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This article provides comprehensive information about paper tubes, paper core and composite cans. You will learn how these
paper and paperboard products are made and their materials of construction as well as
paper tube applications, advantages and drawbacks.
Read further to answer questions like:
What‘s the difference between paper tubes, paper tubes and composite cans?
Why should you select paper tube containers instead of plastic, glass, or metal
What types and sizes of paper tubes are available from leading manufacturers?
How do I specify paper tubes when ordering or submitting an RFQ?
How is the quality of paper tube products I am buying tested and assured?
How easily can I dispose of or recycle used paper tubes and paper cores?
And much more...
Paper Tubes from Ace Paper Tube
I. What is a Paper Tube?
Paper tubes consist of paper or paperboard sheet layers wound together to form
strong, hollow, and usually cylindrical shapes. The paper layers are laminated or bonded
together using adhesives. The wall thickness of the tube can vary depending on the number
of layers wrapped during manufacturing.
Paper tubes are also known as paper cores, paperboard tubes, paper cans, fiber drums
with paper drum machine, fiber tubes, paper tubing, wound tubes, composite
cans, coreboard tubes, and cardboard tubes. While widely used everywhere, the term
"cardboard tube" is a misnomer. Cardboard consists of three kraft layers with
the central layer corrugated.
II. Paper Tube Types and Shapes
Paper Tube and Core Types
While paper tubes, paper cores and related products are all made from wound plies of
paper or paperboard. Paper tubes with paper tube cutting machine
or cores can be constructed from one, two or many plies of brown kraft paper or
The innermost layer or ply, the liner, and the outermost layer, the wrap, can consist
of different materials (foil, film, etc.) or specialized paper. The specialized paper and
materials can provide water resistance, graphics or labeling, or a specific color.
The two main types of paper tubes and cores include spiral wound and convolute or
parallel wound paper tubes. Convolute wound tubes are used in applications requiring high
bend strength, crush resistance and dynamic strength.
A spiral wound tube has the paper ply or plies wrapped around at an angle to the
tube's axis. In convolute tubes, the outer two edges of the paper strip are wrapped
parallel or at a 90-degree angle to the tube‘s axis.
Paper tubes have thinner walls and are widely used as containers or packaging for
products with paper
A paper core is essentially a heavy-walled paper tube. The much thicker wall of paper
cores enables their use in winding webs or sheets of flexible material into rolls in
Paper machines produce extremely large rolls (also known as machine, jumbo, tambour
or mother rolls), which are rotary slit or converted into many narrower smaller rolls on
a winder with a paperboard core. Similar jumbo rolls are converted in plastic film, foil,
textile and coated abrasive plants.
You will be surprised that not all paper tubes are geared toward packaging
applications. Paper cores can be machine elements. Paper cores used for winding large
rolls in a paper mill or plastic film production plant are machine elements and require
extremely high strength paper cores, which are often convoluted.
Paper cores for retail or small diameter width rolls of adhesive tape, label, foil,
paper, tissue or plastic film are a packaging and dispensing product, which can consist
of a thinner, spiral wound core.
The paper tube material is rotary or saw cut into paper cans or composite cans,
shipping tubes, push tubes, pyrotechnic tubes, display poles, converting cores, concrete
piling forms, and other paper tube products.
Large fiber or composite drums and even paper straws are manufactured in a similar
winding process. Convolute winders are typically used to make composite drums, which are
a more eco-friendly alternative to steel drums. Paper straws are spiral wound at very
Paper Tube Shapes
You will find that most paper tubes have a cylindrical shape or round cross-section,
but paper tubes can be made with square, oval, hexagonal, triangular, and other custom
shapes by using a square, oval and custom shaped winding mandrel. Custom shapes are
useful for fitting the tube specifically to a part or product shape while eliminating
wasted space and additional spacers or packing material.
Tapered paper tubes or paper cones are wound with a cone-shaped mandrel. Paper cones
are used as yarn carriers in the textile industry.
For certain applications, you may want your paper tubes slit or cut along their
length to make half-shells such as facilitates covering large rolls for protection. They
can be reconnected with tape or h-profiles. You will find covering a paper roll or coiled
steel roll easier with half-shells compared to sliding a roll into a large protective
III. How Are Paper Tubes Made?
Paper Tube and Core Manufacturing
Paper tube and core manufacturing is a paper converting process combining web
slitting, web winding and lamination or adhesive bonding steps. Through multiple wraps or
revolutions of one or more paper webs or ribbons around a steel mandrel, several layers
or plies of paper or paperboard are laminated together around a steel mandrel to form
rigid, high strength tubes or fiber cores with paper core making machine
In my experience, plies are usually around 2 to 10 inches (50 to 250 mm) wide, but in
some plies are as wide as 20 inches (500 mm). Ply thicknesses are typically around 0.008
to 0.050 (0.2 to 1.3 mm). The number of plies ranges from 1 to 50 or more, but paper
cores with 3 to 30 plies are more common.
We find that the strength of paper core is a function of the paperboard ply bond
strength, ply thickness, bond area or overlap and adhesive bond strength. What I find
interesting is that paperboards are made in a single thicker papermaking process or by
bonding or laminating several plies together, so some paper tubes can consist of
laminations or laminated plies!
To me, a review of related patents and technology definitions in the USPTO website
can help provide a greater understanding and in-depth details on the paper tube making
process. Subclass B31C provides the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)
cooperative patent classification (CPC) and technology definitions for paper or wound
tube manufacturing processes. B31C 9/00 is defined as "Simultaneous forming of
cylindrical and conical shapes by winding separate webs, e.g. forming bottles".
The paper tube making process can include winding, folding and bending depending on
the specific shape (round, square, conical, etc.) desired in the finished end product.
Spiral Paper Tube or Core Manufacturing
In the spiral paper tube or core manufacturing process with
paper core machine
, jumbo rolls of paper, paperboard, and lining materials are converted in a rotary
slitting operation with paper slitting machine into narrower width ribbons. The paper ribbons are
rewound into narrow rolls on rewinding stands.
The narrow paper ribbon rolls are stacked in what looks to me like giant stacks of
"poker chips". The "poker chip" stacks or rolls of paper ribbon are
transported and loaded into the tube manufacturing machine.
Narrow paper webs or ribbons from several different rolls are passed through guides
and attached, adhered or taped to a steel mandrel in an overlapping fashion or with
spacing between leading edges of the paper ribbons. The festooning or spacing allows the
ribbons to feed without interference between ribbons.
You will see that by attaching the leading edge or end of the ribbon obliquely or at
an angle less than 90 degrees to the axis of the mandrel, the result is the formation of
spiral during winding.
The outer diameter of the steel mandrel determines the inner diameter of the finished
paper tube. The wall thickness of the tube is a function of the thickness of the paper or
paperboard ribbons, the adhesive thickness and the number of ribbons used in the process.
Adhesive or glue is applied to each paper ribbon or ply before being wound onto the
steel mandrel. In my experience coating webs of paper, cloth, vulcanized fibre and
plastic film, a variety of web coaters can apply the adhesive to the plies such as:
Reverse roll coaters
Slot die coaters
Metering bar coaters
What‘s fascinating is how the paper tube belt twists around in a helical shape to
continuously form and bond the paper tube plies together. The flexible belt wraps around
and applies pressure to the paper layers, which assures the proper formation of adhesive
bonds between the paper ribbons. The fabric reinforced rubber belt also advances the tube
forward along the mandrel.
I have to imagine that the stresses and performance requirements on the paper tube
forming belt are enormous. These belts are endless or seamless and prevent marking. They
have high tensile strength and high friction to grab and move the tube along and easy to
clean. Nitta, Passaic, Rainbow are some of the suppliers of tube forming belts.
Next, we see that as additional paper plies are added at one end of the paper tube
forming mandrel, the formed or laminated paper tube slides off the other end of the
mandrel and is cut to length using rotary blade slicing or offline sawing operations.
Additional deburring of the tube end edge may be performed depending on the end-use.
Another interesting aspect of the paper tube manufacturing process to me is the
ability to make an enormous amount of highly customized paper tube product or materials
combinations by using different material plies.
Liner or lining layers are used on the inner diameter (first ribbon) or outer
diameter (last ribbon) of the tube to improve water resistance, moisture resistance or
grease resistance. Liners can consist of metal sheet, foil, coated paper (wax, silicone,
or plastic), plastic film and other protective materials.
If your current application is not satisfied with existing paper tubes, you can well
imagine a custom paper tube manufacturer can engineer a new combination of liners, plies
and wraps to meet the needs of your specialized application. As long as the order volume
One great ability I find in paper tube manufacturing is the ability to provide
branding through labeling or print to enhance marketing inside and out. If printed or
decorative graphics are required on the inside or outside of the paper tube, then the
printed paper ribbons or ribbons made of printable material can be used on the first and
last ribbons. A white paper or paperboard could be used on the outer layer with stronger
brown kraft paper used on the inner layers.
Convolute Paper Tube or Core Manufacturing
In the parallel or convolute paper tube or core manufacturing process, jumbo rolls of
paper, paperboard, and lining materials are converted in a slitting operation, but not
into the very narrow width ribbons used in spiral tube manufacturing. In the convolute
paper tube or core manufacturing process, the leading edge of the ribbon is parallel to
the axis of the paper tube mandrel, so a single seam or flap along the length of the
paper tube results.
An external metal roll can apply pressure instead of a belt, which squeezes out any
voids or air pockets providing better contact of the adhesive and therefore a stronger
adhesive bond between paper plies. Since the paper web is wider, higher pressures and
tension can be applied in the convolute winding process. The higher pressures and
tensions in convolute paper tube manufacturing result in tubes with higher strength
compared to the spiral wound tubes.