FIELD OF THE INVENTION
- BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
The present invention relates to a package for containing and dispensing absorbent articles. Specifically, the present invention teaches a flexible pouch-like container enclosing absorbent articles. The container is provided with a drawing means, which can be pulled for closing the package. The drawing means is located inside a channel and has two free ends, which can be grasped by the user. Pulling the free ends closes the upper end of the container. Further, a process for making such a package is disclosed.
Absorbent articles for personal hygiene, such as feminine care articles like sanitary napkins, tampons or panty liners, are marketed in manifold form by many different suppliers. Usually, such articles are sold to the consumer as stacks of such articles packaged in either carton boxes or pouch bags made of polymeric film. Although such packages provide hygienic storage to the contained articles during shelf live, once opened, these packages cannot be closed completely anymore and thus allow access of contaminants and bacteria into the package and thus to the stack of absorbent articles.
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
Therefore, a continuing need exists for a package for absorbent articles, which provides hygienic protection to the articles contained therein even after having been opened by the consumer. Ease of handling of such a package is another desired attribute.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
A package comprising a container made of flexible material, said container having an interior surface and an exterior surface. The interior surface defines an interior space and a plurality of absorbent articles are disposed within said interior space. The container has a top end and a bottom end and a channel at or near said top end. The channel at least partially encloses a drawing means. The drawing means is able to move freely inside said channel and further has two free ends extending outside of the channel for being graspable to the user and wherein said free ends extend outside of said channel at adjacent locations. The container further comprises a frangible closure located at or near said top end and being arranged such that said plurality of absorbent articles is enclosed in said interior space between said bottom end and said closure.
FIG. 1 illustrates ONE embodiment of the package of the present invention in perspective view.
FIG. 2 illustrates a top view of the package shown in FIG. 1.
FIG. 3 illustrates the package shown in FIG. 1 in closed state when the user has pulled on the free ends of the drawing means such that the top end is gathered together.
FIG. 4 is a scheme illustrating the process of the present invention for making containers.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
FIG. 5 is a cross-sectional view of FIG. 4 along the line 5-5.
Referring to FIG. 1, one embodiment of the package of the present invention is shown. The flexible container 10 is made from polymer package material. The container has a top end 20 and a bottom end 21. The container may be any shape known in the art. For example, the container may have a polyhedral shape defining or forming a polyhedral enclosure. The articles disposed within the interior space may all be identical to one another or may be different from one another. The articles may be disposable absorbent articles, such as flat or folded sanitary napkins or panty liners in a stacked configuration.
The container 10 is closed for shipping and marketing, and has a frangible closure 30 for opening or otherwise accessing the interior space for easy access to the articles. As shown in FIG. 2, the frangible closure 30 can be a line of weakness, such as a line of perforations. Such lines can have any configurations/shapes, e.g. straight or curved. In alternative embodiments, the frangible closure 30 for accessing the interior space can be formed of an opening in the material of the container, which is releasably closed by an adhesive tab.
The package material may be composed of different materials or may be composed of substantially the same type of material. The package material may be composed of a laminate. The package material can be any flexible material. The package material can be a blown or cast film of polyethylene, or a blend of low density polyethylene and linear low density polyethylene, or other polymers suitable for flexible films, including metallocene, ethylene vinyl acetate, surlyn, polyethylene terephtalate, biaxially oriented polypropylene, and/or nylon. The package material can be cloth. The package material can be a nonwoven material. The package material can be a woven material. Other materials suitable for the package material are metallised polymeric films.
The absorbent articles contained in the package of the present invention can be of any type known in the art. The absorbent articles may be disposable absorbent articles such as diapers, catamenial devices, tampons, sanitary napkins, pantiliners, or adult incontinence products. The articles might also be tissues, wipes and other hygienic absorbent articles.
One embodiment of the present invention is shown in FIG. 1. The top end 20 of the container 10 has a top panel 40 and extensions 41, the extensions 41 extending above top panel 40 when container is oriented as shown in FIG. 1. Side extensions 41 comprise a channel 42 formed by folding over the package material in the extension area. A seam, such as a thermally-sealed line can seal the channel 42. Inside channel 42 the container comprises a drawing means such as a drawing ribbon 50. The two fee ends of the drawing ribbon 50 extend out of the channel 42. The drawing means is disposed to move freely inside channel 42 such that the top end 20 of container 10 can be drawn closed as shown in FIG. 3. By this, the extensions 41 are gathered together.
In use, the user can unseal the package by breaking the frangible closure 30, which can be seen in FIG. 2. The frangible closure 30 can be constituted of a line of weakness or line of perforations, a tear tape or an adhesive flap or piece of adhesive tape, which covers an opening. After unsealing the container 10 by opening the frangible closure 30 the user can remove an article from inside the interior of the container 10, and then re-close the container by pulling on the drawing means 50 in an easy and convenient manner. Once closed, the drawing means 50 can be used as a convenient carrying handle.
In one embodiment herein the drawing means 50 is a drawing ribbon. The drawing ribbon 50 can be pulled, thereby gathering in the extensions 41 top end 20, as illustrated in FIG. 3. When the drawing ribbon 50 is pulled to its substantially maximum amount, the top panel 40 of the container 10 can be closed such that the articles contained within cannot fall out. The drawing ribbon 50 in a pulled position is an easy and convenient means for the consumer to carry the container 10.
The drawing means 50 can be made of any thin flexible material. Exemplary drawing means are made of blown or cast film in a blend of low density polyethylene and linear low density polyethylene, metallocenes, ethylene vinyl acetate, SurlynŽ, polyethylene terephtalate, biaxially oriented polypropylene, and/or nylon. Other suitable materials for the drawing means 50 herein are cloth, nonwoven or woven materials.
The drawing means 50 is disposed to move freely inside the channel 42. As shown in the embodiment of FIG. 3, the drawing means 50 has two free ends, which extend out of the channel 42 at adjacent locations. “Adjacent locations” herein means that the distance between the locations, where the individual free ends are extending out of the channel 42, is not more than about 5 cm, about 2 cm, about 1 cm or about 0.5 cm. The free ends are arranged graspable for the user. By pulling the free ends the user can close the top end of the container 10. This allows a hygienically satisfactory storage of the remaining articles stored in the container 10 after the container 10 has been opened as the closed top end provides protection from contamination by dust, moisture and the like.
In an alternative embodiment the free ends of the drawing means 50 are joined by a readily frangible joint for preventing the drawing means 50 from being pulled out of the channel unintentionally during transport and shelve life. This frangible joint easily breaks when the user pulls the two free ends.
An additional advantage of this particular arrangement of the free ends is that the user can pull both free ends with one hand at a time and securely hold the package with his other hand therewhile. This represents a clear advantage over executions known from the prior art, where free ends of drawings strings extend out of the channel in opposite locations of the upper end of the container. When pulling on these strings the user cannot hold the package itself but has to pull on one free end with each of his hands. The inability to hold the container when pulling on the drawing strings gives rise to certain disadvantages, such as articles may fall out of the not yet closed container.
To provide for easier stacking, storing, packing, or shelving, the container 10 can be modified by folding down the side extensions 41. By this the side extensions 41 lie substantially flat against sides of the container 10. Such a configuration allows more stable stacking and shelving by requiring less space. When the container is used, i.e. when absorbent articles are dispensed and the frangible closure is opened, the side extensions can be folded back into their upright position for being able to fulfil their functionality.
Container 10 can be made by methods known in the art, such as by known “flow wrap” processes in which a web of material is conveyed, cut, folded, seamed, filled and closed. Flow wrap processes can produce generally “cube-shape” or polyhedral-shaped containers. Alternatively, the container can be formed out of pre-made bags, formed on or off the packing line. These pre-made bags can be provided in many way, such as individually or in the form of a stack (wicket), which is fed into the packing line. Such pre-made bags are opened, filled and sealed.
One process for producing the container according to the present invention is described and is illustrated in FIG. 4
. The particular embodiment described is a continuous process, although it need not be so. The process described can be described in four steps:
- 1. supplying and folding the continuous package material 60,
- 2. supplying string-like material 70 and forming the channels enclosing said string-like material 70,
- 3. cut-sealing the continuous package material 60 in cross direction, whereby forming individual compartments 80, and
- 4. forming the drawing means by feeding the individual compartments 80 through a cut and join unit 90.
“Machine direction” as used herein refers to the direction of the production line. “Cross-direction” as used herein refers to a direction, which extends perpendicularly to said machine direction.
In one step of the process a continuous package material 60 is supplied in a machine direction MD. This continuous package material 60 is then folded such that it assumes an M-shaped cross-section in cross direction. FIG. 5 illustrates the M-shaped cross-section, as present in region 6-6. The M-shape is characterized by two tips 61 in the outer fold lines and one inner fold line 62.
In another step, the continuous M-shaped package material 60 is provided with continuous string-like material 70, which is fed into each of the two tips 61 of the continuous package material 60. This string-like material 70 will form the drawing means in the final container. The continuous string-like material 70 is thermally incompatible with the continuous package material 60, i.e. it has a higher melting point. “Thermally incompatible” as used herein means that the melting point difference between two materials is at least about 100° C. In another step, the continuous package material 60 will be sealed near each tip 61 by a sealing line 62 in machine direction, thereby forming a channel enclosing the continuous string-like material 70 between each of the tips 61 and the sealing lines 62. A suitable means for forming the sealing lines 62 are heated rollers 100, which heat seal the continuous package material 60 linearly.
In another step, individual compartments 80 are formed. The continuous package material 60 with the channels enclosing the continuous string-like material 70 will be fed through a hat cutting section 100, where the continuous package material 60 is cut in cross-direction by heated blades, which are heated to the melting point of the continuous package material 60 but below the melting point of the continuous string-like material 70. The heated blades on one hand cut the continuous package material 60 in cross direction and on the other they seal the edges of the cut continuous package material 60. Due to the thermal incompatibility of the continuous package material 60 does not bond to the continuous string-like material 70 upon being fed through the heat cutting section 110, because the melting point of the continuous string-like material 70 is higher than the melting point of the continuous package material 60. Further, the continuous string-like material 70 will not be cut in this step. The cut segment of package material, herein referred to as individual compartments 80, will be displaced versus the non-cut continuous package material 60 in machine direction for exposing the continuous string-like material 70 between the individual compartment 80 and the continuous package material 60.
In another step of the process, the drawing means is formed out of the continuous string-like material 70. The individual compartment 80 with the exposed continuous string-like material 70 is fed through a cut and join unit 90. When looked at it in machine direction the cut and join unit 90 joins the two strings of continuous string-like material 70 behind the individual compartment 80 and forms a connection 91 between them. Between the connection 91 and the continuous package material the two strings of continuous string-like material are cut. The joining can be facilitated by any known means, such as stitching, adhesive bonding, heat-bonding, pressure or other mechanical bonding, binding mechanical entanglement knotting or joining by clamps.
This cycle may be repeated continuously. The string-like materials forms the drawing means 50 of the container 10. Joining the two string-like materials before the cut at the cut and join unit 90 creates a connection 91 between the two strings. After the connection 91 the two lines of string-like material will be cut. This forms the free ends of the drawing means 50.
The dimensions and values disclosed herein are not to be understood as being strictly limited to the exact numerical values recited. Instead, unless otherwise specified, each such dimension is intended to mean both the recited value and a functionally equivalent range surrounding that value. For example, a dimension disclosed as “40 mm” is intended to mean “about 40 mm”.
All documents cited in the Detailed Description of the Invention are, are, in relevant part, incorporated herein by reference; the citation of any document is not to be construed as an admission that it is prior art with respect to the present invention. To the extent that any meaning or definition of a term in this written document conflicts with any meaning or definition of the term in a document incorporated by reference, the meaning or definition assigned to the term in this written document shall govern.
While particular embodiments of the present invention have been illustrated and described, it would be obvious to those skilled in the art that various other changes and modifications can be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. It is therefore intended to cover in the appended claims all such changes and modifications that are within the scope of this invention.