CROSS REFERENCE TO OTHER APPLICATION
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
This application claims priority of U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/322,041, which was filed on Sep. 14, 2001.
- BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
The present invention relates to the field of retail sales packages and more particularly to retail sales packages that are at least partly transparent.
A retail sales package has two primary purposes: to protect the product enclosed from damage or soiling and to catch the attention of the potential purchaser. Many known packages accomplish these goals in different ways. Some of these known packages involve a partial clear plastic resin and partial opaque product enclosure that protects the product and maintains partial product visibility, such as a paperboard box with a plastic window. Other packages have been known to fully enclose the product in a plastic resin casing. The drawback of the paperboard box is that the only visibility possible is through the window portion and the window is generally a minor amount of the total package surface area. The drawback of the full plastic package is that the amount of printing on a plastic surface is limited.
A specific full plastic package encloses the product in a cavity with a printed panel on either side of the product. The cavity portion and the mating planar portion of the plastic package are connected in one of two ways. The first way is to form the two portions of a single sheet with a hinge between, connecting the edges opposite the hinge with snaps. This package has the drawback of not being securely sealed. The second way is to form the two portions of two sheets and assembling them to one another with an adhesive between a pair of mating flanges. This package requires that the flange be comparatively wide and has the additional drawback that the adhesive between clear plastic sheets is unattractive. Partly because of the appearance of the adhesive seal, this package is placed on display with the cavity as its front side. Any printing on the plastic sheet from which the cavity is formed would tend to become distorted during thermoforming. Therefore, a separate sheet is printed and inserted, which presents a further drawback by requiring the insertion step.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
The present invention overcomes the drawbacks of the known retail sales packages and accomplishes an advance in the field by providing a novel and useful retail sales package as described below.
FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the retail sales package of the invention.
FIG. 2 is an exploded side elevation view of the retail sales package of the invention; and
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
FIG. 3 depicts tooling arrangement and its use in assembling the package of the present invention.
- DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT
A pair of opposed plastic package portions are prepared, one having a cavity formed to receive a product and a printed sheet therewithin. The two portions may optionally have holes punched through for permitting a potential purchaser to touch the product enclosed. The printed card is placed within the cavity so as to be visible from outside the package and the product is placed on the card in the cavity. The second plastic package portion is printed on its inner surface in reverse orientation and the two portions are placed in contact with one another at their peripheral flanges. A sealing device, for example a high frequency vibratory sealer, is employed to seal the flanges together. The sealing operation is also used to form a hole by which the package may be suspended from a peg rack with a bonded flange surrounding the hole.
According to the accompanying drawings, retail sales package 10 of the invention is illustrated in perspective view in FIG. 1 and in exploded side elevation view in FIG. 2. Retail sales package 10 is useful for a variety of products in a retail environment, and particularly useful for encasing and displaying insoles for shoe use, which are commonly displayed for sale on a peg rack. Back sheet 12 is formed preferably of a planar sheet or strip of clear thermoplastic resin that is receptive of printing and also capable of being fused by known mechanical or thermal processes. A preferred plastic resin that has been found to perform according to the requirements of the invention, particularly sealing, is polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Back sheet 12 is configured with a cavity 20 that is sized to enclose the product for retail presentation in package 10. Cavity 20 is, according to the preferred embodiment, formed in back sheet 12 by vacuum forming or thermoforming, as is known in the industry. A flange 18 extends outwardly around all sides of cavity 20 for a minimum width W that is sufficient to achieve a secure bond when package 10 is completed. For reasons of efficiency, it is preferred that sheet 12 is large enough to form a plurality of cavities 20, e.g. eight, as will be described further below. The overall market appeal of package 10 is enhanced by flange 18 being as narrow as practical. Width W of flange 18 is on the order of 3 mm (⅛ inch), but may be narrower as desired. Planar portion 28 extends outwardly from one end of cavity 20 to provide an area from which package 10 may be mounted to a display panel, for example a peg rack. Hang hole 22 and optional touch hole 30 are formed as explained below.
After forming cavity 20, back sheet 12 is removed from the planar sheet or strip by punching or die-cutting operations as are known. The dimensions of back sheet 12 after being removed from the planar plastic sheet are large enough to provide planar portion 28 and flange 18 beyond cavity 20. Cavity 20 is depicted as being oval in contour, although different shapes are considered to be within the scope of the invention. If a touch hole 30 is desired to enable a potential purchaser to feel the product placed within package 10, touch hole 30 is formed at the time that back sheet 12 is removed from the larger planar sheet. It is preferred not to form hang hole 22 at this stage for reasons that will be come apparent from the description below.
Front sheet 14 is formed from a planar sheet of plastic resin that is preferably from the resin family of which the plastic resin for back sheet 12 is made, i.e. PVC, both for reasons of compatible appearance and for bonding integrity. Front sheet 14 is sized to be substantially congruent with back sheet 12. As noted above with respect to back sheet 12, front sheet 14 is initially part of a single large sheet that includes a plurality, e.g. eight, of individual front sheets 14. Front sheet 14 is shown as being substantially planar; however, front sheet 14 may be formed with a second cavity according to the shape of the product to be enclosed. Front sheet 14 may be formed with a hole (not shown) similar to touch hole 30 in back sheet 12. The optional hole in front sheet 14 may be in a matching location to or a different location from touch hole 30 in back sheet 12. Front sheet 14 is printed according to the discretion of the user prior to being assembled to back sheet 12. The printing of front sheet 14 is applied to inner surface 24 of front sheet 14, thus requiring the printed portions 16 a and 16 b, for example, to be in reverse orientation. By printing the inner surface of front sheet 14, the printing is not susceptible to being scratched or damaged in any way once the retail sales package is sealed shut. If a touch hole is formed in front sheet 14, a design or message printing associated with such a touch hole may be desired. According to the preferred embodiment, retail sales package 10 is intended to be displayed with front sheet 14 visible to the purchaser and with cavity 20 positioned to the rear. The invention recognizes that it is difficult to print the inner surface of cavity 20 and not practical to print the outer surface thereof. Furthermore, printing on an outside surface is prone to damage by scuffing. Therefore, printing the inner surface of planar front sheet 14 provides the most preferred solution.
Referring now to FIG. 2, the process of assembling retail sales package 10 is illustrated in an exploded side view. A further component of package 10 is card 26. Card 26 is formed of a size to be able to nest within cavity 26. Card 26 is optionally made in a shape and size to conform to the contour of cavity 26, e.g. oval. If touch hole 30 is formed in back sheet 12 through the portion including cavity 26, a matching hole is required to be formed in card 26. Card 26 is preferably printed with information and merchandising messages for the product being packaged for sale. Card 26 may optionally be multiple sheets that are folded for expanded printing area or other purposes.
The assembly of the retail sales package 10 of the invention is illustrated in FIG. 2. Card 26 is placed into cavity 20 of back sheet 12 with the face surface of card 26 against the inner surface of cavity 20. In the embodiment contemplated having eight cavities formed in a single sheet and six printed portions formed on another sheet, a card 26 is placed into each of eight cavities 20. A product P (shown in dashed lines), for example a pair of insoles, is next placed into each cavity 20. Front sheet 14 is now placed against back sheet 12 with inner surface 24 closest to product P and with the optional touch hole in back sheet 12 within the area of cavity 20. The edges of front sheet 14 and back sheet 12 are aligned and the sheets are sealed to one another to weld a periphery around each of six cavities 20, preferably by being held between a pair of opposed jaws that are vibrated at a high frequency, such as is known as radio frequency bonding. Front sheet 14 and back sheet 12 are thus welded to one another at their respective flange portions with a permanent bond that is typically as strong as or stronger than the sheet material itself. The bonding jaws are shaped to cause the large plastic sheets to separate into multiple individual packages as the flange portions are being fused. The jaws that hold and seal the opposed edges of sheets 12 and 14 additionally have a portion adapted for forming an opening for hang hole 22. The jaws are configured to create a fused flange portion around hang hole 22 that is equal to or less than the width W of flange 18. The fused flange portion around hang hole 22 adds to the integrity of retail sales package 10. Hang hole 22 is located on planar portion 28 (see FIG. 1) in alignment with the center of gravity of product P to ensure vertical hanging of package 10. In the case of certain products P, a plurality of hang holes, e.g. two, may be formed through planar portion 28.
After retail sales package 10 is assembled by the process described, one may mount package 10 on a peg board with either major surface exposed, since the back surface adjacent back sheet 12 contains printing on card 26 and front sheet 14 is directly printed on its inner surface 24. However, as described, retail sales package 10 is intended to be displayed with front sheet 14 positioned outwardly, thus enabling product P to have maximum marketing impact.
FIG. 3 depicts a tooling arrangement for rapid assembly of plural packages of the type embodied by the present invention. The arrangement of FIG. 3 includes an exemplary eight openings 302, each of which conforms to the size, shape and position of each of an array of eight cavities similar to the cavity 20 previously described.
When it is desired to assemble plural packages of the type described, a single bottom sheet comprising an exemplary eight cavities (not shown) is positioned into the tool 301, with the cavities fitting within openings 302. The bottom sheet is formed with a pair of holes that are positioned to engage pins 310-311 of tool 301 to ensure proper sheet orientation. In an optional next step, a paper or cardboard insert may be placed into each cavity with printing on it, the printing being preferably face down so as to show through the packaging. Optionally, the printing may be on both sides of the insert, or on either one side. The product P (see FIG. 2) is next placed into the cavity.
The next step comprises placing a sheet 303 over the tooling apparatus. Sheet 303 includes printing on the bottom surface thereof, with each printed portion corresponding to one of the packages described herein. As described above, the printing on sheet 303 is oriented so that the message is readable from the outside when the package is sealed. Sheet 303 contains positioning holes 304-305, which fit over pins 310-311 on tool 301 in order to ensure that the printed portions 320 are aligned with the openings 302 prior to sealing. Other identifying devices, for example positioned notches on the edge of sheet 303 or varied shaped pins, are contemplated.
In an additional embodiment, pin 310 is removed from the position shown and inserted at one of positions 312. In this manner, different sheets 303 with hole 305 at different locations can be utilized, with each type of sheet having the holes formed at a predefined location. By utilizing such a hole-positioning system, sheets with different characteristics can be used, and it is less likely that a mistake in packaging will be made. Specifically, if sheets 303 printed with packaging for men's products are being utilized, then a sheet 303 inadvertently mixed in, but labeled for women's products, will not fit onto the tooling. Thus, the men's products will not inadvertently be placed into women's packaging.
Once sheet 303 is aligned, it is sealed to the bottom sheet around the border of each printed portion 320, leaving a small amount of excess of sheet 303 to be peeled away after the sealing process. In the case of ultrasonic sealing, the sealing process will itself sever the excess and allow it to be easily lifted by an operator.
While the present invention is described with respect to specific embodiments thereof, it is recognized that various modifications and variations thereof may be made without departing from the scope and spirit of the invention, which is more clearly understood by reference to the claims appended hereto.