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The hidden hero of packaging: exploring the role of ‘hard sized’ boards

6 Oct, 2023

If we say the words ‘product packaging’, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?

Is it the design? Shape? Graphics? Branding? The product inside?

These are some more obvious features of packaging. But for commercial packaging suppliers like us, we also think about a more hidden hero that’s crucial to packaging: ‘hard sized’ boards.

If you’re scratching your head about what ‘hard sized’ boards are, read on.

 

How ‘hard sized’ boards contribute to packaging integrity beyond paper dimensions

What are ‘hard sized’ boards?

While the term ‘hard sized’ boards might make you think of a tough superhero (and the boards are just that!), ‘size’ doesn’t actually refer to physical dimensions.

‘Hard sized’ boards are paperboard or cardboard materials treated with a ‘sizing agent’, an additive in the papermaking process that enhances their durability, strength, rigidity and resistance to environmental factors like moisture and heat.

Why packaging integrity matters

When we say ‘packaging integrity’, we don’t just mean how the product is wrapped. Packaging integrity is about how the product is safely transported or stored, is enhanced visually, or is preserved for sterility, quality or extended shelf-life. When the integrity of packaging fails, it may lead to reputational damage, customer dissatisfaction or financial losses.

This is where ‘hard sized’ boards help.

 

How ‘hard sized’ boards enhance packaging durability and protection

‘Hard sized’ boards are great at enhancing packaging durability and protecting products from the time they’re manufactured until they reach consumers. This happens in a few ways.

Moisture resistance and barrier properties: Sizing creates a barrier on the board and reduces its porosity. This makes it less likely to absorb moisture, oils, greases and gases, which may weaken the board’s structural integrity and lead to mould growth, decay or other contamination.

Rigidity and structural integrity: Sizing can increase the board’s rigidity and resistance to bending, folding, creasing or puncture during handling, shipping and storage.

Longer lifespan: ‘Hard sized’ boards can extend the packaging’s lifespan compared to regular paper or board. This is particularly helpful for products stored for extended periods or transported through various environmental conditions.

Enhanced surface finish: Sizing can result in a smoother, more uniform surface finish. This contributes to the packaging’s aesthetic quality and reduces the risk of abrasion or damage to the contents.

Food storage: Many of these attributes make ‘hard sized’ boards ideal for protecting and preserving the quality of fresh, refrigerated or frozen food products, and for microwave or oven-safe packaging.

Diverse applications and packaging types where ‘hard sized’ boards play a critical role

 

Different packaging designs and applications

Think about packaged products you buy. Many are wrapped in boxes, trays, sleeves or tubes made from ‘hard sized’ board. The versatility is great for designers and manufacturers packaging different products.

 

Diverse types of sizing

Different sizing agents serve different purposes, from food packaging to pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and more. It’s a good idea to talk with your packaging supplier about which board will suit your product best. Here are common kinds of hard-sized boards.

Coated unbleached kraft (CUK) or natural kraft (SUS): Made from unbleached, recycled fibres, CUK and SUS are usually brown and give a more natural or eco-friendly appearance, though this may make printing more difficult. SUS may be coated in clay or wax and CUK in polyethylene resin, which improves water resistance and is good for food-safe packaging.

Clay-coated news back board (CCNB): A cost-effective option often made of recycled paper fibres. One side is clay-coated for better printing and mild moisture resistance. Its other side is grey or brown newsprint-like uncoated paper. It’s popular for dry products like cereal boxes, laundry powder and pet food.

Solid bleached sulphate (SBS): Premium-grade paperboard made by chemically pulping and bleaching virgin (non-recycled) fibres to achieve a smooth white finish great for printing, embossing and foils. It’s popular in many industries, including high-end cosmetics and consumer goods.

Folding box board (FBB): A strong multi-ply board that combines mechanically pulped fibres for strength and bleached fibres for printability. Like SBS it’s a premium option popular for luxury packaging, electronics, cosmetics, food and more.

Foil-backed board: A thin aluminium foil layer protects against water, light, moisture and gas. It’s suitable for perishable items or products sensitive to environmental factors.

Liquid packaging board: Used for liquids like milk, juice and other beverages, it typically has layers of paperboard, polyethylene for moisture and sometimes foil for extra protection.

Other advantages of ‘hard sized’ boards

Cost-effective: Their durability reduces the risk of product damage during handling and transit. This means fewer replacements and lower overall costs.

Lightweight: They’re remarkably strong, rigid and lightweight. This can reduce transportation costs and lead to a smaller carbon footprint.

Versatile and customised design options: They can be cut, folded and formed into intricate and functional custom shapes without sacrificing their protective properties.

Easy, crisp printing: Sizing agents can make printing, embossing or applying other design elements to the board’s surface easier and clearer.

Environmentally friendly and sustainable: Many ‘hard sized’ boards are made from renewable wood pulp or recycled paper fibre, and are themselves recyclable. Their durability extends the lifespan of packaging, minimising waste and supporting a brand’s commitment to sustainability.

Choosing the right packaging solution

At Rawson Print & Packaging we’ve been in the printing and packaging business for more than 45 years.

Chat with us about your next packaging project. We can help you pick the right type of packaging for your product, and provide construction designs, mock-ups and paper/packaging samples. You’ll harness the advantages of ‘hard sized’ boards to create great-looking packaging that ensures the safe delivery of your products.

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