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Terms and Definitions

Packaging lingo can be confusing. Here is a cheat sheet with helpful terms and descriptions related to the thermoformed and paperboard packaging industry.

  • Barcode—An identification symbol consisting of a sequence of rectangular bars and spaces that contain a value; identification can be by visual or electronic means.
  • Blister Packaging—A package type that contains a product between a preformed (usually transparent plastic) dome or “bubble” and a paperboard surface or “carrier.” These can be seal blisters, trapped or captive blisters, slide blisters, welded blisters, tray blisters or returnable tray blisters.
  • Cavity—The parts of the thermoformed mold that combine to provide the container body shape.
  • Clamshell—A clear, plastic shell package consisting of two hinged halves that can be opened and closed.
  • Coating—A protective layer of varnish, aqueous, laminate, acrylic or UV coating added to a printed sheet.
  • Corrugated—Stock and custom shipping containers, merchandise displays, cartons, partitions, inserts, pads, cartons and reusable containers. Printing, and graphics are available.
  • Die—Tools designed to cut, shape or form materials to a desired shape.
  • Die Cutting—The process of using sharp steel tools on either flatbed or rotary presses to cut shapes for labels, boxes and inserts from printed sheets.
  • Digital Printing—Plateless imaging printing that uses digital data from pre-press systems.
  • Flange—A protruding rim, edge, rib or collar used to strengthen, hold in place or attach an object.
  • Flexible Packaging—Packaging that uses flexible material such as foils, films, paper or flexible sheeting.
  • Folding Carton—A container made by bending paperboard that is set up, filled and closed by the user. Include tuck-end carton, reverse tuck, straight tuck or two-piece.
  • Four-color process printing—A printing process that uses the colors cyan, magenta, yellow and black to reproduce all other intermediate colors and shades.
  • Hanging Tabs—Used for merchandise display, piggyback tags for attaching promotional items to other merchandise and product identification tags. Styles include slot, Euro-style, round hole and hook.
  • Header card—A fold over display card used to hang product from a display peg at retail; it often traps a thermoformed package or clear plastic bag that retains product.
  • Insert—Any construction of chipboard or other material, such as vac form or foam, that is placed or attached into a box to hold product.
  • Kraft—Paper with long fiber for added strength; Kraft is brown in color. It’s produced from wood pulped by a sulphate process that dissolves the lignin that binds the wood fibers together.
  • Labels—Includes self-sticking, barcode, UPC, IBM, Mylar, cloth, color, aluminum, wrap-around, spot, cling, sleeve, pressure sensitive, heat transfer, DOT, in-mold, expanded content, holographic, rotating, inverted vertical hanging, medical, shipping, international wordless, paper, booklet, production, inventory and shrink labels. Printing and decorating options are available.
  • Master Carton—A carton that is used to pack and ship smaller cartons within.
  • Mold—Mold can be described in two ways: To shape plastic parts by heat and pressure or the tool used to shape PVC trays and/or parts into the form of the cavity.
  • Pilferproof Seal—A seal that cannot be opened without partially destroying the cap and showing evidence of tampering.
  • Plastic Recycling Code—The recycling code found on the bottom of containers consisting of a triangle formed by three arrows with a number in the center and distinguishing letters under the triangle. The number codes are: 1) PET, PETE = polyethylene terephthalate, 2) HDPE = high density polyethylene, 3) PVC = polyvinyl chloride, vinyl, 4) LDPE = low density polyethylene, 5) PP = polypropylene, 6) PS = polystyrene, and 7) Other.
  • Proof—A version of a document or color illustration produced specifically for review prior to reproduction.
  • Prototype Mold—A simplified mold made for the purpose of evaluation and testing prior to production. Prototype molds are often made from a light metal casting alloy or from an epoxy resin.
  • Tamper Resistant Seal—A seal that cannot be opened without partially destroying the package and showing evidence of tampering.
  • Thermoforming—Thermoforming heats sheet plastic and uses vacuum and air pressure to form the sheet onto the surface of a mold. The cooled part holds a custom shape to hold and display product. Thermoformed packaging is often used for hinged clamshells or blisters/trays.
  • Tooling— Cutting tools, dies, fixtures, gauges, jigs, molds, printing plates and specialized patterns that are generally specific to a product line or design.
  • Tray—A receptacle without a lid.
  • UV coating—A liquid-based, protective coating applied and cured by ultraviolet lamps leaving a high-gloss, hard finish resistant to chemicals and abrasions. UV coatings are solvent-free and emit no VOCs (volatile organic compounds).
  • UPC Symbol—Universal product code. A 10-digit, numeric code that identifies a product. The first five digits (manufacturer identification number) identify the manufacturer or organization controlling the product. The second five digits (item code) identify individual items within the companies and are assigned by the manufacturer or organization controlling the label of the product.
  • Vacuum Forming—Vacuum forming is a simplified form of thermoforming using only heat, vacuum and atmospheric pressure to form a thermoplastic part. Thermoforming uses compressed air in addition to heat and vacuum to form parts (thermoforming) and can achieve a greater degree of detail than vacuum forming.
  • Varnish Coating—An inexpensive, protective coating that can be applied to a printed sheet. Varnish is available in different finishes and tints and can be applied to the entire sheet or to specific areas to create subtle effects.