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Post Christmas reflections, 1 - Cardboard "engineering"

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AES

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Morning all.

While separating the newspapers and magazines from the empty cardboard boxes before recycling the other day, I was just idly reflecting, as one does (well I do anyway) on the huge variety of fancy packaging that turns up at this time of year.

Not only the usual suspects like empty choccie boxes, but all sorts of fruit & veg, other edibles and general household stuff that attracts a variety of fancy packaging round Christmas time.

Not only highly coloured (obviously specialised printing from what little I know of that trade) but also often quite involved shapes and a wide variety of different sizes.

As I was a big fan of building the model cars and stuff that appeared on cereal packets when I was a kid ("Cut out Tab A, score line B and slide into Slot C") to me modern packaging is highly impressive (even if also a pest)!

Designing such packaging in the first place must be a really highly-developed skill, and often seems to involve just a single sheet of cardboard with all sorts of very high-precision cut-outs and folds - often without using any glue at all, or perhaps just a couple of glue dots in specific places for the final assembly.

And the actual making of all these things is IMO pretty impressive too.

No doubt all this is highly automated and involves all sorts of clever software at various stages of design and manufacture, but without wanting to get into the "Christmas-packed stuff is not value for money" discussion, just looking at these empty packs does give an idea of the extra costs that must be involved in producing them.

I just thought the "mighty" accuracy was very interesting.
 

lurker

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Strangely I was thinking the same yesterday.
More, how some packaging has improved.
We have recently bought a new toaster and also a vacuum cleaner.

No polystyrene, virtually no plastic bags, just cheap moulded cardboard that looks a bit like thick paper mache.
There was no staples nor tape so everything will go on my compost heap.
 

novocaine

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The only automation is the cutting. Everything else is handballed. Design is done by humans still. Prototypes are cnc laser cut. Dies are hand made (think 1ton massive rollers with sharp blades). It normal that the card is made and cut in the same place then palleted and shipped to companies.

Have a look for smurfit corrugated, id have thought theyd have a YouTube presence showing the process.
 

AES

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That sounds very interesting novocaine. Tell me (us?) more please.

Meantime I'll go and google Smurfit.

Thanks
 

Jacob

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There's a connection with woodwork - the graphical methods for working out roof structure and other items construction details , involves 'unfolding' or projecting them on to paper as if they were hollow boxes, then taking off measurements and angles.
 

AES

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I've now done a bit of Googling, thanks for the info novocaine. The biggest company world wide seems to be Smurfit (did you know there's a Mr. Smurfit, a Dutchman)? In their company blurb they reckon they have 65,000 customers world wide, and from the - unfortunately brief - look at their design process, computers do seem to be heavily involved. So I guess they have a database of basic designs and "boilerplate" them when a new design is needed.

There's also a quite big company (called "RGT" or something) in Swindon who, from their blurb, seem to do much the same thing. And you're dead right novocaine, from the little I could see, the actual production of boxes and cases of all sizes seems to be done with huge presses and pallets full of Ikea-like flat packs are then shipped off to the customer for "final assembly". I found it all fascinating, thanks.

And thanks too to Jacob, also very interesting, and something I didn't know anything about. The process you describe was done in the past for ships and boats, and indeed for complex aircraft shapes. Called lofting I believe ('cos those big complex shapes had to be laid out on a flat floor somewhere, likely to be up in the loft in old factories and ship yards)? Again, all done with computer 3D modelling now (well aircraft anyway, don't know about ships and rooves - is "rooves" a word, or should it be "roofs")?

Thanks all - just "day dream-wondering"! :D
 

Droogs

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Andy, yes rooves is a word and it's even an english one. The unfolding or lofting is a very cool thing and was my introduction to 3d modelling in the 90's. A very good friend at the time, sadly no longer here used some CAD stuff to work out the pattern of shapes he needed to enable him to do some very complex compound veneer taking the grain into account regarding bending in 2 planes. It was astonishing to see the 3d model spring apart and lay flat with all the relevant parts needed shown flat on the screen. He was making a globe drinks cabinet at the time and had lots of bits for the globe itself to make but also the furniture of the stand as it was a sort of star trekky 3d logo kind of thing. Lots of zebrana and white ebony and silver
 

AES

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Thanks Droogs. As you say, "lofting" is quite a process. I've only done it for laying out things like model aero fuel tanks on to tinplate, nickel silver and brass, and for apprentice exercises. But as some of the shapes needed for model fuel tanks are complex and more than "just" rectangles - for competitive purposes they need to be accurate (size/volume) too. Add the bend allowances and double seam allowances (some tanks are pressurised) it becomes a very "interesting" process.

So just as you say, thinking of the complexities involved in some stuff - cardboard boxes is just one example - I can well imagine that 3D modelling is a must for people doing that for a living.

And thanks for "rooves" too BTW. :D
 

flying haggis

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an old friend of mine(sadly I am just about to head out to his funeral) used to work for smurfits and the "box" designers would often give him a finished flat sheet of carboard with all the cuts etc to see if he could work out how to fold it in the right sequence so that tabs that were designed to support or cushion did as was intended.
 

novocaine

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Dutch?
he's an English/Irish man. born in St Helens, Lancashire, his son runs it now.

it's a rather fascinating process. I did a bit of work in their Warrington plant (now gone) a long time ago on the maintenance team watching a 1 ton die roller drop and slice off the toes of a maintenance guy left me some what queasy.

it was the first place I'd gotten hands on with a laser cutter too, a 3x3 bed worth just shy of 2 million quid.

for basic boxes it was pretty much boiler plate ( x no to a pallet, you fit your product to it) but for more complex stuff like display stands it was pretty much bespoke.
 

AES

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@novocaine: re your "Dutch?" Yup, but it was just an assumption on my part, 'cos:

A) The site from where the corporate video I found on Google is from Amsterdam and they sort of insinuated that's their HO;
B) The bloke's name is Smurfit (OK, by no means impossible, but not exactly a common English surname);
C) The bloke in the vid sounded exactly like a Dutchman speaking (excellent, as usual for them) English, and;
D) If I remember rightly, weren't "the Smurfs" originally a Dutch invention? :D

But yeah, OK, I stand corrected, I don't recall the vid actually saying the bloke was/is Dutch. Maybe just an actor?

Re that press tool accident. Blimey, glad I didn't see that! Thinking of how sharp the blade/s must be to go through "n" sheets of cardboard, I can't imagine the bloke thought that was at all funny. Messy!

Anyway, as above, thanks for the info. Just me being "idly interested".

Edit for P.S. Thanks for that flying haggis. Yup, seeing (just a brief) glimpse of those cartons in the above vid, and looking at those boxes & things I was "de-assembling" for disposal was what stared me reflecting on "cardboard engineering". Very clever stuff. And BTW, hope I'm not assuming too much, but one of the worst things I find about growing older is the increased number of funerals I have to attend these days.
 

novocaine

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Apparently a good Irish name. who knew.
wasn't me having a go Andy, just happen that I knew something about the bloke for a change.

If you fancy a deep dive in to it all, search for A-flute corrugated, then do the same through to F-flute then look at double or even triple wall with a combination of flutes. Once you know, you can never forget and you won't be able to stop seeing it. Seriously, 20 plus years and I still remember it and can tell the corrugated core from the way a knife moves through it. Useful though as it informs you how to cut for the least resistance when breaking a box down (each flute cuts easier at a different cross angle).

that's enough of that, I need to go drink a few and kill those reformed neural pathways before they take route again. :D (hammer)
 

AES

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It's OK novocaine, no offence taken.

About the only thing I know about cardboard, apart from my cereal packet adventures as a kid, is what we called "tri-wall" boxes used for transporting (& storing) all sorts of aircraft spares. In some cases quite delicate & valuable stuff, in which case the part was put into a sealed plastic bag, then some sort of liquid foam (polyurethane?) was pumped all round it, going pretty stiff (the foam!) within the box a short while later. Worked very well, very little transit damage.

BTW, those "tri-wall" boxes consisted of 3 "walls" (yup!) separated by corrugations, smaller corrugations on the inside, somewhat bigger outside. The "extent" of my knowledge. I'll go have another Google.

Cheers
 

novocaine

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that will be CAC flute. think it's 12,24,12mm fluting.

ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
 

Bungalowbill63

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??? Look at the tooling for Bobst autoplatens up to 12000 impressions an hour this is how you make cartons and boxes
 

Cabinetman

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The only connection I’ve ever had with cutting out cardboard packaging, was a customer of mine who made sheets of plywood with what looked like extremely long Stanley knife blades set into it, this was in the early 70s so I imagine things have come on a little bit since then ha ha, he only worked for small companies small runs for the frozen food industry, I thought at the time how on earth isn’t he cut to bits. Some of those packaging designs are quite incredible, as are some of the cards that open up as you open them, came across one the other day but I can’t find a picture of it now. Ian
 

Sandyn

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A company I worked for used a vast amount of packing for world wide shipping of products of all sizes. They decided to go the eco route and get rid of all non recyclable products from packaging and replace with cardboard and other stuff. They employed design company who came up with some really amazing designs everything was designed to survive the drop test/ tumble/shock vibration for transportation. Transportation is one of the most severe environments equipment has to survive. Corrugated cardboard can be very rigid or compressible depending depending on the orientation. The way they incorporated this into the designs, but still had a box which folded perfectly was done so skillfully. I'm sure they had CAD systems to do the design, but it still was very impressive.
 

flying haggis

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an old friend of mine used to work for smurfits, and the packaging designers used to bring him the samples to see if he could work out the correct sequence to fold all the tabs etc so that the finished box looked correct and held its contents securely. he told me it sometimes took hours to work out the correct way on the more complex ones.
 

Thingybob

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I bought my wife a Cricut machine at christmas its a computer generated cutting machine some of the boxes it can cut out are out of this world and it can cut over 300 materials including 2.5mm plywood That is impressive aftercutting when you are folding to assemble also means we get to use up cereal boxes and yes AES it will cut out model cars and aerolplanes
 
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