Q) Why do plastic corrugated boxes need tooling when fiber corrugated boxes don’t?
A) This is a very good question.
You are correct that many standard design styles like a regular RSC (regular slotted container) do not need tooling or cutting dies when manufactured from fiber corrugated. They are most often manufactured on equipment that can score the box and cut the top and bottom flap slots without the need for a cutting die. These are most often the standard boxes that you would require you to tape the flaps down when closing the box. Many other styles like a pizza style box require tooling for either plastic corrugated or fiber corrugated boxes.
The reason this standard equipment cannot be used for plastic corrugated is that the plastic does not cut or score (crease) as easily as fiber corrugated boxes. The plastic corrugated wants to stretch and tear when attempting to run the material on standard box equipment. So, in order to get clean cuts or strong creases to allow the container to fold correctly the plastic corrugated needs to be cut and creased with a tool or cutting die.
Tooling or cutting dies for plastic corrugated are priced very similar to the cutting dies needed for fiber corrugated. They are manufactured from wood and steel rule. The die or tooling can either be made flat or curved depending on the type of equipment that will be used to produce your product. The steel rule has either a sharp edge for cutting or a flat or rounded edge for creasing to make the folds in the container. The main difference is that plastic corrugated needs different cutting edges as well as a slightly different scoring configuration. Plastic corrugated also needs additional pressure due to the memory of the material during the die cutting process to cut and crease the plastic.
When we are producing containers or other parts from heavier gauges of plastic corrugated we often use a special tool and heated die cutter to not only cut and crease the plastic but to heat the scoring to allow the item fold easier after production.
Example of a flat cutting die: