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Publication numberUS20060093242 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/257,849
Publication dateMay 4, 2006
Filing dateOct 25, 2005
Priority dateJul 21, 2004
Also published asCN101312889A, CN101312889B, EP1951588A1, WO2007050690A1
Publication number11257849, 257849, US 2006/0093242 A1, US 2006/093242 A1, US 20060093242 A1, US 20060093242A1, US 2006093242 A1, US 2006093242A1, US-A1-20060093242, US-A1-2006093242, US2006/0093242A1, US2006/093242A1, US20060093242 A1, US20060093242A1, US2006093242 A1, US2006093242A1
InventorsDavid Anzini, Rusty Koenigkramer, David Matthews, Lars Wihlborg, Glyn Russell
Original AssigneeAnzini David J, Koenigkramer Rusty E, Matthews David J, Wihlborg Lars G, Glyn Russell
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Reclosable packages for vacuum, pressure and/or liquid containment
US 20060093242 A1
Abstract
Flexible containers that are hermetically resealable are disclosed herein. Each resealable container comprises a receptacle and a pair of plastic zipper strips. The zipper strips are flattened at the ends within the side seal regions and are joined to each other, without substantial deformation of the closure profiles, in respective transition areas substantially contiguous with the side seals. These transition areas of zipper strip joinder assist in providing a leakproof transition from the openable section of the zipper to the side seals, where the closure profiles are fused and flattened (i.e., crushed).
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Claims(20)
1. A reclosable package comprising:
a zipper comprising first and second zipper strips that have respective portions fused together in first and second zipper end seals, said first zipper strip comprising a length of a first closure profile having at least two projecting elements and first and second flanges extending in opposite directions and connected to said first closure profile, respective portions of said first and second flanges being flattened within the boundaries of said first and second zipper end seals, and said second zipper strip comprising a length of a second closure profile having at least one projecting element that fits between said at least two projecting elements of said first closure profile and a third flange connected to said second closure profile, respective portions of said third flange being flattened within the boundaries of said first and second zipper end seals, said first and second zipper end seals respectively comprising first and second substantially flat portions and first and second transition areas respectively connected to said first and second substantially flat portions on first, second and third sides, wherein along said first and third sides of each of said first and second transition areas, each of the two projecting elements of said first and second closure profiles that are furthest apart from each other is fused to some portion of the one of said first and second zipper strips of which said respective one of said furthest-apart projecting elements does not form a part; and wherein along a second side of and within each of said first and second transition areas, said first and second closure profiles are deformed and fused together but not flattened, the respective ends of the fused material along said second side being integrally connected to the fused material of said first and third sides, respectively; and
a receptacle comprising first and second panels that are joined to said first and second zipper end seals, joined to each other in first and second zones of panel joinder that extend along respective portions of first and second sides of said receptacle not overlapping said first and second zipper end seals, respectively, of said receptacle, and connected to each other by a fold or a third zone of panel joinder extending along a bottom of said receptacle,
wherein said first through third flanges are joined to said receptacle along their length, and said second zipper strip is not joined to said receptacle along the length of any fourth flange.
2. The reclosable package as recited in claim 1, wherein outside said first and second zipper end seals and said first and second zones of panel joinder, said first and second flanges are joined to said first panel only, and said third flange is joined to said second panel only.
3. The reclosable package as recited in claim 1, wherein outside said first and second zipper end seals and said first and second zones of panel joinder, said first through third flanges are joined to said first panel only, said first flange being disposed between said second and third flanges.
4. The reclosable package as recited in claim 3, wherein said first and second panels are joined to each other in third and fourth zones of panel joinder at a top and a bottom of said receptacle respectively.
5. The reclosable package as recited in claim 1, wherein said first zipper end seal and said first zone of panel joinder have respective edges that are collinear, and said second zipper end seal and said second zone of panel joinder have respective edges that are collinear.
6. The reclosable package as recited in claim 1, wherein said first and second closure profiles have a contact area in the range of 33 to 76%.
7. The reclosable package as recited in claim 1, wherein each of said first and second closure profiles comprises two hooked projecting elements and a hookless projecting element.
8. The reclosable package as recited in claim 1, further comprising food product inside said receptacle.
9. The reclosable package as recited in claim 1, further comprising liquid inside said receptacle.
10. The reclosable package as recited in claim 1, further comprising pressurized gas inside said receptacle.
11. The reclosable package as recited in claim 1, further comprising a peel seal joined to said first and third flanges along their length.
12. The reclosable package as recited in claim 3, further comprising a line of weakness formed in a portion of said first panel that connects the respective portions of said first panel that are joined to said first and third flanges.
13. The reclosable package as recited in claim 1, further comprising material between the portions of said first and second closure profiles within said first and second transition areas that melts at a temperature lower than the temperature at which the zipper material melts.
14. The reclosable package as recited in claim 1, wherein said third flange is longer than said first flange in an elevational direction and extends above said first and second zipper end seals.
15. A reclosable package comprising:
a zipper comprising first and second zipper strips that have respective portions fused together in first and second zipper end seals, said first zipper strip comprising a length of a first closure profile and first and second flanges extending in opposite directions and connected to said first closure profile, respective portions of said first and second flanges being flattened within the boundaries of said first and second zipper end seals, and said second zipper strip comprising a length of a second closure profile interlockable with said first closure profile and a third flange connected to said second closure profile, respective portions of said third flange being flattened within the boundaries of said first and second zipper end seals, said first and second zipper end seals respectively comprising first and second transition areas disposed at opposite ends of said first and second closure profiles, and first and second substantially flat portions that respectively border said first and second transition areas on three sides thereof, said first transition area comprising first sections of said first and second closure profiles that have been deformed and at least partially fused together but not flattened, and said second transition area comprising second sections of said first and second closure profiles that have been deformed and at least partially fused together but not flattened, wherein said third flange is longer than said first flange in an elevational direction and extends beyond said first and second zipper end seals; and
a receptacle comprising first and second panels that are joined to said first and second zipper end seals, joined to each other in first and second zones of panel joinder that extend along respective portions of first and second sides of said receptacle not overlapping said first and second zipper end seals, respectively, of said receptacle, and connected to each other by a fold or a third zone of panel joinder extending along a bottom of said receptacle, wherein said first through third flanges are joined to said first panel across the full width of said first panel, and respective central major portions of said first through third flanges are not joined to said second panel.
16. The reclosable package as recited in claim 15, wherein said first and second panels are joined to each other in third and fourth zones of panel joinder at a top and a bottom of said receptacle respectively.
17. The reclosable package as recited in claim 15, wherein said first zipper end seal and said first zone of panel joinder have respective edges that are collinear, and said second zipper end seal and said second zone of panel joinder have respective edges that are collinear.
18. The reclosable package as recited in claim 15, wherein said first and second closure profiles have a contact area in the range of 33 to 76%.
19. The reclosable package as recited in claim 15, further comprising a line of weakness formed in a portion of said first panel that connects the respective portions of said first panel that are joined to said first and third flanges.
20. A reclosable package comprising:
a zipper comprising first and second zipper strips that have respective portions fused together in first and second zipper end seals, said first zipper strip comprising a length of a first closure profile and first and second flanges extending in opposite directions and connected to said first closure profile, respective portions of said first and second flanges being flattened within the boundaries of said first and second zipper end seals, and said second zipper strip comprising a length of a second closure profile interlockable with said first closure profile and a third flange connected to said second closure profile, respective portions of said third flange being flattened within the boundaries of said first and second zipper end seals, said first and second zipper end seals respectively comprising first and second transition areas disposed at opposite ends of said first and second closure profiles, and first and second substantially flat portions that respectively border said first and second transition areas on three sides thereof, said first transition area comprising first sections of said first and second closure profiles that have been deformed and at least partially fused together but not flattened, and said second transition area comprising second sections of said first and second closure profiles that have been deformed and at least partially fused together but not flattened, wherein third and fourth sections of said first and second closure profiles that are respectively adjacent said first and second sections form channels therebetween, said channels within said third section being either sealed at one end thereof by said first transition area or communicating with channels formed by said first section that are sealed except where they communicate with said channels formed by said third section, and said channels within said fourth section being either sealed at one end thereof by said second transition area or communicating with channels formed by said second section that are sealed except where they communicate with said channels formed by said fourth section; and
a receptacle comprising first and second panels that are joined to said first and second zipper end seals, joined to each other in first and second zones of panel joinder that extend along respective portions of first and second sides of said receptacle not overlapping said first and second zipper end seals, respectively, of said receptacle, and connected to each other by a fold or a third zone of panel joinder extending along a bottom of said receptacle, wherein said first through third flanges are joined to said receptacle along their length.
Description
RELATED PATENT APPLICATION

This application is a continuation-in-part of and claims priority from U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/896,769 filed on Jul. 21, 2004 and entitled “Leakproof Zipper End Crush for Reclosable Bag and Related Method of Manufacture”.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

This invention generally relates to flexible containers, such as pouches, bags or other packages, having a reclosable plastic zipper. In particular, the invention relates to reclosable bags, pouches or other packages for containing vacuum, pressure or liquid.

To ensure hermeticity or airtightness, packagers have typically sealed their flexible containers to an extent that they are not reclosable after the seal is broken. Many flexible containers that were reclosable typically did not retain the desired vacuum, pressure or liquid containment feature that existed prior to the container being opened for the first time.

In many different applications, it is desirable to provide a reclosable container that, under normal or expected conditions of usage, will not leak fluid when the zipper is closed. Such a container should maintain a leakproof condition even when there is a large differential in pressure between the interior and exterior of the container. As used herein, the term “leakproof” does not mean free of leaks under all temperature/pressure conditions, but rather free of leaks over a range of temperatures and pressures expected to occur during normal usage of the reclosable container.

In the case of known collapsible, evacuable, zippered storage bags, the zipper is opened; an article is placed inside the bag; the zipper is closed, and then the bag is evacuated using a fixture that penetrates a bag wall. With the bag thus evacuated, a compressible article contained therein may be significantly compressed so that it is easier to transport and requires substantially less storage space. It is highly desirable that ambient air not leak into the evacuated interior space of the bag. Such leakage would cause a loss of vacuum. Also it is highly desirable that the zipper not open unintentionally due to mechanical forces that occur during bag manipulation.

Collapsible, evacuable storage bags are beneficial for reasons in addition to those associated with compression of the stored article. For example, removal of the air from the storage bag inhibits the growth of destructive organisms, such as moths, silverfish, and bacteria, which require oxygen to survive and propagate. Moreover, such bags, if properly sealed, are impervious to moisture, as a consequence of which the growth of mildew is inhibited.

Not only large, compressible items such as clothing may be stored in a collapsible, evacuable and reclosable storage bag. For example, it may be desirable to store bulk items made of small particles, such as powders or granulated resins, in an evacuated reclosable bag. The stored material may be of a type that, when exposed to air during storage, is rendered unsuitable for its intended purpose. If the reclosable bag were made leakproof, then the bulk contents inside the bag would not be exposed to air.

In accordance with another application, a reclosable storage bag may be filled at ambient atmosphere instead of being evacuated. If such a bag were placed under extremely low pressure, e.g., while being air-lifted via a cargo plane having a depressurized cargo bay, then a large differential in pressure would exist between the interior and exterior of the bag. In this situation, the internal pressure may be about 15 psi, while the external pressure is negligible. It is desirable that the bag not develop a leak and that the zipper not pop open under such conditions.

Another use for evacuable reclosable packages is in the field of food product packaging. After a package of food has been opened and a portion of the food product removed, the remaining food product can be stored by closing the reclosable feature and then evacuating the interior space of the package via a fixture that penetrates a package wall. It is highly desirable that such packages, containing perishable food product in a vacuum, be leakproof, i.e., hermetic. By preventing exposure to air, the life span of the perishable food product can be extended.

In other situations, it is desirable to provide a reclosable package capable of holding liquid without leaking during normal usage when the zipper is reclosed. Preferably such a package would be able to withstand a predetermined pressure differential (interior/exterior) without liquid leaking out of the package.

In a typical construction, a reclosable pouch, bag or other package has a plastic zipper comprising two extruded zipper strips, the ends of the zipper strips extending into the side seals of a flexible receptacle. Frequently, each zipper strip comprises a closure profile and a flange or fin portion (hereinafter “flange”). The zipper strips are joined to the web of web material by heat sealing the web to the zipper flanges. In order to facilitate the formation of a tight side seal, typically the ends of the zipper strips are crushed. During the crushing operation, heat and pressure are applied in sufficient amounts (e.g., by means of mutually opposing heated sealing bars) that the ends of the zipper strips soften or melt and then deform. The flattened ends of the zipper strips then fuse during cooling. This thermal crushing operation is typically done at a separate thermal crush station or as part of the formation of a side seal of the receptacle at a cross sealing station. This “thermal crushing” of the plastic zipper creates a transition between “as is” (i.e., not crushed) zipper and crushed zipper that is susceptible to the presence of leaks.

There is a continuing need for improvements in the construction of reclosable containers having a hermetic interior volume when the zipper is reclosed. In particular, there is a need for an improved reclosable container wherein leakage is eliminated in those areas of the zipper near the container side seals.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Flexible containers that are hermetically resealable are disclosed herein. Each resealable container comprises a receptacle and a pair of plastic zipper strips. The zipper strips are flattened at the ends within the side seal regions and are joined to each other, without substantial deformation of the closure profiles, in respective transition areas substantially contiguous with the side seals. These transition areas of zipper strip joinder assist in providing a leakproof transition from the openable section of the zipper to the side seals, where the closure profiles are fused and flattened (i.e., crushed).

One aspect of the invention is a reclosable package comprising: a zipper comprising first and second zipper strips that have respective portions fused together in first and second zipper end seals, the first zipper strip comprising a length of a first closure profile having at least two projecting elements and first and second flanges extending in opposite directions and connected to the first closure profile, respective portions of the first and second flanges being flattened within the boundaries of the first and second zipper end seals, and the second zipper strip comprising a length of a second closure profile having at least one projecting element that fits between the at least two projecting elements of the first closure profile and a third flange connected to the second closure profile, respective portions of the third flange being flattened within the boundaries of the first and second zipper end seals, the first and second zipper end seals respectively comprising first and second substantially flat portions and first and second transition areas respectively connected to the first and second substantially flat portions on first, second and third sides and to both of the first and second closure profiles on a fourth side, wherein along the first and third sides of each of the first and second transition areas, each of the two projecting elements of the first and second closure profiles that are furthest apart from each other is fused to some portion of the one of the first and second zipper strips of which the respective one of the furthest-apart projecting elements does not form a part; and wherein along a second side of and within each of the first and second transition areas, the first and second closure profiles are deformed and fused together but not flattened, the respective ends of the fused material along the second side being integrally connected to the fused material of the first and third sides, respectively; and a receptacle comprising first and second panels that are joined to the first and second zipper end seals, joined to each other in first and second zones of panel joinder that extend along respective portions of first and second sides of the receptacle not overlapping the first and second zipper end seals, respectively, of the receptacle, and connected to each other by a fold or a third zone of panel joinder extending along a bottom of the receptacle, wherein the first through third flanges are joined to the receptacle along their length, and the second zipper strip is not joined to the receptacle along the length of any fourth flange.

Another aspect of the invention is a reclosable package comprising: a zipper comprising first and second zipper strips that have respective portions fused together in first and second zipper end seals, the first zipper strip comprising a length of a first closure profile and first and second flanges extending in opposite directions and connected to the first closure profile, respective portions of the first and second flanges being flattened within the boundaries of the first and second zipper end seals, and the second zipper strip comprising a length of a second closure profile interlockable with the first closure profile and a third flange connected to the second closure profile, respective portions of the third flange being flattened within the boundaries of the first and second zipper end seals, the first and second zipper end seals respectively comprising first and second transition areas disposed and connected to opposite ends of the first and second closure profiles, and first and second substantially flat portions that respectively border the first and second transition areas on three sides thereof, the first transition area comprising first sections of the first and second closure profiles that have been deformed and at least partially fused together but not flattened, and the second transition area comprising second sections of the first and second closure profiles that have been deformed and at least partially fused together but not flattened, wherein the third flange is longer than the first flange in an elevational direction and extends beyond the first and second zipper end seals; and a receptacle comprising first and second panels that are joined to the first and second zipper end seals, joined to each other in first and second zones of panel joinder that extend along respective portions of first and second sides of the receptacle not overlapping the first and second zipper end seals, respectively, of the receptacle, and connected to each other by a fold or a third zone of panel joinder extending along a bottom of the receptacle, wherein the first through third flanges are joined to the first panel across the full width of the first panel, and respective central major portions of the first through third flanges are not joined to the second panel.

A further aspect of the invention is a reclosable package comprising: a zipper comprising first and second zipper strips that have respective portions fused together in first and second zipper end seals, the first zipper strip comprising a length of a first closure profile and first and second flanges extending in opposite directions and connected to the first closure profile, respective portions of the first and second flanges being flattened within the boundaries of the first and second zipper end seals, and the second zipper strip comprising a length of a second closure profile interlockable with the first closure profile and a third flange connected to the second closure profile, respective portions of the third flange being flattened within the boundaries of the first and second zipper end seals, the first and second zipper end seals respectively comprising first and second transition areas disposed and connected to opposite ends of the first and second closure profiles, and first and second substantially flat portions that respectively border the first and second transition areas on three sides thereof, the first transition area comprising first sections of the first and second closure profiles that have been deformed and at least partially fused together but not flattened, and the second transition area comprising second sections of the first and second closure profiles that have been deformed and at least partially fused together but not flattened, wherein third and fourth sections of the first and second closure profiles that are respectively adjacent the first and second sections form channels therebetween, the channels within the third section being either sealed at one end thereof by the first transition area or communicating with channels formed by the first section that are sealed except where they communicate with the channels formed in the third section, and the channels within the fourth section being either sealed at one end thereof by the second transition area or communicating with channels formed by the second section that are sealed except where they communicate with the channels formed in the fourth section; and a receptacle comprising first and second panels that are joined to the first and second zipper end seals, joined to each other in first and second zones of panel joinder that extend along respective portions of first and second sides of the receptacle not overlapping the first and second zipper end seals, respectively, of the receptacle, and connected to each other by a fold or a third zone of panel joinder extending along a bottom of the receptacle, wherein the first through third flanges are joined to the receptacle along their length.

Other aspects of the invention are disclosed and claimed below.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a drawing showing an isometric view of one conventional type of collapsible, evacuable storage bag.

FIG. 2 is a drawing showing a portion of a conventional reclosable storage bag having thermal side seals.

FIG. 3 is a drawing showing a stage in the manufacture of the reclosable storage bag depicted in FIG. 2.

FIGS. 4 and 5 are drawings showing respective stages in accordance with one method for making leakproof zipper end seals in a collapsible, evacuable, reclosable storage bag of the type shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 6 is a drawing showing a schematic representation of the cross section of a reclosable bag for vacuum, pressure or liquid containment in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 7 is a drawing showing a cross-sectional view of a zipper that is suitable for use as a containment zipper in bags of the type schematically depicted in FIG. 6.

FIG. 8 is a drawing showing in detail the closure profiles of the zipper depicted in FIG. 7.

FIG. 9 is a drawing showing a side view of a machine station for joining a pair of zipper strips of the type seen in FIG. 7 to a web of web material in three places. The zipper and web material are not shown.

FIG. 10 is a drawing showing an isometric view of various stations in a machine that is set up to perform operations in a predetermined sequence in accordance with one method of manufacture.

FIG. 11 is a drawing showing an isometric view of a grooved bar of a type that can be employed at those stations depicted in FIG. 10 whereat the closure profiles are not flattened.

FIG. 12 is a drawing showing a front view of an upper corner of a reclosable bag in accordance with the embodiment shown in FIG. 6 and incorporating a zipper of the type shown in FIG. 7.

FIG. 13 is a drawing showing a cross-sectional view of the closure profiles in a transition area of the zipper incorporated in the bag depicted in FIG. 9, the section being taken along dashed line 10-10 seen in FIG. 9.

FIG. 14 is a drawing showing a schematic representation of the cross section of a reclosable bag for vacuum, pressure or liquid containment in accordance with another embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 15 is a drawing showing a cross-sectional view of a zipper that is suitable for use as a containment zipper in bags of the type schematically depicted in FIG. 14.

Reference will now be made to the drawings in which similar elements in different drawings bear the same reference numerals.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

FIG. 1 shows a conventional collapsible, evacuable storage bag 2 comprising a receptacle 4, a valve assembly 6, and a zipper 8 comprising a pair of mutually interlockable extruded zipper strips that are joined to each other at opposing ends thereof. Although not shown in FIG. 1, the conventional valve assembly 6 also typically comprises a cap that can be snapped onto a portion of the valve assembly that is disposed on the exterior of the receptacle 4. The cap must be removed before the receptacle can be evacuated, and then is replaced after the receptacle has been evacuated. The cap is intended to seal the valve assembly to prevent air from entering the evacuated receptacle.

The receptacle 4 typically comprises front and rear walls or panels (typically made of thermoplastic film material) that are joined together at the bottom and two sides by conduction heat sealing to form a receptacle having an interior volume and a mouth in which the zipper 8 is installed. Alternatively, the receptacle 4 may be made from a web of film that is folded, the fold forming the bottom of the receptacle. One wall of receptacle 4 has a hole (not shown in FIG. 1) in which to install the valve assembly 6. The receptacle may be constructed of a blended extrusion layer of polyethylene sandwiched between a nylon layer and a layer of polyethylene sheeting. However, the materials comprising the receptacle may be altered so as to prevent interaction with the contents stored therein.

During use, one or more discrete articles or a bulk material (not shown) may be placed inside the receptacle 4 while the zipper 8 is open, i.e., while the closure profiles of the interlockable zipper strips are disengaged from each other. After the article or material to be stored has been placed inside the receptacle, the mouth of the receptacle 4 can be sealed by pressing the zipper strips together to cause their respective closure profiles to interlock with each other. Although the zipper closure profiles may have many different designs, the design must be one that ensures that an airtight seal can be formed at the mouth of the receptacle.

The zipper strips can be pressed together using a device (not shown in FIG. 1) commonly referred to as a “slider” or “clip”, which straddles the zipper. The typical slider has a generally U-shaped profile, with respective legs disposed on opposing sides of the zipper. The gap between the slider legs is small enough that the zipper can pass through the slider gap only if the zipper is in a closed state. Thus when the slider is moved along an open zipper, this has the effect of pressing the incoming sections of the zipper strips together. The zipper is opened by pulling apart the zipper upper flanges, as explained in more detail below. The slider can be made using any desired method, such as injection molding. The slider can be molded from any suitable plastic, such as nylon, polypropylene, polystyrene, acetal, polyketone, polybutylene terephthalate, high-density polyethylene, polycarbonate, or ABS.

The zipper 8 is designed to form a hermetic seal at the mouth of the receptacle 4 when the zipper 8 closed. After the zipper has been closed, the interior volume of the receptacle can be evacuated by sucking air out via the one-way valve assembly 6. Air can be drawn out of receptacle 4 through valve assembly 6 using a conventional vacuum source, such as a household or industrial vacuum cleaner. The valve assembly 6 and the zipper 8 maintain the vacuum inside receptacle 4 after the vacuum source is removed.

The front and rear wall panels of the receptacle 4 are respectively sealed to the zipper strip by lengthwise conduction heat sealing in conventional manner. Alternatively, the interlockable zipper strips can be attached to the wall panels by adhesive or bonding strips or the zipper profiles can be extruded integrally with the web material. The walls of the receptacle may be formed of various types of gas-impermeable thermoplastic web material. The preferred gas-impermeable thermoplastics are nylon, polyester, polyvinyl dichloride and ethylene vinyl alcohol. The web material may be either transparent or opaque.

In many reclosable bags, the zipper comprises a pair of mutually interlockable zipper strips, each zipper strip having a respective generally constant profile along the interlockable portion of the zipper. Each zipper strip further comprises upper and lower flanges that extend from the respective closure profile in opposite direction. Each flange is a thin web of the same material used to make the closure profiles. The upper flanges serve as pull flanges that can be gripped and pulled apart to open the zipper. Typically, the ends of the zipper strips are joined together at the sides of the bag. A representative zipper joint is shown in FIG. 2, which depicts one corner of such a reclosable bag. The dashed lines denote a central portion 10 of the zipper 8 comprising interlockable closure profiles, each closure profile comprising a respective plurality of profiled closure elements. The ends of the zipper strips are fused together in area 12 at the same time that the container side seals 14 are formed. If the bag walls extend upward and above the upper zipper flanges, then the side seals typically extend upward as far as the top edges of such upstanding panels. The side seals are typically formed by applying heat and pressure in amounts sufficient to fuse and flatten the closure profiles at the ends of the zipper, which process is often called “thermal crushing”.

Thermal crushing of the interlockable profiled closure elements in region 10 of the zipper 8 creates a transition 15 between uncrushed zipper and crushed zipper that is susceptible to the presence of leaks through which fluid (gas or liquid) can enter or exit an evacuated container. Such leakage is indicated by the dashed arrow in FIG. 2. [For the sake of simplicity, the transition 15 between uncrushed zipper and crushed zipper has been represented as a straight line in FIG. 2. However, a person skilled in the art will recognize that thermoplastic material, when melted or rendered molten, is unlikely to fuse in a manner that forms a perfectly straight line.]

During manufacture, the cross seals are made wide enough so that respective halves of the heat sealed area 14 can be incorporated into two bags, as seen in FIG. 3. The cross-sealed area 14 is bisected by cutting along a line 16 transverse to the zipper 8. The area to the right of the cut line 16 forms the trailing cross seal of the leading receptacle 4 (assuming advancement of the chain of receptacles from left to right in FIG. 3), while the area to the left of the cut line 16 forms the leading cross seal of the trailing receptacle 4′.

An evacuable storage bag may be constructed from two panels of film joined together (e.g., by conduction heat sealing) along three sides of a rectangle. Alternatively, the bag may be constructed by folding a web of film and heat sealing the confronting sides of the folded web in side seal regions. To maintain a vacuum inside the storage bag, the zipper in a closed state must provide a hermetic seal at the mouth (i.e., fourth side) of the bag. Also the thermally crushed ends of the zipper must be leakproof under the temperature/pressure conditions to be expected during normal usage.

In U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/896,769, it was proposed to eliminate air leakage into an evacuated storage bag at the zipper joints by providing a transition area between the crushed and uncrushed closure profiles wherein the closure profiles have been fused together without flattening. Above and below the transition area, the zipper flanges are fused together. This was accomplished first by applying pressure and supplying ultrasonic energy in a section of the zipper indicated by cross hatching in FIG. 4. Respective sections of the upper flanges are melted in zone 18; respective sections of the lower flanges are melted in zone 20; and respective sections of the closure profiles are softened without flattening in zone 22. Then intermediate portions of zones 18, 20 and 22 are thermally crushed to form a side seal region 14, indicated by different cross hatching in FIG. 5, leaving unflattened transition areas 22 a and 22 b on opposite sides of the side seal.

Still referring to FIG. 5, in the area between transition areas 22 a and 22 b, the closure profiles are flattened during side sealing. During flattening, the thermoplastic material of the flattened sections of the closure profiles spreads and melds with thermoplastic material of the upper and lower flanges and the web material. Above the transition areas 22 a and 22 b, the upper flanges remain fused together in zones 18 a and 18 b. Below the transition areas 22 a and 22 b, the lower flanges remain fused together in zones 20 a and 20 b.

As disclosed in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/896,769, the foregoing was accomplished by ultrasonically welding the zipper strips together in the cross-hatched region seen in FIG. 4 using a horn and an anvil having mutually confronting recessed faces. More specifically, the horn and anvil each have a groove disposed between two coplanar flat surfaces. During welding, the coplanar surfaces of the horn respectively confront the coplanar surfaces of the anvil, while the groove of the horn confronts the groove of the anvil. The groove of the anvil is used to guide the zipper relative to the horn during zipper/film advancement, and also assists the groove of the horn to “contain” and provide clearance for the closure profiles in the transition area during welding. The surfaces of the grooves are shaped to contact the intervening sections of the closure profiles during welding (i.e., when the horn and anvil are brought together) with an amount of pressure that is sufficient to ensure acoustic coupling of the horn to the zipper strips, but not so great as to cause the profiled interlockable closure elements to undergo substantial deformation. One pair of the confronting flat surfaces of the horn and anvil weld the zipper upper flanges together, while the other pair of confronting flat surfaces weld the zipper lower flanges together. FIG. 4 shows a portion of a zipper sandwiched between and already joined (e.g., by conduction heat sealing) to marginal portions of respective webs of film material. Only the front web 56 is indicated in this view. [For the sake of illustration, it is assumed that the film material of web 56 is optically transparent, so that the zipper is visible in FIG. 4.] Welded zone 22 includes the material that occupies the aforementioned grooves in the horn and anvil during the welding operation.

After respective sections of the zipper strips have been joined by ultrasonically welding in zones 18, 20 and 22 (shown in FIG. 4), the opposing webs of packaging film and the continuous zipper strips joined thereto are advanced one package length or multiple package lengths on a machine. At the next work station, the panels are cross sealed by conduction heat sealing. More specifically, sufficient heat and pressure are applied in a strip-shaped zone 14 (see FIG. 5), which extends transverse to the zipper 8, to thermally crush the zipper strips and join the panels together across the full height of the panels. The cross seal 14 overlaps with the area (indicated by cross hatching in FIG. 4) in which the zipper strips were ultrasonically welded together. As seen in FIG. 5, the width of the cross seal 14 is less than the width of the area in which the zipper strips have been ultrasonically welded together and overlaps an intermediate portion thereof. Within this zone of overlap, the central region 10 (i.e., the closure profiles) of the zipper 8 is thermally crushed, i.e., flattened. As a result, the profiled interlockable closure elements of each zipper strip undergo substantial deformation.

As seen in FIG. 5, the cross seal 14 at the zipper is inboard of the ultrasonic weld. Preferably a line of symmetry of the ultrasonically welded regions is generally collinear with a centerline of the cross seal 14, which are in turn generally collinear with a line of cutting, indicated by the dashed line 16. However, precise collinearity is not required. When the zipper 8 and packaging film are cut along line 16, the package on one side of line 16 will be separated from the unsevered package on the other side of line 16, and the cross seal 14 will be divided into respective side seals on the respective packages.

In accordance with the teaching of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/896,769, the uncut web/zipper assembly comprises three distinct structures: (a) respective thermally crushed zipper sections 70, 72 (that will be severed at the cut line 16) in which the zipper strips are fused together and the closure profiles are deformed; (b) respective ultrasonically welded zipper sections 74, 76 substantially contiguous with the thermally crushed zipper sections 70, 72, in which the zipper strips are fused together and the closure profiles are fused without substantial deformation, thus forming the aforementioned transition areas 22 a and 22 b); and (c) the remaining zipper sections 78 (having one end substantially contiguous with a corresponding ultrasonically welded section) in which the zipper strips are interlockable and disengageable (i.e., the closure profiles are neither deformed nor fused together).

In order to produce a reclosable pouch, bag or package that will contain vacuum, pressure and/or liquids, it was determined that there should be hard and intimate contact between the closure profiles when the zipper is closed. More specifically, it was determined that, in order to ensure that the zipper performs its containment function in an acceptable manner, the percentage of the area of intimate contact between closure profiles should lie within a predetermined range. As used herein, the term “intimate contact”, in the context of a closed zipper, means those portions of the area at the interface of the interlocked closure profiles that do not show any clearance between the respective closure profile elements, such as hooked elements and posts or backup elements, when viewed under a microscope. The areas without clearance can be displayed by cutting the zipper with a razor blade and placing the cross section under magnification. A magnified image of the closure profiles (i.e., a so-called “shadowgraph”) is produced, and then the portions of the profiles that display intimate contact can be marked on the image.

The minimum and maximum intimate contact area may be expressed as percentage, whereby the area of lineal contact is divided by the total available lineal surface of one profile. It was determined that the minimum percentage of intimate contact area that would still enable the zipper to perform satisfactorily as a containment zipper was 33%, whereas the maximum percentage of intimate contact area that would still enable the zipper to open and reclose was 76%. It is believed that any zipper having an intimate contact area percentage in the range of 33 to 76% can be effectively placed in a reclosable package that will contain vacuum, pressure and/or liquid during normal usage. Once a containment zipper has been selected, the package designer must then select a proper film strength and film seal integrity for the specific application.

Furthermore, the respective closure profiles of the zipper should have the same shape and configuration of elements, so that thermoplastic zipper material is substantially symmetrically and evenly distributed across the interlocked profiles. This will facilitate the formation of zipper end stomps or joints having flat surfaces and constant thickness.

If the minimum design criteria for the closure profiles are met, the reclosable package will only be limited by the material strength of the package components, i.e., the web material, the web-to-web and web-to-zipper seals, and the zipper material.

Many different types of zippers are suitable for use as containment zippers. In accordance with various embodiments disclosed hereinafter, a containment zipper is incorporated into a pouch or bag in such a way that the pouch or bag is able to withstand a large pressure differential between the interior and the exterior of the pouch or bag without leaking or popping open. Alternatively, the pouch or bag is suitable for containing liquid without leaking or popping open under the expected conditions of normal usage.

A reclosable pouch or bag in accordance with one embodiment of the invention is schematically represented in cross section in FIG. 6. The reclosable bag comprises a receptacle 4 with a three-flange containment zipper installed in the receptacle mouth at a top of the bag. One strip 8 a of the containment zipper comprises a closure profile 28 and upper and lower flanges 24 and 26 extending in opposite directions from closure profile 28. The upper and lower flanges 24 and 26 are heat sealed to one wall or panel 4 a of the receptacle in respective band-shaped zones 64 and 66 indicated by Xs in FIG. 6. Each band-shaped zone 64, 66 extends the length of the flanges. The other zipper strip 8 b comprises a closure profile 34 and an upper flange 30 that confronts the upper flange 24. The upper flange 30 is heat sealed to the other wall or panel 4 b of the receptacle 4 in a band-shaped zone 68 extending the length of the flange. By sealing zipper strip 8 b to the receptacle 4 only at a flange 30 located above the closure profiles, a positive leverage effect is created, whereby pressure in the interior of the receptacle or mechanical forces exerted on the receptacle will, at least at the lower levels, tend to pull the receptacle wall 4 b away from the closure profile 34, rather than pulling closure profile 34 away from closure profile 28. In contrast, if both zipper strips had upper and lower flanges and all four flanges were sealed to the sides of the receptacle, the sufficiently high internal pressure could produce enough stress that the closure profiles would be pulled apart, thereby opening the zipper and breaking the containment.

The upper flanges 24 and 30 can be gripped by the user and pulled apart to open the closed zipper. The opened zipper can be reclosed by manually pressing the zipper strips together along the entire length of the zipper with sufficient force to cause the closure profiles to interlock. Alternatively, a slider (not shown) can be used to close the zipper. Typically, such a slider takes the form of a U-shaped clip that fits over the zipper with clearance for the upper flanges, while the legs of the clip cam the zipper profiles of the incoming zipper section into engagement when the slider is moved along the zipper in either direction.

The structure of the containment zipper is only schematically represented in FIG. 6. The structure of an exemplary containment zipper, suitable for incorporation in the bag seen in FIG. 6, is shown in detail in FIG. 7. One zipper strip 8 a comprises a closure profile 28 and upper and lower flanges 24 and 26 extending in opposite directions therefrom. The closure profile 28 comprises a pair of monohook elements and a post or backup element devoid of a hook. A portion of the outer surface of upper flange 24 is coated with a layer 38 of low-melting thermoplastic material (hereinafter “sealant layer”) to facilitate heat sealing of the upper flange 38 to one receptacle wall. The lower flange 26 has a similar sealant layer 36 thereon. The other zipper strip 8 b comprises a closure profile 34, an upper flange 30 that confronts the upper flange 24, and a short extension 32 that confronts minor portion of the lower flange 26. The closure profile 34 also comprises a pair of monohook elements and a post or backup element devoid of a hook. A portion of the outer surface of upper flange 30 is coated with a sealant layer 40 to facilitate heat sealing of the upper flange 38 to the other receptacle wall.

The three-flange zipper seen in FIG. 7 is shown on an enlarged scale in FIG. 8. The closure profile 28 comprises three profiled closure elements 42, 44 and 46 projecting from a base 29, the upper and lower flanges 24 and 26 having respective ends integrally formed with base 29. Elements 44 and 46 are monohook elements, while element 42 is a post having no hook. Similarly, the closure profile 34 comprises three profiled closure elements 48, 50 and 52 projecting from a base 35, the upper flange 30 and the short extension 32 having respective ends integrally formed with base 35. Elements 50 and 52 are monohook elements, while element 48 is a post having no hook. When the closure profiles are fully interlocked, as shown in FIG. 8, monohook element 52 of closure profile 34 is disposed in a recess defined by and is in contact with post 42 and monohook element 44 of closure profile 28; the monohook element 44 of closure profile 28 is disposed in a recess defined by and is in contact with monohook elements 50 and 52 of closure profile 34; and so forth. The intimate contact area between the respective closure profiles lies within the aforementioned percentage range that is suitable for use as a containment zipper.

To ensure that a reclosable bag of the type shown in FIG. 6, having a containment zipper of the type shown in FIG. 7, has the capability to seal against liquids, vacuum and air under pressure, the zipper ends must be hermetically sealed. U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/896,769 disclosed a zipper end structure (called a “transition”) that is bordered on three sides by fused material (i.e., ultrasonically welded sections of the upper and lower flanges and a thermally crushed section of the closure profiles). That “transition” (called a “transition area” herein) was disposed between a section of uncrushed (“as is”) zipper and a section of crushed zipper. The “transition” in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/896,769 was formed by ultrasonically welding the respective sections of the closure profiles together without substantial deformation of the longitudinal profiled closure elements and then thermally crushing an intermediate portion of that ultrasonically welded zipper section.

The present invention also envisions the formation of a transition area that separates crushed closure profiles from uncrushed closure profiles. One method for accomplishing the foregoing will now be described.

FIG. 9 is a drawing showing a side view of components of a zipper sealing station for joining a pair of zipper strips 8 a and 8 b of the type seen in FIG. 7 to respective sides 4 a and 4 b (shown only in part) of a folded web. This zipper sealing station comprises mutually opposed dual sealing bar assemblies 116 and 118. Dual sealing bar assembly 116 comprises mutually parallel sealing bars 142 and 144 fixed to and carried by a reciprocatable mounting plate 146; dual sealing bar assembly 118 comprises mutually parallel sealing bars 148 and 150 fixed to and carried by a reciprocatable mounting plate 152. The mounting plates are displaceable between extended and retracted positions by means of respective air cylinders (not shown), which are operated under the control of a programmable logic controller (PLC). A pair of zipper guide blades 112 and 114 are disposed with a gap therebetween in a plane midway between respective mutually opposed sets of sealing bars.

In accordance with one method of manufacture, the web is intermittently advanced in a machine direction and guided into a configuration whereby sides 4 a and 4 b of the web will be disposed between dual sealing bar assemblies 116 and 118 when web advancement ceases, i.e., during a dwell time. Concurrently with web advancement, the interlocked zipper strips 8 a and 8 b are also fed in the machine direction and guided by zipper guide blades 112 and 114 into the position seen in FIG. 9, wherein the lower flange of a length of zipper strip 8 a is disposed between zipper guide blade 112 and sealing bar 142; the upper flange of said length of zipper strip 8 a is disposed between zipper guide blade 114 and sealing bar 117 b; and the upper flange of the same length of zipper strip 8 b is disposed between zipper guide blade 114 and sealing bar 119 b. The closure profiles are disposed in the gap between the zipper guide blades 112 and 114. The dual sealing bar assembly 118 also has a sealing bar 148, which need not be heated in the absence of a fourth zipper flange. The other sealing bars 142, 144 and 150 are heated.

The structure and operation of such sealing bars is well known. Typically, the sealing bar comprises a seal bar core having a pair of longitudinal channels that respectively house a thermocouple and an electric heater, both of which are electrically connected to a programmable heat controller by electrical wiring. The thermocouple produces electrical signals representing the temperature of the seal bar core, which signals are received by the heat controller. The heat controller controls the level of electrical current supplied to the heater in accordance with a heat control program that is designed to maintain the sealing bar temperature within limits preset by the system operator.

In accordance with the method of manufacture being described, first the sealing bars 142, 144 and 150 are heated to the desired temperatures. Then the mounting plates 146 and 152 are extended toward each in unison. FIG. 9 shows the mounting plates in retracted positions. In their extended positions (not shown), the heated sealing bar 144 presses the web portion 4 a and the upper flange of zipper strip 8 a against one side of zipper guide blade 114, while the heated sealing bar 150 presses the web portion 4 b and the upper flange of zipper strip 8 b against the other side of zipper guide blade 114. At the same time, the heated sealing bar 142 presses the web portion 4 a and the lower flange of zipper strip 8 a against one side of zipper guide blade 112, while the unheated sealing bar 148 (which acts as a backing) presses against the other side of zipper guide blade 112, thereby providing support for zipper guide blade 112. Heat and pressure are applied for a predetermined time. Then the mounting plates are retracted. During this operation, the web and zipper become joined in three band-shaped zones 64, 66 and 68. The foregoing zipper sealing operation is repeated at regular intervals, a package length section of containment zipper being heat sealed to a package length section of web material during each dwell time. In each interval between successive dwell times, the web/zipper assembly is advanced or indexed forward a distance equal to one package length.

If the web material is a solitary web of packaging film, then that web is folded before the zipper is attached. Alternatively, if the web material comprises two webs of packaging film, then the additional operation of heat sealing the bottoms of the receptacles can be performed before or after zipper attachment. A person skilled in the art will recognize, however, that the zipper strips could be separately attached to the web material and then brought into interlocking relationship while joined to the web material, in which case the arrangement shown in FIG. 9 would not be used.

After each zipper sealing operation is performed, the joined web and zipper are advanced by one package length. Each length of joined web and zipper must pass in succession through the stages depicted in FIG. 10, The web material is designated by numeral 4; the interlocked closure profiles are designated by numeral 128. The direction of web/zipper advancement (i.e., the machine direction) is indicated by the arrow.

At station 130, a short section of zipper having a small rectangular area is pressed between a first set of mutually opposing heated grooved bars (only one of which is visible in FIG. 10, the other being underneath the web 4) prior to side sealing. Each grooved bar at station 130 preferably has the same structure. FIG. 11 shows an exemplary grooved bar 120 having coplanar flat rectangular surfaces 122 and 124 of equal width, with a groove 126 therebetween. In this example, the groove 126 has a trapezoidal cross-sectional shape; however, the shape of the groove may be varied as a function of the outer profile of the particular zipper being employed.

When two heated grooved bars of the type shown in FIG. 11 are extended toward the zipper at station 130, a section of the closure profiles 128 is captured between the opposing grooves, which are designed to apply a gentle force to the profiles without substantial deformation and, in particular, without flattening the closure profiles. The flat surfaces of the grooved bars press the upper and lower flanges respectively. The height of each grooved bar may be approximately equal to the height of the zipper, meaning that the heated grooved bars are not intended to heat seal web material to web material, but rather are sized and positioned to act on the zipper. The grooved bars disclosed herein may be heated and displaced in ways similar to those described hereinabove for the zipper sealing bars.

At station 130, the temperature of the grooved bars is high, while the applied pressure is low. Under these conditions, the portions of the flanges trapped between the grooved bars are heated and softened, while the portions of the closure profiles trapped between the opposing grooves of the grooved bars are heated and softened without flattening. The area contacted by the grooved bars is similar to the cross-hatched area consisting of zones 18, 20, 22 seen in FIG. 4, wherein the closure profiles of the zipper section are disposed in zone 22.

At the start of the next work cycle, the web and zipper are indexed forward until the same zipper section that was pressed at station 130 arrives at station 132, where it is pressed between a second set of mutually opposing heated grooved bars (only one of which is visible in FIG. 10, the other being underneath the web 4). The grooved bars at station 132 may be arranged and configured substantially identically to the grooved bars at station 130. However, the grooved bars at station 132 are set up with a lower temperature and a slightly higher pressure than were in effect for the grooved bars at station 130. During operation of the grooved bars at station 132, the flanges of the zipper are again heated, this time to a point where flanges are melted. In the case of the specific zipper construction shown in FIG. 8, the extension 32 is also melted. In addition, the sections of the closure profiles trapped between the grooves of the grooved bars are again heated, causing further softening of this section of the closure profiles and melting in some places, most notably at the profiled closure elements that are furthest apart (see, e.g., posts 42 and 48 in FIG. 8). Again, the portions of the closure profiles trapped between the opposing grooves of the grooved bars are heated without flattening. The area contacted by the grooved bars at station 132 approximately overlies the area that was previously contacted by grooved bars at station 130.

At the start of the next work cycle, the web and zipper are again indexed forward until the same zipper section that was pressed at station 132 arrives at side sealing station 134. Station 134 comprises a pair of mutually opposing heated side sealing bars (only one of which is visible in FIG. 10, the other being underneath the web 4). The side sealing bars may be similar in construction to the previously described zipper sealing bars, but are oriented perpendicular to the zipper instead of parallel, and have a length equal to the height instead of the length of a package. Each of the side sealing bars is flat, without grooves that would provide clearance for the zipper closure profiles. The width of the side sealing bars must be less than (e.g., ⅔) the width of the grooved bars at stations 130 and 132. The zipper section should be placed such that its centerline is approximately aligned with the centerlines of the side sealing bars.

At station 134, the bag side seals are formed by extending the heated side sealing bars so that the zipper/web assembly is pressed therebetween. The side sealing bars at station 134 will melt intervening portions of the web and zipper material. Since the zipper section has been preheated at stations 130 and 132, the side sealing bars will readily crush, i.e., flatten, the intervening zipper portions, including the intervening portions of the closure profiles. More precisely, the side sealing bars flatten an intermediate portion of the zipper area previously contacted by the grooved bars at stations 130 and 132. The side seal region will be similar to the cross-hatched region 14 seen in FIG. 5, with zones 22 a and 22 b again representing respective transition areas on opposite sides of the side seal region. Depending on the composition of the film being used, side sealing may involve one or more operations performed by respective sets of side sealing bars located at different stations in the machine.

At the start of the next work cycle, the web and zipper are again indexed forward until the same zipper section that was partially flattened at station 134 arrives at station 136, where it is pressed between a third set of mutually opposing heated grooved bars (only one of which is visible in FIG. 10). The grooved bars at station 136 may be arranged and configured substantially identically to the grooved bars at stations 130 and 132. However, the grooved bars at station 132 are set up with a lower temperature and a higher pressure than were in effect for the grooved bars at station 132. During operation of the grooved bars at station 136, any dams of plastic created by the side sealing bars on the flanges of the zipper are flattened. Again, the portions of the closure profiles trapped between the opposing grooves of the grooved bars at station 136 are not flattened. The area contacted by the grooved bars at station 136 approximately overlies the area that was previously contacted by grooved bars at station 132. During the application of heat and pressure by the third set of grooved bars, the transition areas will reside in the gap between the mutually confronting grooves on the bars, and thus will not be flattened.

In accordance with the preferred method of manufacture, all of the heated areas are then cooled by being placed in contact with surface of chilled or unheated bars. This can be done in two separate operations or in a single operation given a properly designed cooling bar. FIG. 10 illustrates an embodiment wherein cooling is done at two stations 138 and 140 as follows:

At the start of the next work cycle, the web and zipper are again indexed forward until the same zipper section that was pressed at station 136 arrives at the first cooling station 138, where it is pressed between a fourth set of mutually opposing chilled or unheated grooved bars (only one of which is visible in FIG. 10). The grooved bars at station 138 may be arranged and configured substantially identically to the grooved bars at station 136. Again, the portions of the closure profiles trapped between the opposing grooves of the grooved bars at station 138 are not flattened. The area contacted by the grooved bars at station 138 approximately overlies the area that was previously contacted by grooved bars at station 136. During the application of pressure by the fourth set of grooved bars, the transition areas will reside in the gap between the mutually confronting grooves on the bars, and thus will not be flattened. The grooved bars at station 138 act as heat sinks, extracting heat from the previously heated thermoplastic material. The material thus cooled would include the upper and lower flanges in the heat-treated zipper section as well as the transition areas.

At the start of the next work cycle, the web and zipper are again indexed forward until the same zipper section that was cooled at station 138 arrives at the second cooling station 140. Station 140 comprises a pair of mutually opposing chilled or unheated side cooling bars (only one of which is visible in FIG. 10, the other being underneath the web 4). The side cooling bars are similar in size and shape to the previously described side sealing bars. More specifically, the side cooling bars at station 140 have the same width as that of the side sealing bars at station 134. Each of the side cooling bars is flat, without grooves that would provide clearance for the zipper closure profiles. The zipper section should be placed such that its centerline is approximately aligned with the centerlines of the side cooling bars. This second cooling operation involves placing the chilled or unheated flat cooling bars in contact with the entire side seal region, including the flattened zone between the transition areas (22 a and 22 b in FIG. 5), but not including the transition areas, which are left undisturbed.

The cooling stations achieve the desired final formation of the transition area and adjacent areas. Thereafter, the zipper/web assembly is again indexed forward. During the next work cycle, the zipper and web material are cut along a line generally bisecting the side seal region formed at station 134.

Alternatively, a set of cooling bars could be designed to contact all of the foregoing areas (i.e., the areas contacted by the grooved bars as well as the area contacted by the side sealing bars) in one operation. In this case, each cooling bar would have a flat surface comprising a first area in the shape of an H on its side and a second area, substantially contiguous with the first area and extending downward from the side of the H. The H-shaped surface area would be defined by respective recesses that provide clearance for the transition areas and has a width equal to the width of the heat-treated zipper section, while the second area has a width equal to the width of the side seal region.

The result of the foregoing operations is seen in FIG. 12, which shows a corner of a reclosable bag (of the type shown in FIG. 6) having a containment zipper (of the type shown in FIG. 7). For the purpose of illustration, it is presumed that the front panel 4 a is optically transparent and that the front zipper strip (comprising a closure profile 28, an upper flange 24 and a lower flange 26) is visible behind the front panel 4 a. The front panel 4 a of the receptacle extends above the upper flange 24 of the zipper strip 8 a and has a top edge 58. The rear bag panel is directly behind the front panel and extends upward to the same elevation as the front panel (see FIG. 6). The side seal 14 extends the full height of the front panel 4 a. A transition area 62, comprising respective sections of the closure profiles that are at least partly joined together, is connected at one end to an uncrushed portion of the closure profiles and is substantially contiguous at the other end with the side seal 14. The areas above and below the transition area 62, and the uppermost portion of side seal 14 adjacent thereto (and adjacent to the transition area 62) forms a flattened area generally indicated by arrow 60 in FIG. 12. The web and zipper materials are melded together in region 60.

In accordance with one methodology, the temperature and pressure of the grooved bars at stations 130, 132, 136 and 138 are such that the transition area 62 has a cross section as shown in FIG. 13. The view presented in FIG. 13 is taken along section line 13-13 indicated in FIG. 12. FIG. 13 shows two areas 154 and 156 where the zipper strips 8 a and 8 b have been fused or melded together. Although the separate components are no longer visible in FIG. 13, each fused region 154 and 158 represents a region where a post and a portion of the adjoining flange of one zipper strip has been fused with confronting portions of the other zipper strip. For example, the fused region 154 seen in FIG. 13 was formed by fusing portions of post 48 and flanges 24 and 30 seen in FIG. 8. Similarly, the fused region 156 seen in FIG. 13 was formed by fusing portions of post 42, flange 26 and extension 32 seen in FIG. 8. FIG. 13 shows that the hooks of the monohook elements of zipper strips 8 a and 8 b have not been fused together in the area where the section was taken. The channels 158, 160, 162 and 164 seen in FIG. 13 do not produce leakage through the end of the zipper because they are closed off in the region of transition area 62 that is substantially contiguous with the portion of the side seal 14 where the closure profiles were crushed.

However, the transition area 62 may be formed in a manner such that the hooks of the monohook elements are fused together and there are no channels like those depicted in FIG. 13.

One of the problems in producing an acceptable containment package occurs with mismatched packaging elements. If the zipper is massive compared to the film, or the zipper requires a high amount of energy relative to the film to produce a seal, the transition area of the zipper crush must be formed with care to avoid leakage. In accordance with alternative embodiments, the contact area in the section of the closure profiles wherein the transition areas will be formed may be coated with a lower-melting-point material that allows for the adhesion of the zipper to itself in the transition areas using a lower heat setting. Consequently, film damage is reduced while still creating a leakproof zipper end seal and eliminating or reducing the possibility of cross-channel leakers. The coating can be made of a material that is activated by thermal, ultrasonic, radiofrequency or ultraviolet energy, which would be applied at the point in the zipper profile where it is desired to fuse and weld the profiles to create an acceptable containment seal. The advantage of this is that the heat used can be lowered in the stomp area, thereby helping to minimize or eliminate film damage while still creating a hermetic side seal. This allows for the combination of mismatched packaging elements with the introduction of the coating material onto the zipper profiles. By adding a lower-energy material to the profile, one can effectively circumvent the problems associated with the combination of massive (high-energy) zippers and thin (low-energy) films. The coating would have a lower energy requirement than the base zipper material, thereby more closely matching to a lower-energy film substrate.

A reclosable pouch or bag in accordance with another embodiment of the invention is schematically represented in cross section in FIG. 14. The reclosable bag comprises a receptacle 4 with a three-flange containment zipper installed on the front panel 4 a of the bag. The zipper extends the full width of the bag, with the ends of the zipper being blended into the side seals (not shown in FIG. 14). A top seal 90 joins respective marginal portions of the front and rear panels 4 a and 4 b at the top of the bag. Although FIG. 14 shows a receptacle formed by folding a solitary web of packaging film and then cross sealing, the front and rear panels could alternatively be formed by separate webs, in which case the bag would also include a bottom seal joining respective bottom marginal portions of the front and rear panels.

Still referring to FIG. 14, one strip of the containment zipper comprises a closure profile 80 and upper and lower flanges 82 and 84 extending in opposite directions from closure profile 80. The upper and lower flanges 82 and 84 are heat sealed to the front panel 4 a in respective band-shaped zones 92 and 94. The other zipper strip comprises a closure profile 86 and an upper flange 88 having a length substantially greater than upper flange 82. A portion of upper flange 88 that extends beyond upper flange 82 is heat sealed to the front panel 4 a in a band-shaped zone 96. The band-shaped zones 92, 94 and 96 extend in parallel for the length of the zipper, with zone 92 disposed between zones 94 and 96.

The structure of the containment zipper attached to front panel 4 a is only schematically represented in FIG. 14. The structure of an exemplary containment zipper, suitable for incorporation in the bag seen in FIG. 14, is shown in detail in FIG. 15. The intimate contact area between the respective closure profiles lies within the aforementioned percentage range that is suitable for use as a containment zipper. One zipper strip 8 c comprises a closure profile 80 and upper and lower flanges 82 and 84 extending in opposite directions therefrom. The upper flange 82 is longer than the lower flange 84 in the elevational direction. The closure profile 80 comprises a pair of monohook elements and a post or backup element devoid of a hook. A portion of the outer surface of upper flange 82 is coated with a sealant layer 102 to facilitate heat sealing of the upper flange 102 to the front panel 4 a. The lower flange 84 has a similar sealant layer 100 on its outer surface. The other zipper strip 8 d comprises a closure profile 86 and an upper flange 88 having a length substantially greater than the length of upper flange 82. Zipper strip 8 d has no lower flange. The closure profile 86 also comprises a pair of monohook elements and a post or backup element devoid of a hook. In this particular containment zipper embodiment, the respective posts are the profile elements that are furthest apart from each other. A portion of the inner surface of upper flange 88 is coated with a sealant layer 104 to facilitate heat sealing of the upper flange 88 to the front panel.

The zipper shown in FIG. 15 further comprises a layer 106 of peelable sealing material applied on the interior surface of upper flange 82 of zipper strip 8 c and a layer 108 of peelable sealing material applied on the interior surface of upper flange 88 of zipper strip 8 d. The layers of peelable sealing material have the same width and extend the full length of the zipper strips, and are placed in mutual opposition to each other.

In accordance with one method of manufacturing reclosable bags or pouches of the type depicted in FIG. 14, the zipper is attached to a web of packaging film before the web is folded. Before the zipper is attached to the web, the layers 106 and 108 are pressed together and heated to a degree that the layers of peelable sealing material form a peel seal (item 98 in FIG. 14). After the peel seal has been activated, the zipper is attached to the web of packaging film by pressing and heating the sealant layers 100, 102 and 104 (seen in FIG. 15) while in contact with the web using sealing bars under temperature/pressure conditions such that the sealant material and web are heat sealed together, thereby forming the band-shaped zones 94, 92 and 96 seen in FIG. 14. Then the web is folded so that its lateral edges are aligned above the zipper, where the top seal 90 will be formed later. Before the top seal is formed, however, the web/zipper assembly must be cross sealed in a manner similar to that previously described with reference to the embodiment shown in FIG. 6. The same steps, as previously described with reference to FIG. 10, can be performed using similar apparatus, with the difference that the grooved bars must be specifically designed so that the grooves capture and do not flatten the closure profiles 8 c and 8 d seen in FIG. 15. Also the flat surfaces of the grooved bars must be sized to extend from the edge of flange 82 to its connection with closure profile 80 and from the edge of flange 84 to its connection point with closure profile 80 (see FIG. 15), i.e., portions of flange 88 that extend above flange 82 need not be included within the extent of the zipper end seals. Under the appropriate operating conditions, sections of closure profiles 80 and 86 can be formed into transition areas having a cross section similar to what is depicted in FIG. 13, except that zipper strip 8 d does not have an extension similar to extension 32 of zipper strip 8 b shown in FIG. 7. However, such an extension could be provided if desired.

After the cross seals and zipper end seals have been formed, the bag or pouch shown in FIG. 14 can be filled with product. After filling, a band-shaped zone of web-to-web joinder 90 is formed at the top of the bag or pouch by conventional heat sealing. The web/zipper assembly is cut along successive side seal regions to form a separate bag or pouch.

The result of the foregoing process is a reclosable bag or pouch having a zipper attached to the front panel and extending the full width of the bag or pouch. A line of weakness, e.g., a line of spaced perforations, is formed in the front panel 4 a at a point between the zones of web-zipper joinder 92 and 96, as indicated by the short line seen intersecting front panel 4 a in FIG. 14. The line of weakness can be formed before or after the zipper is attached to the web. A consumer can gain access to the contents of the unopened bag or pouch by tearing the front panel 4 a along the line of weakness, peeling open the peel seal 98 and then pulling the zipper strips apart to open the zipper.

With the ends of the zipper sealed using the techniques disclosed herein, the bag or pouch shown in FIG. 14 can be rendered suitable for containing vacuum, pressure or liquid without leaking, even after the bag or pouch has been opened and reclosed. By sealing the zipper to the front panel instead of to both panels, the zipper will be exposed to less stress under pressure. More specifically, by placing the zipper on the front panel, forces due to internal pressure will act perpendicularly to the zipper and all in one direction. With all the force acting on the zipper in one direction, resistance to opening will be maximized. The front panel design is also effective in transferring the stresses of the internal pressure to the film and away from the zipper. Higher internal pressures can be accommodated to the point where the package film fails before the zipper closure fails.

The transition area between crushed and non-crushed closure profiles needs to be correctly formed for containment applications. To successfully form a tight transition area, the pouch or bag machine can be set up with grooved bars that are specially designed for the particular zipper being employed. Although FIG. 10 shows three stations 130, 132 and 136 having heated grooved bars for softening and/or melting portions of the zipper profiles and flanges, the number of stations used to form the leakproof zipper end seal will not be the same for all machines and film structures. Moreover, the temperature and pressure settings for the heated grooved bars will be based on different line speeds, available dwell times, film structures and machine types.

Alternatively, tight transition zones can be formed using ultrasonic energy instead of conductive heat. In that case, each set of heated grooved bars would be replaced by a respective horn/anvil pair, in which the horn emits ultrasonic energy, and both the horn and anvil have grooves that provide clearance for the sections of closure profiles disposed between the horn and anvil. Welding and sealing of thermoplastic material by ultrasonic vibrations is an established process and has been used for forming slider end stops on the ends of a slider-operated zipper in a reclosable bag and for forming zipper joints generally. A typical ultrasonic welding apparatus in which a workpiece is fed through an ultrasonic weld station comprises an anvil and an oppositely disposed resonant horn. The frontal surface of the horn and the anvil are urged toward mutual engagement, for coupling the ultrasonic vibrations from the activated horn into the thermoplastic material of the workpiece, thereby effecting ultrasonic welding. The horn is energized from a power supply that provides electrical high-frequency power at a predetermined ultrasonic frequency to an electro-acoustic transducer, which, in turn, provides mechanical vibrations at that frequency to a booster or coupling horn for coupling these vibrations to the horn.

Although not shown in FIG. 6 or FIG. 14, a one-way valve of the type shown in FIG. 1 (item 6) may be installed in the front panel of the bags respectively depicted in FIGS. 6 and 14 to allow the interior volume of the bag to be evacuated after the zipper has been reclosed.

While the invention has been described with reference to various embodiments, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that various changes may be made and equivalents may be substituted for elements thereof without departing from the scope of the invention. In addition, many modifications may be made to adapt a particular situation to the teachings of the invention without departing from the essential scope thereof. Therefore it is intended that the invention not be limited to the particular embodiment disclosed as the best mode contemplated for carrying out this invention, but that the invention will include all embodiments falling within the scope of the appended claims.

As used in the claims, the term “joined” means fused, welded or heat sealed. As used in the claims, the term “package” means a bag, pouch or other flexible container.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US8196269Mar 13, 2008Jun 12, 2012S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc.Closure mechanism for a recloseable pouch
US8197138Aug 12, 2008Jun 12, 2012S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc.Evacuable container and evacuation strip therefor
US8197139Mar 20, 2009Jun 12, 2012S.C. Johnson Home Storage, Inc.Valve and valve strip for a reclosable container
US8529129Mar 13, 2008Sep 10, 2013S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc.Closure element for a pouch
US20070183692 *Jan 31, 2007Aug 9, 2007Pawloski James CReclosable pouch and zipper for a reclosable pouch
US20120045151 *Aug 9, 2011Feb 23, 2012Emmanuel EouzanTamper-proof packaging bag
Classifications
U.S. Classification383/63
International ClassificationB65D33/16
Cooperative ClassificationA44B19/60, B31B2219/9019, B31B19/90, B65D33/2591, B65D33/2508, B65D33/2533, B65D33/2583, A44B19/36
European ClassificationB31B19/90, B65D33/25A, B65D33/25C, B65D33/25A1C, B65D33/25A7A
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Jan 17, 2006ASAssignment
Owner name: ILLINOIS TOOL WORKS INC., ILLINOIS
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:ANZINI, DAVID J.;KOENIGKRAMER, RUSTY E.;MATTHEWS, DAVID J.;AND OTHERS;REEL/FRAME:017483/0163;SIGNING DATES FROM 20060103 TO 20060109