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Cardboard boxes are industrially prefabricated boxes, primarily used for packaging goods and materials. Specialists in industry seldom use the term cardboard because it does not denote a specific material.
The term cardboard may refer to a variety of heavy paper-like materials, including card stock, corrugated fiberboard, or paperboard. The meaning of the term may depend on the locale, contents, construction, and personal choice.
Several types of containers are sometimes called cardboard box:
In business and industry, material producers, container manufacturers, packaging engineers, and standards organizations, try to use more specific terminology. There is still not complete and uniform usage. Often the term “cardboard” is avoided because it does not define any particular material.
Broad divisions of paper-based packaging materials are:
There are also multiple names for containers:
The Scottish-born Robert Gair invented the pre-cut cardboard or paperboard box in 1890 – flat pieces manufactured in bulk that folded into boxes. Gair's invention came about as a result of an accident: he was a Brooklyn printer and paper-bag maker during the 1870s, and one day, while he was printing an order of seed bags, a metal ruler normally used to crease bags shifted in position and cut them. Gair discovered that by cutting and creasing in one operation he could make prefabricated paperboard boxes. Applying this idea to corrugated boxboard was a straightforward development when the material became available around the turn of the twentieth century.
Corrugated (also called pleated) paper was patented in England in 1856, and used as a liner for tall hats, but corrugated boxboard was not patented and used as a shipping material until December 20, 1871. The patent was issued to Albert Jones of New York City for single-sided (single-face) corrugated board. Jones used the corrugated board for wrapping bottles and glass lantern chimneys. The first machine for producing large quantities of corrugated board was built in 1874 by G. Smyth, and in the same year Oliver Long improved upon Jones's design by inventing corrugated board with liner sheets on both sides. This was corrugated cardboard as we know it today.
By 1908, the terms "corrugated paper-board" and "corrugated cardboard" were both in use in the paper trade.
The Musée du Cartonnage et de l'Imprimerie (Museum of the Cardboard Box) in Valréas, France traces the history of cardboard box making and the art involved in printing, in the region. Cardboard boxes have been used there since 1840 for transporting the Bombyx mori moth and its eggs from Japan to Europe by silk manufacturers, and for more than a century the manufacture of cardboard boxes was a major industry in the area.
Cardboard and other paper-based materials (paperboard, corrugated fiberboard, etc.) can have a post-primary life as a cheap material for the construction of a range of projects, among them being science experiments, children's toys, costumes and insulative lining. Some smaller children enjoy playing inside of boxes.
Often, young children enjoy playing in old corrugated shipping containers. A common cliché is that, if presented with a large and expensive new toy, a child will quickly become bored with the toy and play with the box instead. Although this is usually said somewhat jokingly, children certainly enjoy playing with boxes, using their imagination to portray the box as an infinite variety of objects. One example of this from popular culture is Calvin of the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, who often used a cardboard box for imaginative purposes from a "transmogrifier" to a time machine.
So prevalent is the cardboard box's reputation as a plaything that in 2005 a cardboard box was added to the National Toy Hall of Fame in the US, one of very few non-brand-specific toys to be honoured with inclusion. As a result, a toy "house" (actually a log cabin) made from a large cardboard box was added to the Hall, housed at the Strong - National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York.
The Metal Gear series of stealth video games is well known for a running gag involving a cardboard box as an in-game item, which can be used by the player to try to sneak through places without getting caught by enemy sentries.
Living in a cardboard box is stereotypically associated with homelessness. However in 2005, Melbourne architect Peter Ryan designed a house composed largely of cardboard. More common are small seatings or little tables made from corrugated cardboard. Very often you see selling displays in shops from cardboard in self-service shops.
Mass and viscosity of the enclosed air help together with the limited stiffness of boxes to damp the velocity of oncoming objects. In 2012, British stuntman Gary Connery safely landed via wingsuit without deploying his parachute, landing on a 3,6 m high crushable "runway" (landing zone) built with thousands of cardboard boxes.