Glossary of Corrugated Packaging Terms

In the packaging industry we use several different acronyms, corrugated packaging terms and technical terms.

For example, the word cardboard may be used in all-inclusive ways in general, but in packaging it refers to the thin, stiff material that is used to make products like cereal boxes or playing cards. Other types of fiberboard include:

  • Paperboard: Generally stronger than cardboard and can be bleached or unbleached, coated or uncoated like milk cartons.
  • Linerboard: The thin, outer sheet of paper of a carton or box.
  • Containerboard: Thicker material, made of at least two sheets of linerboard with wavy, corrugated paper (commonly known as fluting)glued between them. To increase strength or crushability, two or more layers of fluting can be glued together with sheets of linerboard between them. One layer is called single wall, two layers are called double wall, and so on.

This glossary includes commonly used terms to serve as a reference.

Corrugated Packaging Terms

ASTM International

Formerly the American Society for Testing and Materials, ASTM International develops technical standards and safety requirements for materials and products ranging from structural steel for bridges to biodegradable plastics to consumer safety standards for children’s toys.

American National Standards Institute (ANSI)

ANSI is an American organization responsible for the creation and implementation of standards, and accreditation of organizations enforcing those standards, in nearly all industries.

Box Compression Test (BCT)

Containers (boxes) are subject to pressure during filling, closing, storing and transport. A box compression test determines at what level of pressure an empty folded box will deform (the point at which the boxboard starts to crease or bend in unintended ways) or fail, and ensures that the box complies with industry standards. A box compression tester is a machine where a metal plate is lowered onto a box and slowly increases pressure on the box, similar to what the box might receive when filled and stacked. (Also see ECT)

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Box Maker’s Certificate (BMC)

A Box Maker’s Certificate is a round, printed seal located somewhere on the underside of a box. It typically provides the manufacturer’s name and location, what kind of boxboard the box is made of (for instance, single-wall or double-wall), and a set of numbers, which represents the following standards:

  • Burst Test: The box’s resistance to bursting upon being punctured, expressed in pounds per square inch (see Burst Test below)
  • Minimum Combined Weight Facings: The total weight of the box’s paper liner material before being cut down by the manufacturer, expressed in pounds per thousand square feet
  • Edge Crush Test: Rating is expressed in pounds per inch (see ECT below)
  • Size Limit: The sum of the outside dimensions of the box, expressed in inches; and
  • Gross Weight Limit: The maximum allowable weight of the box plus its contents, expressed in pounds.

BMC’s are a federal requirement in the United States.

Burst Test

A test that determines how much applied pressure or weight it takes to puncture the corrugated boxboard. There are two accepted methods of testing, called the Mullen test or the Cady test. Expressed in pounds per square inch. (Also see BCT and ECT)

Coated One Side (C1s)

Coated paper is paper to which something has been added on the surface by the manufacturer through flexography or lithography. Coating options can include gloss, water-resistance, tear-resistance, a metallic surface and so on. The coating typically is a barrier to ink, keeping it on the surface instead of letting it soak in; this makes for sharper details. C1s stands for paper that has been coated on one side, like a sign or a greeting card; the other side is left natural.

Coated Two Sides (C2s)  

Same as C1s, but this paper has been coated by the manufacturer on both sides, creating such products as glossy paper for pages in a magazine, or a material on which a two-sided sign can be printed.

Clay-Coated Kraft Back (CCKB)

Made of recycled paper, it is white (and typically food-grade) on the front and brown on the back side.


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Clay-Coated News Back (CCNB)

Containing 20% recycled paper, it is glossy on the front (also food-grade) and gray on the back.


The time-dependent breaking-down of materials exposed to temperature and/or stress, such as a structural load. The rate of breakdown is called the creep rate.

Center Special Slotted Container (CSSC)

In a typical box, all the flaps are cut the same length, enabling only one set of flaps to meet in the middle when closed; the other set of flaps fold in, but do not completely cover the opening.

In a center special slotted container box, the flaps are cut to different lengths as needed to allow both sets of flaps to meet in the middle. This provides two complete layers of corrugated cardboard across the opening when closed.

The International Fibreboard Case Code (FEFCO code) for CSSC’s is 0204. (Also see HSC and RSC)

Door-To-Door Testing

This term describes the journey of a product or merchandise from pickup to delivery. Can apply to packages being moved from warehouse to warehouse or manufacturer to destination retailer, and so on. Often used regarding intermodal rail and trucking services.

Edge-Crush Test (ECT)

A rectangular sample of a corrugated board is placed between two plates that apply slow, increasing pressure to determine the level at which the corrugated board will crush from top-to-bottom, or simply put, the stacking strength of the board. Expressed in pounds-per-inch, or kNewtons per XX, the ECT tells you how much weight the edge of a box will withstand before beginning to buckle.

ECT can be used to calculate the BCT of some simple types of cartons, like an RSC (regular slotted container). ECT is helpful test for measuring corrugated board and predicting the BCT. (Also see BCT and Burst Test)

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Flexography is a printing process that makes use of flexible rubber or elastomeric printing plates to print on a range of substrates, including cellophane, metallic films, paper and plastic. The inks used in this form of printing dry quickly due to evaporation, making them ideally suited for food packaging. (Also see Lithography)

Full Container Load (FCL)

When a single shipper’s product is the sole occupant of a shipping load. (Also see LCL)

Half Slotted Container (HSC)

A box that has flaps to seal the bottom, but no flaps on top, leaving the top open. Often used for inter-company shipping or storage. The FEFCO code for half slotted containers is 0200. (Also see CSSC and RSC)

International Organization for Standardization (ISO)

The ISO is an independent and non-governmental organization that develops and publishes international standards for materials, products, processes and services in nearly every industry. The three standards organizations often cooperate with one another.

International Safe Transit Association (ISTA)

The ISTA’s official mission is “To empower organizations and their people to minimize product damage throughout distribution and optimize resource usage through effective package design.” The organization designs and certifies testing protocols for package performance; its certification mark signifies that a packaged product has passed a pre-shipment test.

Life Cycle Analysis (LCA)

Also called life cycle assessment, this is an evaluation of how a product affects the environment, done by quantifying what goes into and what comes out of a product, from the origin and materials used to make it, to the product’s output, and any supplemental usages along the way, such as electricity.  

Less Than Container Load (LCL)  

When two or more shippers’ products share the space and cost of a shipping load. (Also see FCL)


Lithography is a printing process that takes advantage of the immiscibility of grease and water. Ink is applied to an oil-treated image on a stone or a metal plate, which is then printed onto paper.  Blank areas of the paper hold moisture and therefore repel the greasy ink. (Also see Flexography)

Master Outer Carton (MOC)

The final, outer box of a package that contains items within that are packaged in boxes of their own. The master outer carton protects the interior boxes, bears the shipping instructions and often tells how many units are inside.

MOC can also be referred to as tertiary packaging or transit packaging. Primary packaging is the material that first envelops the product and holds it. Secondary packaging is outside the primary packaging and may be used to prevent pilferage or to group primary packages together. Tertiary packaging is used for bulk handling, warehouse storage and transport shipping.

Minimum Delivery Quantity (MDQ)

The lowest number of items required to constitute a delivery. (Also see MOQ, MPQ)

Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ)

The lowest quantity of an item that a seller is willing to allow for an order. This can be a different quantity than the MPQ.  (Also see MDQ, MPQ)

Minimum Production/Print Quantity (MPQ)

The lowest number of an item that a production or print facility is willing to produce or print at one time. This can be a different quantity than the MOQ.  (Also see MDQ, MOQ)

Original Design Manufacturer (ODM)

A company that designs and manufactures a product according to the customer’s requirements.

Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM)

A company that designs and manufactures a product to its own requirements and then sells it to others. (Also see ODM)

Packaging Optimization

Packaging optimization creates packaging that protects a product and communicates about its contents as it moves through the manufacturing-warehousing-shipping-distribution process. An optimized package minimizes both damage and waste, saves money, and takes the least amount of space possible while performing its protective function.

Pretty Darn Quick (PDQ)

PDQ displays are lightweight paperboard product holders designed to lower the labor required for stocking products on the shelf in a retail location.

Puncture Resistance

The ability of a material to withstand a puncture. Puncture-resistance tests are done by a machine that applies increasing pressure to a point on the material. Puncture resistance, also described as the Burst or Mullen test, is the ability of a material to stop a tear or puncture from progressing once it has started.

Regular Slotted Container (RSC)

A box that has flaps to seal both the top and the bottom. The most common type of box. The FEFCO code for RSC’s is 0201. (Also see CSSC and HSC)

Solid Bleached Sulphate (SBS)

Also called SBB for solid bleached board. This is a high-quality paperboard, white on both sides and well-suited for printing. (Also see SUBS)

Short-Span Compression Test (SCT)

A test that determines the compressive strength of the cross-directional span of corrugated cardboard. That cross-directional span i.e. the width of the cardboard, which includes the fluting, is the short span, and its strength is considered an important factor in determining the overall strength of a box.

Stacking strength

The measurement of the ability of a product (such as a cardboard box) to support weight stacked on top of it without crushing or bursting. (Related to BCT and ECT)

Solid Unbleached Sulphate (SUBS)

Same as SBS above, but available in either white or uncoated.

Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry (TAPPI)

TAPPI is an organization that serves as a news, information and education clearinghouse for the paper industry. It has more than 7,000 members and includes bioenergy, corrugated packaging, engineering, flexible packaging, nanotechnology, nonwovens, paper, pulping, and tissue among its industrial concerns.

For more organizations in the packaging industry, see 45+ Professional Packaging Organizations and Associations.

Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)

The purchase price of a product combined with the direct and indirect costs of operating or using that product over the course of its lifetime. The TCO is helpful in a cost-benefit analysis.

Tensile Strength

The ability of a material to withstand tension without breaking. The tensile strength of a material is the maximum amount of stress the material can take before a rupture.

The Last Mile

A supply-chain term to describe the last leg of a product’s journey to its ultimate destination, usually from the distribution center to the store or direct to the consumer.

White Top Liner (WTL)

A bleached usually uncoated liner that is suitable for flexographic or direct printing applications, not typically for lithographic applications.

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