US 20060147129 A1
A package comprising a bag having lines of weakness and a pull-tab opener secured to the bag proximate to the lines of weakness, the pull-tab opener having a pull-tab opening integral therewith, wherein the pull-tab opening is designed to be hooked with hooking means. In one embodiment, a sealed container is provided comprising a flexible bag having lines of weakness with at least one product disposed within the bag. In a preferred embodiment, the pull-tab opener is a reusable pull-tab opener.
1. A package comprising a bag having lines of weakness and a pull-tab opener secured to the bag proximate to the lines of weakness, the pull-tab opener having a pull-tab opening integral therewith, wherein the pull-tab opening is designed to be hooked with hooking means.
2. The package of
3. The package of
4. The package of
5. The package of
6. The package of
7. The package of
8. The package of
9. The package of
10. The package of
11. The package of
12. The package of
13. The package of
14. A bag, comprising:
a plurality of panels;
lines of weakness located on one or more of the plurality of panels, the lines of weakness configured to form one or more flaps when torn; and
one or more reusable pull-tabs secured to the one or more flaps and positioned to tear open the lines of weakness when pulled on with sufficient force, the one or more pull-tabs each having a pull-tab opening on one end, each pull-tab opening designed to be hooked with a hooking means, wherein the one or more reusable pull-tab openers are secured to the bag with reusable securing means or a combination of reusable securing means and permanent securing means, wherein the permanent securing means has a strength greater than a tear force required to separate the lines of weakness.
15. The bag of
16. The bag of
17. The bag of
18. A sealed container comprising:
a flexible bag having lines of weakness;
at least one product disposed within the bag; and
a pull-tab opener secured to the bag proximate to the lines of weakness wherein the pull-tab opener has a pull-tab opening configured to allow a user to hook the pull-tab opener through the pull-tab opening.
19. The sealed container of
20. The sealed container of
This Application is a divisional under 37 C.F.R. 1.53(b) of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/695,716, filed on Oct. 29, 2003, now pending, which is a continuation under 37 C.F.R. 1.53(b) of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/032,297, filed Dec. 21, 2001, now issued as U.S. Pat. No. 6,698,928; both of which applications are incorporated herein by reference.
The present invention relates to flexible packages and, in particular, the present invention relates to flexible packages having reusable pull-tab openers.
Compressible personal care articles, such as incontinence garments, disposable diapers, feminine hygiene products, and so forth, are in widespread use worldwide. These items are typically sold in multiple quantities and are contained in bags or packaging composed of flexible polymer materials.
However, such packaging can be quite difficult to open. As a result, perforations are often added as an opening aid. Typical perforated opening features require a consumer to search the bag for opening instructions. Once the feature is located, the consumer must then push one or more fingers through the plastic film to initiate the opening. In many instances, a tool, such as a knife or scissors, is required to separate the perforations. Other features require the consumer to grasp or pinch a portion of the bag to separate the perforation and initiate the opening. However, it is widely recognized that such grasping or pinching is quite difficult for consumers who have limited or reduced hand strength and dexterity due to age, physical illness or fatigue.
Yet another problem with this type of packaging is the inability to reseal a package once it has been opened. This can lead to the contents spilling out during storage and/or transport.
For the reasons stated above, and for other reasons stated below which will become apparent to those skilled in the art upon reading and understanding the present specification, there is a need in the art for packaging that is easier to open and reseal.
The present invention provides a package comprising a bag having lines of weakness and a reusable pull-tab opener secured to the bag proximate to the lines of weakness, the pull-tab opener having a pull-tab opening integral therewith. In one embodiment, the lines of weakness are perforations that are substantially parallel and concealed by the pull-tab opener. In this embodiment, a slit or third perforation line is substantially perpendicular to the perforations and connects the substantially parallel perforation lines at one end. In another embodiment, the perforations comprise one or more lines that angle towards each other, but do not necessarily meet. In other embodiments, the perforations form a substantially V-shape or U-shape. In these embodiments, the pull-tab can alternately be located at an area of minimum distance apart, a perforation junction, or area of maximum bend of a curve, depending on the perforation configuration.
The pull-tab opener (hereinafter “pull-tab”) and bag are made from any type of flexible material, such as a polymeric plastic film, paper or paper composites and the like. As such, the bag is understood to not only include conventional bags, but also other types of flexible products, such as mailing envelopes, and so forth. The pull-tab can further function as a label having opening instructions to assist a consumer in locating and operating the opening feature. In some embodiments, the pull-tab may be a paper or paper-based material. The package may be a pre-formed bag or a bag formed together with the pull-tab. The products inside the package may or may not be folded and/or individually wrapped. Such products include, but are not limited to, disposable diapers, incontinence products, feminine hygiene products, or any other type of consumer product packagable in flexible bags, including, but not limited to, cat litter, food products, including pet food products, further including other types of consumer products, such as office supplies, books, magazines, household products, and so forth.
In a preferred embodiment, the present invention further provides a package comprising a bag having a flap section defined by lines of weakness in the bag; and a pull-tab secured to and extending beyond the flap section, wherein the pull-tab is designed to be used to open and reseal the bag.
The present invention also includes a method of using a pull-tab comprising hooking a pull-tab opening located on a pull-tab, the pull-tab secured to a bag having perforations; and with the pull-tab opening, pulling the pull-tab away from the bag to create a bag opening. The method further comprises accessing one or more articles through the bag opening; and closing the bag opening with the pull-tab, the pull-tab having reusable adhesive. The method can further comprise hooking the pull-tab opening again to expose the bag opening.
The present invention further includes a kit containing any embodiment of the present invention together with a plurality of articles and instructions for opening the bag and using the articles.
The design and location of the specially-designed pull-tab provides an easy-to-use opening aid in conjunction with the lines of weakness, for ease in opening the package. By arranging the pull-tab and perforations in this manner, a consumer now need only gently tug on a conveniently located pull-tab opening in order to cause the perforations to tear apart. The novel design of the lines of weakness and pull-tab combination provides an advantage over conventional methods of opening bags by eliminating the need to use a significant pinching or grasping force to open. The pull-tab opening in the pull-tab also provides an advantage over pull-tabs without any type of opening that are not only hard to locate, but can be difficult to hang onto while opening the package.
In the following detailed description of the preferred embodiments, reference is made to the accompanying drawings which form a part hereof, and in which is shown by way of illustration specific preferred embodiments in which the inventions may be practiced. These embodiments are described in sufficient detail to enable those skilled in the art to practice the invention, and it is to be understood that other embodiments may be utilized and that mechanical, procedural, and other changes may be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the present inventions. The following detailed description is, therefore, not to be taken in a limiting sense, and the scope of the present invention is defined only by the appended claims, along with the full scope of equivalents to which such claims are entitled.
As used herein, the terminology such as vertical, horizontal, top, bottom, front, back, end and sides are referenced according to the views presented. It should be understood, however, that the terms are used only for purposes of description, and are not intended to be used as limitations. Accordingly, orientation of an object or a combination of objects may change without departing from the scope of the invention.
The term “pull-tab” or “pull-tab opener” as used herein, refers to a separate piece of material attached or partially attached to a package that can be pulled on to expose or create an opening in the package. The portion of the “pull-tab” that is pulled on is referred to herein as a “pull-tab opening” which can be of any suitable size and shape. In one embodiment, the “pull-tab opening” is a hand-sized opening, which is large enough to accommodate all the fingers of even the largest hand. In a preferred embodiment, the pull-tab opening is a “finger-sized opening,” which is understood to be at least large enough for one finger of a small or young individual (or an object about the size of one finger) to pass through, but not so large as to encourage a consumer to place more than three fingers through (or an object about the size of three fingers), although this may occur with consumers having relatively small fingers as compared with an average-sized consumer. As such, the pull-tab opening can assume any reasonable shape, size and geometry depending on the particular application.
The term “line of weakness” as used herein, refers to any region or area of weakened material, preferably having a length, but not necessarily a defined width. A “line of weakness” can include linear and non-linear patterns, such as curvilinear patterns of weakness, or other shapes, such as circles, rectangles, and so forth. A line of weakness includes a perforation or other series of cuts, a thinning or breakage or separation of material, or a strip of a different kind of material bridging between adjacent portion of material, that is more easily torn or broken than the adjacent portions, and which allows the user or manufacturer to separate the adjacent portions along the line of weakness. A line of weakness can further include a single extended slit or cut.
A flexible package having a pull-tab is described herein. As shown in
The bag 102 further includes a back panel 108 as shown. The front panel 106 and back panel 108 are juxtaposed and joined together along their side edges by welds or side seams 110. When the bag 102 is filled with articles 105, the bag 102 expands and side sections 103 and 107 are created in the front and back panels, 106 and 108, respectively. Each side section 103 and 107 is about one-half the width of the articles 105. The bag 102 further has a top edge 135 and a bottom edge 137 as shown.
At one end (hereafter referred to as the “top end”) of the bag 102, i.e., nearest the top panel 101, there is a top gusset formed from folds 114 a and 114 b that is integral in one piece with panels 106 and 108. The bag 102 is also expandable near the end opposite the top end, i.e., near the bottom end, through use of bottom side gussets (not shown) located on panels 106 and 108. As shown in
The dimensions of the bag 102 vary, depending on the type and number of articles 105 being packaged. Generally, the bag 102 has a rectangular structure, although the invention is not so limited. In one embodiment, the bag 102 is about 24 cm in height (i.e., length), 30 cm in width, and when filled with articles 105, about 12 cm in depth. Although not shown in the figures herein, the corners of the packages, such as the corner defining the transition from the side section 103 to the front panel 106, are slightly curved. Other conventional construction features of the bag 102 are understood by those skilled in the art and will not be discussed in detail herein. Essentially any type of flexible bag known in the art can be used, and further information on material choices is given below.
As noted above, the perforations and pull-tab are located on two adjacent panels. In other embodiments, the perforations and/or pull-tabs are located on only one panel of the bag 102 (See, for example,
The bag 102 and pull-tab 104 can be made from any one of a wide variety of materials that are known in the art to be sufficiently flexible to accommodate the desired number of articles 105. This includes, but is not limited to, polymeric plastic, foils, paper, paper composites, and the like, or a combination thereof. In one embodiment the material is selected from the group consisting of polyethylene, polypropylene, polyester, nylon, and any combination thereof.
With regard to the bag 102, the material should have sufficient strength to hold and contain the articles 105 within without breaking and without excessive bulging or stretching of the film material. Such materials include polyethylene, polypropylene, polyester, nylon, and the like, as well as any combination thereof. In one embodiment, the material is a low density polyethylene (LDPE) film. In another embodiment, the material is a LDPE/LLDPE (linear low density polyethylene) film laminate. In yet another embodiment, the material is a LDPE/MDPE (medium density polyethylene) film laminate, a LDPE/HDPE (high density polyethylene) film laminate or the like. In another embodiment a polyethylene/polypropylene combination is used. In a specific embodiment, the material is a polyethylene film or film laminate having a thickness of about between about one (1) and four (4) mils (about 0.025 to 0.1 mm).
The pull-tab 104 can also be made from any of the aforementioned materials, but needs to be of sufficient strength to withstand the pulling forces experienced, particularly during the initial opening. Furthermore, polyethylene is known to have elastic-like properties and in one embodiment is combined with a polyester or polypropylene material to reduce the amount of elongation. Although some stretching may still occur during use of such a blended material, preferably the stretching is minimal so as not to affect the ability of the user to open and reseal the package. In most embodiments, elongation during use will not exceed about 10%. The use of nylon provides a slightly stiffer pull-tab, which is particularly useful when the pull-tab opening 109 is relatively small, such as a finger-sized opening. In one embodiment, the pull-tab 104 is a laminate material, coated with a stiffener or varnish to enhance its ability to withstand stretching. In another embodiment, the pull-tab is a paper-based product. In embodiments in which adhesive is applied to the pull-tab 104, it operates essentially as a type of tape and may be referred to as an “adhesive tape.”
In one embodiment, the pull-tab 104 is a pressure-sensitive label partially secured to the package with suitable securing means known in the art. Such securing means can be permanent or temporary and can include, but is not limited to, permanent adhesive, reusable adhesive, a combination of permanent and reusable adhesive, thermal bond(s), ultrasonic bond(s), spot weld(s), i.e., thermal weld point(s), a stitch or stitches, strip weld(s), tack(s) formed by crimping, and so forth, including any combination thereof. In embodiments in which adhesive(s) are used, adhesive deadener can be added in the area of the pull-tab opening 109 (
Any suitable type of securing means can be used as long as a portion of the pull-tab 104 remains secured to the bag 102 during the opening process, and preferably thereafter. In most embodiments, the securing means includes both permanent and temporary or reusable securing means, although the invention is not so limited. In the embodiment shown in
The type, amount, location and distribution of the securing means is primarily dependent on the size and configuration of the perforations. Basically, the force required to initially tear the lines of weakness, which in the embodiment shown in
In resealable embodiments, a sufficient portion of the pull-tab 104 needs to be secured to the bag 102 initially so as to prevent the pull-tab 104 from coming off prematurely. However, if too much of the pull-tab 104 is secured, the consumer will have difficulty accessing the pull-tab opening. In one embodiment, at least about 60% of the pull-tab is secured to the bag 102 initially, and at least about 30% of the pull-tab 104 remains secured to the bag 102 after all the lines of weakness have been torn. The remaining 30% that is no longer secured, i.e., is releasably secured, is available for resealing the bag opening. In other embodiments, up to about 90% is secured initially.
In the securing means described above for
The reusable securing means, such as reusable adhesive, needs to maintain its stickiness or tackiness such that the remaining portions of the pull-tab 104 that are not intended to remain adhered to the bag 102 during opening, i.e., are releasably secured, can continue to be used repeatedly to reseal the bag through application of only a slight pressure by the user. However, it is understood that over time, a greater portion of the pull-tab 104 may become releasably secured, although the adhesive amount and type is designed to ensure that a sufficient area remains permanently secured in order to prevent the pull-tab 104 from being pulled completely off the bag 102. Although less preferable, it is possible for a consumer to tear open the perforations and continue pulling until the pull-tab is completely removed, and then reapply the pull-tab over the opening to reseal. In an exemplary embodiment, the adhesive is a releasable pressure sensitive adhesive available from ATO Findley in Wauwatosa, Wis. and the adhesive deadener is a talc or starch powder added to the adhesive in an amount and distribution sufficient to prevent the adhesive from bleeding through, as is known in the art. In one embodiment, the adhesive-free or deadened area of the pull-tab 104 comprises about 5 to 15%, the resealable section comprises about 35 to 75% and the permanently secured section comprises about 20 to 50%.
The pull-tab opening 109 can be any suitable size that provides sufficient room for a person to be able to hook a hand, finger or fingers, spoon, cane, prosthetic hook, pen or any other object through in order to assist in opening the bag. In one embodiment, the pull-tab opening is large enough for a person to slip one to two average-sized fingers (or the equivalent) through. In another embodiment, the pull-tab opening 109 is large enough for three-fingers or its equivalent to be slipped through. According to industry guidelines, the average index finger width for an adult female and adult male is about 1.9 cm (about 0.75 in) and 2.3 cm (about 0.9 in), respectively. It is estimated that two fingers would be about 3.8 cm (about 1.5 in) and 4.6 cm (about 1.8 in), respectively and three fingers would be about 5.7 cm (about 2.3 in) and about 6.9 cm (about 2.7 in), respectively. However, smaller individuals may have finger widths much smaller, such as about 1.3 cm (about 0.5 in) or even less. In most embodiments, the pull-tab opening 109 is at least about 1.3 cm (about 0.5 in) in width and/or length, but not greater than about 7.6 cm (about three (3) in) in width and/or length. In a particular embodiment, the opening is a circular opening about 2.5 cm (about one (1) in) in diameter. In yet another embodiment, the pull-tab opening is much larger, i.e., up to about 15 cm (about six (6) in) or more in width and/or length so that it is large enough for a person to slip their entire hand through.
In this embodiment, Dimension 213 represents the length of Area “C” at the point it contacts the ring 214. Dimensions 216 and 218 represent the width of the ring 214 and Dimension 220 represents the diameter of the pull-tab opening 109. In this embodiment, the width of the ring 214 is about one-half the diameter of the pull-tab opening 109, although the invention is not so limited. In the exemplary embodiment noted above, Dimensions 216 and 218 are each about 1.3 cm (about 0.5 in) and Dimension 220 is about 2.5 cm (about one (1) in), with Dimension 213 about 2.9 cm (about 1.1 in).
The pull-tab 109 does not need to be any particular thickness as long as it can perform the intended function. In one embodiment, the pull-tab is between about three (3) and four (4) mm thick, but not less than about one (1) mm thick, although an absolute minimum thickness is dependent on a particular application. Although the pull-tab can be made in thicknesses greater than four (4) mm, in most instances, there is no significant advantage gained to offset the associated increase in material costs.
The perforation lines 325 a and 325 b can extend any suitable length depending on the particular application, including the package size, strength, type of adhesive, and so forth. In most embodiments, the perforation lines 325 a and 325 b do not extend into the area of the finger-sized grip 309, as this would not provide any additional advantage as an opening means in this location. In the embodiment shown in
Distance 317 in
Other perforation configurations are possible. For example, in some embodiments, the two substantially parallel lines of perforations may straddle a single side seam, i.e., with both parallel to the side seam, but with one line located on a front or back panel and another line located on a side panel, as long as the resulting opening that is created when the perforations are torn provides adequate access to the contents within. The two substantially parallel lines of perforations may also be located on non-adjacent panels. For example, in one embodiment, two substantially parallel lines of perforations are divided between the front and back panels, with a third perforation line or slit joining these perforations at one end, thus creating an opening greater than the width of the side panel. In such embodiments, the pull-tab 104 can also be larger to accommodate the wider opening or can be located such that not all the perforations are concealed. (See
In this embodiment, pull-tab 504 a provides access to Area “A,” which contains larger-sized articles 105 a. Similarly, pull-tab 504 b provides access to Area “B,” which contains smaller-sized articles 105 b. Again, each pull-tab 504 a has an associated set of perforations, with pull-tab 504 a having two substantially parallel perforation lines 525 a and 525 b, connected by a slit 526 a located at the same end as the pull-tab opening 509 a (although a third set of perforations can alternately be used as described above in
Use of the pull-tab opening of the present invention, such as the pull-tab opening 109 shown in
Many other configurations of the pull-tab opener and perforations are possible.
In one embodiment, the perforation lines 825 a and 825 b can be brought to a joining point or perforation junction (See
In the embodiment shown in
The perforation lines 825 a and 825 b can be any suitable length depending on the particular application, including the package size, strength, type and thickness of material, type of adhesive, and so forth. In most embodiments, the perforation lines 825 a and 825 b do not extend into the area of the finger-sized grip 809, as this would not provide any additional advantage as an opening means in this location. In the embodiment shown in
Distance 817 in
As noted above, the pull-tab does not necessarily need to be made from the same type or strength of material as the bag, as it may not need to have a tensile strength as high as the tensile strength of the bag. Use of a thinner material for the pull-tab in these instances can help to keep seal temperatures lower and is also more economical. In other instances, it is important to consider the nature of the articles being packaged. For example, with compressed packaging, the pull-tab, particularly at the point of attachment with the bag, needs to be able to withstand the existing compression forces, and may require a higher tensile strength than the bag and/or particularly strong securing means. Additionally, the perforations are necessarily stronger with compressed packaging as compared with uncompressed packaging. As a result, the pull-tab securing means needs to be strong enough to overcome the greater force required to tear open the perforations with this type of packaging.
In one embodiment, pull-tabs are made from a roll of plastic coated with adhesive and detachably secured to a releasable material, such as silicon-coated release paper known in the industry. The plastic material is then printed with any needed markings, such as the ring and/or words described above and die cut to the desired shape. The pull-tabs can further be reinforced pull-tabs, texturized pull-tabs, glow-in-the dark pull-tabs, and so forth.
The bag described herein can be produced by any suitable means known in the art. For example, the joining of the front and back panels can be accomplished by various conventional techniques, such as adhesive bonding, thermal bonding, ultrasonic bonding, welding, and so forth. In another embodiment, the panels are connected with mechanical fastening systems, such as sewing, stapling, riveting, and so forth.
In one embodiment, the bags are also formed from a continuous roll of material having a pre-formed gusset and perforations. At the appropriate point during the process the pre-formed and pre-printed pull-tabs, still in roll-form, are blown onto the bag film, such as with the use of an automatic applicator timed to match the speed of the bag formation. Sealing of the two panels at the side seam, such as with heat and compression, causes the bags to break apart. In another embodiment, the bags are made individually.
In all instances, it is important that adequate welds or seals are produced at all locations. A combination of time, temperature, pressure, seal area and/or bag film materials may be used to accomplish an adequate seal as is known in the art. Seals are tested using standard industry methods, although seal strength requirements vary by individual specifications, depending on consumer, product and equipment needs. Strength tests are performed not only on the bag and handle seal, but also on both side seams (including gusset area seals), as well as the perforations by methods known in the art. In some instances, an AMTS Sintech 1” made by MTS Systems Corporation in Minneapolis, Minn. is used to test seal and perforation strength.
The adhesive-backed pull-tab of the present invention is designed to be hooked by any suitable means that allows a user to then pull on the pull-tab with sufficient, albeit minimal force, in the appropriate direction to cause the perforations on the bag to tear, creating an opening through which the contents within are exposed and accessible. This design allows a person to utilize a larger muscle group as compared to the muscles needed to produce a pinch force. As a result, the pull-tab of the present invention provides ease of opening to those with reduced hand strength, whether through disability, age or illness. After the package is open, the consumer may remove one or more products. After the product(s) is removed, the consumer can easily re-secure the pull-tab or strip to the bag by simply pressing on the pull-tab, thus discouraging or preventing products from falling out.
The pull-tabs of the present invention can be used on any size package, including trial-sized flexible packages that contain only one product to very large packages. Perforations designed to be used in combination with the pull-tab are not limited to any one configuration and can be aligned in any manner in relation to the pull-tab that allows for ease of opening in any number of combinations. In most embodiments, the pull-tab covers two substantially parallel perforations or is otherwise located at a perforation junction, narrowest portion of a curved perforation line or at a point of minimum distance between two separate perforation lines.
Although specific embodiments have been illustrated and described herein, it will be appreciated by those of ordinary skill in the art that any arrangement which is calculated to achieve the same purpose may be substituted for the specific embodiment shown. This application is intended to cover any adaptations or variations of the present invention. Therefore, it is manifestly intended that this invention be limited only by the claims and the equivalents thereof.