CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION
BACKGROUND OF THE PRESENT INVENTION
This application is a continuation of, and claims priority under 35 U.S.C. § 120 to, U.S. application Ser. No. 09/560,246 filed Apr. 26, 2000, pending, which is incorporated herein by reference.
1. Field of the Present Invention
The present invention relates to absorbent articles such as diapers and sanitary napkins. More particularly, the present invention relates to absorbent articles that are packaged at reduced volume to become ultra-compact and highly portable.
2. Description of the Related Art
One of the drawbacks of disposable diapers is portability, particularly during travel, either long-distance travel or simply to the neighborhood store. Parents need to pack a sufficient number of diapers in a diaper bag to last the duration of the trip. However, while not necessarily heavy, disposable diapers are bulky and occupy a large amount of space. Accordingly, a diaper bag in tow with traveling parents is cumbersome and a nuisance. Indeed, a single disposable diaper may not fit into most purses or a jacket breast pocket even for short trips.
- BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
In view of the foregoing, there remains a need in the art for absorbent articles that are compact and portable.
According to one aspect of the invention, a set of compact absorbent articles includes a plurality of absorbent articles and a packaging. Each of the absorbent articles, such as a diaper or a sanitary napkin, is reconfigurable from a normal condition to a compressed condition. The packaging includes a plurality of compartments each for receiving one of the absorbent articles in the compressed condition. Each of the absorbent articles has three dimensions, at least one of which is reduced when the absorbent article is in the compressed condition, with each of the absorbent articles being retained by the packaging when in the compressed condition.
According to various aspects of the invention, the packaging may have release seams disposed between the compartments, so that a user can remove an individual article in its compartment from the other articles in the packaging. Also, each of the absorbent articles may be vacuumed sealed at negative pressure in the packaging. In addition, the dimension that is reduced may be reduced by at least 30% when the absorbent articles are in the compressed condition. Further, each of the absorbent articles may be reconfigured from the normal condition to the compressed condition by negative pressure, physical force, rolling, or folding.
Regarding advantages, the individually packaged compressed absorbent articles are highly compact and, accordingly, readily portable. In addition, a packaged absorbent article can be easily carried in a purse or a breast pocket of a blazer. In a multipack packaging embodiment, the multipack may be conveniently carried in, e.g., a bag, with individual absorbent articles removed from the multipack as needed.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS
Additional aspects, features, and advantages of the present invention will become apparent to those skilled in the art from a consideration of the following detailed description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.
FIG. 1 is a perspective schematic view of an absorbent article of the invention shown in a normal (i.e., uncompressed) condition;
FIG. 2 is a perspective schematic view of the absorbent article shown in a compressed condition;
FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional view of the absorbent article in the normal condition taken along line 3-3 of FIG. 1;
FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional view of the absorbent article in the compressed condition taken along line 4-4 of FIG. 2;
FIG. 5 is a perspective view of a reconfigured absorbent article of the invention, particularly illustrating the article in a rolled configuration;
FIG. 6 is a perspective view of a reconfigured absorbent article of the invention, particularly illustrating the article in a folded configuration;
FIG. 7 is a perspective view of the rolled absorbent article of FIG. 5, particularly illustrating the rolled article in a compressed condition;
FIG. 8 is a perspective view of the folded absorbent article of FIG. 6, particularly illustrating the folded article in a compressed condition;
FIG. 9 is a cross-sectional view of the compressed rolled absorbent article retained by packaging; and
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
FIG. 10 is a cross-section view of the compressed folded absorbent article retained by packaging.
Referring more particularly to the drawings, an absorbent article is shown in FIG. 1 and generally is indicated by reference numeral 10. The absorbent article 10, which may be a diaper or a sanitary napkin, is a three-dimensional object occupying a volume of space Vn schematically represented by the product of a length ln, a width wn, and a thickness tn, i.e., Vn=ln times wn times tn. The absorbent article 10 is compressible in at least one dimension but preferably in all three dimensions so that the volume of space that the article 10 occupies is reduced or compressed.
For example, the absorbent article 10 is shown in FIG. 2 with compressed length, width, and thickness dimensions lc, wc, and tc, each of which is respectively less than the uncompressed or “normal” length, width, and thickness dimensions ln, wn, and tn of FIG. 1. Accordingly, a compressed volume Vc of the absorbent article 10 is less than the normal volume Vn thereof. For example, in accordance with the present invention, the absorbent article 10 is compressible such that the compressed volume Vc is at least one third less and preferably at least one half less than the normal volume Vn; that is, the compressed volume Vc of the absorbent article is at least 30% less and is preferably at least 50% less than the uncompressed volume Vn. In accordance with the principles of the present invention, the absorbent article 10 is retained in the compressed condition, for example, by vacuum packaging, thereby providing an ultra-compact and highly portable absorbent article. The absorbent article 10 retained in the compressed condition may then be easily and conveniently carried by a user until needed.
The absorbent article 10 is illustrated schematically in the drawings but may be configured as any type of absorbent article as known in the art, for example, a diaper, either infant or adult, a feminine sanitary napkin, and so on. The absorbent article 10 is made from resilient and compressible material that is able to retain fluid. Examples of diapers are disclosed in U.S. Statutory Invention Registration No. H1674 and U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,520,674; 5,522,810; 5,855,574; 5,876,393; and 5,980,500. Examples of feminine sanitary napkins are disclosed in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,490,847; 5,653,702; 5,792,131; 5,797,894; and 6,015,934. The disclosure of each of these patents is incorporated herein by reference.
Being made from resilient absorptive material, exemplary article 10 is compressible in at least one dimension. However, to minimize the amount of compressed volume Vc, it is preferable for the absorbent article 10 to be compressible in three dimensions, as mentioned above. More specifically, as shown in FIG. 3, exemplary article 10 includes absorptive material 12 with inter-fiber spaces 14. To reduce at least one of the three dimensions, the absorbent article 10 is compressed, thereby substantially eliminating the inter-fiber spaces 14 and rendering the absorptive material 12 more dense, which is shown in FIG. 4.
To compress, the absorbent article 10 may be subject to compressive force, thereby forcing air out of the inter-fiber spaces 14 and compressing the absorptive material 12. Alternatively, the absorbent article 10 may be subject to vacuum, thereby drawing air out of the inter-fiber spaces 14 and compressing the absorptive material 12. Once compressed, the absorbent article 10 is retained to maintain the compact and highly portable configuration, for example, by shrink-wrap thermoplastic packaging at a vacuum or negative pressure, which will be discussed in more detail below. To use, the retaining packaging is disengaged or opened, allowing the absorbent article 10 to expand and return to its normal condition under the resiliency and elasticity of the absorptive material 12, which is also discussed in more detail below.
As mentioned above, the absorbent article 10 is shown in a normal condition in FIGS. 1 and 3 in which the article is unstressed, uncompressed, and ready for use. Prior to being placed in the compressed condition as shown in FIGS. 2 and 4, the absorbent article 10 may be reconfigured, for example, by rolling, as schematically shown in FIG. 5, or by folding, as schematically shown in FIG. 6. When reconfigured, the absorbent article 10 has at least three dimensions, for example, a width wr, a thickness tr and a diameter dr, as shown in FIG. 5, or a length lr a width wr, a thickness tr and a height hr as shown in FIG. 6.
After being placed in a reconfigured condition, the absorbent article 10 may then be compressed as discussed above, thereby placing the article in a compressed condition. If reconfigured by rolling, as shown in FIG. 5, then when compressed, the absorbent article 10 takes on the compressed condition shown in FIG. 7 with compressed dimensions of a width wc, a thickness tc, and a diameter dc. If reconfigured by folding, as shown in FIG. 6, then when compressed, the absorbent article 10 takes on the compressed condition shown in FIG. 8 with compressed dimensions of a length lc, a width wc, a thickness tc, and a height hc. Analogous to the description above in relation to FIGS. 1 and 2, at least one of the compressed dimensions, but preferably all of the compressed dimensions of the absorbent article 10, are respectively less than the reconfigured dimensions thereof.
After being compressed, the absorbent article 10 may then be retained to maintain the compressed condition, for example, with packaging 16 as shown in FIGS. 9 and 10, thereby yielding an individually packaged article 18. As mentioned above, the packaging 16 may be a thermoplastic material that allows the compressed absorbent article 10 to be hermetically sealed therein. Alternatively, the packaging 16 may be any other material suitable for retaining the absorbent article 10 in the compressed condition. The packaging 16 ensures that the absorbent article 10 is clean and sanitary when the packaged article 18 is opened for use.
Those skilled in the art will understand that the preceding exemplary embodiments of the present invention provide the foundation for numerous alternatives and modifications thereto. These and other modifications are also within the scope of the present invention. Accordingly, the present invention is not limited to that precisely as shown and described above but by the scope of the appended claims.