The Manufacturing Process for Fanfolding Cartons: A Full Guide

A cornerstone of secondary packaging is the paperboard fanfolding carton, fanfold cartons are made by special folding carton-making machines. Paperboard stock is specifically formulated to crease easily and some stocks are purchased for their crack resistance properties. The most significant advantage of folding cartons is that they can be shipped flat and then assembled upon arrival, making them an incredibly space-efficient alternative to packaging that must be fully constructed. In today’s guide, we will explore the production process of folding cartons. Read on for more information.

1. Fanfolding carton manufacturing steps

Once a design has been decided upon, it’s all about your packaging supplier and their process for taking your fanfolding carton packaging design from concept into reality. Here’s what the typical process looks like:

Folding Cartons

1)Die tangent and plate layout

Die-lines are the 2D flat version of what will become the final 3D fanfolding carton. Die lines will show where die-cutting, fanfolding and gluing will occur and will also show where artwork is positioned for printing.

In offset-sheet fed production, die-lines are then used by pre-press departments to build the ‘sheet layout’.

Depending on the size of the sheet, the number of versions and/or pieces for that specific package, the maximum number that can be put ‘up on the sheet’ will be configured.

2)Paper and printing

Before the paperboard can be run through the press, it needs to be sheeted. Paperboard typically arrives from the supplier in a large roll, and sheeting is the process by which these rolls are cut into sheets of paperboard to be fed into the press. During this stage, fanfolding carton manufacturers will ensure the grain is running in the direction that will be most effective.

Once the sheets are fed into the press, the imagery and artwork are printed onto the sheets using the sheet layout. During the print process, many ink and coating units will be used to apply color, innovative textures, and other visual effects.

3)Post-press processing

At this point, any remaining visual effects such as hot foils or emboss/debossing will be done post-press using hot foil stampers and emboss/deboss machines. These effects further ‘dress the sheet’ while it is still in its flat form.


After the printing and post-press processes are complete, it is time for die-cutting. The die is an elaborate, powerful cookie cutter used to cut many duplicates of the layout out of a sheet of paperboard and to minimize waste. In addition to steel knives to cut along edges, the die will also have rounded protrusions to create the creases that will allow for easy fanfolding where necessary. When the individual cartons have been cut out of the original sheet, folding carton manufacturers separate and recycle the remaining stripped paper to form new paperboard.


With die-cutting complete, it is time to move to fanfolding and gluing where the flat, die-cut pieces will be fed for fanfolding, pre-breaking, and gluing. Some fanfolding cartons require transparent windows through which the product can be seen, and these windows can often be applied ‘in-line’ during fanfolding/gluing.

The goal is to do as many of these operations in the fewest ‘passes’ and to end up with a flat, folded/glued package that can be ‘racked’ and ‘fulfilled’ with the actual product.

Folding Cartons

2. How to upgrade fanfolding cartons

Paperboard fanfolding cartons are a staple of retail packaging, and for good reason – they are specifically designed to attract and educate consumers as well as protect the product throughout its retail lifespan. The fanfolding carton may be commonplace, filling the shelves of every major retailer, but that doesn’t mean your packaging should be either boring or unremarkable.

Considerations for upgrading the standard fanfolding carton include:

1) Uniquely Shaped Structural Designs

Rectangular boxes are the most common type of fanfolding carton, but why limit yourself to the ordinary especially if the custom shape can be designed to still be fulfilled on high-speed fulfillment equipment? Hexagonal or octagonal prisms don’t just create a unique look that attracts consumers’ attention; they also provide more faces on which unique content and design can be placed. A uniquely shaped package will draw the eye, stimulating curiosity and generating interest. From pyramids to stars, if your design team can imagine it, an experienced structural design team can turn it into a reality.

2) Incorporating Windows into the Carton

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but a picture is no substitute for a glimpse at the product itself. When plastic windows are incorporated directly into the structural design of the carton, it allows the consumer to have that first connection with the product in a retail setting. Large windows can function similarly to storefront windows, showcasing the product in its entirety, or even from multiple angles, when windows are added on more than one face of the carton.

Smaller windows can be incorporated into the printed surface and used to emphasize texture, color, or other detail. These smaller windows also created an exciting “sneak peek” effect and immediately signal to the consumer that the product is exclusive and high quality.

3) Interactive Elements

One way to get and keep a consumer’s interest is by including interactive elements in the packaging. Hinged cartons containing two separate containers that are attached and can be opened like a book immediately invite the consumer to participate and engage with the packaging itself. This technique can also be coupled with an inside window to increase anticipation and generate excitement leading up to the reveal.

In today’s digital world, unique codes can be printed onto product packaging for consumers to scan with their smartphones. These codes can then link to a webpage that provides more information on the product, a virtual demonstration, or even an online coupon they can pull out at the checkout stand.

Folding Cartons

4) Eye-Catching Visual Effects

Both on press and off, there is a wide array of stunning visual effects, from coatings, embossing, and foils to holographic designs that fanfolding carton manufacturers can choose from. These visual effects can really enhance your packaging design. Stand out from the crowd with a pearlescent coating, micro-etched stocks, or glitter coating. These and countless other effects can transform a simple folding carton into something truly remarkable.

3. Conclusion

The above is about the process of making fanfolding cartons, if you want to mass-customize fanfolding cartons, please contact a reliable fanfolding carton machine supplier.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top