This application is a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/681,925 filed on Oct. 9, 2003 which is a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/414,899 filed on Apr. 16, 2003.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
1. Field of the Invention
The present invention generally relates to closure means for containers and more specifically to an air-tight snap closure for allowing re-opening and re-closing of a container for keeping the freshness of the container contents.
2. Discussion of the Related Art
Various off-the-shelf goods, such as food products, are distributed in sealed packages to ensure that the package was not opened before purchasing, to prevent spillage of contents and to prevent exposure of the package contents to ambient atmosphere. For various food products it is also common to seal the package under vacuum, as is well known in the art, for better protecting the products. Once purchased, the initial seal is broken in order to access the package contents. However, many times the contents of the package are not consumed immediately but over a period of time. For this reason, there exist various secondary closure means which allow re-closing and re-opening of a container after the container is first opened and serves both for preventing accidental spillage of the contents and for keeping the freshness of the contents by minimizing the exposure of the container contents to air. Re-closable closures appear in different forms and may be provided either as an integral part of the container or as a separate unit. One family type of such closures comprises two compatible parts deposited on opposite walls of a container which when pressed together form a tight sealing. The two parts may be secured either on the inner or on the outer surfaces of the container walls. In the first case, when closed, the two closure parts are in immediate contact with each other. In the second case, the walls of the container are interposed between the closure members. External closures have some advantages to internal closures. External closure can be attached to a container after it has already been filled and sealed while inner closures can be attached only to empty containers, thus, the step of securing an inner closure must be integrated into the packages production line. Securing an external closure to a package, on the other hand, can be performed at a later stage, hence offering more flexibility. Furthermore, internal closures do not fit for some goods, such as for example powder-like products, which tend to accumulate on the closure surface, hindering the closure operation.
Known external closure means, although superior to inner closure, still suffer from a number of drawbacks. One such a drawback is the limit to the separation that can be obtained between the two opposite walls of the container for forming a mouth or an opening sufficiently large to allow convenient access to the container contents This drawback is particularly crucial for bags known in the art as non-gusseted bags, where the two walls of the container are directly connected to each other with no intermediate side walls. Another drawback is the extent of the force that should be applied in order to separate the two parts of the closure. Yet another drawback is that for non-gusseted packages a continuous pressure should be applied to the closure in order to maintain the closure in the open position.
Accordingly, it is the object of the present invention to provide an air-tight closure means for containers which can be used with any container and in particular with non-gusseted as well as with gusseted packages and which is easily opened without applying much forces.
It is another object to provide such a closure which when opened forms a well defined mouth or an opening that remains open with no need to apply further pressure by the user.
It is another object of the invention to provide such a closure that is inexpensive and is easily produced and applied to any container.
Other advantages of the invention will be apparent from the following description.
SUMMARY OF THE PRESENT INVENTION
The present invention provides a re-closable container that allows for re-closing the package after it is initially opened and for enhancing accessibility to the container contents when opened by providing a pouring mouth. The package comprises two opposite wall, a seal strip comprising of two seal portions of different widths provided at the top of the package and a closure secured to the package below one of the potions. The seal strip extends from one end side end of the package to opposite end side thereof. One portion of the seal strip extends from the top to a first distance below the top and the second seal portion extends from the top to a second distance below the top wherein the second distance is larger than said first distance. The closure is disposed below the first seal portion substantially parallel thereto so as to leave an unsealed strip between the closure and the first seal portion. The closure, having substantially the length of the first portion, extends from one end side of the package and up to the second seal portion having its top edge positioned at a distance larger than the first distance and smaller than the second distance. The closure comprises an elongated male unit and an elongated female unit configured to snap fit into each other. The male and female units are secured to the outer surfaces of the two opposite walls of the package. The first seal portion and the second seal portion may be separated by a vertical sealing line. The package may be an asymmetric one-side gusseted package or a symmetric two-side gusseted package wherein the closure is disposed across the gusset when the gusset is folded inwardly. Alternatively the package may be a non-gusseted bag having one of its upper corners folded inwardly wherein the closure is disposed across the folded corner. The closure may include at least one pull tongue member connected to the male or female closure units for facilitating opening the closure.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
The present invention will be understood and appreciated more fully from the following detailed description taken in conjunction with the drawings in which:
FIGS. 1A and 1B illustrate a non-gusseted flexible bag with a closure in accordance with a first embodiment of the present invention in closed and open positions, respectively;
FIGS. 1C and 1D are a cross sectional view along lines C and D of FIGS. 1A and 1B, respectively;
FIGS. 2A and 2B illustrate a gusseted flexible bag with a re-closable closure in accordance with a second embodiment of the present invention in closed and open positions respectively;
FIGS. 2C and 2D are a cross sectional view along lines C and D of FIGS. 2A and 2B, respectively;
FIGS. 3A-3C illustrate a flexible bag with a closure in accordance with a third embodiment the present invention; FIG. 3A illustrates the bag before initial seal is broken; FIG. 3B illustrates the bag in a closed position after the initial seal is broken; FIG. 3C illustrates the bag in an open position;
FIGS. 4A-4C illustrate a one-side gusseted or a two-side gusseted flexible bag with a closure in accordance with a fourth embodiment of the invention; FIG. 4A illustrates the bag before initial seal is broken; FIG. 4B illustrates the bag in a closed position after the initial seal is broken; FIG. 4C illustrates the bag in an open position;
FIG. 5 illustrate a non-gusseted flexible bag with a closure in accordance with a fifth embodiment of the invention; FIG. 5A illustrates the bag before initial seal is broken; FIG. 5B illustrates the bag in a closed position after the initial seal is broken; FIG. 5C illustrates the bag in an open position;
FIGS. 6A-6C illustrate a flexible bag with a closure in accordance with a sixth embodiment the present invention; FIG. 6A illustrates the bag before initial seal is broken or removed; FIG. 6B illustrates the bag in a closed position after the initial seal is broken or removed; FIG. 6C illustrates the bag in an open position;
FIGS. 7A-7C illustrate a flexible bag with a closure in accordance with a seventh embodiment the present invention; FIG. 7A illustrates the bag before initial seal is broken; FIG. 7B illustrates the bag in a closed position after the initial seal is broken; FIG. 7C illustrates the bag in an open position;
FIG. 7D is a cross sectional view of the closure of FIG. 7A before the closure is secured to the bag;
FIGS. 8A and 8B illustrate a flexible bag with a re-closable closure in accordance with a eighth embodiment of the present invention in closed and open positions respectively;
FIG. 9 illustrates a method for attaching a closure member of the invention to a flexible bag in a perspective and a cross-sectional view, respectively;
FIG. 10 illustrates an alternative arrangement for attaching a closure member of the invention to a flexible bag.
FIG. 11 illustrate various tongue members for facilitating opening the closure of the invention; FIGS. 11A, 11C and 11E show the upper portion of a bag with a closure of the invention prior to breaking the seal; FIGS. 11B, 11D and 11F show the bags of 11A, 11B and 11C, respectively, in open position;
FIGS. 12A and 12B illustrate the upper portion of a bag with yet another embodiment of the invention in a closed and an open position.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT
The present invention provides an air-tight closure for a container for allowing re-closing the container after it is initially opened and for enhancing accessibility to the container contents when opened. The present invention is a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/414,899 filed on Apr. 16, 2003, the content of which is incorporated herein by reference.
Referring to the drawings, FIGS. 1A-1D show a closure, generally designated 10, in combination with a flexible bag, generally designated 20, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. The closure enables the bag to be re-closed and reused. The closure comprises two or more separate sections having a gap there between. Bag 20 comprises two opposite walls, a front wall 22 and a rear wall 24 connected at lateral sides 18 and sealed at their bottom and top by seals 34 and 36, respectively. The bag is preferably made of a single or multi layer sheet material such as plastic film, paper, metalized foil or combination thereof. Bag 20 may be formed from a sleeve or by connecting two sheets 22 and 24 or as more commonly known in the art, from a single folded sheet connected along the folded edges by a fin seal at the rear wall (not shown) to form a tube which is first sealed at the bottom (i.e., seal 34) to form a pocket and after the pocket is filled, the remaining top opening (i.e., the package mouth) is sealed by seal 36. One method to form seal 36 is by heat sealing the two walls directly to one another along transversely sealing lines, as shown in FIG. 1A, to form a sealing band. The sealing band can be made tearable by perforating or by laser scoring along a line just below the sealing band for facilitating tearing the band. Alternatively, the sealing band can be cut off by scissors. Other methods for sealing a package mouth may involve inclusion of a peelable strip between the inner surfaces of the walls, applying a sealant layer on the inner surfaces along a sealing line which breaks when the two upper edges of opposite walls are pulled apart, etc. It will be realized that any method known in the art for sealing a package may be used in conjunction with the present invention and that the sealing methods are not limited to what is shown.
Closure 10 is secured to bag 20 at a predetermined distance below seal 36, leaving unsealed portions 35 and 33 between seal 36 and the upper edge of closure 10. Closure 10 comprises a pair of male units 12 a and 12 b, attached to the external surface of wall 22 and a pair of female units 14 a and 14 b (not seen) attached to the external surface of rear wall 24 opposite male units 12. Male units 12 a and 12 b are rigid or semi rigid elongated members spaced apart by a small gap 21, adjacent to each other along their narrow end. Female units 14 a and 14 b are rigid elongated parts spaced apart by a corresponding gap (not seen), located opposite units 12 a and 12 b, respectively. The gap 21 can be a cut separating between male units 12 a and 12 b and between female units 14 a and 14 b. In an alternative embodiment, gap 21 comprises a gap a millimeter or more separating between male units 12 a and 12 b and separating between female units 14 a and 14 b. Gap 21 can be wider depending on the type of bag 20 and closure 10 material used. Male units 12 and female units 14 are having complementary profiles such that they snap fit into each other. As can be best seen in FIGS. 1C and 1D, male units 12 a and 12 b each comprises two flat elongated wings 11 and a middle elongated rounded projection 13 positioned there between. Male units 12 are attached to the external surface of wall 22 by adhesive layer generally designated 19, covering partly the inner surface of wings 11. Alternatively, units 12 may be secured to wall 22 by any other bonding or attaching technique, such as heat sealing, pressure sealing, sewing, pins attaching the respective faces, stapling and any other form of attaching. As can be seen, contact area 19 need not to cover the whole surface of wings 11, but can cover only the portions proximate to projection 13. Female units 14 a and 14 b comprise a middle rounded recess portion 15 having an outer surface 15 a and an inner surface 15 b positioned between two flat wings 16. Female units 14 a and 14 b are attached to the external surface of wall 24 by adhesive layer 19, or any other bonding technology, covering the inner surface 15 b of rounded recess portion 15. When closure 10 is secured to bag 20, units 12 and 14 are pressed against walls 22 and 24 such that walls 22 and 24 are folded to conform with the inner surface of units 12 and 14, respectively.
FIGS. 1A and 1B depict bag 20 in a closed and an open positions, respectively. Preferably, closure 10 is provided with bag 20 while the closure is in its closed position. In order to access the contents of bag 20, seal 36 is first broken or removed, then by pulling rims 33 and 35 outwardly, closure 10 is opened to form a wide open diamond shape mouth 40. It would be appreciated that although in the embodiment shown here, seal 36 is cut off, bag 20 may be provided with a any seal as described above. One such alternative exemplary seal is a piece of adhesive plastic or paper connecting rims 33, 35 placed along side rims 35, 36 or across said rims. Thus, when the seal is of the type that is opened by pulling apart the two opposite walls of the container, with no need to cut the seal, the closure of the invention may be secured to the container right below the seal with no need to leave rims between the seal and the closure.
Due to the construction of closure 10, mouth 40 remains in the opened position with no need for applying further forces. Mouth 40 provides a very convenient access to the contents of bag 20. Thus, the contents of the bag can be accessed either by inserting a scooping device, e.g., a spoon or fingers, through the mouth or by pouring the contents by tilting the bag. It will be appreciated that the rigid angled corner of mouth 40 facilitates pouring the bag contents in a directed manner without accidental spillage in the surrounding. It will be also appreciated that for a non-gusset bag, as bag 20, a wide-open mouth or opening which remains in an open position without applying further forces or pressure cannot be obtained with only one pair of male-female members. In order to re-close the bag, units 12 are pressed against units 14 for obtaining an air-tight closing. In the embodiment shown here, female units 14 are having some degree of elasticity in the vertical direction, i.e. in the direction of wings 16, for allowing rounded recess 15 to enlarge upon insertion of projection 13 and to apply pressure on projection 13 for forming tight contact between walls 2 and 24.
Closure 10 may be fabricated from any rigid or semi rigid material. For example, the closure may be fabricated from plastic materials such as polyethylene, polypropylene and the like by extrusion, by injection molding or by any other methods known in the art. Alternatively, the closure may be fabricated from a metal, a metal alloy or non-metal alloy such as aluminum.
FIG. 2 depict a second embodiment of a closure of the present invention, designated 50, in a combination with a gusseted package 60. Package 60 comprises two opposite walls 62 and 64, a flat bottom 63 and two side walls 65 folded inwardly along lines 67 to form gussets. Package 60 is preferably fabricated from a one layer or multi-layer flexible sheet folded and is sealed along folded edges to form a gusseted package in accordance with any method known in the art. Package 60 is sealed at its upper portion by seal 66 in a similar manner as explained in association with FIG. 1.
Closure 50 is secured to package 60 below seal 66 separating the interior of package 60 from its upper sealed portion. Closure 50 comprises a pair of male units 52 a and 52 b (not seen) disposed on wall 64 and a pair of female units 54 a and 54 b disposed on wall 62. Units 52 a and 52 b as well as units 54 a and 54 b are spaced apart by gap 71. After seal 66 is broken, closure 50 can be easily opened by pulling rims 73 and 75 apart to form mouth 70 as can be seen in FIG. 2B. Gaps 71, being weak points along the longitudinal axes of closure 50, serve as hinges for facilitating the opening of the closure without applying much force. The gaps 71 can be a cut separating between male units 52 a and 52 b and between female units 54 a and 54 b. In an alternative embodiment, gaps 71 comprise a gap a millimeter or more separating between male units 52 a and 52 b and separating between female units 54 a and 54 b. Gap 71 can be wider depending on the type of package 60 and closure 50 material used. The profiles of male members 52 and female 54 are best seen in FIGS. 2C and 2B. As is seen, female units 54, comprising two flat wings 56 and a rounded recess 55 positioned there between, are having a similar shape as female units 14 of FIG. 1. In accordance with the embodiment shown here, male units 52 are also having a similar profile, comprising a rounded unfilled projection 53 positioned between two wings 51, such that unlike male units 12 of FIG. 1, male units 52 are having a substantially uniform cross sectional thickness. In fact, male units 52 and female units 54 may be almost identical units, wherein the internal diameter of recess 55 is slightly larger than the external diameter of projection 53. The flexibility in the vertical axis, as explained above in conjunction with female members 14 of FIG. 1, allows for the insertion of members 52 into members 54.
It will be appreciated by persons skilled in the art that the male-female profiles of the closure of the invention may assume other shapes as well, and are not limited to what is shown here, as long as they have complementary profiles for providing tight contact between the male-female pair and the package walls interposed there between, when the closure is in the closed position.
FIG. 3 depict yet another embodiment of a gusseted package, designated 90, with a closure of the invention, designated 100. Closure 100 comprises two elongated male units 102 a and 102 b and two elongated female units 104 a and 104 b of a shape similar to male units 12 and female units 14 of FIG. 1, respectively. Package 90 comprises two opposite walls 92 and 94, a flat bottom 93 and two side walls 95 folded inwardly along lines 97. Package 90 is sealed at its upper portion by seal 96 comprising two portions of different widths, 96 a and 96 b, such that seal portion 96 a ends just above closure 100 or extends further downwardly and ends lower than the edge of closure 100, while portion 96 b ends a distance above closure 100, leaving an unsealed band 98 above the closure. The proportions of portions 96 a and 96 b and closure parts 102 a, 102 b can vary and are not limited by what is shown in FIGS. 3A, 3B, 3C. In an alternative embodiment of the present invention, portion 96 a can be shorter and portion 96 b can be longer than is shown and respective closure parts 102 a, 102 b, 104 a and 104 b can be in respective sizes to fit portions 96 a, 96 b. Package 90 is further provided with a vertical line seal 99 separating between portions 96 a and 96 b. Vertical seal 99 extends from top to substantially the lower end of closure 100. The lengths of male-female pair 102-104 a and pair 102-104 b match the lengths of seal portion 96 a and 96 b, respectively. In order to access the contents of package 90, the upper portion of the package is cut off or removed above closure 100 to leave an unsealed portion above closure pair 102-104 a, as shown in FIG. 3B, such that only pair 102-104 a is opened to form mouth 80, as shown in FIG. 3C. Thus, in accordance with this embodiment, the main role of male-female pair 102-104 b is to provide a barrier against erroneous cutting of the package.
FIG. 4 depict yet another embodiment of a re-closable package, generally designated 90′. Package 90′ comprises two opposite walls 92 and 94 and a flat bottom 93. In accordance with this embodiment, walls 92 and 94 may be connected to each other by two side walls 95 to form a symmetrical gusseted package or, alternatively, may be connected by only one side wall 95 interposed between side ends 92 a and 94 a of walls 92 and 94 respectively while their opposite side ends 92 b and 94 b may be directly connected to each other such as to form an asymmetrical one-side gusseted package. It will be realized that in accordance with the second alternative, bottom 93 is having a triangular shape. The upper part of package 90′ is sealed by a step-shaped seal strip 86 comprising two seal strips 86 a and 86 b of different widths. Seal strips 86 a and 86 b extend downwardly from the top toward bottom 93 to different extents. A vertical sealing line 89 may separate between the two seal strips 86 a and 86 b. A closure 105, comprising a male portion 106 and a female portion 108 is secured to the external faces of opposite walls 92 and 94 below and substantially parallel to narrower seal portion 86 a, leaving unsealed strip 88 between closure 105 and seal strip 86 a. Closure 105, having the length of narrower seal strip 86 a, extends from one end side of package 90′ to seal strip 86 b. Closure 105 as well as narrower strip seal 86 a are provided at a gusseted side of package 90′ so that the upper portion of side wall 95 is folded between units 106 and 108 of closure 105 and seal strip 86 a when package 90′ is closed. In order to access the contents of package 90′, the upper portion of the package is cut or torn off above closure 105 to leave unsealed strip 88 above closure 105, as shown in FIG. 4B. It will be realized that a horizontal perforated line (not shown) extending horizontally across the top of package 90 between strip 86 a and closure 105 or coinciding with the lower edge of portion 86 a may be provided for guiding the user to properly cut or tear off the top portion of package 90′. Package 90′ may then be opened by separating the two walls of strip 88 to open closure 105 and the upper portion of sidewall 95 is folded outwardly around folding line 97 to form a pouring mouth 80′, as shown in FIG. 4C. In order to re-close package 90, sidewall 95 is folded back inwardly and units 106 and 108 are snapped into each other. In accordance with the embodiment of FIG. 4, seal strip 86 b extends downwardly to a small extent below the lower edge of closure 105. However, it will be easily realized that seal strip 86 b may extend to a lesser extent, to end above or at the lower edge of closure 100′ providing it extends sufficiently below the upper edge of closure 100′ to ensure that package 90′ is cut so as to leave the right hand side of package 90 sealed. It will be also realized that the lengths of portions 86 a and 86 b, respectively, and accordingly of closure 105, may vary so as to provide a mouth of a required size.
An alternative embodiment of a re-closable package that is configured to provide a pouring mouth in its open position is depicted in FIG. 5. Package 140, Package 140 is a non-gusseted package comprising two opposite walls 142 and 144 and a sealed bottom 141. Package 140 may be formed from a sleeve, by connecting two opposite sheets, or, as more commonly known in the art, from a single folded sheet connected along the folded edges by a fin seal at rear wall 144 (not shown) to form a tube. After filling the package, one top corner 147 of package 140 is folded inwardly around an upper portion 143 a of end side 143 (as depicted in broken line in FIG. 5A) so as to form two overlapping triangular flaps. The top of the package 140 is then sealed by a step-shaped seal 148 comprising two seal strips 148 a and 148 b of different widths. A closure 135, comprising of a male unit 131 and a complementary female unit 133 of a structure as described above in association with FIGS. 1-4, is secured to the external faces of walls 142 and 144 below narrower seal strip 148 a. Closure 135 extends horizontally from the inner side edge 137 of seal strip 148 b and across folded corner 147. In order to access the contents of package 140, the upper portion of the package is cut or torn off above closure 135 to leave unsealed strip 138 above closure 135, as shown in FIG. 5B. A horizontal perforated line (not shown) extending across the top of package 140 between strip 148 a and closure 135 or coinciding with the lower edge of portion 148 a may be provided for guiding the user to properly cut or tear off the upper portion of package 140. Closure 135 can then be opened by separating the two triangular flaps of and unfolding corner 147 outwardly to form a pouring mouth 145, as shown in FIG. 5C. In order to re-close package 140, corner 147 is folded back inwardly and units 131 and 135 are snapped into each other. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 5, the original package, before folding and sealing is cut to have its upper edge substantially parallel to bottom 141. However, it will be realized that package 140 may be cut so as to have an extending triangular corner 147 such that when the corner is folded inwardly its upper edge will coincide with the upper edge of seal strip 148 and when folded out will provide a spout for facilitating pouring the contents of the package. its left corner extending above the a substantially rectangular shape.
Turning now to FIG. 6, there is shown another embodiment of the present invention according to which closure 112 is disposed diagonally on bag 122, extending between seal strap 126 and a lower point along the side edge of package 120 as shown in FIG. 6A. Closure 110 comprises two elongate male units 112 a and 112 b disposed on wall 122 and two female members disposed on the opposite wall (not seen). In order to access the contents of package 120, the left corner of the package is cut off or removed diagonally above closure 112 as shown in FIG. 6B and closure 110 is then opened to form mouth 130. The portion removed diagonally may be removed prior to or after the sale of package 120. The closure 110 can be added when the package is manufactured or by the user of package 120 after purchase.
FIG. 7 illustrate yet another embodiment of a closure of the invention, generally designated 150, secured to a package 160. Package 160, which only its upper part is illustrated here, can be of any type as previously described, including non-gusseted as well as gusseted packages. Closure 150 comprises two elongate pairs of male-female units, 152-154 a and 152-154 b (shown partly). In accordance with this embodiment each pair of male and female units are connected by two elongated strips 155 which are disposed one opposite the other on the upper top of package 160 as is seen in FIG. 7A. FIG. 7D depicts the profile of male-female pair 150 before it is attached to a package. As is seen, the two strips 155 are located between male unit 152 and female unit 154 are connected to each other as well as to the corresponding male-female members by very thin breakable connections 158 and 156, respectively. Thin connection 158, being a hinge around which the closure can be easily folded, allows for folding the closure and attaching it to the package from above such that one half of the closure including male member 152 is pressed against front wall 162 while the other half, including female member, 154 is pressed against rear wall 164. The profiles of male unit 152 and female unit 154 are having a similar shape as described above in association with FIG. 1, having a rounded projection 153 and a rounded recess 157, respectively. Closure 150 is preferably secured to a sealed package such that strips 155 conceal the seal strap. In order to open the package, connections 158 between strips 155 and members 152 and 154 are broken easily by folding the upper portion of the closure, i.e., strips 155 around thin connections 158. The package is then cut between the upper and lower portions of closure 150 as shown in FIG. 6B. Alternatively, connections 158 which are sufficiently thin, need not be cut prior to cutting and can be cut while cutting the package. Closure 170 can then be opened to form a diamond shape mouth 170 having the advantages as described above in association with FIG. 1. In accordance with this embodiment, since no rims are left above closure 150, the closure is adhered or bonded to the container also along the upper wings of the male and female units, as well as along strips 155, as illustrated in FIG. 7D, such that the container can be opened by pulling the upper portions of the closure apart. In order to facilitate grasping, upper wings may be made thinner than the lower and middle portions of the closure as is best seen in FIG. 7D.
It will be appreciated by that the closure of the invention may be made in various sizes and strengths wherein the closure strength is generally determined by the material from which it is fabricated and from its cross-sectional thickness. Generally, the closure dimensions depend on the container dimensions and in particular on the thickness and flexibility of the container walls. Preferably the total width of the closure is in the range of about 3 to 20 mm or more and the units thickness across the wing portion is in the range of about 0.25 to 2 mm or more. Likewise, the number of male-female pairs disposed on the container walls for separating the interior of the container from the container mouth may be selected to best fit the dimensions of the container mouth. Thus, for large containers, the closure of the invention may comprise any number of mail-female pairs disposed adjacent to the package mouth. FIG. 8 illustrate a closure of the invention, designated 180 secured to bag 190. Closure 180 comprises three male units 182 a, 182 b and 182 c disposing a gap apart on front wall 192 of package 190 and three complementary female units 184 a, 184 b and 184 c disposing a gap apart on opposite rear wall 194. After seal 196 is broken, closure 180 can be opened to form hexagonal mouth 170. It will be appreciated that regardless the number of male-female pairs, the gaps between adjacent members always serve as hinges for facilitating the separation of the closure.
FIG. 9 illustrate an automated process for attaching the closure of the invention to packages. According to this process, a rolled ribbon 202 of a pair of male units 212 and a rolled ribbon 204 of pair of female units 214 are moved on mover mechanisms 216 and 218, respectively. Each ribbon comprises of a plurality of elongated unit pairs arranged along their elongated axis by thin breakable connections. The two units of a pair as well as one pair to adjacent pairs can be connected to each by thin breakable connections which break upon slight pressure as is well known in the manufacturing of plastic units. Alternatively, the units can be detachably placed on a support of a sheet material. Mover mechanisms 216 and 218, each provided with lugs and latches (not shown), push the upper units in the roller unwinding direction and the most upper unit, each in its turn, away from the roller in the perpendicular direction, toward packages 220 moving on a convey (not seen), or packaging machine or any bag making machine, such that units 212 is and 214 are located each on one side of package 220 against each other. Turning now to FIG. 9B, two pressers 252 and 254 provided with moving pressing heads 253 and 255 respectively, press units 212 and 214 onto the upper part of package 220 and interlock them into each other. In the embodiment shown here each, rollers 202 and 204 comprise of unit pairs. However it will be appreciated that instead of using two rollers, each comprising of unit pairs, two separate rollers of male members and two separate rollers of female members can be used such that two pair of male-female members are directed toward the package and toward each other from opposite directions by four separate synchronized mover mechanisms.
FIG. 10 illustrates another embodiment for automatic securing the closure of the invention to packages 320, according to which the closure units 312 are arranged along their narrow side. For clarity sake, only one roller 304 of female units 312 is shown. However it will be understood that a second roller of male units, as well as a second presser are provided on the other side of package 320, pressing male units against the female units as described above. It will be realized that arranging the male and female units in a roller such as 304, i.e., where the units are connected to each other along their narrow end, is possible due to the novel construction of the closure of the invention, which comprises separate male-female pairs. Thus, a long ribbon of such units can be rolled to in a roller of a reasonable diameter while it is not practical to form such a roller where the length of the units equals the container width.
Referring now to FIGS. 11 and 12, there are shown yet further embodiments of the closure of the invention according to which the closure is provided with at least one tongue member for facilitating opening the closure by pulling the tongue outwardly.
FIGS. 11A-F depict, in combination, a bag 20 and a closure 10 same as depicted in FIG. 1. Bag 10 comprises two opposite walls 22 and 24 sealed at their upper end by sealing 36 and at their bottom end (not shown). Walls 22 and 24 may be directly connected to each other along their lateral sides or via two side-walls interposed between walls 22 and 24. Closure 10 comprises two male units 12 a and 12 b attached to the external surface of wall 22 and two corresponding female units 14 a and 14 b attached to the external surface of opposite wall 24. Male units 12 a and 12 b as well as female units 14 a and 14 b are separated by a narrow gap 21 as described in association with FIGS. 1-6. In accordance with the embodiments shown here, closure 10 is further provided with a tongue or like device for facilitating the opening of the bag. The tongue member is a flap-like unit made of flexible material lying substantially adjacent and parallel to the closure outer surface, in contact therewith, but can be grasped by fingers to be partially pulled outwardly for facilitating pulling units 12 and 14 apart. Preferably, but not limited to, the tongue is made of a thin sheet of the same material as of closure 10 for facilitating the sealing and for enhancing the connection between tongue and for preventing rupture or breaking of the tongue upon excessive pulling forces. The tongue may be fabricated as an integral part of the closure or can be attached to the closure by any suitable attaching means.
FIG. 11A illustrates a tongue member 40 a secured at its upper portion to male units 12 a and 12 b via sealing areas 41. Sealing areas 41 cover about half the width of closure 10. Preferably, tongue 40 a includes a cut shaped to match gap 21 between units 12 a and 12 b such the tongue does not exert any tension when closure 10 is opened to form a mouth. Tongue 40 a may extend below the lower edge of closure 10 for enhancing the grip of tongue 40 a by fingers. In its relaxed position, tongue 40 a lies flat against wall 22. A similar tongue 40 b (seen in FIG. 11B) is connected in a similar way to female members 14 on opposite wall 24. In order to open the bag, tongues 41 a and 41 b are pulled upwardly and outwardly in opposite directions as shown in FIG. 11B.
Another arrangement of pulling tongues is shown in FIGS. 11C and 9D where two tongues 42 are each connected to only one of the male and female units. Tongue 42 a is connected to male unit 12 a via attaching area 43 adjacent to the gap between the two male units. A similar tongue 42 b is connected to corresponding female unit 14 b (not shown). In their relaxed positions tongues 42 lie flat in contact with closure 10. In order to open the bag, tongues 42 are pulled outwardly in opposite directions as is shown in FIG. 11D.
FIGS. 11E-11F show yet another embodiment according to which tongue 44 a is a handle-like ring-pull connected to male units 12 a and 12 b by lateral portions 45 a and 45 b, respectively. As can be seen in FIG. 11E, in its relaxed position, ring-pulls 44 a and 44 b lie in contact with the bag walls. In order to open the bag, rings 44 are pulled upwardly and outwardly to a position substantially perpendicular as is shown in FIG. 11F.
It will be appreciated that a tongue as shown in FIG. 11 can be included with any of the other closures of the invention as described in FIGS. 1 through 6 for facilitating opening the closure. One example is shown in FIG. 12, where closure 110, diagonally disposed as described in association with FIG. 4, is provided with tongues 46. It will be also realized that although it is preferred to provide a closure of the invention with two tongues located at opposite male-female units of the closure for enabling the application of simultaneous forces in opposite directions, it is possible to provide the closure with only one tongue connected to at least one male unit or at least one female unit.
It will be easily appreciated by a person skilled in the art that the use of the present closure is not limited to the packages described above and that it can be attached to many other packages as well for providing an air tight closing. Likewise it will be realized that the closure of the present invention may be attached to unsealed empty containers as well. For example, empty packages with the present closure can be useful where goods are sold to customers by weight. In such cases, the distributor of the goods can pack the goods in empty bags provided with the closure of the present invention such that the closure is the only sealing means provided with the container.
It will be appreciated by persons skilled in the art that the present invention is not limited to what has been particularly shown and described hereinabove. Rather the scope of the present invention is defined only by the claims which follow.