What comes to mind when you think about corrugated board? I am sure your mind is racing with tons of ideas because you, as corrugated professionals, know it has a multitude of uses in the packaging world. Naturally, a corrugated board’s design depends on the function it needs to perform, such as holding up products in a point-of-purchase display, working hard as a shipping container for e-commerce purchases, or silently selling a product on retail shelf packaging.
What you may not know is that the characteristics of this substrate (e.g., inexpensive, lightweight yet sturdy, easily recyclable or renewable, reusable, readily available) lend themselves exceptionally well to not only packaging applications but also arm immobilizers (of all things!).
Since this may seem like a random topic, let me give you a little backstory. Recently, my 8-month-old daughter had surgery on her cleft lip, and she needed arm immobilizers to prevent her from damaging the surgical site. The idea here is similar to that of a cone worn by pets to prevent them from chewing their stitches. And like my cat that has worn that cone, my daughter hated this act of restraint. She was given a brand of arm restraints at the hospital, No-No®; they are made from polyethylene foam and a polypropylene rigidifying cuff (see photo at right). Although an improvement from past versions—medical metal frames placed around the infant’s arm and taped in place to keep the elbow straight—these No-Nos were still bulky, too big, and uncomfortable for my daughter.
Forgoing the doctor’s instructions to wear the arm restraints for two weeks was not something we ever considered, but we knew we needed a better option than the current setup. My mom, an advanced practice nurse, scoured the internet to find something we could use as a replacement. We quickly discovered our commercial product could be easily replicated using on-hand materials such as corrugated board. Although we chose not to venture out and make these on our own, we did purchase some (thanks, Amazon) made with wood and the same basic construction (see photo at left).
If we had been ready to MacGyver these arm restraints for our little one, we would have needed only a few items to make it happen—corrugated board (reused from something as convenient as a box of pre-grilled hamburgers from a cookout), Velcro cable wraps, sticky back Velcro, and foam shelf liner. With these materials and some minor tools—a serrated kitchen knife, scissors, a stapler, straightedge, and measuring tape—we then would measure and cut the corrugated, roll it into a tube, cut and attach the foam liner, attach Velcro, and add Velcro cable wrap to have infant-ready arm restraints.
While you may not be in the market for arm immobilizers anytime soon—and I hope not—the point of this recollection is to show the magic of corrugated board for accommodating unique needs. Along with this creative repurposing, corrugated can be used for packaging and sending plants via mail, furniture designs, innovative architecture, and even bicycles.
So, the next time you have a corrugated box and nothing on your agenda, put on your creative hat, and make something you’ve never thought of associating with corrugated board! And if you want to dive deeper into the material itself and learn more about grades, fluting, manufacturing, converting, surface treatments, and more, check out our fabulous corrugated course today at bit.ly/3PmYCrr or check out AICC’s many corrugated courses at learning.AICCbox.org.
Julie Rice Suggs, Ph.D., is academic director at The Packaging School. She can be reached at 330-774-8542 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alli Keigley, who contributed to this article,is production coordinator at The Packaging School. She can be reached email@example.com.