CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
This application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/695,144, filed Jun. 29, 2005, entitled “Dispensing Pouch,” the entirety of which is herein incorporated by reference.
The present invention generally relates to product packaging. The present invention relates more particularly to a dispensing pouch.
A variety of pouches have been created to dispense liquids. Such pouches are used in retail and industrial applications, including for condiments, lotions, and diagnostic applications. Some of these pouches include a pre-formed spout or narrowing at the top so that the liquid can be directed. For instance, some conventional pouches for dispensing hand lotion include a spout so that the lotion can be directed to a specific portion of the hand. The portion of the hand at which the lotion is directed is relatively large. Additionally, some packaging for cold sore medications has a ‘V’-shaped, tapered opening to allow more controlled dispensing of the product.
Some pouches are designed to hold or to dispense a single dose of a liquid. For example, in some medical and laboratory applications, a single dose of a liquid agent is used for calibrating certain meters, such as a glucose meter. The meter includes on-board diagnostics, which can use a control solution to automatically calibrate the meter. These liquid agents have typically been stored in bottles or vials. However, some pouches have been designed for such applications.
Some pouches have been described for dispensing a liquid agent that is designed to mimic blood so that the liquid is dispensed in a manner that mimics a drop of blood occurring when a patient pricks her finger. U.S. Pat. No. 6,887,709, the entirety of which is incorporated herein by reference, describes one such application in which a micro needle is inserted into a pouch to withdraw a sample of a liquid agent. The '709 patent describes such pouches for use in diagnostic applications. The pouch described in the '709 patent mimics the skin of a patient when pierced by the micro needle.
One embodiment of the present invention provides a dispensing pouch. In one embodiment, a dispensing pouch comprises a flexible first sheet and a flexible second sheet, each comprising at least one layer and where the flexible second sheet has substantially the same size and shape as the flexible first sheet. The flexible second sheet is joined to the flexible first sheet to define a compartment configured to substantially contain a material. The flexible first sheet and the flexible second sheet also define a channel configured to allow dispensing of the material from the compartment.
Another embodiment comprises a method of manufacture of a dispensing pouch. The method comprises the steps of joining a flexible first sheet to a flexible second sheet along a first side, a second side, and a third side of the flexible first sheet and the flexible second sheet to define a compartment. The method also includes forming a channel extending from a fourth side of the flexible first sheet and a fourth side of the flexible second sheet to the compartment. Material is inserted into the compartment, and the channel is sealed along the fourth side of the flexible first sheet and the fourth side of the flexible second sheet.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
These embodiments are mentioned not to limit or define the invention, but to provide examples of embodiments of the invention to aid understanding thereof. Embodiments are discussed in the Detailed Description, and further description of the invention is provided there. Advantages offered by the various embodiments of the present invention may be further understood by examining this specification.
These and other features, aspects, and advantages of the present invention are better understood when the following Detailed Description is read with reference to the accompanying drawings, wherein:
FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a dispensing pouch according to one embodiment of the present invention;
FIG. 2 is a cut-away view of a dispensing pouch similar to the one shown in FIG. 1 in one embodiment of the present invention;
FIG. 3 is a flow chart illustrating one method for manufacturing a dispensing pouch according to one embodiment of the present invention; and
FIG. 4 shows an illustrative example of a dispensing pouch according to one embodiment of the present invention.
- Dispensing Pouch
Embodiments of the present invention provide a dispensing pouch. Illustrative embodiments are described below.
In one illustrative embodiment, a dispensing pouch is configured to contain a liquid agent designed to mimic blood for calibrating a glucose meter. FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a dispensing pouch in one embodiment of the present invention. The terms pouch and packet may be used interchangeably herein.
The pouch 100 shown comprises two sheets of multilayer material, a first flexible sheet 102 and a second flexible sheet 104. The material shown in FIG. 1 is a multi-layer, heat sealable film. Various suitable films may be used in different embodiments of the present invention.
The two sheets 102, 104 are formed into a pouch and are sealed at a first side 111, a second side 107, and a third side 108 by a form, fill, and seal machine to create a first seal 114.
During the initial sealing step, the two sheets 102, 104 are also sealed at a second seal 113 and a third seal 109. Seal 113 extends from side 107 towards the center of the sheets 102, 104 and from side 108 towards the center of the sheets 102, 104. Seal 113 does not completely seal the compartment 110, which is configured to substantially contain the material, but, rather, forms a channel 112 extending from the compartment 110 towards side 111. The channel 112 opens into the compartment so that a liquid agent can flow from the compartment 110 through the channel 112. A heat sink may be placed between the sheets 102, 104 where the channel 112 is to be formed to prevent the inner materials from sealing the channel. The third seal 109 extends to a point 122 approximately one-half the length of the dispensing pouch 100. In another embodiment, the seals could be located in a different position or elsewhere on the packet to define the compartment and the channel.
The channel 112 approximates a tube. However, since the film shown in FIG. 1 is flexible, it may not be a cylindrical tube. The width or diameter of the channel 112 shown in FIG. 1 is approximately 1/32″ to ⅛″. In other embodiments, the channel 112 may have a larger or smaller diameter. The viscosity of the material and the desired dispensing type can affect the channel width. For instance, certain materials may require channels wider than ⅛″. The dispensing pouch shown in FIG. 1 may be referred to as a micro-mini dispensing pouch and the channel 112 as a micro channel.
The channel 112 may be of varying length. For example, the length of the channel 112 may be optimized for ergonomics, providing a sufficient area for a consumer to grip the pouch and tear across the channel 112 at tear notches 118, 120. The length of the channel 112 may also be optimized for aesthetics, e.g., to allow sufficient space for artwork on the outside of the pouch.
The design of the channel 112, including the length and width (diameter), may also depend on the properties of the liquid to be dispensed, such as the viscosity, surface tension, or other relevant properties. The design of the channel 112 may also depend on the desired effect when the liquid is dispensed. For instance, the channel 112 may be designed to produce a hanging drop, small drip, stream, or other effect. The outer layer of the pouch may be selected based on the effect as well. For instance, an outer paper layer may absorb some of the liquid. In one embodiment for calibrating a meter, this absorption may serve to provide a better sample for the calibration of the meter.
In an embodiment of the present invention, the channel may extend away form the compartment at an angle and may be directed towards a corner of the pouch. In another embodiment, the channel may extend away from the compartment towards an edge of the pouch. In such an embodiment, the channel may extend towards an area substantially in the middle of one side of the pouch. In another such embodiment, the channel may extend towards a portion of an edge near the comer of the pouch.
FIG. 4 shows a dispensing pouch 400 according to one embodiment of the present invention comprising a compartment 402 and channel 404 formed between two sheets of multi-layer material. The channel 404 is angled towards a comer of the pouch 400. Two sides 406, 408 adjacent to the corner have notches 410, 412 such that the notches may be used to tear away the corner and expose the channel to allow dispensing of material within the compartment. Such an embodiment may provide a more suitable exit location for particular products. For instance, for some products, such an embodiment may limit any interference in the dispensing process caused by the packet itself.
In the embodiment shown in FIG. 1, the compartment 110 is configured to contain a liquid, such as one designed to mimic blood. Other types of material, including, for example, other diagnostic solutions, liquid bandages, adhesives, liquids with high staining properties, perfume, or any material desired in a small volume delivery mechanism may also be contained in the compartment 110.
The sheets 102, 104 are also sealed at a fourth seal 124, which extends along side 106 between sides 107 and 108. The fourth seal 124 seals the liquid in the compartment 110 and channel 112.
The sheets 102, 104 are also cut at two points along sides 107 and 108 to form tear notches 118, 120. When the pouch is torn from 118 to 120, the channel is exposed, and the liquid can be dispensed. While the embodiment shown has two notches, 118, 120, other embodiments may have no notches, or one or more notches. Further, while the embodiment in FIG. 1 shows notches that are made perpendicular to edges of the pouch, in other embodiments, the notches may be cut at other angles relative to an edge of the pouch.
The sheets 102, 104 shown in FIG. 1 are multi-layer structures. The outer layer, which may also be referred to as the structural layer, may be a paper layer or may be a varnish or finish layer or other suitable material. In one embodiment, the outer layer is made from PET (polyethelene terephthalate), the middle layer is a foil, and the inner layer is the sealing layer. In such an embodiment, one or more adhesives bond the three layers of the film to the adjacent layer or layers. In other embodiments, other types of structures may be used.
In one embodiment, the inner layer has the lowest melting point of the three layers. Thus, when the multilayer film is heated, the inner layer melts and forms a seal without destroying the integrity of the rest of the film. The inner layer also prevents chemicals in the pouch from corroding the foil. The foil provides a light, moisture, and vapor barrier. Other types of film may be used, depending on, for example, the type of material to be contained in the pouch. For instance, particular types of inner layers may be used to effectively contain the material placed in the compartment 110.
- Application of a Dispensing Pouch
FIG. 2 is a cut-away view of a dispensing pouch similar to the one shown in FIG. 1 in one embodiment of the present invention. The pouch shown in FIG. 2 is approximately 1.375 inches wide and 1.75 inches long. The pouch comprises a compartment 202 and a channel 204. The pouch also comprises a tear notch 206 for tearing the film so that the liquid in the compartment 202 can be dispensed through the channel 304.
Embodiments of the present invention may provide significant improvements in the controlled dispensation of material from within the pouch. Embodiments of the present invention may also allow a person to dispense a controlled quantity of material to a specific location with a highly customizable delivery method. For example, one embodiment of the present invention may allow a user to suspend a controlled amount of liquid as a drop from the channel of the pouch, allowing the user to accurately control the quantity of liquid delivered and to accurately deliver the drop to desired location at the appropriate time. Such control over the delivery of material from the pouch may provide significant advantages to users of the pouch in a variety of settings.
For instance, one embodiment of the present invention provides a channel 112 that allows a small droplet to hang on the end of the pouch 100. This may simulate when a patient pricks a finger and squeezes out a droplet of blood, which is then touched to a test strip. The test strip uses capillary action to draw in the liquid to a test meter for calibration purposes.
Another embodiment provides a mechanism for sampling liquid products at low cost. With such a pouch, applicators, such as swabs or towels, are unnecessary. For example, a customer wishing to sample a perfume simply tears the pouch perpendicular to the channel 112 and applies the perfume.
Yet another embodiment of the present invention provides a means for delivering a liquid that has high staining properties. A consumer of such a liquid would want to avoid touching the liquid. It would also be advantageous to limit the flow of the liquid. Examples of such a liquid include iodine solution, tooth whitening solution, and dyes.
Embodiments of the present invention may also be used for transdermal medications or single-use liquid bandages. Embodiments of the present invention may also be used advantageously for applications in which less than 1 ml of solution is needed, e.g., <0.3 ml. In addition, embodiments of the present invention may be used advantageously for applications in which 1 ml or more of solution is needed.
One embodiment of the present invention provides an application mechanism for liquids that react with or degrade once in contact with air. For instance, one such pouch is used to dispense fast acting glue, which begins to set as soon as exposed to air.
Embodiments of the present invention may provide numerous advantages over conventional pouches and delivery methods. For instance, one embodiment of the present invention may reduce the risk of exposure of the liquid agent to contamination versus conventional delivery mechanisms, such as a bottle containing multiple applications. Also, the dispensing pouch may be small enough to be carried on the person of the consumer. In addition, if the dispensing pouch is formed on a sheet with multiple other dispensing pouches, the consumer can cut or tear off only the number of dispensing pouches she anticipates using over a given time period. For example, in one embodiment of the present invention, a plurality of pouches may be formed on a single sheet, where the sheet is perforated to allow the one or more pouches to be more easily detached.
One embodiment of the present invention may be easier to use than conventional pouches that require the consumer to use a towlette or that require the consumer to attempt to meter the output of the liquid through a spout or opening in the top of a bottle. One embodiment of the present invention also may allow a manufacturer to print an expiration date directly on the pouch so that the consumer can easily determine what the expiration date is. Determining the expiration date for material in conventional delivery mechanisms may be more difficult. Other information may be printed on the pouch. A coding, such as the date, may alternatively be debossed or stamped on the pouch.
- Methods of Manufacturing an Illustrative Pouch
Embodiments of the present invention may also be produced and sold at a reduced cost compared to conventional dispenser products, such as those that include pre-saturated swabs and towelettes for sampling, and when compared to conventional sellable products that require small doses. Embodiments of the present invention also provide a user with the ability to predict where the liquid will come out of the pouch, thereby allowing a consumer to direct it to the exact spot it needs to go (e.g., to the test strip for a glucose measurement device, to the area of bruised or cracked skin, or to the spot that needs glue).
Various methods may be used to manufacture a dispensing pouch according to embodiments of the present invention. FIG. 3 is a flow chart illustrating one method for manufacturing a dispensing pouch according to one embodiment of the present invention. The process 300 shown begins when a section of multilayered film is folded 302. The film may be, for example, a portion of a roll of film. The film is folded so that one piece of film becomes two sheets as shown in FIG. 1. In some embodiments, individual sheets are oriented face-to-face and cut to size. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 3, the two sheets are approximately rectangular in shape after folding.
The sheets are next sealed at one end 304. For example, in one embodiment, heating bars are applied to a first end of the sheets to melt the inner layer of the multilayered film to create the seal. The sheets are also sealed at two edges to create a compartment 306 and a channel 308. The edges are substantially parallel to one another and substantially perpendicular to the end sealed in step 302. The seal may extend along approximately the entire length of the edges. A channel may be created be inserting a heat-sinking material between the two sheets to prevent the first and second sheets from joining in the locality of the heat sink. In another embodiment, a tool design is utilized that allows the channel to remain cooler than the rest of the tool, eliminating the need for a heat sink between the sheets.
Creating the end seal, the compartment, and the channel may occur as a single step in one embodiment of the present invention.
The sheets are oriented so that the end seal and channel are at the bottom. An injector is then used to inject a measured amount of liquid into the compartment 310.
Once the compartment and channel have been created, and the material injected, a final seal is created, sealing the second end of the film 312. The final seal seals the compartment at an end opposite the channel. The final seal prevents any material inserted in the compartment from escaping.
In the embodiment shown in FIG. 3, the pouch is then cut at two points on opposite edges, creating tear notches. In other embodiments, no such tear notches are created, or one or more notches are created. The sealed film is then cut, forming the individual pouch. In one embodiment, the steps described above may be performed in a different sequence. For example, in one embodiment, the material may be injected into the compartment before the channel is formed.
Additional steps may be performed on the pouch. In one embodiment, the pouch is die cut into a desired shape (e.g., create oversized outer seals and the cut through them). For instance, in one embodiment, the pouch is cut in a shape resembling a needle.
In another embodiment, a set of pouches is perforated rather than cut. For example, it may be advantageous to create a plurality of pouches according to the present invention with two large flexible sheets of material. The joined sheets may then be perforated to allow one or more pouches to be easily detached. In another embodiment, a hang-hole is punched in the pouch. In yet another embodiment, a date is stamped on the package. In one embodiment, the pouch is sterilized using a radiation or other sterilization processes after the packaging process in a separate operation.
In one method for manufacturing a dispensing pouch, a metal tool is used to affect the seals. The metal tool is set to a temperature of approximately 240 degrees Fahrenheit. The dwell is set to approximately 1.5 seconds. The pressure is set at approximately 6-8 psi on a 4″ air cylinder with a spring return function. The net pressure on the film is equal to the cylinder pressure less the force of the return spring. In one method according to the present invention, a heat-sinking material is placed between the film sheets where the channel is formed. The heat-sinking material helps to keep the channel from becoming sealed or narrowing to a point of ineffectiveness.
The foregoing description of the embodiments of the invention has been presented only for the purpose of illustration and description and is not intended to be exhaustive or to limit the invention to the precise forms disclosed. Numerous modifications and adaptations thereof will be apparent to those skilled in the art without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention.