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 packaging?
What types and sizes of paper tubes are available from leading

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
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


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 paperboard.

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


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 packaging machine.

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 converting operations.

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

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 high speeds.

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 paper tube.

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


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


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

, jumbo rolls of paper, paperboard, and lining materials are

converted in a rotary slitting operation with


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:

Roll coaters
Reverse roll coaters
Slot die coaters
Extrusion coaters
Curtain coaters
Brush coaters
Spray coaters
Blade coaters
Metering bar coaters
Dip 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


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 is sufficient.

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.