The magic flute

Flutes, the wavy arches between liners, put the corrugated in corrugated board, so much so that corrugated board is specified by flute. Borrowing from the GEICO commercials, “Everybody knows that,” but as those commercials teach, there’s always something else to be learned. Familiarity doesn’t always breed contempt; sometimes it breeds complacency. It’s not unusual for a corrugated box’s specification to go unchanged for years on end. Implicit is the assumption that circumstances also have gone unchanged—a fallacy in thinking.

First came A-flute, later followed by others, in alphabetical sequence. The variety of flutes bespeak a variety of properties. The greater the profile (height) of a flute the greater the stacking strength and cushioning. The greater the count (number of flutes per linear measure) the greater the flat-crush resistance. C-flute is the most utilized. C might as well stand for Compromise because C-flute is shorter than A-flute but taller than B-flute; and it has a count greater than A-flute has but less than B-flute has. It’s best to discuss flutes in comparative terms rather than to assign hard numbers to their profiles and counts. That’s because of differences in the corrugating process across different converters.

D-flute, for all intents and purposes, is not used in the U.S. E-flute and F-flute complete the list of the most popular flutes, consecutively smaller in profiles and greater in counts; however, as industry proceeds along the alphabet, flutes need not automatically be of the miniature variety. How large flutes eventually get—or how small—will be limited only to advancements in corrugator machinery and the determination of customers to pursue custom-tailored solutions.

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