used to seeing. They're sturdy, can withstand moderate weight, and provide a little bit of cushioning thanks to the corrugated material. They divide into stock boxes and custom boxes.
When it comes to corrugated boxes, there are more choices available than you might initially imagine. Here we'll go over the different styles of corrugated boxes available and their use cases.
Stock boxes are the industry standard, and come in a wide variety of sizes. If you don't have any custom needs, then this is a good, economically viable option. If all you need is to transport goods, then this is a good place to start. Also known as RSC or Regular Slotted Containers, these boxes can be recognized by the flaps that are all equal in length, with at least two of the parallel sides meeting in the middle.
Full overlap boxes are a variation of RSC boxes. The main difference: two of the parallel flaps entirely cover the opening of the box. This provides a maximally secured opening, though it does require additional fasteners (such as tape). These boxes are more sturdy than the standard stock boxes; and are less likely to be disfigured while being transported, thanks to the double layer of cardboard on the sides.
Use cases: FOL boxes are generally used for situations in which it's important that the contents of the box stay secure.
These boxes are built with a folding mechanism that allows the cardboard flaps to interlock with each other simply by pushing down on them as you open the box. As a result, it provides a quickly assembled sturdy bottom. This box format offers faster setup time, and also saves on tape expenses. They come particularly in handy when it's important to quickly and effectively put together a package and ship it out. Though auto-locking bottom boxes will increase your material costs, they'll be offset by lower labor costs through an significant hike in productivity.
Roll end boxes are also available in corrugated cardboard. They're characterized by the unique fastening mechanism: rather than open flaps closing in on the top of the box, a hinged piece of cardboard flaps over the opening to be secured into the top or the sides of the box.
Thanks to the minimal overlap, roll end corrugated boxes use materials most efficiently. That makes them ideal for the environmentally conscious.
The RETT box features a lid with flaps that tuck into the top of the box. It can either have just the one flap at the front, or additional two flaps on the sides — also know as “dust flaps.” This style of box provides a protective layer from all sides, but the fastening is less secure than the Roll End Lock Front model. For that reason, the RETT is not suggested for shipping.
Flexo, or flexographic printing is a method of stamping a non-photo-quality design onto the material. Flexo works well both with rough and smooth surfaces, making it a common choice for printing on corrugated boxes. Example of flexo printing on corrugated boxes:
This Barbershop box design works well on all cardboard surfaces and has few colors, making it ideal for flexographic printing. Flexo printing is ideal for:
Designing your box online is easy with Arka’s Customizer. Anyone can choose the box they want, upload logos, adjust the color, and press buy. Simple as that. You can also save your design if you want to come back and make adjustments.
Example of digital printing on corrugated boxes:
This boxed wine features an image of the glass of wine digitally printed onto the cardboard.
*Digital printing is ideal for: *
Litho laminated printing
Litho, or lithographic printing, is the method of printing a design onto a layer of paper, and then applying that layer to the cardboard box. This method allows for a wide range of artistic options, including stunning visuals and colors, foil details, embossing and debossing. The result creates a premium packaging feeling. Example of litho printing on corrugated boxes: The packaging for this french press perfectly matches the product itself: sleek, minimalist, and with a hint of gold. The gold foil effect on the packaging could have only been made a reality with the help of lithographic printing.
*Litho printing is ideal for: *
Chipboard and paperboard boxes are made out of a layer of pliable, bending chip cardboard. They're usually characterized by the lightweight, thin layer of cardboard, though it can come in a variety of thicknesses. You may be wondering, what's the difference between chipboard and paperboard?
Offset lithography This method of printing is called “offset”, because it doesn't apply ink directly to the product. Aluminum plates with the design are inked, then the plates transfer the ink to rubber sheets, which in turn transfer the design onto the box.
Offset printing yields high-quality results that are consistently accurate, as they use the same aluminum plates.
Examples of offset lithography printing on paperboard boxes:
You can see examples of offset lithography on the brown paperboard Arka products. Offset lithography is easily applied for clean and precise results.
Offset printing is ideal for:
Direct digital printing Just like with corrugated boxes, direct digital printing prints directly onto the paperboard. It provides sharp images that are compatible with photo-quality demands.
Since digital printing requires little setup (and only a digital print file), setup is quick and inexpensive. However since each box is printed individually, it may not be the most cost-effective for large runs. Example of direct digital printing on paperboard boxes
*Direct digital printing is ideal for: *
There are times when the situation calls for bags, such as when shipping objects that aren’t particularly fragile, or when packaging is price-sensitive. Poly bags get their name from the type of plastic used to make them: polyethylene. They can range from single layer, to gusseted poly bags, with a variety of different closures. What they have in common is that they're lightweight, flexible and financially friendly. We'll go over the different types of bags available, as well as their corresponding printing solutions.
Single layer poly bags Single layer poly bags can function as an enclosure for a product, such as a small pouch for loose products such as powders, beads, jewelry, or tech parts, or a larger bag that encloses a single garment.
Use cases: Containing many small pieces (powders, beads, etc.) Individually packaging items within one larger order Protecting products from dirt that may enter the box/larger bag
Bubble mailers tend to have a more durable exterior poly layer and are fitted internally with a layer of bubble wrap. These bags offer more support and protection and are often used for mailing small products. However, since bubble mailers are flexible, they shouldn't be used to mail fragile products of paper-based products that can easily bend.
Printing on poly bags
Poly bags are generally not the most conducive to printing. Due to their soft nature, bubble mailers are difficult to print on, and quality can't be assured. On regular poly bags, photo-quality prints and vibrant colors are difficult to print. We recommend sticking to simple logos if printing is necessary.
Example of printing on poly bags:
When printing on poly bags is absolutely necessary, keeping the design clean and minimal is key. Take a look at this example of dog poop bags by JungeSchachtel, where the design is one solid color, without gradients and other factors to complicate the design.
Pro-tip: To brand poly bags while avoiding printing consider adding branded stickers to the packaging.
Conclusion All things said and done, there are many types of packaging to choose from. Your choice depends on a variety of factors - what the box is used for, budget, environmental factors, design requirements and color amounts, and any product restrictions. All you have to do is decide which is best for your business Sound easier said than done? No worries — contact Arka for a free consultation. Let us know what your requirements are, and we'll be happy to help you put together the best packaging solution for your product. We can help you save money, reduce waste, and create the best design for your brand.