Quantcast
  • We invite you to join UKWorkshop.
    Members can turn off viewing Ads!

Post Christmas reflections, 1 - Cardboard "engineering"

UKworkshop.co.uk

Help Support UKworkshop.co.uk:

AES

Established Member
Joined
18 Feb 2011
Messages
4,479
Reaction score
154
Location
Switzerland, near Basel
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

Le dullard de la commune
Joined
2 Mar 2007
Messages
5,555
Reaction score
152
Location
Leicestershire
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

Established Member
Joined
21 Jul 2014
Messages
2,379
Reaction score
173
Location
Warrington
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

Established Member
Joined
18 Feb 2011
Messages
4,479
Reaction score
154
Location
Switzerland, near Basel
That sounds very interesting novocaine. Tell me (us?) more please.

Meantime I'll go and google Smurfit.

Thanks
 

Jacob

Established Member
Joined
7 Jul 2010
Messages
16,119
Reaction score
3
Location
Derbyshire
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

Established Member
Joined
18 Feb 2011
Messages
4,479
Reaction score
154
Location
Switzerland, near Basel
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

Is that chisel shar ... Ow
Joined
14 Mar 2013
Messages
3,278
Reaction score
590
Location
Edinburgh
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

Established Member
Joined
18 Feb 2011
Messages
4,479
Reaction score
154
Location
Switzerland, near Basel
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

Established Member
Joined
7 Mar 2009
Messages
1,086
Reaction score
81
Location
norfolk
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

Established Member
Joined
21 Jul 2014
Messages
2,379
Reaction score
173
Location
Warrington
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

Established Member
Joined
18 Feb 2011
Messages
4,479
Reaction score
154
Location
Switzerland, near Basel
@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

Established Member
Joined
21 Jul 2014
Messages
2,379
Reaction score
173
Location
Warrington
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

Established Member
Joined
18 Feb 2011
Messages
4,479
Reaction score
154
Location
Switzerland, near Basel
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

Established Member
Joined
21 Jul 2014
Messages
2,379
Reaction score
173
Location
Warrington
that will be CAC flute. think it's 12,24,12mm fluting.

ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
 
Top