PARLIER, Calif. — Maxco Supply Inc. is distributing a new, stronger and environmentally sensitive container that company founder and president Max Flaming said is a major breakthrough.

“Nobody else globally has ever made microflute, tri-wall cartons,” Flaming said.
The new container from the carton design and manufacturing company was more than three years in development, said Joe Sepe, general manager of Maxco’s container manufacturing plant.

The roots of the tri-wall carton come from the foodservice industry.

Sepe became intrigued with the construction of a thin-walled clamshell that his daughter brought home after a stop at a fast food restaurant.

Maxco debuts tri-wall cartons
                                                                               Don Schrack

Max Flaming (left), president and founder of Maxco Supply Inc., Parlier, Calif., and Joe Sepe, general manager of Maxco’s container manufacturing plant, show off cartons made of the company’s new microflute tri-wall material.

“I began experimenting in my garage at home long before I brought the idea into the plant,” Sepe said.

The goal was to use lightweight materials to construct the corrugated paper used in the carton’s design, he said.

When Sepe discovered there was equipment available to manufacture the material he designed in his garage, he took the project to Flaming.

What evolved from months of trial and error is a seven-layer material, about one-eighth of an inch thick, that delivers much greater strength than the traditional dual-wall cardboard, Sepe said.

The flutes — the mini-peaks and valleys sandwiched between flat sheets in corrugated paper – are miniscule. 

Just as important, Flaming said, is that the product is environmentally friendly.

“Because we use lighter material, we use less paper to manufacture the tri-wall,” he said, “and because it is lighter, freight costs are lower. In addition, the carton is 100% recyclable.”

There also are savings in the manufacturing process.

Energy costs are lower and the lighter-weight paper requires that the giant rolls that feed the equipment be replaced about one-third as frequently as the heavier stock, Flaming said.

As a result, pricing of the tri-wall is competitive with dual-wall cartons, he said.

Flaming said converting to 20-pound paper as opposed to the more common 69-pound stock used in most corrugated paper construction was a challenge.

“We tore up a lot of that 20-pound paper before figuring out how to get the equipment to pull the material through the 300-foot-long manufacturing process,” he said.

The strength of the tri-wall material enabled Maxco to redesign what had become the industry’s standard carton, Sepe said.

The stacking tabs on the sides of most cartons are weak points, he said, but the strength of the material permitted Maxco to relocate the stacking tabs to the stronger ends of the cartons.

Most dual-wall cartons are unable to withstand vertical pressure greater than 3,000 pounds, Flaming said.

“The microflute, tri-wall cartons can take 5,000 pounds and probably more,” he said. “I won’t let them test above 5,000 pounds because I don’t want to damage our testing equipment.”

The redesigned cartons made of tri-wall will reduce load shifts that can damage or destroy fresh produce during shipping.

Another attribute of the tri-wall product is that is the microflutes create an unusually smooth exterior that virtually eliminates flute lines often obvious in a carton’s graphics and printing.

“Tri-wall is as near as we can get to solid fiber,” Sepe said.

To take advantage of the new tri-wall material, Maxco is installing new seven-color printing equipment, Sepe said.

The equipment will be in operation this fall, he said.

“We want a box that looks as good when it arrives as the day it was filled,” Flaming said.

The tri-wall carton may prove to be the death knell for at least one other Maxco product.

Testing has found water does not penetrate the material as it does dual-wall cartons, a problem that forced many table grape grower-shippers to switch to plastic cartons.

“The tri-walls will eventually replace our plastic cartons,” Flaming said.

The one Maxco constant that will not change is a decision Flaming made nearly 40 years ago when he founded the company: The company’s products are solely for the agricultural industry.

“We focus on our niche. If you focus on a single industry and listen to what the industry needs, you’ll do all right,” he said.