Posted on April 20, 2012 by Dennis Salazar

Sustainable Packaging Corrugated Design – RSC versus FOL

FOL box and RSC box


Like most industries, the corrugated business loves acronyms, and these are two of the most common.

RSC Boxes

RSC stands for “regular slotted carton” and is the typical box construction that results in four flaps on the bottom box opening and four flaps at the top opening. On a rectangular box, the smaller side panel flaps are the minor flaps, and the larger, longer ones creating the box length are called the major panels. The key point distinguishing an RSC box is that the major panels meet in the middle where they are typically taped together using plastic or water-activated tape.

FOL boxes

This acronym stands for “Full Overlap,” which is what the flaps in this case do. In some cases, two panels are cut so they extend all the way to the opposite side, but in many cases all four panels are cut and designed to completely overlap. The photo above clearly shows the difference in the flap lengths on a similar size carton.

Custom printed FOL boxes


What’s the Difference?

The most obvious difference is that an FOL-style box essentially creates a double-, triple- or quadruple-wall box making it incredibly strong. The multiple, overlapping layers of corrugated prevent edge and corner damage, which is crucial, especially on a long box such as a 4”X4”X30” used to ship an item like an umbrella. A long box like that manufactured in an RSC-style can be quite vulnerable to crushing, making the FOL design the preferred, stronger structure.

Since the flaps are smaller/shorter on an RSC box, there is a slight cost advantage compared to the longer flaps on an FOL box. However, an FOL typically requires less tape to seal it. Oftentimes, a tape “tab” is all that is necessary to hold it closed. Also, short RSC flaps can sometimes be difficult and challenging to fold and secure because the short flaps want to spring back into an open position.

Does an FOL Box Require Special Tooling?

It depends on all three of the LXWXH dimensions, but in most cases the answer is no. The necessary longer/deeper slots can be made with standard tooling already available on most box-making equipment.

How Can Using More Corrugated Be Considered Sustainable Packaging?

I understand how to many a design that uses more square inches of corrugated might contradict green values or goals. However, that is not necessarily true if by using an FOL design you can:

  1. reduce or minimize the board grade and “beef up” the box where you really need it.
  2. avoid a costly, more wasteful corrugated design like a die-cut mailer.
  3. minimize damage and the resulting replacement and reshipping.
  4. eliminate interior or protective packaging that is often not very green at all, such as bubble wrap or peanuts.

As I have often said, there is no magic bullet or “one size fits all” solution. However, FOL designs are simply one more tool in the vast collection of resources we have available to help you solve your packaging problem with products that minimize your costs AND are also green.

Please contact Salazar Packaging if you have any questions or would like a no-cost, no-obligation review of your current or proposed package design.

Related Posts:

Reducing Corrugated Use through Proper Design

7 Ways to Reduce Corrugated Box Usage