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Publication numberUS20060042995 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 10/932,740
Publication dateMar 2, 2006
Filing dateSep 2, 2004
Priority dateSep 2, 2004
Also published asCA2578905A1, EP1784340A2, WO2006028933A2, WO2006028933A3
Publication number10932740, 932740, US 2006/0042995 A1, US 2006/042995 A1, US 20060042995 A1, US 20060042995A1, US 2006042995 A1, US 2006042995A1, US-A1-20060042995, US-A1-2006042995, US2006/0042995A1, US2006/042995A1, US20060042995 A1, US20060042995A1, US2006042995 A1, US2006042995A1
InventorsMichael McGrath, Lewis Lofgren
Original AssigneeAde, Inc.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Suspension packages
US 20060042995 A1
Abstract
Suspension packages are described that include (a) a first holding member; (b) a second holding member, wherein the second holding member is pivotably connected to the first holding member along a living hinge, such that the first and second holding members are configured to pivot between open and closed positions; (c) a first mounting ring detachably connectable to the first holding member, wherein the first mounting ring comprises a first film-mounting surface; (d) a second mounting ring detachably connectable to the second holding member, wherein the second mounting ring comprises a second film-mounting surface; (e) a first suspension film mounted to the first film-mounting surface; and (f) a second suspension film mounted to the second film-mounting. The first suspension film is recessed with respect to an upper peripheral surface of the first holding member, and the second suspension film protrudes beyond an upper peripheral surface of the second holding member.
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Claims(36)
1. A suspension package comprising:
a first holding member;
a second holding member pivotably connected to the first holding member along a living hinge, such that the first and second holding members are configured to pivot between open and closed positions;
a first mounting ring detachably connectable to the first holding member, wherein the first mounting ring comprises a first film-mounting surface;
a second mounting ring detachably connectable to the second holding member, wherein the second mounting ring comprises a second film-mounting surface;
a first suspension film mounted to the first film-mounting surface; and
a second suspension film mounted to the second film-mounting;
wherein the first suspension film is configured to be recessed with respect to an upper peripheral surface of the first holding member, and wherein the second suspension film is configured to protrude beyond an upper peripheral surface of the second holding member.
2. The invention of claim 1 wherein the first holding member comprises a first locking member, and wherein the second holding member comprises a complementary second locking member.
3. The invention of claim 2 wherein one of the first and second locking members comprises a protruding element, and wherein the other comprises a gripping element, wherein the gripping element is configured to hold the protruding element by a snap fit.
4. The invention of claim 3 wherein the first locking member comprises the protruding element, and wherein the second locking member comprises the gripping element.
5. The invention of claim 3 wherein the gripping element is pivotably connected to one of the first and second holding members by a living hinge.
6. The invention of claim 1 wherein at least the upper peripheral portions of the first and second holding members' are substantially rectangular.
7. The invention of claim 1 wherein each of the first and second mounting rings comprises at least one mounting leg, and wherein each of the first and second holding members comprises at least one complementary socket configured to receive and hold the at least one mounting leg by a friction fit.
8. The invention of claim 7 wherein each of the first and second mounting rings comprises a plurality of mounting legs, and wherein each of the first and second holding members comprises a plurality of complementary sockets.
9. The invention of claim 1 wherein each of the first and second mounting rings comprises six mounting legs, and wherein each of the first and second holding members comprises six complementary sockets configured to receive and hold the six mounting legs by a friction fit.
10. The invention of claim 9 wherein the first and second mounting rings are substantially rectangular, wherein two mounting legs are connected to each side portion thereof, and wherein one mounting leg is connected to each end portion thereof.
11. The invention of claim 1 wherein the first holding member and the second holding member comprise a contiguous piece of polymeric material.
12. The invention of claim 11 wherein the polymeric material comprises a styrene-butadiene copolymer.
13. The invention of claim 12 wherein the first and second mounting rings comprise a polyurethane resin.
14. The invention of claim 13 wherein the first and second suspension films comprise a polyurethane resin.
15. The invention of claim 11 wherein the first holding member and the second holding member are formed by injection molding.
16. The invention of claim 11 wherein the first holding member and the second holding member are formed by thermoforming.
17. The invention of claim 1 wherein the first holding member comprises a first locking member, the second holding member comprises a complementary second locking member, and the first holding member, the second holding member, the first locking member, and the second locking member comprise a contiguous piece of polymeric material.
18. The invention of claim 17 wherein the polymeric material comprises a styrene-butadiene copolymer.
19. The invention of claim 18 wherein the first and second mounting rings comprise a polyurethane resin.
20. The invention of claim 19 wherein the first and second suspension films comprise a polyurethane resin.
21. The invention of claim 17 wherein the first holding member, the second holding member, the first locking member, and the second locking member are formed by injection molding.
22. The invention of claim 17 wherein the first holding member, the second holding member, the first locking member, and the second locking member are formed by thermoforming.
23. The invention of claim 1 wherein one or both of the first holding member and the second holding member defines a product-receiving well.
24. The invention of claim 1 wherein each of the first holding member and the second holding member defines a product-receiving well.
25. The invention of claim 24 wherein the first suspension film is configured to extend over at least a portion of the first product-receiving well, and wherein the second suspension film is configured to extend over at least a portion of the second product-receiving well.
26. The invention of claim 25 wherein the first and second product-receiving wells are substantially rectangular.
27. The invention of claim 25 wherein at least a portion of the first suspension film is configured to contact at least a portion of the second suspension film in the closed position.
28. The invention of claim 1 wherein the first holding member comprises first means for locking, and wherein the second holding member comprises complementary second means for locking.
29. The invention of claim 1 wherein each of the first and second mounting rings comprises first means for mounting, and wherein each of the first and second holding members comprises complementary second means for mounting.
30. The invention of claim 28 wherein each of the first and second mounting rings comprises first means for mounting, and wherein each of the first and second holding members comprises complementary second means for mounting.
31. A suspension package comprising:
a first mounting ring comprising a first film-mounting surface;
a second mounting ring comprising a second film-mounting surface, wherein the second mounting ring is pivotably connected to the first mounting ring along a living hinge, such that the first and second mounting rings are configured to pivot between open and closed positions;
a first suspension film mounted to the first film-mounting surface; and
a second suspension film mounted to the second film-mounting surface.
32. The invention of claim 31 wherein at least a portion of the first suspension film is configured to contact at least a portion of the second suspension film in the closed position.
33. The invention of claim 32 wherein the suspension package is configured for detachable connection to at least one interior surface of an outer container.
34. The invention of claim 31 wherein each of the first and second mounting rings comprises at least one mounting leg configured for detachable connection to a complementary socket in the at least one interior surface.
35. The invention of claim 31 wherein the first and second mounting rings are substantially rectangular.
36. The invention of claim 31 wherein the first and second mounting rings are substantially oval.
Description
FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to suspension packages that suspend an article within upper and lower holding members, held in place by resilient suspension films.

BACKGROUND

For the transportation of valuable surface-sensitive objects that are relatively non-breakable (e.g., prisms, lenses, coins, jewelry, orthodontics, semiconductor wafers, and the like), it is often desirable to immobilize the objects within an outer packaging container. Suspension packages of a general type that suspend the article between upper and lower covers and hold the article in place by resilient films are particularly well suited for such applications.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,988,387 (assigned to the assignee of the present invention) describes suspension packages of this type. As best shown by FIG. 10 of the aforementioned patent, the lower and upper covers are separate units that are joined along an edge by cooperating hinge parts. Though the suspension packages described in this patent are well-suited for a variety of applications, their manufacture is labor intensive since the upper and lower covers are manufactured separately and require subsequent assembly. In addition, for certain applications, the protruding hinge mechanism on the exterior of the container may be susceptible to binding and/or damage, such as may be caused during transit.

SUMMARY

The scope of the present invention is defined solely by the appended claims, and is not affected to any degree by the statements within this summary.

By way of introduction, a first suspension package embodying features of the present invention includes: (a) a first holding member; (b) a second holding member pivotably connected to the first holding member along a living hinge, such that the first and second holding members are configured to pivot between open and closed positions; (c) a first mounting ring detachably connectable to the first holding member, wherein the first mounting ring comprises a first film-mounting surface; (d) a second mounting ring detachably connectable to the second holding member, wherein the second mounting ring comprises a second film-mounting surface; (e) a first suspension film mounted to the first film-mounting surface; and (f) a second suspension film mounted to the second film-mounting. The first suspension film is configured to be recessed with respect to an upper peripheral surface of the first holding member, and the second suspension film is configured to protrude beyond an upper peripheral surface of the second holding member.

A second suspension package embodying features of the present invention includes: (a) a first cover defining a first product-receiving well; (b) a second cover defining a second product-receiving well, wherein the second cover is pivotably connected to the first cover along a living hinge, such that the first and second covers are configured to pivot between open and closed positions; (c) a first mounting ring detachably connectable to the first cover, wherein the first mounting ring comprises a first film-mounting surface; (d) a second mounting ring detachably connectable to the second cover, wherein the second mounting ring comprises a second film-mounting surface; (e) a first suspension film mounted to the first film-mounting surface and configured to extend over at least a portion of the first product-receiving well; and (f) a second suspension film mounted to the second film-mounting surface and configured to extend over at least a portion of the second product-receiving well. The first suspension film is configured to be recessed with respect to an upper peripheral surface of the first product-receiving well, and the second suspension film is configured to protrude beyond an upper peripheral surface of the second product-receiving well.

A third suspension package embodying features of the present invention includes: (a) a first mounting ring comprising a first film-mounting surface; (b) a second mounting ring comprising a second film-mounting surface, wherein the second mounting ring is pivotably connected to the first mounting ring along a living hinge, such that the first and second mounting rings are configured to pivot between open and closed positions; (c) a first suspension film mounted to the first film-mounting surface; and (d) a second suspension film mounted to the second film-mounting surface.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 shows a perspective view of a suspension package embodying features of the present invention in a closed position.

FIG. 2 shows a cross-sectional view of the suspension package of FIG. 1 in a fully open position.

FIG. 3 shows an exploded perspective view of the suspension package of FIG. 1 in a fully open position.

FIG. 4 shows a cross-sectional view of the suspension package of FIG. 1 in a closed position.

FIG. 5 shows a cross-sectional detail view of the closure mechanism on the suspension package of FIG. 1.

FIG. 6 shows an exploded perspective view of a second suspension package embodying features of the present invention in a fully open position.

FIG. 7 shows a top plan view of a third suspension package embodying features of the present invention in a fully open position.

FIG. 8 shows a top plan view of a fourth suspension package embodying features of the present invention in a fully open position.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Suspension packages of a type that suspend an article within upper and lower holding members, held in place by resilient suspension films, have been discovered and are described hereinbelow. In presently preferred configurations described below, all portions of the suspension package other than the detachable mounting rings may be desirably formed from a single material in a single manufacturing operation. As further described below, portions that may be thus formed (i.e., from one material in one operation) include but are not limited to the first holding member or cover, the second holding member or cover, the living hinge, the first locking member, and the second locking member. The manufacture of suspension packages embodying features of the present invention is simpler, less expensive, and less time-consuming than that of previous designs. For example, separate manufacturing and subsequent assembly of the hinging mechanisms and closure or locking mechanism may be avoided. In addition, these suspension packages are less susceptible to hinge and/or closure malfunction and breakage, and provide enhanced performance reliability. Moreover, these suspension packages have sleek and streamlined designs that provide an aesthetic appeal.

Throughout this description and in the appended claims, the following definitions are to be understood:

The phrase “living hinge” refers to a hinge in a substantially continuous piece of material. By way of example, the living hinge may be a molded unit in which two pivotable portions (e.g., the first and second holding members of a suspension package, which are pivotable with respect to one another) are disposed on either side of the hinge.

The phrase “locking member” refers to one element of a locking mechanism that is configured to engage detachably with a second element of the locking mechanism having a complementary structure, such that the two elements are configured to remain joined until disengaged.

The term “complementary” is used to describe a structural element that has the requisite geometry to engage with a second structural element to provide a detachable connection between the two elements. By way of example, this detachable connection may be achieved by virtue of a friction or snug-type fit, a snap fit, a pressure fit or the like.

The phrase “fully open” refers to an open configuration of the first and second holding members of a suspension package that is sufficient to allow product insertion within. As used herein, a suspension package described as being “fully open” (e.g., the suspension package shown in FIG. 2) may still allow for additional unfolding beyond that needed for product insertion.

Presently preferred embodiments in accordance with the present invention will now be described in reference to the appended drawings. It is to be understood that elements and features of the various representative embodiments described below may be combined in different ways to produce new embodiments that likewise fall within the scope of the present invention. Accordingly, the description provided below, when provided in reference to one or more specific figures, is to be understood as being likewise applicable to other embodiments, including but not limited to those that are shown in other drawing figures that may not have been specifically referenced.

FIGS. 1-5 show various views of a first series of suspension packages embodying features of the present invention. These suspension packages 2 include a first cover 4 defining a first product-receiving well 6 and a second cover 8 defining a second product-receiving well 10. As shown in FIGS. 24, the second cover 8 is pivotably connected to the first cover 4 along a living hinge 12, such that the first and second covers, 4 and 8, respectively, are configured to pivot between open positions, shown in FIGS. 2-3, and a closed position, shown in FIGS. 1 and 4.

As best shown by FIGS. 2-3, the suspension package 2 further includes a first mounting ring 14 detachably connectable to the first cover 4, wherein the first mounting ring 14 comprises a first film-mounting surface 16, and a second mounting ring 18 detachably connectable to the second cover 8, wherein the second mounting ring 18 comprises a second film-mounting surface 20. A first suspension film 22 is mounted to the first film-mounting surface 16, and is configured to extend over at least a portion of the first product-receiving well 6. A second suspension film 24 is mounted to the second film-mounting surface 20 and is configured to extend over at least a portion of the second product-receiving well 10.

In presently preferred configurations, as best shown by FIG. 2, first mounting ring 14 is recessed with respect to an upper peripheral surface 28 of the first cover 4 in which it is fitted, and second mounting ring 18 is raised with respect to an upper peripheral surface 32 of the second cover 8 in which it is fitted or vice versa. Preferably, the amount that one mounting ring is raised is substantially equal to the amount that the other mounting ring is recessed. Preferably, this amount corresponds to the thickness of the mounting rings, such that when suspension package 2 is in the fully closed position, the first and second suspension films, 22 and 24, respectively, will be in close proximity and/or in contact along at least a portion of the interface therebetween. Representative structures for providing the recessing and raising of the mounting rings are described below.

As best shown by FIG. 3, first cover 4 includes a plurality of ledge surfaces 26 spaced around an inner perimeter near the upper peripheral surface 28 thereof. Similarly, second cover 8 includes a plurality of ledge surfaces 30 spaced around an inner perimeter near the upper peripheral surface 32 thereof. In alternative configurations (not shown), one or more of the individual ledge surfaces in first cover 4 and/or second cover 8 may be replaced by a contiguous ledge surface (not shown) that extends around all or a portion of the inner perimeter.

In a presently preferred configuration, the ledge surfaces 30 on second cover 8 are substantially flush with the upper peripheral surface 32, whereas the ledge surfaces 26 on first cover 4 are slightly recessed below the upper peripheral surface 28, as shown in FIG. 3. As a result, the first suspension film 22 is recessed with respect to upper peripheral surface 28 of first product-receiving well 6, and the second suspension film 24 protrudes slightly beyond upper peripheral surface 32 of second product-receiving well 10, as best shown by FIG. 2. Thus, in some embodiments, at least a portion of first suspension film 22 may be brought substantially in contact with at least a portion of second suspension film 24 in the closed position, as shown in FIG. 4. This configuration provides a recessed pocket to receive articles on the first suspension film 22 in the first cover 4, thereby reducing any tendency of such articles to roll or otherwise move off of the first suspension film 22 prior to closure of suspension package 2.

As shown in FIG. 3, it is presently preferred that first mounting ring 14 and second mounting ring 18 each contain at least one mounting leg 38, and that first cover 4 and second cover 8 each contain at least one complementary socket 40 configured to receive and hold the at least one mounting leg 38 by a friction fit. In a presently preferred configuration, each of first and second mounting rings, 14 and 18, respectively, includes a plurality (e.g., 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 or more) of mounting legs 38 distributed evenly along their perimeters. In such a configuration, it is likewise preferred that each of first and second covers, 4 and 8, respectively, includes a like number of complementary sockets 40 positioned to be aligned with mounting legs 38. As shown in FIG. 3, for configurations in which the first and second mounting rings, 14 and 18, respectively, are substantially rectangular, a presently preferred configuration is one in which two mounting legs 38 are connected to each side portion 42, and one mounting leg 38 is connected to each end portion 44.

In presently preferred embodiments described herein, the mechanism for detachably connecting mounting rings to the covers of a suspension package include one or a plurality of mounting legs and one or a plurality of complementary sockets. Although mounting legs and sockets are presently preferred mounting mechanisms for use in accordance with the present invention, the present invention is not limited thereto. All manner of alternative means for mounting, and all equivalents thereto, may also be employed. Representative alternative means for mounting include but are not limited to adhesives, tongue and groove assemblies, stud and socket assemblies, magnets, VELCRO hook and loop fabric fasteners, and the like, and combinations thereof.

In presently preferred configurations, first cover 4 includes a first locking member, and second cover 8 includes a complementary second locking member. Although all manner of locking mechanisms whereby first cover 4 and second cover 8 may be held in a closed position are contemplated for use in accordance with the present invention, a presently preferred configuration is shown in FIGS. 14 and is best shown by FIG. 5. In this configuration, a tooth-like protruding element 34 having a flared portion is connected to one of first cover 4 and second cover 8, and a pawl-like gripping element 36 is connected to the other. In the presently preferred configuration shown in FIGS. 1-5, the protruding element 34 is attached to first cover 4 and the gripping element 36 is attached to second cover 8. Preferably, at least gripping element 36 is formed from a material (e.g., a polymer) that is sufficiently flexible to allow for temporary outward expansion to fit over and engage protruding element 34, as shown in FIGS. 4 and 5. Once engaged, gripping element 36 and protruding element 34 remain joined by a snap fit. In alternative configurations of this mechanism (not shown), the gripping element 36 is pivotably joined to the cover to which it is attached (e.g., second cover 8) by the agency of a living hinge. In presently preferred configurations, each of first cover 4, second cover 8, gripping element 36, protruding element 34, and living hinge 12 is formed from a substantially continuous piece of the same material, which may conveniently be manufactured, for example, in a single molding operation. The added manufacturing and labor costs introduced when the hinging and closure mechanisms are added separately may thereby be eliminated. Accordingly, suspension packages in accordance with the present invention may be formed readily by a two-stage operation in which all elements of the suspension package are formed and/or prepared in one stage and in which the detachable mounting rings are formed and/or prepared in a separate stage.

In presently preferred embodiments described herein, the mechanism for detachably locking the covers of a suspension package in the closed position include a protruding element and a gripping element, such as described above. Although protruding elements and complementary gripping elements are presently preferred locking mechanisms for use in accordance with the present invention, the present invention is not limited thereto. All manner of alternative means for locking, and all equivalents thereto, may also be employed. Representative alternative means for locking include but are not limited to stud and socket assemblies, tab and slot assemblies, magnets, hook and loop assemblies, adhesives, VELCRO hook and loop fabric fasteners, screw and screwhole assemblies, and the like, and combinations thereof.

All manner of regular and irregular geometric shapes, including those based on specific shapes of products to be retained, are contemplated for the design of first cover 4, second cover 8, first product-receiving well 6, and second product-receiving well 10. However, the geometric shapes of first mounting ring 14 and second mounting ring 18 should preferably be chosen to substantially match the geometry of first and second covers, 4 and 8, respectively, at least at the portions adjacent to upper peripheral surfaces 28 and 32, respectively.

In a presently preferred configuration, shown in FIG. 3, the upper peripheral surface 28 of first product-receiving well 6, the upper peripheral surface 32 of second product-receiving well 10, first mounting ring 14, and second mounting ring 18 are each substantially rectangular. In such configurations, the rectangular shape of first and second mounting rings, 14 and 18, respectively, provides a sturdy frame for supporting first and second suspension films, 22 and 24, respectively. Moreover, as best shown by FIG. 3, it is presently preferred that first and second product-receiving wells, 6 and 10, respectively, likewise be substantially rectangular. As used herein the term “rectangular” is intended broadly to encompass rectangular (including square) shapes, with or without rounded corners.

As shown in FIGS. 1, 2, and 4, stacking lugs 46 may optionally be included on an outer exterior surface of first cover 4 and/or second cover 8 to provide stability to stacked arrangements of suspension packages 2.

In accordance with the present invention, all manner of materials (e.g., polymeric materials such as plastics, sheet metal, wood, and the like) are contemplated for use in the manufacture of first cover 4 and second cover 8. It is presently preferred, however, that first cover 4 and second cover 8 comprise a contiguous sheet of material (i.e., an integral, continuous piece of material, such as may be formed in a single molding operation). Presently desirable materials are polymeric materials, such as polyethylene, polypropylene, polyurethane, and the like. Moreover, it is presently preferred that the contiguous piece of material used to form first cover 4 and second cover 8 be clear rather than opaque to enable a user to observe the contents of the suspension package 2 without opening it.

Furthermore, it is presently preferred that each of first cover 4, second cover 8, the first locking member (e.g., protruding element 34), and the complementary second locking member (e.g., gripping element 36) comprise a contiguous sheet of polymeric material, such as polyethylene, polypropylene, polyurethane or the like. Thus, all portions of the suspension package 2 other than the first and second mounting rings, 14 and 18, respectively, may be formed in a single molding operation, thereby minimizing the material, labor, and time costs of individually manufacturing and then assembling top and bottom covers and a closure mechanism.

The above-described one-piece units containing a built-in living hinge and a built-in closure mechanism are preferably manufactured by injection molding or thermoforming, with injection molding, which enables the introduction of different thicknesses throughout the unit, being particularly desirable at present. Assembly of the complete suspension package 2 is accomplished by mounting first and second suspension films, 22 and 24, respectively, to first and second film-mounting surfaces, 16 and 20 respectively, for example using heat and/or adhesives and/or sonic welding and/or RF welding techniques. Then, each of first and second mounting rings, 14 and 18, respectively, is mounted to a respective cover 4 or 8 by pushing the mounting legs 38 into sockets 40. The mounting legs 38 are dimensioned to hold the mounting rings 14 and 18 in place by a friction fit. Since the first and second mounting rings, 14 and 18, respectively, are held in place in the first and second covers, 4 and 8, respectively, with a friction fit rather than a latch mechanism, the sockets 40 may be simply molded in a conventional molding operation in which the mold parts move in only a single direction as the mold is open or closed. This further reduces manufacturing costs.

Since the first locking member (e.g., protruding element 34) and the complementary second locking member (e.g., gripping element 36) are formed in the mold, no additional manufacture or assembly is needed. In the closed position shown in FIG. 4, the first and second suspension films 22 and 24, respectively, are held in a closely spaced, parallel relationship with a packaged article (not shown) clamped in place between the films and disposed in the first and second product-receiving wells, 6 and 10, respectively. When the first and second covers, 4 and 8, respectively, are in the closed position shown in FIG. 4, the first and second film mounting surfaces 16 and 20 of the first and second mounting rings, 14 and 18, respectively, are held in face-to-face contact with the first and second suspension films, 22 and 24, respectively, clamped therebetween. In alternative embodiments, one or both of the first and second mounting rings, 14 and 18 respectively, may be recessed within its respective product-receiving well, such that in the closed position, a separation exists between the first and second film mounting surfaces 16 and 20. Such configurations may be desirable for accommodating larger and/or bulkier products. In further alternative embodiments, only one mounting ring is used. This mounting ring is detachably connectable to one of the product-receiving wells, while one or more interior portions of the other product-receiving well is shaped to accommodate (e.g., to support, hold in place, etc.) a product placed in the suspension package. By way of example, in such embodiments, a product may be held between a suspension film mounted to the mounting ring on one of its sides and a molded or shaped structure provided in the other cover on another of its sides.

In the first series of suspension packages shown in FIGS. 1-5, first cover 4 and second cover 8 are enclosed on one of their sides. The enclosed portions provide first and second product-receiving wells, 6 and 10, respectively. However, in alternative configurations, at least a portion of one or both of these covers is not enclosed, such that in the closed position, an exterior surface of one or both of first suspension film 22 and second suspension film 24 remains exposed. An example of such configurations is shown in FIG. 6 described below, wherein the covers of the suspension package are provided by open-frame holding members.

FIG. 6 shows a second series of suspension packages embodying features of the present invention. These suspension packages 48 include a first holding member 50 and a second holding member 52. The second holding member 52 is pivotably connected to the first holding member 50 along a living hinge 54, such that first holding member 50 and second holding member 52 are configured to pivot between open and closed positions. As shown in FIG. 6, first holding member 50 is configured to detachably receive a first mounting ring 56 containing a first suspension film 58 mounted to a first film-mounting surface 60, and second holding member 52 is configured to detachably receive a second mounting ring 62 containing a second suspension film 64 mounted to a second film-mounting surface 66.

As described above in connection with the first series of suspension packages embodying features of the present invention, it is presently preferable that first mounting ring 56 is recessed with respect to an upper peripheral surface 70 of the first holding member 50 in which it is fitted, and second mounting ring 62 is raised with respect to an upper peripheral surface 74 of the second holding member 52 in which it is fitted or vice versa. Preferably, the amount that one mounting ring is raised is substantially equal to the amount that the other mounting ring is recessed. Preferably, this amount corresponds to the thickness of the mounting rings, such that when suspension package 48 is in the fully closed position, the first and second suspension films, 58 and 64, respectively, will be in close proximity and/or in contact along at least a portion of the interface therebetween. Representative structures for providing the recessing and raising of the mounting rings are described below. Alternative mechanisms, including but not limited to those described above, may likewise be used.

As shown in FIG. 6, first holding member 50 includes a plurality of ledge surfaces 68 spaced around an inner perimeter near an upper peripheral surface 70 thereof, and second holding member 52 includes a plurality of ledge surfaces 72 spaced around an inner perimeter near an upper peripheral surface 74 thereof. One or both of these sets of ledge surfaces may be replaced by a contiguous ledge surface (not shown) that extends around all or a portion of the inner perimeter.

In a presently preferred configuration, the ledge surfaces 72 on second holding member 52 are substantially flush with the upper peripheral surface 74, whereas the ledge surfaces 68 on first holding member 50 are slightly recessed below the upper peripheral surface 70, as shown in FIG. 6. As a result, the first suspension film 58 of first mounting ring 56 will be recessed with respect to upper peripheral surface 70, and the second suspension film 64 of second mounting ring 62 will protrude slightly beyond upper peripheral surface 74.

In presently preferred configurations, first holding member 50 includes a first locking member, and second holding member 52 includes a complementary second locking member. Although all manner of locking mechanisms whereby first holding member 50 and second holding member 52 may be held in a closed position are contemplated for use in accordance with the present invention, including but not limited to those described above, a presently preferred configuration is analogous to that described above in reference to FIGS. 1-5 and is shown in FIG. 6. As shown in FIG. 6, a tooth-like protruding element 76 having a flared portion is connected to one of first holding member 50 and second holding member 52, and a pawl-like gripping element 78 is connected to the other. As above, it is preferable that at least gripping element 78 be formed from a material (e.g., a polymer) that is sufficiently flexible to allow for temporary outward expansion to fit over and engage protruding element 76, such that the members once engaged may remain joined by a snap fit. In alternative configurations of this mechanism (not shown), the gripping element 78 is pivotably joined to the holding member to which it is attached (e.g., second holding member 52) by the agency of a living hinge. In presently preferred configurations, each of first holding member 50, second holding member 52, gripping element 78, protruding element 76, and living hinge 54 is formed from a substantially continuous piece of the same material, which may conveniently be manufactured, for example, in a single molding operation.

As shown in FIG. 6, it is presently preferred that first mounting ring 56 and second mounting ring 62 each contain at least one mounting leg 80, and that first holding member 50 and second holding member 52 each contain at least one complementary socket 82 configured to receive and hold the at least one mounting leg 80 by a friction fit. In a presently preferred configuration, each of first and second mounting rings, 56 and 62, respectively, includes a plurality (e.g., 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 or more) of mounting legs 80 distributed evenly along their perimeters. In such a configuration, it is likewise preferred that each of first and second holding members, 50 and 52, respectively, includes a like number of complementary sockets 82 positioned to be aligned with mounting legs 80.

FIG. 7 shows a third series of suspension packages embodying features of the present invention. These suspension packages 84 include a first mounting ring 86 containing a first film-mounting surface 88 and a second mounting ring 90 containing a second film-mounting surface 92. The second mounting ring 90 is pivotably connected to the first mounting ring 86 along a living hinge 94, such that the first and second mounting rings, 86 and 90, respectively, are configured to pivot between open and closed positions. A first suspension film 96 is mounted to the first film-mounting surface 88, and a second suspension film 98 is mounted to the second film-mounting surface 92. In some embodiments, at least a portion of the first suspension film 96 is configured to contact at least a portion of the second suspension film 98 in the closed position.

Suspension packages of the type shown in FIG. 7 may be configured for detachable connection to at least one interior surface of an outer container to provide a modified version of the suspension package 2 shown in FIGS. 1-5. By way of example, each of the first and second mounting rings, 86 and 90, respectively, may include at least one mounting leg (not shown but analogous to mounting legs 38 and 80 described above) configured for detachable connection to a complementary socket (not shown but analogous to sockets 40 and 82 described above) in the at least one interior surface. A variety of designs may be used for the outer container to receive suspension package 84.

All manner of geometric shapes are contemplated for the first and second mounting rings, 86 and 90, respectively, shown in FIG. 7, with substantially rectangular and substantially oval shapes being presently preferred. As used herein the term “oval” is intended broadly to encompass shapes that are elongated or that closely approximate a circle.

FIG. 8 shows a fourth series of suspension packages embodying features of the present invention, which provide a three-piece version of the embodiment shown in FIG. 7. These suspension packages 102 include a first mounting ring 104 containing a first suspension film 106 mounted on a first film-mounting surface 108 and a second mounting ring 110 containing a second suspension film 112 mounted on a second film-mounting surface 114. The second mounting ring 110 is detachably and pivotably connectable to the first mounting ring 104 along a living hinge 116. In this configuration, living hinge 116 is configured to be inserted into recesses provided along the sides of first and second mounting rings, 104 and 110, respectively, and to be retained therein by friction-type fits. The inset in FIG. 8 shows an end view of the living hinge 116 when assembled. In some embodiments, at least a portion of the first suspension film 106 is configured to contact at least a portion of the second suspension film 112 in the closed position.

Suspension packages of the type shown and described herein may be used for a variety of applications, including for packaging articles, such as electronics, optics, medical products, surgical implements, and the like, which are to be maintained in a clean and/or sterile container until their moment of use. In such instances, the suspension package may be cleaned and/or sterilized prior to product insertion and, once the product is in place, may optionally be sterilized. The preferred one-piece assemblies described herein, wherein all elements of the suspension package except for the mounting rings are formed from a substantially continuous piece of a single material, may be readily cleaned and/or sterilized by procedures well known to those of ordinary skill in the art. Such cleaning and sterilization procedures may be easier, less expensive, and more effective than analogous procedures used for the cleaning and/or sterilization of multi-piece suspension packages that lack built-in hinging and/or locking mechanisms in accordance with the present invention.

All manner of dimensions are contemplated for suspension packages embodying features of the present invention. As will be appreciated by those skilled in the art, package dimensions may be determined in view of the size of article to be package. Solely by way of illustration, representative dimensions and construction details are provided below, although it is to be understood that these details are merely illustrative and are not intended to limit the scope of the appended claims or their equivalents.

In an exemplary design, a suspension package 2 in the fully closed position is about 2.64 inches in height measured from the exterior surfaces of first and second covers, 4 and 8, respectively. Each of the first and second product-receiving wells, 6 and 10, respectively, is about 1.25 inches in depth measured from an interior bottom surface of the wells to first and second suspension films, 22 and 24, respectively. The length of the living hinge 12 is about 4.00 inches measured from end to end. The width of living hinge 12 is about 0.23 inches. The length of first and second covers, 4 and 8, respectively, is about 6.95 inches measured from one exterior end surface to the other. The width of first and second covers, 4 and 8, respectively, is about 5.04 inches measured from one exterior side surface to the point at which the other exterior side surface is attached to living hinge 12. The length of first and second mounting rings, 14 and 18, respectively, is about 6.76 inches measured from one exterior end surface to the other. The width of first and second mounting rings, 14 and 18, respectively, is about 4.85 inches measured from one exterior side surface to the other. The wall thickness of first and second covers, 4 and 8, respectively, is about 0.07 inches measured from an interior surface to an exterior surface.

In some embodiments, the first and second mounting rings, 14 and 18, respectively, may be formed from any polymeric materials, with polyurethanes being a presently preferred example (e.g., Dow 302EZ PUR). In some embodiments, the first cover 4, second cover 8, protruding element 34, and gripping element 36 may be formed (e.g., via injection molding) from any polymeric material, with a styrene-butadiene copolymer such as that sold under the tradename K-resin® (Chevron Phillips Chemical Company LLC) being a presently preferred example. PCTG (e.g., Eastman PCTG) is another representative material that may be used. In some embodiments, the first and second suspension films, 22 and 24, respectively, may be formed of any polymeric material, with polyurethane being a presently preferred example. All manner of film thicknesses are contemplated for use in accordance with the present invention, with film thicknesses between about 2 and about 4 mils being presently preferred. It is presently preferred that the material used to form first and second mounting rings, 14 and 18, respectively, and the material used to form first and second suspension films, 22 and 24, respectively, be compatible to ensure proper a seal. In some embodiments, each of these elements is formed from a polyurethane material.

In the suspension package 2, the first and second suspension films, 22 and 24, respectively, are preferably tensioned on and then sealed to the first and second mounting rings, 14 and 18, respectively, before the mounting rings are installed in place on the first and second covers, 4 and 8, respectively. This may generally be achieved by stretching the first and second suspension films, 22 and 24, respectively, with a holding fixture as the films are secured in place to the first and second mounting rings 14 and 18—for example, by heating, sonic welding, RF welding, or the like. Excess film may be trimmed from the outer periphery of the mounting rings after the film has been secured thereto. For example, the holding fixture for the film may hold enough film for one to six or more rings, which all may be secured to the film in a single bonding operation.

Of course, numerous changes and modifications may be made to the embodiments described herein, as will be appreciated by those skilled in the art. For example, the various walls have been illustrated as plates, and they can be formed with or without ribs and as curved or flat sections. If desired, the suspension films may be mounted directly to the respective covers rather than to mounting rings that are in turn mounted to the covers. Furthermore, dimensions, proportions and other geometrical considerations may all be modified as appropriate for a particular application.

The foregoing detailed description and accompanying drawings have been provided by way of explanation and illustration, and are not intended to limit the scope of the appended claims. Many variations in the presently preferred embodiments illustrated herein will be obvious to one of ordinary skill in the art, and remain within the scope of the appended claims and their equivalents.

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Classifications
U.S. Classification206/583
International ClassificationB65D85/30
Cooperative ClassificationB65D81/075, B65D43/162
European ClassificationB65D81/07A, B65D43/16B
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Sep 2, 2004ASAssignment
Owner name: ADE, INC., ILLINOIS
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:MCGRATH, MICHAEL T.;LOFGREN, LEWIS C.;REEL/FRAME:015781/0322
Effective date: 20040824