Corrugated fiberboard or “combined board” has two main components: the liner and the medium. Both are made of a special kind of heavy paper called containerboard. Linerboard is the flat material, typically on the outer surfaces of the board but also on the inside for some structures, that adheres to the medium. Medium is the paper that is formed into arches or flutes on the single facer and glued between the linerboard facings.
Architects have known for thousands of years that an arch with the proper curve is the strongest way to span a given space. The inventors of corrugated fiberboard applied this same principle to paper when they put arches in the corrugated medium. These arches are known as flutes and, when anchored to the linerboard with an adhesive, they resist bending and pressure from all directions.
Generally, larger flute profiles deliver greater cushioning and vertical compression strength, while smaller flute profiles provide enhanced graphics capabilities. Smaller flutes such as E and F also provide enhanced structural capabilities for primary (retail) packaging compared to paperboard (folding cartons). There is a good deal of variance across the industry in the range of flute sizes based upon the container characteristics that are desired for each application, as well.