Packaging glossary

From acid etching to substrates and beyond, this month we take you on a magical journey through the world of packaging terminology

Aluminium cans are 2P (two piece) cans, comprising a top and a body. Steel cans add a separate base to become 3P.

Accordion pack
An accordion-like flexible package that enables food to be squeezed into the mouth, eliminating the need for a spoon.

Acid etching
A process that uses a strong acid to cut into another substance. When glassware is immersed in a bath of acid, for example, a smooth, frosted effect is created on the surface of the glass.

Applied colour lettering (ACL)
When colourful graphic or typographic elements are permanently fused onto the surface of a glass bottle.

Another term for the front or face panel of a carton as it is displayed on a shelf - this is where you catch consumers' attention.

A carton that has been cut and creased but not yet folded and glued shut. Also refers to the mould used to transform glass into a preliminary bottle shape.



Blister pack
Refers to several types of pre-formed plastic packaging for small consumer goods. A blister pack consists of a web of 'blisters' or pockets made from plastic or aluminium, and a lid, usually made from aluminium or card. Often used as unit-dose packaging for pharmaceutical tablets.

Box board
Paperboard used in the manufacture of boxes or printed cartons; may be made of wood pulp or wastepaper; sometimes called 'duplex board'.

Blow moulding
The process of forming a bottle by putting a hollow tube between two halves of a mould and blowing air into it, forcing the material to follow the shape of the mould.

Usually a type of blister pack, this refers to the two hinged halves of a plastic shell that form protective packaging for small, valuable items such as electronics.

Environmentally responsible packaging designed to decompose rapidly in a professionally managed compost facility, resulting in humus that supports plant life.

The name given to the dimensional change over time of material under a heavy load. At room temperature 'creep' is sometimes called 'cold flow'.

Cutter guide
A drawing of a die cut for a piece of artwork showing size, shape and vital statistics for the artworking process.

Cutting and creasing
A single process for cutting a carton shape and applying creases in it correctly.

Die cut
Any operation in which a sharp-edged tool or blade is used to cut a shape, or hole, into a variety of substrates; or to cut a shape into a material that can't be achieved with a guillotine.

A standardised measure for the peg-mounted hanging of items.

An unsupported, basically organic, non-fibrous, thin, flexible material no more than 0.01-inch thick. In general terms, this refers to a thin coating.

Flute (corrugation)
This refers to the ridges that are pressed into a sheet of material that has been softened by steam. The material is then sandwiched between flat sheets to form corrugated fibreboard.

When paper or other material is folded inward to form four or more panels.

A smooth, translucent material, related to greaseproof paper, which is used to wrap products in the baking and confectionary world. Glassine is resistant to grease, air and vapour transmission.



Header card
Either the backing piece of a card and plastic-style blister pack, or a board attached behind products that are hung by means of a euroslot.

Injection moulding
A process whereby molten material is forced through a gate, under heat and pressure, into a closed mould cavity.

A number of single ply materials stuck together in layers to form a single product that maximises strength, durability and other barrier properties.

Paperboard is a paper-based material consisting of a fluted sheet housed either beneath or sandwiched between two flat linerboards. In general, all paper sheets with a thickness of 12 points (0.012inch) or greater are classified as paperboard.

Plastic memory
The tendency of plastic objects to return to their original moulded form.

Polycarbonate (PC)
The toughest of all thermoplastics, PC is temperature resistant, clear, rigid and has good impact strength. But its cost means it's kept for special uses.

Polyethylene (PE)
A thermoplastic material composed of polymers of ethylene, PE is usually a tough, translucent solid that comes in low, medium and high density forms, and is popular as a container for frozen foods.

Polypropylene (PP)
Available as a fibre, film or foam, in any colour or clear, PP is a super-versatile material formed from propylene polymers.

Potato Starch material PSM

Potato Starch material

Plastarch Material (PSM) - aka plant or potato starch material
A flexible packaging material, PSM is usually made from the starch found in corn or potatoes. It has a low carbon footprint and is compostable. PSM is also heat resistant, making it particularly suitable for hot food applications.

Resin master
This is a resinous model used in the production of permanent metal moulds for packaging containers.

Any base material that a design is printed onto: a carton, board, polypropylene, metallic film and so on.

A process of forming plastics by heating a plastic sheet to the point where it gets soft and pliable, and transforming it into the desired shaped using vacuum, pressure and mechanical assists.

The amount by which a container is short of being full; the total package volume minus the content volume.