Paper and paperboard packaging
Paper and paperboard are made from cellulose fibres, extracted from trees, combined together with additives to make a continuous matted web. This chapter covers the raw materials, processes and on- and off-line treatments used to manufacture fibrous substrates (paper and paperboard) used for the conversion into packaging components. These components include wrapping materials, bags, sacks, cartons, tubs, lids, moulded fibre packaging, and backing cards for various plastic, paper and paperboard combinations. This chapter will also discuss the different substrates, conversion methods and decorating methods.
‘Paper’ and ‘paperboard’ can be described as a matted or felted sheet, usually composed of plant fibre (commonly from trees or recycled paper or paperboard waste, e.g., corrugated cases, newsprint, sacks, bags and cartons). It can also be made from other fibrous materials such as linen, sugar cane, cotton and the stalks of cereal plants such as corn (commonly known as straw) (see Fig. 10.1). The terms ‘paper’ and ‘paperboard’ generally refer to the packaging they are used to make. For example, you would refer to the material to make a carton as paperboard and the material to make a corrugated case or paper sack as paper. However, this can be confusing as there is a large range of weights and thicknesses used to make a wide diversity of fibre-based packaging.
10.1 (a) Matted fibres (mechanical pulp), (b) matted fibres (chemical pulp) courtesy of Iggesund Paperboard; www.iggesund.com.
As a result of this confusion, the International Standards Organisation (ISO) decided to separate the two. ‘Paper’ is defined by the ISO as that substrate, made from vegetable fibres, which has a grammage (basis weight) of less than 250 grams per square metre (gsm); ‘paperboard’ (also known as ‘cartonboard’, ‘cardboard’, ‘boxboard’ or just ‘board’) has a grammage of 250 gsm or over. This definitive difference, however, is not widely used within the industry, different countries using varying terminology. In the United Kingdom, for example, we use the word ‘ card’ when referring to that particular paper used to make greetings cards and we use the term ‘cardboard’ when referring generally to stiff paper/paperboard materials, such as corrugated or heavyweight solid paperboard.
Paper and paperboard are the most common packaging raw materials. Paper is used mainly in corrugated board manufacture, spiral tube making, and also in laminates, sack and bag manufacture, and wrapping material for such products as ream-wrap for copier paper. Paperboard is used mainly in cartons. There are many forms of paper with a variety of properties. These properties are further utilised with the help of other materials when combined together in laminates. The other materials, apart from clay and chalk (discussed later), used in conjunction with paper are aluminium foil and plastic films. Coating with polymers also enhances the properties of paper. These coatings vary from fluorocarbon (grease resistance) to water-based and film-based barrier coatings (grease, water, water vapour and gas barrier), making the paper base a very versatile material indeed. Paperboard, though not quite as versatile on its own, can benefit from coating and lamination with polymeric materials and aluminium foil and vacuum deposition in the same way as paper.
The properties of paper and paperboard depend upon many factors and can be tailored to meet the specific needs of the packaging industry. Typical factors included in the discussion which follows throughout this chapter are:
Excellent stiffness (some tissue papers excepted) and deadfold of all papers and paperboards, especially bleached and unbleached Kraft and sulphite grades, allow very lightweight papers to be used for bags ensuring their creases are sharp and they stand erect on shelf. The downside is that paper keeps its crease when deformed, detracting from its aesthetic appeal. The use of a sandwich of mechanical pulp between chemical pulps (known as folding boxboard – FBB) maximises the stiffness obtainable for a carton and provides good deadfold when creased (see Fig. 10.2).
10.2 Paper properties (SBB = solid bleached board; FBB = folding boxboard; WLC = white lined chipboard) courtesy of Iggesund Paperboard; www.iggesund.com.
The density, whiteness, porosity and smoothness of the bleached paper and paperboard, especially sulphite grades, portray a bright high-quality print when decorated by the offset lithographic, flexographic, gravure or digital processes. (See Chapter 19 for detailed discussion of printing processes.)
The Cobb value (water absorbency) and porosity value of paper and paperboard can be adapted to suit the performance required (see Fig. 10.3). Water-based adhesives ideally require an absorbent surface to dry and set the adhesive by fast removal of water. This allows for efficient adhesion in bag, sack and carton making and labelling. The Cobb value can be adjusted by ‘hard sizing’ the paper (see later additives for paper and paperboard production) so that the fibres are protected from water, allowing use in frozen and wet environments without significantly reducing the physical properties of the paper. Where absolute water repellency is required, coatings are used, for example plastic film, water-based barrier coatings or silicone coatings.
10.3 Cobb test for water absorbency courtesy of Iggesund Paperboard; www.iggesund.com.
One of the negative properties of paper and paperboard is that they absorb moisture vapour and water. If one side of the substrate is more absorbent than the other, as with clay-coated or one side polymer-coated material, it will warp. This is a very serious issue if not controlled. It can occur during or after manufacture. It is important, therefore, to control the manufacture to make a stable web and to control the storage to ensure moisture variation is kept to a minimum (see Fig. 10.4).
10.4 Warping of paper and paperboard (* = least absorbent side; + = greatest moisture gain; – = least moisture gain) courtesy of Iggesund Paperboard; www.iggesund.com.
Another property is the burst strength of paper, especially ‘ sack Kraft’. Paper can be micro-crimped to increase the burst strength and this helps to control and balance the total energy absorption (TEA) and enables it to be used for industrial packaging such as cement sacks and 500 kg flexible intermediate bulk containers (see Fig. 10.5). Once the required total energy absorption levels are known, different combinations of paper plies and weights can be used to achieve it (see Fig. 10.6).
10.6 Principle of burst strength courtesy of Iggesund Paperboard; www.iggesund.com.
The tensile strength of paper and paperboard is high and their extensibility low, allowing for good constant tension to be applied when printing and laminating papers and during the manufacture of corrugated board, spiral and linear paper tube making and form fill seal (FFS) liquid packaging cartons (see Fig. 10.7).
10.7 Difference in whiteness and tensile strength of primary and recycled paper and paperboard gradess. courtesy of Iggesund Paperboard; www.iggesund.com
The tear resistance of papers is variable, depending on the type and the manufacturing process, but in general a grade can be selected to meet most packaging uses. The short span compression strength of paper and paperboard can determine the resistance to compression, provided the height and dimensions of the carton footprint are known. It is important that the distance between the jaws of the test rig is no greater than 0.7 mm, otherwise bending will affect the result (see Fig. 10.8).
10.8 Compression strength testing courtesy of Iggesund Paperboard; www.iggesund.com.
Paper can be made to have varying degrees of grease resistance, either by treating the fibres and paper physically or chemically. Physical treatment of the fibres is known as beating or refining, to produce grease proof or grease resistant (GP or GR) paper. Chemical fibre treatments include adding fluorocarbon to the furnish or at the size press. GP papers can be further treated by supercalendering to produce a translucent grease resistant paper known as ‘glassine’. The ultimate in grease resistance is achieved by dissolving some of the fibres in sulphuric acid to produce parchment, which also has a very low gas permeability.
• Solid bleached board (SBB): paperboard made from virgin bleached chemical pulp (Fig. 10.9).
• Solid unbleached board (SUB): paperboard made mainly from unbleached virgin chemical pulp. A layer of bleached fibre is sometimes added to the top to provide greater whiteness (Fig. 10.10).
• Folding boxboard (FBB): made from a layer or layers of mainly virgin mechanical pulp sandwiched between layers of virgin chemical pulp. The top layer is bleached chemical pulp and the bottom layer can be either bleached or unbleached virgin chemical pulp (Fig. 10.11).
• White lined chipboard (WLC): made from multi-layers of recycled fibres. The top layer can be made from bleached virgin chemical pulp or white deinked recycled fibres. Between the top layer and the middle layer(s) there can be a layer of chemical, mechanical or deinked recycled fibres. The bottom layer can be made from selected recycled or bleached and/or unbleached virgin fibres (Fig. 10.12).
• CCNB – clay coated news back – news back refers to the layer(s) of pulp beneath the coating made specifically from recycled newspapers rather than mixed waste. This creates a very smooth light grey underside but, due to the short fibres, this material can only be used where the physical strength of the carton is relatively unimportant.
• CCKB–clay coated Kraft back (also known as CKB in Europe and coated kraft back or CCCB – clay coated craft back in the United States). Kraft back can refer to virgin sulphate unbleached pulp or fibre recovered from used corrugated cases. This is a much stronger board than CCNB and in some instances can compete with Kraft boards.
The DIN 19303 standard for classification of paperboards is a little more refined than the traditional terminology used in the United States and the United Kingdom, and is now being adopted by most European carton manufacturers (see Table 10.1).
|Abbreviations (German terminology)||Description|
|GGZ||Cast coated SBB|
|GG1||Cast coated FBB white back|
|GG2||Cast coated FBB manilla back|
|GC1||Coated FBB white back|
|GC2||Coated FBB manilla back|
|GT||Coated CB manilla or white back|
|GD1||Coated CB high bulk (spec. volumemin 1.5 cm3/g)|
|GD2||Coated CB (spec. volume min 1.4 cm3/g)|
|GD3||Coated CB low bulk (spec. volume min 1.3 cm3/g)|
|UC1||Uncoated FBB white back|
|UC2||Uncoated FBB manilla back|
|UT||Uncoated CB manilla or white back|
|UD1||Uncoated CB top liner woodfree|
|UD2||Uncoated CB top liner near woodfree|
|UD3||Uncoated CB top liner partly mechanical pulp|
|SBB||Solid bleached board|
|SUB||Solid unbleached board|
|CB||Chipboard (more often WLC = white lined chipboard)|
|GG||Gussgestrichen, cast coated|
|Z||Zellulosekarton, solid boxboard|
|C||Chromoersatzkarton, folding boxboard|
|D||Duplex (CB construction)|
|T||Triplex (CB manilla or white back construction)|
As has already been mentioned, the properties of paper and paperboard vary greatly, depending on grade and specification. At this point it is worth considering some general comparisons of different types of paper and paperboard as shown in Figs 10.13–10.15. Comparisons are made taking account of bleached vs. unbleached materials, and materials made from virgin chemical pulp, virgin mechanical pulp and recycled fibres. These materials and processes are discussed in detail later (Fig. 10.13). It can be seen that bleached chemical pulps are generally weaker than unbleached pulps but both are stronger than mechanical pulps. Also, as expected, bleached pulps are whiter than unbleached pulps (see Fig. 10.14).
10.13 The combination of whiteness and strength for various pulps courtesy of Iggesund Paperboard; www.iggesund.com.
10.14 Effect on properties of changing types of pulp courtesy of Iggesund Paperboard; www.iggesund.com.
Mechanical pulp is stiffer than chemical pulp but not as strong. Fortunately the manufacturer is able to combine pulps for maximum overall performance, for example, folding boxboard (FBB) has inner plies of mechanical pulp and outer plies of chemical pulp. This provides a board with maximum stiffness at minimum grammage. If we compare four properties of mechanical and chemical fibres it can be seen that
Figure 10.15 compares the properties of recycled fibre with the two main virgin fibres. It can be seen that, in general, recycled fibres are stronger than mechanical fibres but less strong than chemical fibres. The same comparison cannot be used for whiteness. Most recycled fibres are grey in colour. As we change from mechanical pulp to recycled pulp and on to chemical pulp, the density of the paper and paperboard produced from these pulps increases. As density increases it would be expected that strength and surface appearance increase and stiffness decreases. However, as a result of the secondary processing of recycled fibres and the contaminants contained within (clay and chalk coatings, for example) the paperboard made from recycled fibres does not usually follow this expected trend.
10.15 Whiteness and strength for different paperboard grades courtesy of Iggesund Paperboard; www.iggesund.com.
Paper and paperboard, when combined with selected polymeric film materials, can result in materials with significantly enhanced properties. Coating with polyethylene and other polymer films makes it possible to heat-seal paper-based materials, which is very useful in sack and bag manufacture where an integral seal is required, for example for dry pet foods.
Aluminium foil and polymer films can also be added, allowing laminates to be constructed that can be formed into liquid packaging cartons. In these applications the paper provides the stiffness, puncture, and abuse resistance, formability on the packaging machine and adds to the ultraviolet (UV) light barrier. The aluminium provides the gas, UV and water vapour barrier. The polymeric film, usually polyethylene, or polypropylene, provides water and product resistance, acts as an adhesive between the aluminium and the paper, and provides an excellent heat seal to ensure the product does not leak and there is no ingress of gas through the sealed surface.
The negative aspects of combining paper with other materials are that it makes the waste more difficult to separate and therefore recycle into its component parts in a commercially viable manner. Water-based barrier coatings (WBBC) have been developed to overcome some of these issues. They provide water barrier, some water vapour barrier, grease barrier and product release and are claimed to be fully repulpable with the paper, negating the need for separation of the coating from the fibres.
The main raw material used to make paper and paperboard is cellulose fibre sourced from trees and recycled waste. Fibres are mixed with additives to improve performance and control processes and where necessary treated with coatings to further improve performance. The source for and treatment of these raw materials, and how they influence performance will now be discussed in this section.
Fibre length is one of, if not the most important, property with respect to paper and paperboard performance, and the length and shape of the fibre depends on the source. Deciduous trees, i.e. broadleaf trees which lose their leaves in the winter in non-tropical regions, produce short fibres, whereas coniferous trees, i.e. cone bearing, needle leaf trees, produce long fibres. Deciduous trees are also known as hardwoods and coniferous trees as softwoods. Short fibres provide smoothness for printing while long fibres provide strength. Typical ranges of fibre length used in papermaking are:
Aspen, eucalyptus and birch trees grown in temperate climates are the common sources for hardwood fibre, and trees such as spruce, larch, fir, hemlock and pine provide the softwood fibres. All of these types of trees are grown in managed forests with a continuous replanting programme and they are used to make virgin pulp. This important raw material is fully sustainable with minimum adverse effect on the environment. Trees are made up of approximately 50% fibre, the rest being lignin and other substances, such as carbohydrates. Lignin is a complex chemical which binds the fibres together, but also causes discolouration.
Trees of a selected species are grown to a specific size, felled, cut into precise lengths, the branches, twigs and some of the bark removed and the logs transported to the mill to be converted into paper and paperboard. Once the debranched trees reach the mill, they are completely debarked and sent to chippers where they are cut to similar sized small pieces before they are sent to the predetermined pulping process.
Recycled fibres vary widely depending on the waste raw material source. In general they are a mixture of hard and softwoods, their fibre length depending on the number of times they have been recycled. Fibres are shortened at each recycling process and, once virgin fibres have been recycled around seven times, the fibre length is considered too small to use further.
Recycled fibres are often contaminated with printing inks, product and ‘contraries’ such as plastic, baling wire, wax and adhesive. Although the deinking process can remove some of these, others get through, resulting in contamination of the fibrous sheet produced. These can appear as small particulates of colour, text, grease and char spots and produce a reduced whiteness and brightness as well as reduced strength (due to the shortening of fibre length) of the finished substrate compared to that manufactured from virgin fibre. However, the industry continues to develop the quality of recycled fibre, with significant improvement over the past 20 years. Some grades of paperboard made from recycled waste are highly competitive in performance compared to virgin paper and paperboard (see Fig. 10.16). Not all properties are worse than virgin papers and paperboards: for example delamination (IGT) and Scott Bond are at least as good, if not better as can be seen from the figure. There is, however, a concern in certain industries where taint, odour, aesthetics and performance are critical.
10.16 Properties of some paperboard grades made from recycled waste courtesy of Iggesund Paperboard; www.iggesund.com.
There are two main types of pulping process for the production of virgin fibre and two intermediate methods. These are mechanical (or groundwood), chemical, thermo-mechanical (TMP) and chemical thermo-mechanical (CTMP or semi-chemical). Recycled fibre is prepared in a separate process using a hydrapulper.
This is the quickest, least costly method of obtaining virgin fibres. The wood chips are washed, to remove any soil, stones or other contaminants, and mechanically ground. The grinding process was traditionally carried out using grindstones similar to those used for grinding flour, to grind the logs directly. This as known as stone groundwood. Nowadays, ridged metal discs called refiner plates are used to process the wood chips. This process separates the fibres individually but in doing so breaks them into shorter lengths. It does not remove the lignin and other impurities, resulting in fibres which discolour with age (see Fig. 10.17).
10.17 The production of mechanically separated pulp. (adapted from Pro Carton; www.procarton.com)
Mechanical pulp is used for low grade papers such as newsprint and for blending with chemical and semi-chemical produced pulps to reduce costs. It is also used as a sandwich between chemical pulps for the production of folding boxboard (FBB), one of the most popular boards used for carton making in Western Europe.
Here the wood chips are placed in a digester where the cellulose fibres are separated from the lignin and other impurities using heat and chemicals (see Fig. 10.18). If white fibres are required, bleaching is carried out at this stage. This is the most expensive method of producing fibres for paper and paperboard manufacture, due to the lower yield compared to mechanical pulp and the heat energy and chemicals required. However, it produces the strongest and whitest (when bleached) substrates available.
10.18 The production of chemically separated and bleached pulp. (adapted from Pro Carton; www.procarton.com)
There are two main chemical processes used: the alkaline sulphate process (known as ‘Kraft’), which produces the strongest of all the cellulose fibre-based paper and paperboard products, and the acid sulphite process. The sulphate method uses a combination of sodium hydroxide and sodium sulphide in the digestion process. The sulphite method uses metal or ammonium salts of sulphurous acid, producing either sulphites or bisulphites. These chemicals digest the impurities but, in doing so, due to their acidic nature, hydrolyse some of the cellulose resulting in the final paper or paperboard having less strength than that produced by the sulphate process. However, the amount of pulp produced per hour is greater and the quality of bleaching is better, due to its higher purity. Today less than 20% of all chemical pulp is produced by the sulphite process. However, due to its high purity it is used to manufacture Rayon, cellulose acetate and Cellophane™. Cellophane™, though not a plastic, is a clear film suitable for packaging of fresh produce, where breathability is a requirement and for twist wrap films for mechanically wrapping individual sweets, where its excellent deadfold properties are utilised.
In Europe chemical pulp can be approximately twice the cost of mechanical pulp (this is not necessarily the case elsewhere, e.g. North America) and is therefore used where maximum strength is required, such as multi-wall sacks and the liners for corrugated cases, especially in damp, high humidity and wet environments. Chemical pulp is also used where maximum toughness, whiteness and purity are required. Examples are the outside plies of folding boxboard, cartons for high value cosmetics and liquid packaging form fill seal cartons. Paper made from chemical pulp is often referred to as ‘wood free’. This does not mean the fibres come from material other than trees; it means there is no groundwood or mechanical pulp included in the paper.
The two intermediate pulping processes of TMP and CTMP referred to earlier are used to either improve the properties or reduce the costs of fibre production. In the TMP process, hot water is used to soften the fibres and render them more supple, resulting in less damage during the mechanical process and consequently higher strength compared with the basic mechanical pulping process. The CTMP process, consisting of some chemical digestion and use of heat, but less than in the chemical process, takes less time and therefore reduces total costs. The process partially digests the wood mass, removing some of the impurities prior to mechanically grinding the softened fibres.
Referring back to Section 10.2.3, and taking into account the fibre length as well as the pulping process, natural (unbleached) Kraft made from softwood fibres produced by the chemical sulphate process is the strongest paper or paperboard available, and mechanical or groundwood pulp made from hardwood fibres produces the weakest paper or paperboard available. Packaging formats are produced from combinations of fibre and pulping processes to meet the performance requirements of the final pack, taking into account the needs of the whole supply chain (see Table 10.2).
Virgin pulp is not always produced at the mill that makes the final paper or paperboard. Many small and some large mills buy in some or all of their pulp and disperse it into water using a hydrapulper. This is a large vessel with an agitating blade. The pulp, often in the form of large sheets, is dropped into the water contained in the vessel and dispersed in it to the required concentration – between 0.3 and 3.0% depending on whether paper or paperboard is the intended product. The higher concentrations are used for paperboard. The dispersion of fibre in water, plus the other additives and process aids, is known as the ‘furnish’ (see Fig. 10.19). This will be covered in more detail in Section 10.7.
10.19 Pulp production using a hydrapulper. (adapted from Pro Carton; www.procarton.com)
Recycled pulp is also produced by using a hydrapulper. Selected, de-inked waste paper and paperboard is dispersed in water in the same way as pre-formed sheets of virgin pulp as described above. For every tonne of waste material, less than 90% is recovered, the loss being due to material being unfit for use and having to be discarded, and to the de-inking and other cleaning processes, which result in a loss of fibre. Recycled pulp is usually much more price competitive than virgin pulp, but produces an inferior product, both from a performance and an aesthetic viewpoint as already discussed. That does not mean it is not fit for the purpose for which it is intended.
Some recycled paper and paperboard materials need to be supplied at up to 20% greater basis weight to provide the same performance characteristics, compared to some virgin paper and paperboards. Paperboards made from recycled materials are referred to as waste-based board (WBB) or coated recycled board (CRB) or white lined chip (WLC). There are other terminologies used in some European countries (see Section 10.2.2).
Once the fibres have been extracted by any of the above pulping processes, they are still not in the shape and condition required and further treatments are carried out. The main two post-treatments of fibre are beating and refining (one process) and bleaching.
The beating and refining of fibres is one of the most critical processes in the production of paper, and to a lesser extent paperboard (see Fig. 10.20). The process bruises/splits the fibres, increasing their flexibility and extends their surface coverage, but in doing so reduces fibre length distribution, weakening the overall paper or paperboard.
10.20 Beating of fibres. (source: Paper Industry Technical Association (PITA); www.pita.co.uk)
Refining is carried out as part of the stock preparation process, by passing the pulp, suspended in water, across rotating surfaces. This causes the fibres to fibrillate and swell. This process is either continuous (where minimal refining is required) or a batch process (where considerable beating is required to produce greaseproof and glassine grades of paper). The latter uses a more sophisticated beating process where the fibres are passed through rotating discs or cones (see Figs 10.21 and 10.22).
10.21 Rotating disc refiner. (source: Paper Industry Technical Association (PITA); www.pita.co.uk)
10.22 Fibres before (a) and after (b) beating. (source: Paper Industry Technical Association (PITA); www.pita.co.uk)
• uniformity of paper increases, resulting in improved print surface and formation (appearance), all as a result of reduced fibre length induced by the refining process (see Fig. 10.23).
10.23 The effect of beating on paper and paperboard properties source: Paper Industry Technical Association (PITA); www.pita.co.uk.
Bleaching is another post-treatment of fibres, carried out once the fibres have been separated from their source. Paper and board produced using bleached pure cellulose made by chemical pulping has a bright, white appearance and shows little or no tendency to fade or yellow when subjected to sunlight. Mechanical pulp, even if bleached tends to yellow over time.
Traditionally bleaching was done using chlorine, which dissolves some of the lignin remaining in pulp. However, due to the environmental disadvantages and potential safety hazards of using chlorine, the amount of pulp bleached in this way has declined. It is currently thought to be around 25% worldwide, the remainder having been replaced by one of two common processes:
• TCF – totally chlorine free. Here the bleaching sequence uses only oxygen-based chemicals such as oxygen, ozone and alkaline or acidic peroxides. It is sometimes known as oxygen chemical bleaching (OCB).
A further category, specific to recycled paper is known as PCF – process chlorine free. This indicates that, while the production of the primary fibre may have involved the use of chlorine and chlorine compounds, these materials are not used during the recycling process; the fibre is either not bleached at all, or if bleaching has been carried out it is done using oxygen-based systems. This is sometimes known as secondary chlorine free (SCF). Both ECF and TCF processes are vast improvements on those which use chlorine. TCF claims to use less toxic starting chemicals than ECF, and to have a reduced environmental impact. However, TCF pulps generally have lower strength properties than ECF pulps, although this can be compensated for by lower brightness, if this is aesthetically acceptable. Another consideration is that the number of mills producing TCF papers is much lower than those producing ECF and is currently thought to be around 7%, mostly in Northern and Central Europe.
Paper and board are not produced by using fibres alone. Additives and process aids are required to ensure that the important properties required by the converter, packer/ filler and end user are controlled consistently.
• Fillers such as kaolin and chalk are added to the furnish to improve printability of the paper, and others such as titanium dioxide are added to improve whiteness. Fillers also improve surface smoothness, control brightness and control opacity. They are also used to reduce the cost of manufacture of the paper and paperboard.
• Binders such as starch (farina from potatoes, maize, wheat and tapioca) are used to increase strength by linking the fibres together restricting their movement and resulting in a unified mat. Binders are also used to prevent the fillers falling out of suspension in the furnish.
• Size is used to control water and ink penetration and its use is crucial to address problems due to the natural absorbency of cellulose fibres. Totally unsized papers would allow ink to soak in and spread throughout the fibres. Sizing agents used are, for example, AKD (alkyl ketene dimer), aluminium sulphate (‘Alum’), modified starch and gelatine for surface sizing and AKD, ASA (alkenyl succinic anhydride), rosin and ‘Alum’ for internal sizing. Surface size is added to the paper web using a size press and can be applied to one or both sides depending on the final properties required of the substrate. Internal size is added to the furnish before the paper is formed. AKD is an amphipathic lipid, i.e. a molecule which is mostly non-polar (hydrophobic) in structure, but at one end having a region that is polar or ionic (hydrophilic). The hydrophilic region is usually referred to as the head group, and the hydrophobic portion is known as the tail. They work by surrounding the fibre with the hydrophobic tails outermost, pushing the water away from the fibre and thus reducing the amount of water that will penetrate the fibre. Size can vary in pH from acidic through neutral to alkaline and as a result the choice of sizing agent also controls the pH of the final substrate.
• Wet strength resins, based on urea and melamine formaldehyde, can be added to reduce the effect of water on the initial strength of the paper. An example would be paper for multi-wall sacks for use outside, or for carrier boards used for collating packs in wet conditions such as for bottled carbonated beverages.
• Grease resistance can be achieved with additives. Fluorocarbon chemicals can be added, either to the furnish or at the size press. They work by surrounding the cellulose fibres and protecting them from any oil or grease which may penetrate. They have been used in the past for the production of dry petfood bags, sacks and cartons, where the fat content of the product is often over 20 percent. They have also been used in the manufacture of wrapping paper for butter and margarine, replacing the traditional parchment paper. Concerns about taint and odour have greatly reduced their use in recent years.
• Other chemicals such as acrylic resins are added to improve water resistance and wax to improve strength and water resistance, the latter becoming much less common due to issues with recycling of the waste material.
• Process aids are also necessary. These include anti-foaming agents, bactericides (restrict microbiological activity), flocculating agents (improve dewatering of the furnish as the web is formed) and special chemicals to reduce/prevent the resins from the wood depositing on the paper web, possibly causing web breaks and contamination both during papermaking and in the later printing processes.
Although there are many variations of individual paper and paperboard making machines, they are all made up of a wet end, where the sheet is first formed, and the water is removed by mechanical means, and a dry end, where heat is used to bring the substrate to its required moisture content, and a number of surface treatments are carried out. There are two main types of paper or paperboard mill discussed in this chapter:
The principles of paper and paperboard manufacture by the Fourdrinier process are very similar (see Figs 10.24 and 10.25). Dilution of fibre in water varies from 0.3 to 3% depending on the weight of paper or paperboard being manufactured. Weights vary from 12 gsm for the lightest tissue paper to 600 gsm for solid bleached paperboard made from chemical pulp. The heavier the paper/paperboard being manufactured the higher the concentration of fibre in water.
10.24 Fourdrinier papermaking process: basic wire process. (adapted from Kirwan, M.S. (ed.), Paper and Paperboard Packaging Technology, Blackwell Publishing Limited, Oxford, 2005. Reproduced with the permission of John Wiley and Sons Inc.; www.wiley.com)
10.25 Fourdrinier papermaking process using multi-formers courtesy of Iggesund Paperboard; www.iggesund.com.
The furnish is held in tanks, each tank holding a specific fibre and additive combination and it is fed into a headbox, which in turn spreads it onto a wire via the slice, which controls the flow (see Fig. 10.26). Today the ‘wire’ is a plastic mesh. The first layer of fibre, which may be the only layer if making paper and will be the underlayer if making multi-layer paperboard, is delivered onto the wire as consistently as possible. The water drains away through the wire, usually assisted by vacuum suction boxes. The movement of the wire means that the fibres align themselves preferentially in the direction of travel, i.e. the machine direction (MD). This is not ideal as the aim is to produce a sheet where there is no obvious fibre alignment. To try and achieve this aim, the wire is often shaken in the cross direction (CD), to redistribute the fibres.
10.26 Fourdrinier forming process: headbox and slice courtesy of Iggesund Paperboard; www.iggesund.com.
Depending on the final thickness/weight of the paper/paperboard, other layers are added until the required specification is reached. Each additional layer requires another headbox and slice to deposit the fibres on top of the other layer(s). However, as the layers build up, the rate at which water will flow through the wire decreases significantly and it is necessary to use top wires where the water is sucked upwards using vacuum. Sometimes the last layer (top layer) is formed as an independent sheet and added to the rest of the construction as a final operation. The moisture content of the paper or paperboard is still high at this stage at around 60–70%.
The wet substrate is then sandwiched between felt blankets and passed through the press section where steel rolls remove more water by pressure and vacuum from the fibrous web. The web then passes to the dry end of the machine, firstly through the drying section where more water is removed by evaporation using steam heated steel cylinders. At this stage it can pass over a large polished metal cylinder resulting in a smooth surface finish being produced without compressing the web, which would reduce its thickness and stiffness. This type of finish is known as MG (machine glazed).
Immediately after the drying section, surface sizing can be carried out using a starch solution which can be pigmented if required. This prevents fibres shedding from uncoated surfaces and improves surface strength and smoothness, hence printability (see Fig. 10.27).
10.27 Size press courtesy of Iggesund Paperboard; www.iggesund.com.
Calendering, which is a type of ironing process giving a uniform thickness and smoothness to the paper or paperboard, takes place once the substrate has been sized. The dry substrate is passed between cylinders, which can be cold or heated and water may be applied to enhance the smoothing effect. The cylinders on paper machines are often a combination of steel rolls and ones made of composite material to provide very smooth glossy finishes. Some papers are produced by ‘super calendering’ (e.g. glassine), which is carried out on a separate machine having up to 14 rolls, to produce a translucent paper (see Fig. 10.28).
10.28 Calendering courtesy of Iggesund Paperboard; www.iggesund.com.
Where required, the web is now coated with a white mineral pigment base (clay or chalk). This gives a hard smooth surface suitable for high quality printing. There are many ways to add the coating and, depending on the colour of the web (brown, grey or white), between one and three separate coats are applied. The amount of coating is also governed by the final smoothness required and the initial smoothness of the web. The smoother and whiter the web initially, the less coating is required (see Fig. 10.29).
10.29 Blade coating source: Paper Industry Technical Association (PITA); www.pita.co.uk.
The quality of the coated surface is influenced by the mechanism by which the coating is applied, with the double blade process giving superior results to those using an air knife. Binders are used to achieve good adhesion between the coating and the base web, and between the mineral particles within the coating. Optical brightening agents may also be added to the clay coatings especially for cartons for retail display.
Once the coatings have been applied, the material is ready to be wound up into reels. The web is wound on cores in batches of up to 20 tonnes. These ‘parent’ or ‘mother’ reels are wrapped in protective coverings and labelled to ensure product identification and traceability. The mother reels can be slit into the required widths, either in situ on the mill or during a separate operation, after the mother reel has been removed from the end of the mill. They are then stored under controlled conditions of temperature and humidity awaiting conversion. If the material is going to be converted into folding cartons and printed via the offset lithographic process, it is often sheeted into various sizes, before being wrapped, labelled and stored.
Not all coating processes are carried out in-line on the paper or paperboard making machine; in some cases manufacturers take the slit reels and apply coatings separately. One example is cast clay coating applied to paper destined for high grade label stock to give a very high quality smooth surface. Other coatings such as wax or synthetic polymers can be applied, either on or off the paper or paperboard making machine. Wax can be applied as an emulsion or as a molten liquid. Where both sides are coated at the same time, a process known as ‘cascade coating’ is used and where just one surface is coated this is done using ‘curtain coating’. Wax coating makes the material difficult or impossible to recycle, but gives it good water and grease resistance, allows it to be heat sealed and adds extra strength and deadfold characteristics. Polymer coating using plastic films has largely superseded wax. This is applied either as an extrusion coating or is laminated to the paper via an adhesion process (see Fig. 10.30). (This will be covered in more detail in Chapter 14.)
10.30 Extrusion coating and lamination courtesy of Iggesund Paperboard; www.iggesund.com.
Polymer films hinder recyclability as they have to be removed at or before the hydrapulper. However, correct selection of polymer film can add to the benefits of paper and paperboard, providing barrier to moisture and gas (especially in combination with aluminium foil), grease resistance, water resistance, heat sealability, high gloss finish, and, using reverse print techniques, protection of the decorated surface.
In the past 15 years water-based functional coatings (generally known as WBBC – water-based barrier coatings) have been developed, which when applied to the surface of paper or paperboard can provide similar protection to fluorocarbon, wax and polymer films, but allow the coated substrate to be easily repulped without leaving any undesirable residues. This enables them to be placed in the same waste stream as uncoated paper and paperboard.
Returning to the wet end of the papermaking machine, a variation of the Fourdrinier method is the vertical former (‘Vertiformer’) which is a twin wire former. The furnish is supplied to the space between the formers, and picked up by two meshes (wires); the water is removed from both sides of the paper by the two wires. This has two advantages:
• two ply papers can be produced with identical finishes on both faces (see Fig. 10.31).
The second major method of manufacturing paper and paperboard uses individual vats containing the furnish required for each layer (Fig. 10.32). A large screen drum revolves within the vat and as it does so it picks up the fibres and the excess water drains away through the screen, leaving fibre on the outside surface of the screen. This fibre is transferred from the screen onto the underside of a continuous moving felt. The felt then passes over the next vat where a second layer is added to the first and so on, until the final specification is achieved. Different pulp fibres, e.g. chemical, mechanical, recycled, can be added via the individual vats to build up a multilayer structure.
The cylinder has a differential pressure between the inside and outside which assists in dewatering. The furnish can flow in the same direction as the cylinder rotates (‘uniflo’), as shown in Fig 10.33, or it can flow in the opposite direction, known as ‘contraflo’. The uniflo method results in an even, consistent sheet formation, whereas the contraflo method allows a greater amount of fibre to be deposited on the cylinder, resulting in a thicker and heavier board being produced for the same number of vats used. However, the interply bond strength using contraflo is weaker than with uniflo. Also the interply bond strength of cylinder paperboard is generally weaker than paperboard produced by the wire method.
10.33 A ‘uniflo’ vat cylinder source: Paper Industry Technical Association (PITA); www.pita.co.uk.
Once all the layers have been applied to the felt, a second felt is placed on the top of the fibrous web (see Fig. 10.32) and the whole is passed through a series of presses which remove sufficient water for the web to be self-supporting and the felts to be removed. From here the dry end section is the same as for the wire method.
During paper and paperboard making, controls must be put in place to ensure a consistent substrate is produced which is stable in use. Tests are carried out on and off the machine to ensure conformance with specification and adjustments made to address any unacceptable deviations.
Consistent moisture content is critical and this is monitored on the machine using infrared sensors. These transmit signals to control the activation of aspirated sprays to stabilise the moisture content of the web. Moisture content, thickness, basis weight and stiffness are constantly monitored in the mill laboratory and adjustments made to the machine to ensure the parameters stay within the limits of the specification. It is, however, important to recognise that paper and paperboard have different properties when measured in the cross and machine direction:
Various tests which may be carried out on paper and paperboard to ensure it provides the appearance and performance expected are described in Tables 10.3 and Table 10.4. Most tests are carried out under controlled conditions of temperature and humidity to ensure they are repeatable and completely comparable. The international standard for test conditions is 23 °C and 50% RH. When comparing values, the units and test conditions should also be scrutinised to ensure a realistic comparison.
|Surface strength||Determination of resistance to picking – for coating and printing it is important for the surface of the substrate to be stable||ISO 3783-2006|
|Surface tension||This method is used to determine how easily a surface wets out. A good surface energy is required to ensure adhesives and inks do not reticulate on application||ISO 8296|
|Whiteness||Determination of CIE (International Commission on Illumination) whiteness. A measure of how white a surface is – whiteness affects the final brightness of an ink printed upon it. Not suitable for fluorescent-treated paper and paperboards||ISO 11476-2000|
|Brightness||Measures the reflectance from fluorescent-treated paper and paperboards – important for products sold under fluorescent light source – for example in supermarkets||ISO 2470.2-2008|
|Opacity||Measures the amount of light which passes through a paper or paperboard by defuse reflectance||ISO 2471-2008|
|Surface roughness||Bendtsen method of measuring how smooth the surface of a fibre substrate is by recording the rate at which air leaks between the test piece and the substrate surface||ISO 8791.3-2005|
|Porosity||The Bendtsen method measures the amount of air which will pass through a substrate in a given time. This is important as porosity determines how much coatings will penetrate and how easily a vacuum sucker will hold the substrate in place||ISO 5636|
|Gloss||Measurement of reflectance from a standard beam of light shone at an angle of 20° to the substrate||ISO 8254.3-2004|
|Rub resistance||A measurement of how resistant a printed or coloured surface is to abrasion from a predefined surface, e.g. paper||ISO 105-X12-2001|
|Surface pH||pH is the measurement of hydrogen ion concentration in water. It is scaled from 1 to 14. 1 is high acid, 14 high alkaline and 7 is neutral. The pH of the surface of a paper or paperboard substrate affects its performance||Tappi T529 om 09|
|Ink absorption||A measurement of the ability of a coated surface to absorb ink||Tappi T553|
|Thickness||Thickness is important for evaluating the density of the substrate and for printing. Printing requires an even thickness of substrate to ensure an even depth of print||ISO 534-2005|
|Basis weight||This is a method for accurately determining the number of grams in a square metre of paper or paperboard||ISO 536-1995|
|Water absorption (Cobb test)||Water penetration (absorption) is critical for many applications. The usual way of measuring this criteria is the Cobb method. This requires a given amount of water at a given temperature to be placed on a known area of substrate for a given period of time. The amount of water absorbed by the substrate over a given time is recorded. This time can vary from 1 minute to 30 minutes, depending on the expected absorbency of the substrate||ISO 535-1991|
|Moisture content||Paper and paperboard contain moisture. Control of the moisture content across the web is critical as is even drying, if a stable paper or paperboard is to be achieved. Moisture content can be tested in many ways, a quick method where the moisture is driven out of the substrate using a hot plate or iron or a more controlled, but time-consuming method where the test specimen is placed in an oven, set at 105 °C until constant weight is achieved. The quick method is used on machine and the more accurate method for quality assurance||ISO 287-1985|
|Bending resistance/ stiffness||Stiffness and resistant to bending must be measured in both the cross and machine directions. The stiffness of a paper or paperboard can be used to predict the compression strength of a package once the width, depth and height are known, and the ability to maintain the shape of the final package||ISO 2493-1992 ISO 5628|
|Short span compression strength||This is one criterion which has been developed over the years to provide better guidance for final compression characteristics than stiffness||ISO 9895-2008|
|Tensile strength (dry)||Paper substrates in particular need a tensile strength high enough to ensure they will run through the converting process without breaking. It is not just the breaking point that is important but the elongation at break (how much it has stretched). This is especially important for ‘sack Kraft’. Tensile and burst strength are among the most important quality control properties for paper manufacture. Tests are carried out in the wet condition as well as dry, especially for wet strength papers and sack Kraft||ISO 1994.2-2008|
|Burst strength||This is a very useful test when determining how paper sacks and bags will resist bursting open if dropped or in normal handling (cement sack for example)||ISO 2758-2003|
|TEA (Tensile energy absorption)||This is a test used on sack Kraft. High performance sack Kraft paper must be strong, with high tensile energy absorption (TEA). TEA can be defined as the area under the tensile–elongation curve and is therefore a combination of total tensile strength and stretch of the pulp||ISO 1294|
|Elmendorf tear resistance||Tear resistance helps to evaluate how the substrate will perform in use. Controlled tear resistance in both MD and CD is important to ensure that packages open in use but do not tear unnecessarily when being converted||ISO 1974-1990|
|Interply bond strength (z direction tensile strength)||Interply bond strength is important. During manufacture the plies of fibre interact with each other and bond (hydrogen bonding). The strength of this bond needs to be greater than the rupturing forces applied during processing. Paper and paperboard made by the vat method is generally weaker in the z direction than that made by the wire process. If the interply bond strength is too weak, multiply paper and paperboard will delaminate during the conversion process||ISO 15754-2009|
|Coefficient of friction||Although this test was introduced for plastics, it is very useful to determine the resistance to slip of a paper or paperboard product||ISO 8295-1995|
|Taint and odour Robinson sensory test||This test has been incorporated into the EN legislative protocol to assess whether paper and paperboard products are fit to be used for direct food contact. It is a sensory subjective test, but extremely important for high fat and bland foodstuffs where taint and odour can be transmitted from the paper and paperboard unless controlled. Tainting and odorous chemicals contained in paper and paperboard substrates can be identified by using chromatography||EN1230.2-2001|
• corrugated packaging (this is the largest use of paper in packaging and is covered in Chapter 11)
A paper sack can be differentiated from a paper bag by its product weight which is usually > 5 kg and the fact that it is traditionally made from more than one ply. In the United States paper bags are used as grocery bags referred to as sacks. Paper sacks are traditionally made from between two and six plies of paper, sometimes having one plastic film ply to resist the ingress of water, for example cement sacks for use on open air building sites. Modern developments in sack Kraft papers have led to some sacks being produced from one ply of heavyweight Kraft (circa 120 gsm).
The sack manufacturing procedure is straightforward. The plies of paper, fed from separate reels, are passed through a tubing machine where each one in turn is glued with a water based emulsion adhesive to produce a multi-wall tube in which each ply is free to move independently. This freedom of movement of the plies allows the sack to remain flexible and absorb the bursting forces which would otherwise rupture a more rigid construction. The tube is cut to size and the bottom formed and sealed. Sealing can be by stitching, pasting with adhesive or heat sealing, where hot melt, polymer film or other heat seal coating is incorporated onto the sealing surface. There is a wide range of sack designs starting from simple open mouth to block bottom, gusseted valve sacks.
Open mouth sacks can be supplied as sewn flat (a); sewn gusseted (b); pasted flat (c); pinched closed flat (d); pinch closed gusseted (e); pasted double folded flat (f); pasted double folded, gusseted (g) (see Fig. 10.34). Plastic film layers can be included and, if this plastic film is the innermost ply, the sack can be heat sealed. The non-gusseted versions are like a pillow in shape when filled and therefore require care when being palletised due to their instability. They are commonly used for the packing of animal feeds and powdered foods and ingredients.
10.34 Types of open mouth sack design source: Kirwan, M.J. (ed.), Paper and Paperboard Packaging Technology, Blackwell Publishing Limited, 2005 Reproduced with the permission of John Wiley and Sons Inc.; www.wiley.com.
The other main sack design is the valve sack (Fig. 10.35). Typical designs are sewn flat (a); sewn gusseted (b); pasted, flush cut, flat (c); pasted, stepped end flat (d); pasted and sewn, flat (e). During manufacture, one end of a valve sack is completely sealed while the other has a filling spout or valve built in. Valves can be internal (see c, d and e in Fig. 10.35) and can be constructed of plain paper, polymer coated paper, or a layer of polyethylene film. During the filling operation the valve is located on the filling nozzle and the product dispensed into the sack usually with vibration to speed up the process. Once filling is complete, the valve is closed.
10.35 Types of valve sack source: Kirwan, M.J. (ed.), Paper and Paperboard Packaging Technology, Blackwell Publishing Limited, 2005. Reproduced with the permission of John Wiley and Sons Inc.; www.wiley.com.
Internal valves without any polymer layer rely solely on the weight of the product to close the pack at the valve end; while this is effective for some purposes, it does not prevent a degree of leakage and possible ingress of contaminants. Also, it is not tamper evident. A more effective closure is achieved by heat sealing, which can, of course, only be carried out when polymer-coated paper or polyethylene film have been used in the valve construction. Sacks with external valves are closed by folding the protruding valve section and tucking it inside the sack, again accompanied by heat sealing if the valve construction allows. The folded section can also be secured by applying a self-adhesive tape or label. Thus external valves provide easier and more secure closing, although they are slightly more difficult to load onto the filling nozzle, especially on high speed filling lines and they use more materials.
Valve sacks are used for the packaging of granulated and powdered products such as sugar, plastic pellets and cement. Compared with open mouthed sacks, valve sacks provide a faster means of filling but must be vented to allow the displaced air to flow out as quickly as the product is entering the sack. Some sacks are perforated to allow for this, but recently sack Krafts have been developed with a porosity which allows the air to dissipate through the single-ply sack wall at an acceptable rate. Filled valve sacks are more regular in shape than open mouth sacks and thus are easier to palletise in stable loads.
Table 10.5 shows the usual tests that would be carried out on the paper and paper sacks to ensure they meet the required specification. The different standards do not necessarily employ identical test methods and therefore care must be taken to ensure the properties of competitive materials are comparable.
Flat bags are the most basic form. They are two-dimensional and confined almost entirely to point-of-sale use (Fig. 10.36). Satchel bags have gussets which allow the bag, once opened, to become three-dimensional making it much easier than flat bags to handle and fill. Like flat bags, their main use is at point of sale (Figs 10.37 and 10.38). Satchel bags can be supplied with strip windows in one side allowing the product to be seen. These bags were developed for the bread and baguette trade where the window film used is a breathable film, often micro-perforated polypropylene; bio-compostable polylactic acid (PLA) film is also starting to be used. The breathability ensures that no moisture builds up on the film, thus the bread remains fresh and crisp. Open mouth potato sacks and bags for clothing also utilise the window concept.
10.36 Flat bag design source: Kirwan, M.J. (ed.), Paper and Paperboard Packaging Technology, Blackwell Publishing Limited, 2005. Reproduced with the permission of John Wiley and Sons Inc.; www.wiley.com.
10.37 Satchel (gusseted) bag design source: Kirwan, M.J. (ed.), Paper and Paperboard Packaging Technology, Blackwell Publishing Limited, 2005. Reproduced with the permission of John Wiley and Sons Inc.; www.wiley.com.
10.38 Satchel bag design with window source: Kirwan, M.J. (ed.), Paper and Paperboard Packaging Technology, Blackwell Publishing Limited, 2005. Reproduced with the permission of John Wiley and Sons Inc.; www.wiley.com.
The three stages of storage (a), opening (b) and sealing (c) of SOS bags are shown in Fig 10.39. These bags are often constructed from paper laminated to a plastic film, the film providing product protection as well as protecting the paper from deterioration due to the product, for example rotisserie bags for hot chicken. The laminate construction also allows the bags to be closed by heat sealing. SOS bags are used for pre-packaged dry goods and, when handles are applied, as carrier bags for point-of-sale use. The latter may be printed with high quality graphics, offering the brand owner or retail outlet good advertising opportunities.
10.39 Storage (a), opening (b) and sealing (c) of self-opening satchel bags source: Kirwan, M.J. (ed.), Paper and Paperboard Packaging Technology, Blackwell Publishing Limited, 2005. Reproduced with the permission of John Wiley and Sons Inc.; www.wiley.com.
Spiral wound composite containers have been in use in packaging for many decades (Fig. 10.40). They consist of three to four plies of paper and paper laminates wound together. The two body plies are composed of recycled Kraft paper, the outer ply is usually a printed paper or paper laminate and the inner ply can be any construction from plastic coated 40 gsm paper to an aluminium/plastic/paper laminate depending on the end use. If aluminium foil is used in the construction of the inner ply, and properly sealed, then paperboard containers can provide sufficient preservation and protection properties to compete in markets traditionally supplied by metal cans.
The plies are wound around a mandrel, each ply being stepped away from the other to ensure the seams do not lie on top of each other. To prevent a ridge forming when the body plies are overlapped, each is individually skived prior to being overlapped and adhered. Skiving is a process by which the edges of the paper are gradually reduced to minimal thickness, so that when they are overlapped the thickness of the overlap corresponds to the thickness of one ply of paper and as a result no ridge is apparent (Fig. 10.41).
The plies are glued together using emulsion adhesives and the inner ply is skived (if too thick to fold) and hemmed to ensure as near hermetic seal as possible is achieved. Skiving in this instance is a process by which the backing paper is gradually taken away from the edges of the underside of the aluminium/plastic layer, to produce a thinner layer, which is then folded through 180° and heat sealed to itself usually by induction sealing. If the inner liner is thin enough, it can be folded over and seamed without needing to skive its backing paper. The seal so formed is called an ‘anaconda’ seal. If the seal is left as an overlap seal, moisture and gas will penetrate into the inside of the can and attack its contents.
• Paper laminated to plastic and/or aluminium foil can be formed into end pieces and heat sealed onto one end of the body section of the can replacing the traditional metal end. A plastic plug or plastic or paperboard over-cap, with or without a heat sealed diaphragm can be applied to the other end of the can, as used on containers for gravy granules.
Spiral wound containers are normally cylindrical in cross section and deviating from this is difficult and usually requires a second operation, thus increasing cost. Linear forming offers more options because, instead of being wound helically around a mandrel with a circular cross section, they are produced by introducing plies along the axis of a shaped mandrel, thus allowing the final body to replicate the shape of the mandrel. Their construction is similar to spiral wound containers in that they have three to four plies and consist of an inner liner, body plies and an outer label. The closures available are also similar to spiral wound containers.
Traditionally, convolute can bodies were made by winding a number of plies around a mandrel, to produce a heavy wall container. This has mostly been replaced by a more efficient method in which a single ply of coated or laminated printed paper is wrapped around a conical or parallel shaped mandrel and the body is heat sealed on the overlap. The single ply of paper is made from chemical pulp and has a heat seal layer on at least the underside. Various alternatives are available. The most common are
The rim is curled and a disc is placed in the bottom and secured in place by wrapping the base of the body around it and applying pressure. The container is completed by the addition of a push on closure with or without a heat sealed diaphragm underneath, or simply sealed with a printed diaphragm (Fig. 10.42). In use, many of these containers are packed with dairy products such as butter, yoghurt and ice cream as well as cereals, baking ingredients, snacks and biscuits. They are beneficial to the packer filler as they can be made in-house, or supplied as a stack, one inside the other. They are not as robust as the spiral or linear formed containers and therefore often require additional secondary packaging for protection against the hazards of distribution. The body seal is occasionally skived and hemmed to ensure no leakage of product into the body (wicking).
10.42 Convolute can design source: Paper Machinery Corporation (PMC); www.papermc.com.
The type of paper or paperboard (210–250 gsm) used for these packs is the same stock as for single-layer, pre-printed, convolute wound tubes. Multilayer virgin bleached sulphite or CTMP fibre is used due to its excellent strength and/or whiteness. The polymer layer on the outside prevents condensation absorbing into the paper and the polymer on the inside protects the packaging from the product and vice versa (10.43(a)). The whole of the plastic is applied at a coat weight as high as 40 gsm to ensure an integral heat seal. For liquids prone to oxidation, such as long life milk, aluminium foil or EVOH (ethylene vinyl alcohol) are incorporated in the laminate (10.43(b)).
Liquid packaging cartons come in two basic shapes: brick and with a gable top (Fig. 10.44). Openability has been strongly criticised by consumers and features such as plastic pour spouts and more convenient shapes have been added to provide convenience in use (Fig. 10.45). The brick shaped containers are produced by vertical form seal technology (see Chapter 20) from a reel of printed laminated paper stock. The gable top containers are printed, cut, creased and heat sealed along the glue flap, similar to a folding carton (see later in the chapter).
10.45 Tetra Pak closure designs courtesy of Tetra Pak; www.tetrapak.com.
Cartons can be defined generally as small to medium sized containers made from paperboard or in some instances paper (< 250 gsm) or plastic (toothpaste and some cosmetics cartons, for example), although there is confusion in the packaging industry about the term ‘carton’. For example, the so-called egg carton is not a carton at all but a container made from moulded pulp specifically to hold eggs. This section covers folding cartons made from paperboard only, and not ‘cartons’ made from plastic or corrugated material. Cartons are used for their protective and aesthetic properties, providing a very cost effective means of packing products in a sustainable, recyclable material providing excellent graphics and presentation on shelf. They are, however, restricted in their preservation properties, as they possess poor gas and moisture vapour barrier properties, due mainly to the materials used and the integrity of the seal. Grades of paperboard are selected based on the product that is going to be packed, the machinery requirements to pack the product into the carton, the demands of the supply chain, including the retailer and the consumer, and last but by no means least, the cost and environmental considerations.
The top and reverse side of paperboards may be coated with mineral or artificial white pigments as described in paper and paperboard manufacture. All paperboard grades can also be treated with fluorocarbons to give grease resistance (though this process is declining due to fears of taint) or coated/laminated with wax (many countries have eliminated or greatly reduced the use of wax as it hinders recycling), plastic films, water-based barrier coatings and aluminium foil to provide gas, moisture, grease, water barrier and heat sealabilty, depending on the combination used. The quality of barrier of the finished carton is dependent more on the seal integrity of the carton than on the barrier properties of the materials used. Liquid packaging cartons are either skived and hemmed on the inside vertical seal or the seal is overlain with a plastic membrane to prevent moisture seeping or gas penetrating into the paper (in the same way as for spiral and convolute containers).
• The glue flap should never be showing on the front face of a carton. This is an aesthetic requirement as the edge of the board would be exposed when the carton is displayed and this bare edge would detract from the quality of the graphic design (Fig. 10.46).
• The glue flap should not be incorporated with the working creases. When cartons are erected from the flat it is important that the carton opens squarely; if the glue flap is incorporated in the working crease the carton will have a higher resistance to opening (Fig. 10.47).
• Glued cartons should be packed in the transit pack (usually a tray, sleeve or case, shrink wrapped or not) on end with the glue flap at the base. This ensures minimal risk of setting of the creases, which would make the cartons difficult to open as the stiffness of the board could be less than the force required to open the creases, resulting in the carton bending rather than opening. This would result in lost time and wastage on the packing line.
• The grain direction of the fibres in the board should always be at a 90° angle to the major creases. This is very important for consistent crease performance and minimal bowing of the carton. It is important to specify grain direction, especially when using two different suppliers because, depending on the size of printing press used, it may be possible to get an extra carton from a given sheet size by reversing the print in relation to the grain. Although seen initially as a cost saving, this could mean increased costs at the packer/filler and distribution stages (Fig. 10.48).
• Carton dimensions should, follow a common industry pattern (see Fig 10.46).
– depth should be the perpendicular distance between the openings, which is important as the distance between the top and bottom creases on the front panel of the carton are longer than those between the top and bottom of the side panel, by the approximate thickness of the paperboard. This is important to prevent resistance of the outer flaps to folding.
However, different markets use different nomenclature, and places to measure; so it is always advisable to produce a drawing with the actual dimensions marked on it to prevent any confusion (Fig. 10.49).
End load cartons are designed to be filled horizontally, e.g. bag-in-box cereal carton, or vertically, e.g. direct fill oats carton (Figs 10.50 and 10.51). They consist of four panels, front, rear, left side and right side panels, glued at the side seam. This is a small flap attached either to the rear or side panel and known as the glue flap. The top and bottom flaps can be glued with hot melt or water-based adhesive, or a tuck flap can be incorporated in the design for mechanically closing and opening (see Fig. 10.52). The left diagram shows a reverse tuck carton and the right an aeroplane tuck. The aeroplane tuck style uses more paperboard than the reverse tuck style, but some consider it aesthetically more pleasing (Fig. 10.53). A cut is often made at the ends of the flap crease which creates a mechanical lock with the minor flaps helping to prevent the carton opening in transit (Fig. 10.54).
10.50 End load carton. (source: Alexir Packaging; www.alexir.co.uk)
10.54 End load carton: locking mechanism source: Alexir Packaging; www.alexir.co.uk.
The top load carton is supplied to the packer/filler as a flat blank. It is formed through a die and the side panels are mechanically locked or glued, normally by hot melt adhesive; the product is then filled through the large top aperture and the lid is closed. The lid design can either be a tuck flap as in the diagram, or the flap can be glued to the carton. There is a variety of mechanically locked and glued cartons and trays made in this way (Fig. 10.55). This type of tray (locked or glued) is used to collate cartons prior to shrink wrapping for delivery to the customer. The lock tab version allows for hand assembly on the production line (Fig. 10.56).
10.55 Top load carton with locked corners source: Alexir Packaging; www.alexir.co.uk.
10.56 Top load carton: lock tab design source: Alexir Packaging; www.alexir.co.uk.
The tapered style means that they can be stacked, one inside the other (with the lid up), saving space and ensuring they are ready and open to enable speedy packing of goods at the counter (Fig. 10.57). Plastic coated paperboard can be formed into a heat-sealed web-cornered tray with horizontal flanges which will heat seal to a plastic or plastic coated paperboard lid. This style of tray can be filled with product, the lid sealed on and the whole pack frozen, ready for distribution.
10.57 Top load carton: heat-sealed, web-cornered, tapered tray design source: Alexir Packaging; www.alexir.co.uk.
Another style of top load carton, which can be supplied ready glued and folded is shown in Fig. 10.58. A special four or six point gluing procedure with extra diagonal creases allows for these cartons to be laid flat when supplied, negating the need for any machine erection and gluing at the customer (e.g. the cake shop). This style of carton often includes a clear window patch.
10.58 Top load carton: six-corner, glued, folded design source: Alexir Packaging; www.alexir.co.uk.
Cartons are also used to make multi-packs (Fig. 10.59). The board is either a special Kraft board with high water resistance and good wet tear strength or a specially treated recycled board to protect it from moisture and water penetration. These boards are commonly referred to as carrier boards.
10.59 Top load carton: multi-pack for dairy packs (left) and carbonated drinks (right) source: Alexir Packaging; www.alexir.co.uk.
Prior to printing, the paperboard as received is conditioned, either in the warehouse or by the side of the printing press, for 72 h. This is to ensure the material is consistent, especially with respect to moisture content. If it is not, this will affect the print quality. Other areas which may affect print quality relate to the reeled or sheeted board. Checks must be made for cleanliness, especially on the edges, as slitting and cutting dust can transfer to the surface of the substrate creating imperfections on the printed surface. (See Chapter 18 for more detail.)
As the paperboard passes through all the printing presses, it is bent by the tension and feed rolls. This will break some of the fibres, reducing the stiffness and strength of the board and therefore the resulting carton. Mechanical fibre is more susceptible to this than chemical fibre as it is shorter in length and more brittle.
The main three print methods are: offset lithography, which is normally sheet fed, and gravure and flexography, which are normally reel fed. The relationship of the direction of print to fibre orientation within the sheet is very important as discussed earlier. The tolerances and print panels need to be matched to those of the cut and crease die (forme). Failure to do so will result in the carton not being cut and creased in line with the printed design resulting in misregister of print to structural design.
Cutting and creasing is carried out using a flat die for sheet-fed materials or a rotary die for reel-fed materials (Fig. 10.60). The cutting and creasing operation (or box cutting as it is known) is as important as the print operation. If the cartons are not cut and creased correctly, their performance will be impaired during the following stages of conversion, filling and distribution. Cartons are cut and creased using a forme. To enable the cutting and creasing operation to be controlled, a counter plate is placed on the base of the press, exactly in line with the forme.
10.60 Cutting and creasing forme with make-ready counter courtesy of Iggesund Paperboard; www.iggesund.com.
The forme is made from plywood, with steel cutting knives and creasing rules inserted into grooves which are commonly cut using a laser for high accuracy. Special foam rubber pads are placed at either side of the cutting knives to act as springs which remove the board from the blade after the cutting operation. The cutting knife blades are not continuous but designed in such a way that when the cutting operation is complete, they leave nicks between the individual carton cut-outs. This enables the individual cartons to be held together as if they were one sheet when the waste is stripped away. The nicks are broken at the next stage (Fig. 10.61).
10.61 Position of the nicks courtesy of Iggesund Paperboard; www.iggesund.com.
The nick is made by designing notches into the cutting knives. These vary depending on paperboard type and thickness; the stronger the board the narrower the notch (Fig. 10.62). In general, the depth of the notch is made slightly greater than the thickness of the board. The strength requirement of the nick depends on many factors. These include:
10.62 Die-cutting rule with a notch courtesy of Iggesund Paperboard; www.iggesund.com.
• method of making the notches – quality of notch must maintain the integrity of the carton within the sheet without breaking, but must be as small as possible so as not to be seen on the final carton
• how the nicks are arranged is important because if they are not placed evenly across the edge of the carton, undue pressure will be placed on the cut blank resulting in premature breaking of the nicks
Knife edges blunt over time and need replacing. The speed at which they do so varies with the type of board being cut. Plastic-coated boards often require a specially designed cutting knife. it is uneconomical to use a forme where the knives are blunt or incorrect for the paperboard being cut, as this will result in poor performance on the carton erecting machine and in use.
The other important operation performed by the forme is creasing (Fig. 10.63). Well-formed creases are essential for correctly formed cartons. The quality of crease (and therefore the efficiency of making up cartons on the packaging line) depends on:
10.63 Crease depth and width courtesy of Iggesund Paperboard; www.iggesund.com.
• the height and width of the creasing rule with respect to the paperboard being creased – the creasing rule is designed for a narrow range of paperboard thicknesses, and if the length of the rule is too long it will damage the crease area and if too short it will produce an imperfect crease
• the width of the make-ready groove in relationship to the thickness of the creasing rule – if the make-ready groove is too narrow the crease is likely to form too tightly; if too wide the crease forming operation is not tightly controlled
• the pressure of the die cutter – if the pressure is too great, undue forces will be put on the paperboard causing it to split; if the pressure is too weak insufficient pressure is available to form a perfect crease.
The ‘make-ready’ mentioned above refers to the underside of the creasing platen situated beneath the substrate. To ensure an even consistent crease profile, the groove formed as the female form of the creasing rule must have the correct depth and profile and be contained on an even non-deforming metal bed (counter platen). Make-ready matrixes come in three forms:
The first option is often used for short runs, but relies heavily on the machine operator for accurate placement. The third option is used for complicated designs and long-run work, while the middle option is used for either long or short runs.
Independent of which make-ready is used, they both require the operator to ensure the surface is absolutely even. This is achieved by using specially calibrated self-adhesive tape placed under the low point of the counter to ensure complete overall flatness. This is important because when the forme comes into contact with the substrate and pushes the paperboard into the female form of the counter to make the crease, uneven pressure will be applied if all is not completely flat. This will result in inconsistent creasing which may not show up until late in the converting or packing operation. To form an efficient crease it is necessary to use a multi-ply paperboard.
Once the make-ready and forme are in place, the cutting and creasing operation can take place. The forme is brought down in a rocking motion onto the sheet of paperboard (print side upwards). The creasing rules push the board evenly into the make-ready matrix and a crease is formed. The waste material from the cutting and creasing operation is removed at the next stage, often using pre-set rods to push it out. The waste is then sent to the baler to be compressed ready for recycling. The remaining cartons, held together with nicks, are palletised awaiting the next process.
Where the printed paperboard is in reel form, rather than flat sheets, it is die cut using two sets of profiled metal cylinders; one set for cutting and one for creasing. The cutting cylinders consist of one roll with metal cut away to allow the knife profile to be developed and a second, plain roll to allow for kiss contact of the knives with its surface. Poor setting up of the two rolls will result in the knives blunting, producing inferior cut cartons. The creasing rolls are more complicated as the backup roll mirrors the other profiled in design but the crease area is cut away rather than raised. Due to the high cost of this method of rotary die cutting, simpler and less expensive methods have been developed.
At the cutting and creasing stage, opening features, embossing and cut outs can be included. There are many styles of opening feature, with the two most common being the ‘zipper’ and the ‘concora’. The zipper is produced by cutting a series of tram line perforations through the board, which allow the carton to be zipped open at the consumer’s convenience. The concora method is more sophisticated and does not pierce the paperboard, but makes a stepped parallel double half cut (60%) from either side of the paperboard (Fig. 10.64). The outer two cuts are wider than the inner two. When the carton is opened the plies part where cut, resulting in a clean tear. It can be used to form a pouring spout, for example, which can be reclosed using the remaining half cut area to act as a seal for the outer. Concora can only be used on multi-ply paperboard.
10.64 Carton with concora opening source: Alexir Packaging; www.alexir.co.uk.
Once the cutting and creasing operations have been completed, the cartons can, if required, be window patched. Adhesive is applied to an area around the window, far enough away from the edge so that the adhesive will not spread into the window but close enough to produce a secure seal. The clear window material is then put in place and pressure is applied to the glued area until adhesion is achieved. Water-based emulsions are the preferred choice of adhesives.
Most end load cartons are pre-glued prior to delivering to the packer/filler (Fig. 10.65). This is a high-speed operation, briefly described as follows:
10.65 Glueing operation courtesy of Iggesund Paperboard; www.iggesund.com.
• graphics and text to agreed specification – see Chapter 18
• coefficient of friction – see Section 10.6.3
• dimensions – dimensional accuracy is very important as without it the graphic and dimensional designs cannot be matched, nor will the final package be dimensionally controlled; dimensions are usually measured with a calibrated steel rule from centre crease to centre crease
• stiffness (MD and CD) – see Section 10.6.3
• moisture content – see Section 10.6.3
• crease bend resistance – see Section 10.6.3
• fibre tear on glue flap – many paper and paperboard packages are glued along the body seam; if this area is not fully adhered the product can force the glued area to fail and spill out of the package
• taint and odour – see Section 10.6.3
Traditionally rigid boxes were the common way of making cartons. Even as late as the 1950s, it was common to find chocolates, hats, shoes and some foodstuffs packed in rigid boxes. Today this style of pack is mainly confined to:
Rigid boxes come in many shapes and sizes and are relatively simple, although labour intensive to construct (Fig. 10.66). Blank shapes for the base and lid are cut out of thick, heavyweight, usually recycled board and creased using a scoring wheel. The flaps are then folded along the creases at right angles so they come together to make a tray. The corners are held together (stayed) using wet glued paper tape. A printed cover sheet, usually bleached chemical pulp paper is then wrapped around and glued to the stayed base and lid trays. Other materials can be used, such as leather, fabric, plastic and aluminium foil. Additional sheets can be added to a tray to create a hinged lid. Once dry, the two sections can be inspected, checked for fit and other properties, packed and labelled ready for dispatch to the customer.
Carded blister and skin packs provide a very cost effective and convenient way of displaying small individual components or mini multi-packs and, although most of the traditional paperboard/plastic blisters or skin packs have disappeared, there are still many examples to be seen on retail display. A blister is a rigid, clear pre-formed thermoformed shape made from a plastic sheet (Fig. 10.67). This blister is often the same shape as the individual packed product, but less defined and larger, to allow for easy placement. The thermoform has a flange around its periphery to enable heat to be applied through the plastic to the low melting point heat seal adhesive coated onto the printed backing card. Environmental considerations have not removed this style of blister as an option just yet; but there is a very powerful lobby driving companies to look for other more environmentally responsible alternatives. The two alternatives that are common in the marketplace are:
Carded skin packing is similar to blister packing, but in this instance the special grade of transparent plastic skin film is vacuum formed over the product (Fig. 10.68). The paperboard used for this application is printed, coated with a heat seal lacquer and then micro-perforated. This allows for the vacuum to be drawn at the rate required.
The pulp can be made from recycled or virgin fibres, prepared in the same way as for conventional paperboard. Wet strength performance can be improved by the addition of wax, rosin and polymer resins.
There are two basic ways of producing the items, both involving the deposition of wet pulp on a pre-shaped mould, drying to remove the excess water, and removing the formed item from the mould. The pressure process uses hot air under pressure to remove approximately half of the water from the pulp. The alternative method uses vacuum to remove the water, but only up to around 20%. In both processes the remaining water is removed by using heat. The pressure process is usually semiautomatic and therefore the tooling cost is less than for the more automated vacuum method. It also lends itself better to short runs where a wide variety of shapes and sizes are required. Where long runs of standardised items are needed, the vacuum process is preferable.
The moulded pulp packaging can be bonded to plastic films which provides barrier protection, allowing them to be used for trays for fresh produce where the whole will be flow wrapped. Expanded polystyrene packaging is being replaced by moulded pulp, even for large items such as desk top printers and household electrical products.
• ECMA – European Carton Manufacturers Association: www.ecma.org
• Pro Carton – www.procarton.com
• Iggesund – Paperboard reference manual (www.iggesund.com)
• Billerud – Sack Kraft and Sack manufacture (www.billerud.com)
• Korsnäs – Sack Kraft, Carrier Board and Kraft Paperboard for conversion into cartons (www.korsnas.com)
• PITA – Paper Industry Technical Association (www.pita.co.uk)
• Sonoco Products (www.sonoco.com)
• Paper Machinery Corporation (www.papermc.com)
• Alexir Packaging (www.alexir.co.uk)
• MMP – Mayr Melnhof Packaging (www.mayr-melnhof.com)
• MMK – Mayr Melnhof Karton (www.mayr-melnhof.com)
• Tetra Pak (www.tetrapak.com)
• Elopak (www.elopak.com)
• Walki (www.walki.com)