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Publication numberUS20050230420 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/149,665
Publication dateOct 20, 2005
Filing dateJun 10, 2005
Priority dateNov 9, 2001
Also published asCA2466182A1, CA2466182C, CN1602271A, CN100400392C, EP1453737A1, EP1453737A4, EP1453737B1, EP1453737B8, US20030136798
Publication number11149665, 149665, US 2005/0230420 A1, US 2005/230420 A1, US 20050230420 A1, US 20050230420A1, US 2005230420 A1, US 2005230420A1, US-A1-20050230420, US-A1-2005230420, US2005/0230420A1, US2005/230420A1, US20050230420 A1, US20050230420A1, US2005230420 A1, US2005230420A1
InventorsMark Smith, Michael Wilford
Original AssigneeSmith Mark A, Michael Wilford
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Flexible plastic container
US 20050230420 A1
Abstract
A flexible polymeric container for storing and dispensing liquids includes a first sidewall and a second sidewall connected together to define a fluid chamber therebetween. The first sidewall and the second sidewall each have an inner surface facing the fluid chamber and an opposed outer surface. A fitment is attached to an outer surface of one of the first sidewall or the second sidewall. The fitment has an opening therethrough which has an axis substantially perpendicular to the outer surface. A plurality of objects on the inner surface of one of the first sidewall or the second sidewall defines a plurality of pathways having at least a first pathway and a second pathway intersecting one another.
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Claims(18)
1. A flexible polymeric container for storing and dispensing liquids comprising:
a first sidewall and a second sidewall connected together to define a fluid chamber therebetween, the first sidewall and the second sidewall each having an inner surface facing the fluid chamber and an opposed outer surface;
a fitment attached to the first sidewall or the second sidewall, the fitment having an opening therethrough having an axis substantially perpendicular to the outer surface;
a plurality of objects on the inner surface of one of the first sidewall or the second sidewall, the objects including a first set of objects with a first shape and a second set of objects with a second shape different from the first shape to define a pattern of a plurality of pathways having at least a first pathway and a second pathway intersecting one another, the first pathway and the second pathway each having a depth of greater than 1 mil but less than 8 mils.
2. The container of claim 1 wherein the pattern is generally a checkerboard pattern.
3. The container of claim 1 wherein each of the first set of objects has a generally circular shape.
4. The container of claim 1 wherein each of the first set of objects has a polygonal shape.
5. The container of claim 1 wherein each of the first set of objects has an irregular shape.
6. The container of claim 1 wherein each of the first set of objects is generally S-shaped.
7. The container of claim 6 wherein the S-shaped objects extend from a first end of the container to a second end of the container.
8. The container of claim 1 wherein the pattern extends over an entire surface of the first sidewall or the second sidewall.
9. The container of claim 1 wherein the plurality of pathways are of a depth of less than 5 mils.
10. The container of claim 1 wherein the plurality of pathways are of a depth of a range of 1 mil to 4 mils.
11. The container of claim 1 wherein each of the first set of objects is generally teardrop shaped and each of the second set of objects is generally circular shaped.
12. The container of claim 1 wherein the container further includes a separate piece of flexible material secured to the sidewall of the container in an area behind the opening of the fitment.
13. A method for evacuating a fluid from a container comprising the steps of:
providing a liquid filled container having a sidewall having an inner surface;
providing a plurality of objects on the inner surface of the sidewall, the objects including a first set of objects with a first shape and a second set of objects with a second shape different from the first shape to define a plurality of channels having at least a first channel and a second channel intersecting one another, the first channel and the second channel each having a depth of greater than 1 mil but less than 8 mils;
providing a fitment attached to of the sidewall, the fitment having an opening therethrough having an axis substantially perpendicular to the outer surface; and
applying a suction to the fitment to draw fluid from the container.
14. The method of claim 13 wherein in the step of applying suction to draw fluid from the container, the fluid is substantially completely drawn from the container.
15. The method of claim 13 wherein the container is placed inside of a box before applying suction to the fitment.
16. A flexible polymeric container for storing and dispensing liquids comprising:
a first sidewall and a second sidewall connected together to define a fluid chamber therebetween, the first sidewall and the second sidewall each having an inner surface facing the fluid chamber and an opposed outer surface;
a fitment attached to one of the first sidewall or the second sidewall, the fitment having an opening therethrough having an axis substantially perpendicular to the outer surface; and
a plurality of objects formed on the inner surface of one of the first sidewall or the second sidewall during the fabrication of the sidewall, the objects including at least a first set of objects with a first shape and a second set of objects with a second shape different from the first shape and defining a pattern of a plurality of pathways having at least a first pathway and a second pathway intersecting one another, each pathway having a depth of greater than 1 mil but less than 8 mils.
17. The container of claim 16 wherein the container further includes a separate piece of material secured to the sidewall of the container in an area opposite the opening of the fitment.
18. The container of claim 17 wherein the separate piece of material is heat-sealed to the sidewall of the container.
Description
RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/291,344 filed on Nov. 8, 2002, which is a continuation-in part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/037,295 filed on Dec. 21, 2001 which claims priority from Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/332,463 filed on Nov. 9, 2001.

TECHNICAL FIELD

The present invention relates generally to a flexible plastic container and more particularly to a flexible container for directing a flowable material contained therein to a fitment of the container and dispensing the flowable material.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Collapsible plastic bags are often used to store liquid products such as chemicals, soft drink syrup, fruit juices and food condiments. The plastic bags are typically housed in a corrugated paperboard box to aid in the transporting, handling and dispensing of the product. Such packaging systems are commonly referred to as “bag-in-box” packaging systems.

The plastic bags typically have sidewalls sealed along a peripheral seam to define a fluid containing chamber. A spout or a fitment provides access to the fluid chamber for filling and dispensing the product within the bag. Vacuum pump systems are sometimes connected to the container to assist in draining fluid from the container. Both gravity dispensing bags and vacuum pump systems suffer from the common drawback that fluid may become trapped within the folds of the bag during draining. Because of this, evacuation channels are often placed within the bag. Evacuation channels are typically elongate cylindrical tubes or flat strips with protruding ribs defining grooves. Typically, one end of the evacuation channel is disposed transverse to, or is connected to the spout, and the other end of the evacuation channel extends into the fluid containing chamber of the bag. As the bag is emptied by the force of the vacuum pump, or by the force of gravity, portions of the bag collapse unevenly, tending to leave pockets of product, typically liquid, which may become isolated from the rest of the liquid in the container. The evacuation channel, however, forms a conduit which cannot be closed off by the folds created in the bag. In this manner the entire chamber of the flexible bag remains in communication with the spout at all times during the dispensing such that all product within the bag can be removed.

Prior attempts to provide such bags are disclosed in U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,601,410; 5,647,511 and 5,749,493. U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,601,410 and 5,647,511 disclose a liquid container with an evacuation unit. In both the '410 and '511 patents, the evacuation unit is shown attached directly to the spout by a mounting ring. Several problems have been encountered with these types of evacuation units. For example, during the filling process, which is typically done in a high speed and high pressure process, the evacuation unit is susceptible of being dislodged from the spout thereby rendering the evacuation unit inoperative. Also, the attaching ring can impede the flow of liquid during the filling process thereby slowing the filling process.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,749,493 discloses an evacuation unit positioned within a bag and transverse and perpendicular to a spout in the bag. Because the evacuation unit is positioned in a location that is in line with the incoming fluid during the filling process, it is susceptible of being dislodged from its mounting to the container thereby rendering it ineffective. The '493 Patent also discloses extruding a pair of ribs or a single rib or protuberance extending the length of the container.

Many of the designs which utilize an evacuation unit positioned within the bag require that the unit be placed into the bag after the bag has been substantially constructed. This is highly undesirable because it adds another step to the manufacturing process and increases the labor costs.

U.S. Pat. No. Re. 34,929 discloses a plastic bag having interconnected air channels on its inner surface for the vacuum packaging of perishable items. The air channels are formed by the spaces between a plurality of raised protuberances having uniform thickness and formed in a generally regular and waffle-like pattern. The protuberances prevent the total collapse of the bag during air evacuation.

U.S. Pat. No. 2,778,171 discloses the production of airtight packages for packaging perishable items such as food. Projections are provided near an opening of the airtight package for keeping sidewalls of the container from fully collapsing against one another while air is being evacuated from the container.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,728,086 discloses a flexible container having multiple access ports and particularly discloses a container for storing fluids for parenteral administration to a patient. An inner surface of a sidewall of the container can have various patterns embossed thereon to assist in draining the contents of the container.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides a flexible polymeric container for storing and dispensing liquids. The container has a first sidewall and a second sidewall connected together to define a fluid chamber therebetween. The first sidewall and the second sidewall each have an inner surface facing the fluid chamber and an opposed outer surface. A fitment is attached to an outer surface of one of the first sidewall or the second sidewall, the fitment having an opening therethrough having an axis substantially perpendicular to the outer surface. A plurality of objects are positioned on the inner surface of one of the first sidewall or the second sidewall to define a plurality of pathways having at least a first pathway and a second pathway intersecting one another.

The present invention further provides a flexible polymeric container for storing and dispensing liquids. The container has a first sidewall and a second sidewall connected together to define a fluid chamber therebetween, the first sidewall and the second sidewall each having an inner surface facing the fluid chamber and an opposed outer surface and an access member for accessing the fluid chamber. A plurality of a first set of objects having a first shape is positioned on the inner surface of one of the first sidewall or the second sidewall. A plurality of a second set of objects having a second shape different from the first shape is positioned on the inner surface of one of the first sidewall or the second sidewall.

The present invention further provides a method for evacuating a fluid from a container. The method includes the steps of: (1) providing a liquid filled container having a sidewall having an inner surface and an outer surface, (2) providing a plurality of objects on the inner surface of the sidewall to define a plurality of pathways having at least a first channel and a second channel intersecting one another; (3) providing a fitment attached to the outer surface, the fitment having an opening therethrough having an axis substantially perpendicular to the outer surface; and (4) applying a suction to the fitment to draw fluid from the container. In a preferred method according to the present invention, the container is placed in a box before suction is applied to withdraw fluid from the container.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a container having a fitment;

FIG. 2 is a side view of the container of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a sidewall of the container of FIG. 1 having objects having varying shapes;

FIG. 4 is a sidewall of the container of FIG. 1 having a plurality of regularly spaced rectangular protuberances to define a checkerboard pattern; and

FIG. 5 is a sidewall of the container of FIG. 1 having circular protuberances together forming a circular pattern with a series of X-shaped protuberances forming S-shaped lines and further forms a trademark owned by the Pepsi-Cola Company.

FIG. 6 is a sidewall of the container of FIG. 1 having teardrop protuberances together with circular protuberances.

FIG. 7 is a sidewall of the container of FIG. 1 having a separate piece of material secured to the sidewall in the area opposite the opening of the fitment.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

While this invention is susceptible of embodiment in many different forms, herein will be described in detail with the accompanying figures, a preferred embodiment of the invention. The present disclosure is to be considered as an exemplification of the principles of the invention and is not intended to limit the broad aspect of the invention to the embodiments illustrated and described.

FIGS. 1 and 2 show a flexible container assembly 10 having a first sidewall 12 and a second sidewall 13 attached at peripheral edges 14 to define a fluid tight chamber 16. A spout 18 is attached to an outer surface of the sidewall 12 and provides fluid flow access to the chamber 16. In a preferred form of the invention, the first and second sidewalls 12 and 13 are a flexible polymeric material having a modulus of elasticity of less than 50,000 psi. The sidewalls preferably are made from materials such as homopolymers and copolymers of polyolefins, polyamides, polyesters or other material that are capable of being sealed using standard conduction sealing techniques. The sidewalls may be multilayered or single layered and may be fabricated from any suitable polymer processing technology including extrusion, coextrusion, extrusion lamination, lamination or other. The container can be made from individual sheets placed in registration and sealed along the periphery 14 or can be made from a blown film process where only opposing ends of a tube need be sealed to complete the container 10.

FIG. 3 shows a plurality of objects 20 on the sidewall 12. The objects 20 can be positioned on a single sidewall or both. The objects, in a preferred form of the invention, are provided over an entire surface of the sidewall but could be provided only in select areas of the surface. The objects can be of any shape including regular shapes such as circular, polygonal, straight or curved lines, symbols or the like. The objects can also be irregular shaped. These objects 20 assist in draining fluid from the chamber 16 as is discussed in more detail below. The objects 20 can be raised protuberances or indentations in these shapes. The objects can be all of the same shapes or be of a combination of shapes. The objects can be of varying sizes provided the objects are effective to provide miniature fluid pathways through the container when the fluid or particulate contents of container is being evacuated.

The objects 20 can form a regular pattern or an irregular pattern. The regular pattern includes objects being placed at the same or essentially the same spacing or a repeating sequence of spacings. The irregular pattern is one where the objects are generally randomly distributed.

In a preferred form of the invention as shown in FIG. 4, a regularly spaced pattern of rectangular-shaped objects 30 having pathways 32 defined therebetween. This checkerboard pattern has at least a first pathway 33 intersecting a second pathway 34. In a preferred form of the invention the pathways intersect at substantially perpendicular to one another. However, it is contemplated the intersection of pathways 32 can form various angles without departing from the present invention.

FIG. 5 shows another preferred form of the invention having a series of circular protuberances 40 together with X-shaped protuberances 44. The circular protuberances 40 define a circular shape 42. The X-shaped protuberances 44 define a S-shaped pattern 46. FIG. 6 shows yet another preferred form of the invention wherein the objects 20 have a generally teardrop shape 48. Of course it is contemplated that any combination of shapes of protuberances can be used and that more than two different shapes can be used. The present invention further contemplates that the individual protuberances can form varying indicia such as a trademark, tradename, logo, instructions for use or other identifying or useful information or advertising that can be viewed through the sidewall 12 or 14 or both.

The objects can be formed on the inner surface of sidewall 12 or sidewall 14 or both by techniques well known in the art including embossing during the fabrication of the sidewall, or embossing afterwards. The pattern can also be applied by an extrusion coating process or similar process. The objects can be pressed into the sidewalls with a shaped die. Numerous other mechanisms and processes come to mind for forming the objects which are well known in the art and the present invention should not be limited to the processes recited above. The pathways 32 and 33 of the pattern are preferably of a depth greater than or equal to 1 mil, or less than 8 mils, and even more preferably less than 5 mils. Most preferably, the pathways 32 and 33 will have a depth of from about 1 mil to about 4 mils.

The exact mechanism by which the pathways 32 and 33 assist in evacuating fluid from the container is unclear. It appears that the pathways 32 and 33 are by themselves too small to provide sufficient fluid flow for nearly complete evacuation of the container. Indeed, it has been observed that because of the pressure exerted during evacuation and the flexible nature of the container, the protuberances on the surfaces of the sidewalls 12 and 14 can interlock not only with other protuberances, but also with the pathways between those protuberances located on opposite sidewalls of the container 10. Because of the interlocking that occurs, fluid flow to the spout can be inhibited. Nevertheless, without being limited to theory, it appears that the pathways 32 and 33 assist in dispersing fluid through the pathways into creases formed within the container during evacuation. It is believed that the predominant fluid flow occurs through the creases and that flow evacuates fluid from the container. Fluid flow through the pathways is minimal. This is particularly true when the container is placed in a corrugated box which is typically used in bag-in-box applications as discussed in more detail below.

The fitment 18 has an opening 50 having an axis essentially perpendicular to the sidewall 12 of the container. It is contemplated the fitment 18 can be mounted at various angles to the sidewall without departing from the present invention. The fitment 18 provides fluid access to the contents of the chamber 16. FIG. 7 shows another preferred form of the invention where a separate piece of material 60 may be placed on sidewall 13 in the area opposite the opening 50. The separate piece of material 60 can be formed from a variety of polymeric materials discussed above and can be secured to the container wall by heat sealing, adhesives or other conventional methods. The separate piece of material 60 acts to reinforce the sidewall 13 so that more creases can be formed in the container 10 during evacuation. As discussed above, the creases assist in evacuating fluid from the container.

Typically, container 10 is used for housing liquids such as soft drink syrup which are withdrawn from the container under pressure with a hose and mixed at a fountain with a diluent such as soda water. The hose (not shown) has an attachment for connecting to the fitment in a fluid and airtight arrangement. A vacuum pressure is applied to the fitment 18 through the hose to withdraw fluid under pressure from the container. Of course, the fitment 18 may be attached to the first or second sidewall 12, 13 or both and may be located at any location thereon.

The present invention further provides a process for evacuating the container shown in FIG. 1. The method for evacuating a fluid from a container comprises the steps of: (1) providing a liquid filled container having a sidewall having an inner surface; (2) providing a plurality of objects on the inner surface of the sidewall to define a plurality of channels having at least a first channel and a second channel intersecting one another; (3) providing a fitment attached to an outer surface of the sidewall, the fitment having an opening therethrough having an axis substantially perpendicular to the outer surface; and (4) applying a suction to the fitment to draw fluid from the container.

In a preferred example of the process for evacuating the container, the container is first placed inside of a box before suction is applied to withdraw the fluid from the container. The box can formed from any material and can be any shape or size. Preferably, the box will be fabricated from a corrugated material that is typically used in standard bag-in-box applications. Moreover, the box will be sized so that it is slightly smaller than the flexible container. As a result, the container 10 will be slightly compressed when placed in the box further ensuring that creases will be formed during evacuation.

While the specific embodiments have been described, numerous modifications come to mind without significantly departing from the spirit of the invention and the scope of protection is only limited by the scope of the accompanying claims. This design is just one example of a pattern design having these favorable characteristics, and disclosure of it is merely one example of a design having its favorable characteristics, others of which are not significant departures from the spirit of the invention.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
EP2019788A2 *Mar 13, 2007Feb 4, 2009DS Smith Plastics LimitedFlexible plastic container
Classifications
U.S. Classification222/107
International ClassificationB65D77/06, B65D35/02, B65D35/54, B65D35/08, B65D35/56, B65D35/14, B65D33/36, B65D35/16, B65D35/28
Cooperative ClassificationB65D75/5877, B65D77/065, B65D77/062, B65D2231/002
European ClassificationB65D77/06B, B65D77/06B2, B65D75/58G3A