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Publication numberUS20070172157 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/627,909
Publication dateJul 26, 2007
Filing dateJan 26, 2007
Priority dateJul 23, 2004
Also published asWO2008092151A2, WO2008092151A3
Publication number11627909, 627909, US 2007/0172157 A1, US 2007/172157 A1, US 20070172157 A1, US 20070172157A1, US 2007172157 A1, US 2007172157A1, US-A1-20070172157, US-A1-2007172157, US2007/0172157A1, US2007/172157A1, US20070172157 A1, US20070172157A1, US2007172157 A1, US2007172157A1
InventorsJames Buchman
Original AssigneeAlcoa Inc.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Polymeric package with resealable closure and valve and methods relating thereto
US 20070172157 A1
Abstract
The present invention provides a vacuum storage bag system having a storage device having at least one polymeric sheet sealed along a portion of its' periphery to provide an opening to a storage space; a resealable closure structure adapted to seal the opening to the storage space, the resealable closure structure comprising selectively engaging male and female profiles and a sealing compound comprising liquid silicone and at least one filler in proportions suitable for at least incidental contact to food items contained within the storage space; a vacuum valve assembly disposed on the polymeric sheet; a stand-off structure disposed adjacent to the vacuum valve assembly, wherein the stand-off structure has a series of raised surfaces facing the vacuum valve assembly; a portable vacuum pump assembly structured to engage the vacuum valve assembly; and a liquid separator assembly coupled to the portable vacuum pump assembly.
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Claims(16)
1. A vacuum storage bag comprising:
an evacuable package comprising at least one polymeric sheet sealed about a portion of its periphery to define a first panel, a second panel, an opening and an interior space;
a vacuum valve in fluid communication with the interior space of the evacuable package; and
a resealable closure interconnected to the evacuable package proximal the opening of the evacuable package, the resealable closure comprising:
a first flexible flange interconnected to the first panel of the evacuable package, the first flexible flange comprising a first interengaging profile; and
a second flexible flange interconnected to the second panel of the evacuable package, opposite the first flexible flange, the second flexible flange comprising:
a top portion comprising a second interengaging profile adapted to restrictively engage the first interengaging profile; and
a skirt portion interconnected with the top portion, the skirt portion comprising a stand-off structure.
2. The storage bag of claim 1, wherein the vacuum valve is interconnected to the skirt portion of the second flexible flange.
3. The storage bag of claim 1, wherein vacuum valve is integral with the skirt portion of the second flexible flange.
4. The storage bag of claim 1, wherein the top portion of the second flexible flange comprises LDPE and the skirt portion comprises MDPE.
5. The storage bag of claim 1, wherein the top portion comprises a thickness of not greater than about 3 mils, and wherein the skirt portion comprises a thickness of at least about 10 mils.
6. The storage bag of claim 1, wherein the ratio of the thickness of the skirt portion to the thickness of the top portion is at least about 1.5:1.
7. The storage bag of claim 1, wherein the skirt portion further comprises:
a non-textured portion adjacent a lateral edge of the stand-off structure.
8. The storage bag of claim 1, wherein the stand-off structure is an embossed structure.
9. A method for forming the resealable closure of claim 1, the method comprising:
feeding at least a portion of the resealable closure through an anvil roll and an embossing wheel; and
contacting at least some of the skirt portion of the resealable closure with an embossing portion of the embossing roll.
10. The method of claim 9, further comprising:
contacting the skirt portion of the resealable closure with a non-embossed portion of the embossing roll.
11. A vacuum storage bag comprising:
an evacuable package defining an interior space, the evacuable package having a first side panel and an opposing second side panel;
a vacuum valve in fluid communication with the interior space of the evacuable package; and
a wicking material in fluid communication with the interior space of the evacuable package.
12. The vacuum storage bag of claim 11, wherein the wicking material is interconnected to at least one of the first side panel and the second side panel of the evacuable package.
13. The vacuum storage bag of claim 12, wherein the wicking material is adhesively bonded to at least one of the first and second sides panels of the evacuable package.
14. The vacuum storage bag of claim 11, further comprising:
a plurality of barriers proximal the periphery of the wicking material and surrounding at least a portion of the wicking material, the plurality of barriers defining a wicking section of the evacuable package and restricting movement of the wicking material from the wicking section.
15. The vacuum storage bag of claim 14, wherein the plurality of barriers at least assist in defining at least one channel, the at least one channel facilitating liquid communication between the interior space of the evacuable package and the wicking material.
16. The vacuum storage bag of claim 11, wherein the wicking material comprises a cellulosed-based material.
Description
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/186,131 filed Jul. 20, 2005, which claims priority under 35 U.S.C. § 119(e) to U.S. Provisional Patent Application Nos., 60/590,858, filed on Jul. 23, 2004, 60/602,685 filed on Aug. 19, 2004, and 60/609,920, filed on Sep. 15, 2004. Each of the above patent applications is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to a flexible, inexpensive, evacuable storage device optionally having a resealable opening and a caulking composition. The present invention also relates to a vacuum storage device and a system for vacuum storage.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Flexible, sealable storage devices, such as consumer storage bags are commonly used to store items such as, but not limited to, food. These devices typically have a bag body made from a thin, flexible plastic material and include a resealable closure. While inexpensive and easy to use, these devices also allow a quantity of air to be enclosed with the item being stored. Air within a storage device containing food is not desirable as the air reacts with the food and will cause spoliation. Additionally, when storage bags are placed in a below freezing environment, typically in a freezer, “freezer burn” may also damage the food items. Freezer burn occurs when moisture is drawn from the food item and forms ice, typically on the food item. Freezer burn is reduced when entrapped air is substantially eliminated from the storage device with concomitant contouring of the bag wall of the storage device around the food item. Consequently, less moisture will be drawn out of the food item.

Prior systems that evacuate flexible storage bags typically include a large device having a vacuum unit and a heat sealer structured to bond sheets of plastic together. The user typically cuts a length of plastic from a roll of plastic and uses the heat sealer to form the plastic into a bag with an opening. After an item has been placed in the bag through the opening, the vacuum unit is then used to remove substantially all of the air from the bag and the bag is sealed. Such systems have various disadvantages, including high materials costs due to once-use methodology and rigorous sealing requirements.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In view of the foregoing background, there is need for a vacuum storage system utilizing a portable vacuum device and optionally a resealable, evacuable, flexible storage device. Resealable closure systems are known, for example, interlocking profiles used in plastic bags. However, in a typical resealable closure, engagement of the sealing structures is rarely perfect, leaving gaps in the profile seal. Moreover, during manufacture of reclosable devices, frequently seals at the ends of the reclosable device distort the engaging portions of the closure which can also provide an unsealed region in the closure. As a consequence of these and other problems associated with resealable closures, a bag utilizing a resealable closure may not be air tight. Consequently when a bag utilizing a resealable closure is subjected to a pressure differential, for example, when it is evacuated or when there is a partial pressure differential of a particular gas between the inside and outside of the bag, gas can leak across the resealable closure and enter, or leave the sealed package through the closure. Thus, gases, for example, air may penetrate into a sealed bag, or for example water vapor may leak from a sealed bag. This is especially a problem when the interior of the bag is at a different pressure than the ambient air, for example, when the bag is under a vacuum, or when the bag contains a gas at a higher or lower partial pressure than the gas is present in the ambient.

Accordingly, there is a need for a flexible, resealable storage device wherein the sealing structure has a resistance to fluid permeability under a pressure differential across the sealing device. Moreover, there is a need for a pre-made, inexpensive, flexible, reusable storage device having a valve structured to operate with a portable vacuum pump. Additionally, there is a further need for a resealable closure that provides for reduction in entrapped air, a flexible bag wall to maintain item conformance, and an air tight seal providing reduced permeability to oxygen, atmosphere intrusion or transmission, bacteria, molds and/or other sources of contamination when used in combination with vacuum pump technology. There is also a need for vacuum pump technology which provides for portability and utility in evacuating a food storage flexible package.

These needs, and others, are met by the present invention that provides in one aspect a vacuum system comprising: (a) a vacuum pump having a suction side; (b) a vacuum conduit in fluid communication with said vacuum pump suction side, the vacuum conduit comprising: (i) a gas/liquid separator means; (ii) at least one vacuum valve optionally comprising a caulking compound (also termed herein a caulking composition) disposed therein; (iii) optionally, a standoff structure; (iv) optionally one or more quick-connect means; (c) an evacuable package defining an interior space in fluid communication with said vacuum conduit; and (d) optionally, a resealable closure defining an opening of said evacuable package. In some preferred embodiments the vacuum pump is portable.

In one embodiment, the vacuum system comprises a kit containing in one assembly the vacuum pump, a liquid separator means and a portion of the vacuum conduit terminated with one portion of a quick-connect means, and in a second assembly, an additional portion of the vacuum conduit comprising a cooperating portion of the quick-connect means, a vacuum valve, an evacuable package and optionally a stand-off structure. In some preferred embodiments, the vacuum pump assembly is provided in a break-apart form wherein one portion of the system comprises the vacuum pump integrally assembled with some portions of the vacuum conduit, for example, the liquid/gas separator, terminating in a quick-connect means, and the remaining portions of the vacuum conduit are provided integral with the evacuable storage package, for example, a vacuum valve having a cooperating quick-connect means arranged in the remaining portion of the vacuum conduit and integral with the flexible package and optionally a stand-off structure.

In one embodiment the standoff structure comprises an embossed plastic sheet having a channel side and a projection side. In one embodiment the standoff structure is positioned within the evacuable package having the channel side in fluid communication with the vacuum conduit and vacuum valve, and having the projection side proximal to the interior space defined by the package.

In another aspect, the present invention provides an evacuable storage package defining an interior space, a vacuum valve in fluid communication therewith, optionally a standoff structure in fluid communication with the vacuum valve, and optionally a resealable closure defining an opening into the interior space of the package wherein the resealable closure comprises at least one set of interengaging profiles.

In some embodiments the resealable closure defining the opening of the inventive storage package comprises at least one pair of opposed interengaging profiles wherein at least one of said interengaging profiles has associated therewith a portion of the closure comprising a low density sealing material, thus providing a region in the closure having a high degree of conformance with the associated interengaging portion of the closure and as well as insuring that when the closure is end-sealed, a gap free seal is provided. In some embodiments the sealing material comprises a portion of one or both interengaging profiles. In some embodiments the sealing material comprises a portion of the flange or of a post of the closure. In some embodiments the sealing material comprises the entire length of the profiles. In some embodiments the sealing material comprises selected portions of the profiles, such as the periphery portions of one or both of the interengaging profiles. In some embodiments the portion of the closure comprising the sealing material is made from a polyolefin material having a density of not more than 0.925 g/cm3, as defined according to ASTM D1505-03, entitled “The standard test method for density of plastics by density gradient techniques”, Book of Standards Volume 08.01 (2005). In some embodiments the resealable closure is used in conjunction with a caulking composition. In one embodiment of the present invention, the caulking composition acts to fill one or more voids between the interengaging profiles, thus reducing the infiltration of ambient into the storage device when it is sealed and placed in a condition of reduced pressure.

In some embodiments the caulking composition is disposed proximal to the interengaging closure profiles such that it is infiltrated into any gaps existing in the closure when the closure profiles are engaged.

In some embodiments the caulking composition comprises a mixture suitable for at least incidental contact to food items. In some embodiments the caulking composition maintains chemical stability throughout a temperature range suitable for food storage and packaging.

In one embodiment the caulking composition is positioned on the first male profile and/or the first female profile. In one embodiment the caulking composition is placed proximal to the interengaging profiles of the closure in one or more positions that permit it to infiltrate gaps formed in the seal formed by the interengaged profiles, for example, as applied to the ends of the closure near the crush area, and as a continuous bead along the closure either on or between one or more of the interengaging profile portions.

In another embodiment of the present invention, the resealable closure device further comprises at least a second set of interengaging profiles positioned in close proximity and parallel to the first set of interengaging profiles. In one embodiment having multiple pairs of interengaging profiles, in addition to sealing material being positioned between each of the engaged portions of the interengaging profiles, a bead of caulking composition may be positioned within the space separating the substantially parallel sets of interengaging profiles.

In one embodiment, the caulking composition comprises constituents such that it maintains integrity, without decomposition, throughout a temperature range suitable for packaging and food storage. Temperatures suitable for packaging and food storage typically range from approximately −10° F. to approximately +160° F. In one embodiment the caulking composition comprises liquid silicone and a filler, e.g. fumed silica, in proportions to provide a grease with a grease consistency number of approximately 2.0, as characterized by National Lubricating Grease Institute (NGLI) standards. In one embodiment, the caulking composition comprises a soy adhesive, such as Pro-cote® soy polymer available from DuPont™. In another embodiment, the caulking composition comprises soy oils, for example, those available from Cargill™. Industrial Oils & Lubricants. In one embodiment the caulking composition comprises two reactive constituents, each residing on a different portion of the closure, such that when the interengaging profiles of the closure are engaged the two constituents are admixed, providing a reaction product which infiltrates at least one void defined by the interengaging closure profiles.

In one aspect, a vacuum storage bag is provided, the vacuum storage bag including an evacuable package, a vacuum valve integral with the evacuable package, and a plurality of barriers positioned within the evacuable package. The evacuable package comprises at least one polymeric sheet sealed about a portion of its periphery defining first and second panels, an opening and an interior space. Each of the plurality of barriers interconnects a portion of the first panel of the evacuable package to a portion of the second panel of the evacuable package. The plurality of barriers also at least assist in defining at least one channel, which is in fluid communication with the vacuum valve and the interior space of the evacuable package.

The plurality of barriers may be of various configurations. For example, the plurality of barriers may be intermittently located about at least a portion of the periphery of the vacuum valve. In one approach, the vacuum valve is integral with the first panel and the plurality of barriers are intermittently located about at least a portion of the periphery of the vacuum valve. The plurality of barriers may be arranged such that the plurality of barriers define various portions of shapes, such as at least a portion of an ellipse. The plurality of barriers may be interconnected with the evacuable package in any suitable manner. For example, the plurality of barriers may be integral with both the first and second panels of the evacuable package, such as via heat sealing of the first panel to the second panel. Thus, in this embodiment, each of the plurality of barriers may define an uninterrupted span from the first panel to the second panel. In another embodiment, the plurality of barriers may comprise a polymeric material bonded to the interior space of the evacuable package.

In one approach, the plurality of barriers are located proximal at least a portion of the perimeter of the evacuable package. In a particular embodiment, a first portion of the plurality of barriers may be substantially parallel to a lateral side of the evacuable package. In turn, a second portion of the plurality of barriers may be substantially orthogonal to the same lateral side of the evacuable package. In one embodiment, the first portion of the barriers may be interconnected to the second portion of barriers, such as when it is desired to define a corner channel portion of the evacuable package.

In a particular embodiment, the plurality of barriers may define a sealing line, and the sealing line may be transverse to a lateral side of the evacuable package. In one embodiment, the sealing line is visible from the exterior of the evacuable package and facilitates visual confirmation of a fill level for the evacuable package. In a related embodiment, a visual indicator (e.g., color or text) may be co-located with the sealing line and this visual indicator may facilitate visual confirmation of a fill level for the vacuum storage.

The plurality of barriers may be utilized in conjunction with various other components of the vacuum storage bag. In one approach, the storage bag may include a standoff structure positioned within the evacuable package. In one embodiment, the stand-off structure may be located proximal the plurality of barriers. In a particular embodiment, at least some of the plurality of barriers may overlap with the stand-off structure. That is, the plurality of barriers and stand-off structure may be co-located at various portions of the evacuable package. In a particular approach, at least one channel fluidly interconnects the stand-off structure and the vacuum valve, such when the plurality of barriers and/or the geometrical structures of the stand-off structure define the channel.

In one approach, the evacuable package may include a resealable closure comprising at least one set of interengaging profiles that facilitate repeated opening and closing of the evacuable package. This resealable closure may define the opening of the evacuable package. In a particular embodiment, the plurality of barriers may be located between the resealable closure and the vacuum valve. In a related approach, the storage bag may include a grease composition associated with the resealable closure. This grease composition may be positioned on the resealable closure to facilitate sealing of the evacuable package.

In another aspect, the vacuum storage bag may include materials to facilitate wicking of liquids contained therein. In one approach, the vacuum storage bag includes a wicking material in fluid communication with the interior space of the evacuable package. In one embodiment, this wicking material may be interconnected to at least one of the first panel and second panel of the evacuable package. For example, the wicking material may be adhesively bonded to at least one of the first panel and second panel of the evacuable package. In another embodiment, to restrict movement of the wicking material within the evacuable package, a plurality of barriers, such as those described above, may be utilized. In one embodiment, the vacuum storage bag includes a plurality of barriers proximal the periphery of the wicking material and surrounding at least a portion of the wicking material. In this embodiment, the plurality of barriers may define a wicking section of the evacuable package and restrict movement of the wicking material from this wicking section. As described above, the plurality of barriers may at least assist in defining at least one channel, this at least one channel being adapted to facilitate liquid communication between the interior space of the evacuable package and the wicking material. The wicking material may be any suitable material adapted to adsorb or absorb liquids, such as desiccants, cellulose-based materials, and others.

As noted above, the resealable closure generally facilitates repeated opening and closing of the evacuable package. The resealable closure may also include structures to facilitate removal of air from the evacuable package. In one aspect, the resealable closure may include a first flexible flange interconnected to the first panel of the evacuable package, the first flexible flange including a first interengaging profile. The resealable closure may further include a second flexible flange interconnected to the second panel of the evacuable package and opposite the first flexible flange. The second flexible flange may include a top portion and a skirt portion, the skirt portion being interconnected to/integral with the top portion. The top portion of the second flexible flange may include a second interengaging profile adapted to restrictably engage the first interengaging profile. The skirt portion of the second flexible flange may include one or more structures for facilitating removal of gases from the evacuable package. In one embodiment, the skirt portion may include a stand-off structure (e.g., an embossed structure). Thus, gases proximal the resealable closure may be more readily removed from the evacuable package via the channels of the skirt portion stand-off structure.

In another embodiment, the skirt portion may include a vacuum valve interconnected therewith. In this regard, the vacuum valve may be integral with the skirt portion of the second flexible flange. To facilitate attachment of the vacuum valve, the skirt portion of the second flexible flange may include differing materials and/or thicknesses relative to the top portion of the second flexible flange. For example, the top portion of the second flexible flange may include low density polyethylene (LDPE) and the skirt portion may include medium density polyethylene (MDPE). In a related approach, the top portion of the second flexible flange may include a first thickness and the skirt portion may include a second thickness that is greater than the first thickness. In a particular embodiment, the top portion comprises a thickness of not greater than about 3 mil, and the skirt portion of the second flexible flange comprises a thickness of at least about 10 mils. In another related approach, the ratio of the thickness of the skirt portion to the thickness of the top portion may be tailored to facilitate interconnection of structures to the skirt portion of the second flexible flange while restricting the thickness of the top portion. For example, the ratio of the thickness of the skirt portion to the thickness of the top portion may be at least about 1.5:1.

The skirt portion may also include non-structured portions. For example, the skirt portion may include non-textural portions adjacent a lateral edge of the skirt portion. These non-textured portions may facilitate sealing of the evacuable package about the periphery.

Methods for forming resealable closures comprising structures are also provided. In one approach, the method includes the step of feeding at least a portion of the resealable closure through an anvil and an embossing wheel, and contacting at least some of the skirt portion of the resealable closure with an embossing portion of an embossing roll. The embossing roll may include structures that facilitate development of the stand-off structure (e.g., protrusions and/or cavities). The method may also include the step of contacting the skirt portion of the resealable closure with a non-embossed portion of the embossing roll to facilitate production of non-embossed portions of the skirt portion of the resealable closure.

As may be appreciated, various aspects, approaches and/or embodiments noted hereinabove may be combined to yield various different configurations of the vacuum storage system and corresponding methods. These and other aspects, advantages, and novel features of the invention are set forth in part in the description that follows and will become apparent to those skilled in the art upon examination of the following description and figures, or may be learned by practicing the invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 a is a front view of one of embodiment of a storage device.

FIG. 1 b is a side, cross-sectional view of one embodiment of a storage device.

FIGS. 2-7 are cross-sectional views of embodiments of resealable closure devices including a caulking composition and/or sealing material.

FIG. 8 (perspective view) depicts one embodiment of a clamping means.

FIG. 9 is an exploded view of one embodiment of a vacuum valve assembly.

FIGS. 10 a-10 c are front views of embodiments of stand-off structures.

FIGS. 11 a-11 c are isometric views of embodiments of stand-off structures.

FIGS. 12 a-12 b are cross-sectional views of embodiments of stand-off structures.

FIGS. 13 a-13 d are isometric views of embodiments of a storage device in an unfolded condition.

FIG. 14 is an isometric view of one embodiment of a storage device in a folded condition.

FIG. 15 is a cross-sectional view of the storage device depicted in FIG. 14 along section line 9-9.

FIGS. 16 a-16 b illustrate the front view of one embodiment of a closing clip and the side view of the closing clip.

FIG. 17 is a side view of one embodiment of an end stop.

FIG. 18(a) is an isometric view of one embodiment of a suction cup tip of a portable vacuum pump

FIG. 18(b) depicts a side cross-sectional view of the suction cup tip depicted in FIG. 18(a).

FIG. 19 is an exploded, cross-sectional view of one embodiment of a liquid separator.

FIG. 20 is an exploded, isometric view of one embodiment of a liquid separator.

FIG. 21 is an isometric view of one embodiment of an evacuable bag in use, wherein the bag includes a stand-off structure and vacuum valve assembly.

FIGS. 22 a-22 d illustrate various embodiments of an evacuable package having a barrier structure.

FIG. 23 is a perspective view of one embodiment of an evacuable package having a vacuum valve assembly interconnected with a resealable closure.

FIG. 24 is a perspective view of an evacuable package having a resealable closure that includes a stand-off structure.

FIGS. 25 a-25 c illustrate various views of one embodiment of a resealable closure including a stand-off structure and an interconnected vacuum valve assembly.

FIG. 26 is a perspective view of one embodiment of a process for producing a resealable closure having a stand-off structure.

FIG. 27 a is a perspective view of one embodiment of a process for producing a resealable closure having a vacuum valve interconnected therewith.

FIG. 27 b is a perspective view of one embodiment of a process for producing a plurality of resealable closures, each having a vacuum valve interconnected therewith.

FIG. 28 illustrates one embodiment of an evacuable package including a wicking material.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

The present invention is now discussed in more detail referring to the drawings that accompany the present application. In the accompanying drawings, like and/or corresponding elements are referred to by like reference numbers. In one embodiment of the present invention, a vacuum system is provided that may include a portable vacuum pump and an evacuable package in communication through a vacuum conduit. The evacuable package may optionally include a stand-off structure and a resealable closure having a caulking composition disposed thereon. In one embodiment, the resealable closure comprises interlocking profiles on which the caulking composition is disposed to provide a gas permeation resistant seal in the resealable closure. The vacuum conduit provides communication between the portable pump and the storage portion of the evacuable bag, wherein the vacuum conduit comprises at least a valve assembly and optionally a stand-off structure. In one embodiment, the stand-off structure provides a means to substantially eliminate the incidence of trapped air within the storage area of the evacuable package. Each of the aspects of the interlocking profiles, the caulking composition, the vacuum valve assembly, the stand-off structure, and the vacuum pump are now discussed in greater detail.

Referring to FIGS. 1 a-1 b, in one embodiment, the flexible, resealable storage device 10 comprises a flexible material 12 shaped as an evacuable package 14 (also referred to as evacuable bag). The flexible material 12 is preferably a plastic sheet 16, such as polyolefin. The sheet 16 is, preferably, rectangular. In one embodiment, the sheet 16 is folded over upon itself and two lateral sides 15 are sealed adjacent to the periphery to provide an opening 18 to a storage space 22. As such, the periphery of the bag 14 is substantially sealed. In another embodiment of the present invention, the entire periphery of the evacuable bag 14 is heat sealed.

In one embodiment of the present invention, the evacuable package 14 may be a multilayer bag comprising an inner sealant layer and a barrier/strength layer. The inner sealant layer may comprise LDPE (low density polyethylene) or LLDPE (linear low density polyethylene) and the barrier/strength layer may comprise Nylon, PP (polypropylene) or PET (Polyester). As used herein the term “low density” in conjunction with polyethylene denotes a material having a density of no greater than 0.925 g/cm3, as defined by ASTM standard D-15005-03, wherein the density may be adjusted with the addition of ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA). Another example of a multilayer bag and a method of forming a multilayer bag is described in U.S. Pat. No. 4,267,960, titled “Bag For Vacuum Packaging of Meats or Similar Products”, filed Aug. 29, 1979, which is incorporated herein by reference.

In the embodiments of the present invention in which the evacuable bag 14 has an opening 18 to the storage space 22, the bag opening 18 includes a resealable closure 20. The resealable closure 20 may include a set of interlocking profiles. In one example, the set of interlocking profiles 21 may include resilient, selectively engaging male and female profiles 21 (tongue-and-groove closure), structured to seal the opening 18. It will be appreciated that there are numerous interlocking profile geometries known, which can be employed in the present invention.

With reference to FIG. 2, in one embodiment, the selectively engaging profiles of closure 21 (also termed herein sometimes for convenience as interengaging profiles) are positioned along two opposing flexible flanges (also termed herein sometimes for convenience as “panels”) including a first flange 50 and a second flange 52. As shown in FIG. 2, the two flexible panels 50, 52 may include a raised surface 68, 69 on the inside surface of the panels disposed outside the resealable closure. The first flange 50 includes a male profile having at least one protrusion 54 that extends laterally across the bag 14. The second flange 52 includes a female groove 60 defined by at least two protrusions (56, 58).

Still referring to FIG. 2, there may be multiple protrusions 62, 64, extending from the first and second flanges 50, 52 and forming multiple corresponding male profiles and female grooves (also termed herein sometimes for convenience as a female profile). The protrusions 54, 56, 58, 62, 64 are generally formed from a polyolefin material with a density of not less than approximately 0.925 g/cm3, preferably those described as a High Melt Index polyolefin (HMI). More specifically, the protrusions 54, 56, 58, 62, 64 may comprise High Melt Index (MI) Polyethylene materials and Ethylene Vinyl Acetate (EVA) Copolymers, particularly those having a vinyl acetate content of from about 4 weight percent to about 12 weight percent. In addition, portions of the interengaging profiles and/or surrounding closure structures may include one or more features comprising low melt index or Ultra Low Density (ULD) Polyolefins. As used herein, the term “Ultra Low Density” denotes a density no greater than approximately 0.925 g/cm3. As will be appreciated, the density may be adjusted with the addition of EVA. At least one protrusion 54, 56, 58, 62, 64 may include a bead 66 of polyolefin material with a density of not more than approximately 0.925 g/cm3. In some embodiments a bead 66 of softer material is disposed at the tip of a protrusion 54, 56, 58, 62, 64 and is structured to engage the opposing side 50, 52. The bead 66 of softer material is hereafter referred to as a bead of sealing material 66.

As discussed above, the bead of sealing material 66 may have a lower density than the protrusions 54, 56, 58, 62, 64. During the engagement of resealable closure 20, the lower density and hence more compliant bead of sealing material 66 conforms to the geometry of the higher density and more rigid material comprising the portion of the closure against which the head of the profile abuts upon engagement. The softer material abuts the closure with increased conformance to the abutting surface, advantageously providing a more effective seal against fluid exchange between the interior of the package and the ambient, for example, the intrusion of gas and the exterior atmosphere into the evacuable bag 14. Regardless of the above described embodiments, the resealable closure 20 and its associated interlocking structures can comprise resilient materials of varying densities and melt indexes. Accordingly, embodiments within the scope of the present disclosure, including combinations of materials selected to achieve sealant conditions under vacuum and reduced temperature conditions.

The protrusions forming the male profile may also be referred as a profile having a male head. The protrusions defining the female profile (also referred to as a groove) may also be referred to as profile having a female head and a fillet positioned to provide a groove. The resealable closure 20 may further include a closing clip structured to ensure the complete engagement of the closure profiles. Specifically, the closure clip functions to ensure that the interengaging profiles are engaged as the clip is disposed along a first direction, but does not affect the engagement of the profiles when disposed along the direction opposite to that of the first direction.

Regardless of the specific details of construction or interaction of the profiles 21 of resealable closure 20, the interengaging portions of the resealable closure of the present invention preferably includes a caulking composition 99 (also sometimes referred to as sealing compound 99). For example, the caulking composition 99 may be positioned on at least one protrusion 54 on the first flange 50 and/or at least one protrusion 56, 58 on the second flange 52 of the closure 21, wherein the caulking composition 99 assists in creating an air tight seal to the storage space 22. Specifically, during engagement of the first and second flange protrusions 54, 56, 58, 62, 64 of the male and female profiles, the caulking composition 99 sits within the groove 60 to ensure an air-tight seal of the male and female profile. Specifically, the caulking composition 99 is positioned to infiltrate the void space defined between the engaged interlocking profiles 21 of the resealable closure 20. Without being bound by theory, it is believed that that the caulking composition 99 acts to infiltrate gaps between the male and female profiles, thus reducing the infiltration of ambient into the storage device 10 when it is placed in a condition of reduced pressure.

Accordingly, the resealable closure 20 is prepared before sealing by introducing the caulking composition 99 onto one or more members of the interengaging profiles 21 or onto a surface of the resealable closure 20 proximal to the interengaging profiles 21, by methods such as deposition or injection, where it will be distributed during the interlocking process within incipient gaps left between the interengaging profiles 21 after interlocking. Alternately, prior to sealing the resealable closure 20, the caulking composition 99 can be placed proximal to known areas in which the sealing profile is prone to exhibit gapping, for example, the ends of the male and female profiles 21 at the bag's periphery. The portions of the male and female profiles at the bags periphery are engaged by crush seal, which is often the site of leakage in the closure device. The voids caused by the crush seal engagement at the male and female profile may be filled with the sealing compound 99 to substantially reduce the incidence of leakage.

The caulking composition 99 may comprise any material that provides a selectively reversible air tight seal between the interlocking profiles 21 of the resealable closure 20, in which the caulking composition 99 is suitable for at least incidental contact to food items inserted through the opening to the storage space. Preferably, the caulking composition 99 maintains its chemical structure throughout the operable temperature range of storage device 10. The term “suitable” for at least incidental contact denotes compounds that are eligible for compliance with or equivalent to being in compliance with the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act (Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations) standards for being generally recognized as safe (GRAS). The term “at least incidental contact” includes at least the unanticipated contact of food items being passed through the opening on which the closure strip is positioned as the food items are being inserted into the storage space. Although indirect contact between the caulking composition and the food items is preferred, in some embodiments the caulking composition may more directly contact the food, so long as the interaction between the food items and the caulking composition is in accordance with the regulations of the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act.

It is noted that caulking compositions that are suitable for at least incidental food contact may be consistent with the classification of materials for “lubricants with incidental food contact” according to Title 21 of the United States Code of Federal Regulations § 178.3570 (revised as of Apr. 1, 2003), so long as the materials are consistent with the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act and have an operable temperature range suitable for food storage and packaging. In some preferred embodiments, the operable temperature range of the storage device is defined as the temperature range that the storage bag is typically subjected to in shipping, packaging and food storage applications, for example, food storage applications ranging from approximately −10° F. to approximately 160° F. One example of a caulking composition that is listed as a “lubricant with incidental food contact” according to Title 21 Of the United States Code of Federal Regulations § 178.3570 and has an operable temperature range suitable for food storage and packaging comprises dimethylpolysiloxane. Another example is soy-based oils, for example, those distributed by Cargill Corp., and soy-based adhesives, for example, those distributed by DuPont as Pro-cote™ soy polymers.

In order to provide an air tight seal, in some embodiments the caulking composition 99 should be selected to have a work penetration of about 290 to about 340, in which the work penetration is measured at 60 strokes and a temperature of 77° F. in accordance with the National Lubricating Grease Institute (NLGI) system for rating greases by penetration and ASTM D217-97 titled “Standard Test Methods for Cone Penetration of Lubricating Grease” (1997). The NLGI classifies greases by consistency numbers as measured by worked penetration. In a preferred embodiment, the caulking composition 99 has a work penetration on the order of about 290 to about 340 and is classified as a grease having a NLGI consistency number equal to approximately 2. Although it is preferred that the caulking composition 99 have NLGI consistency number equal to approximately 2, greases having lower or higher NLGI consistency numbers may alternatively be utilized, so long as the caulking composition 99 may be applied to the interengaging profiles 21 of the resealable closure 20 using conventional injection methods and that the caulking composition 99 is contained within the resealable closure 20 when exposed to temperatures consistent with food storage container applications.

One example of a caulking composition 99, which meets the above requirements is silicone grease. Silicone grease is an amorphous, fumed silica thickened, polysiloxane-based compound. Silicone grease is formed by combining liquid silicone with an inert silica filler. One example of liquid silicone that may be utilized in forming silicone grease having suitable work penetration properties is polydimethylsiloxane having a specific gravity on the order of about 0.973 and a viscosity greater than about 300 centistokes, preferably on the order of about 350 centistokes. Fumed silica, an inert silica filler, has a chain-like particle morphology and when incorporated into liquid silicone forms three dimensional networks that trap the liquid and effectively increases the liquid's viscosity.

Silicone grease may provide desired work penetration values and temperature range to produce an adequately air tight seal between the interengaged profiles 21 of the resealable closure 20 by selecting the proper proportions of inert silica filler to liquid silicone. The proportion of inert silica filler to liquid silicone is generally selected to ensure that separation of liquid from solid in the silicone grease is substantially eliminated throughout the operable temperature range of the bag as applied to food container storage. In general, proportions of inert silica filler to liquid silicone are selected to yield a silicone grease viscosity that would not inhibit the application of the silicone grease onto the resealable closure 20. The proportion of inert silica filler to liquid silicone is preferably less than approximately 30% by weight. Even more preferably, the proportion of inert silica filler to liquid silicone is on the order of 6% by weight.

In one highly preferred embodiment, the silicone grease is provided by Clearco™ Silicone Grease (food grade) provided by Clearco Products Co., Inc., Bensalem Pa. Clearco™ Silicone Grease (food grade) has a work penetration value of about 290 to about 340, in which the work penetration is measured at 60 strokes and a temperature of 77° F. Clearco™ Silicone Grease (food grade) comprises 94% dimethylpolysiloxane and 6% fumed silica by weight % and has a specific gravity on the order of about 1.1. Clearco™ Silicone Grease may be utilized at temperatures ranging from approximately −40° F. to approximately 400° F. without chemical decomposition and is therefore well suited for food storage applications. In this embodiment of the present invention, the silicone grease 99 may be positioned along at least one of the male and female profiles 21 of the resealable closure 20, wherein incidental contact to food being inserted into the storage space of the storage device typically accounts for less that 5.0 ppb of silicone grease being incorporated into the food item being stored. In one embodiment, at least about 0.01 grams of caulking composition per linear foot of resealable closure is utilized, such as at least about 0.03 grams of caulking composition per linear foot of the resealable closure. Generally, not greater than about 0.07 grams of caulking composition is used per linear foot of the resealable closure.

In another embodiment of the present invention, the caulking composition 99 may comprise a soy adhesive. Similar to the above-described caulking compositions, the soy adhesive preferably is suitable for incidental food contact and has an operable temperature range suitable for food packaging and storage. One example of a soy adhesive is Pro-cote® soy polymer, which is available from DuPont™. In general, soy adhesive is prepared by extracting and refining soy oil from dehulled, flaked soybeans. The extracted material contains isolated soy protein in its native or globular form; and soluble, low molecular weight sugars. The extract is then processed in a controlled pH environment at tightly controlled temperatures to uncoil globular native soy protein into smaller units, and fractionating the material into uniform polymer fractions. The isolated protein molecule fractions are highly reactive and are chemically treated to modify the protein chain to provide desired adhesive properties. Unmodified soy-based oils may also be employed as a caulking composition. An alternative source of soy based oils and adhesives is the soy products available from Cargill™ Industrial Oils & Lubricants.

As will be appreciated, numerous reactive materials may also be employed as caulking compositions. In particular, materials which may be coated as separate reactants onto separate interengaging portions of the closure which are admixed upon engagement of the interengaging portions of the closure may be utilized. Accordingly, when the closure parts are engaged the admixed reactants will be combined, reacting and forming in-situ a caulking composition which is infiltrated into a least one void defined by the engaged interengaging portions of the closure. One example of such a system comprises a free-flowing reactive polymer liquid and a liquid cross-linking agent, each coated on separate portions of the closure. In this example, when the closure is engaged, the separate portions contact, admixing the polymer and cross-linking agent, providing a viscous, cross-linked polymer caulking composition which is infiltrated into voids in the closure defined by the interengaged portions of the closure. Other examples include the provision of a free-flowing liquid and a gelling agent on separate portions of the closure to form a viscous caulking agent upon admixture, and the provision of a two-part adhesive material which react to form an adhesive upon admixture, for example, formation of a pressure-sensitive adhesive. Other types of chemical transformations will also be apparent to those of skill in the art.

Referring now to FIG. 3, in another embodiment of the present invention, the resealable closure structure includes at least two sets of opposed interlocking profiles 150 respectively having interengaging profiles 24, 28 and 23, 26 selectively engaged in sealing the opening 18 to the storage space 22. Each pair of interengaging profiles comprise a geometry having an asymmetrical head 32, 36 extending from a stem 43. Each asymmetrical head is preferably offset on the stem to complimentarily fit into the void space defined by stem 43, post 38 and asymmetrical head 36. The term “asymmetrical head” denotes that the centerline of the head portion of the profile is substantially offset from the centerline of the stem portion of the profile to which it is affixed.

The void space defined by stem 43, post 38 and asymmetrical head 36 comprises a groove configured to selectively engage the asymmetrical head 32 of the corresponding interengaging profile 23, 24. Stem 43, post 38 and asymmetrical head 36 are spaced to selectively engage corresponding interengaging profiles 23, 24. The spacing between the post 38 and stem 43, and between post 38 and asymmetrical head 36 is sufficiently narrow to bias asymmetrical head 32 toward asymmetrical head 36 when profiles 23, 24, 26, and 28 are engaged. The biased positioning of the asymmetrical head 36 in combination with the spacing of post 38 to correspond to the width of asymmetrical heads 23, 24 defining a grove that reversibly interlocks asymmetrical head 23, 24 into the groove when the profiles are engaged.

Still referring to FIG. 3, the resealable closure further includes a caulking composition 99 positioned on at least one of asymmetrical heads 23, 24, 26, and/or 28. The caulking composition 99 may be deposited or injected onto the profiles 23, 24, 26, and/or 28 insuring that an air tight seal is obtained when the profiles 23, 24, 26, 28 are interengaged under varying temperature and pressure conditions. The caulking composition 99 may be positioned along the entire length of the opposed interlocking profiles 150 or only a portion of the opposed interlocking profiles 150, such as the end portions of the opposed interlocking profiles 150 at the bag's periphery.

In another embodiment, shown in FIG. 4 (without showing certain reference numbers for clarity), the resealable closure 20 includes a bead of caulking composition 100 in the gap between two parallel sets of opposed interlocking profiles 150. In application, as each set of opposed interlocking profiles 150 are interengaged, the bead of caulking composition 100 contacts the ends of each set of opposed interlocking profiles 150. In a preferred embodiment, the bead of caulking composition 100 fills the void separating the parallel sets of opposed interlocking profiles 150 and contacts the female profiles grooves 26, 28 in each set of opposed interlocking profiles 150, thereby creating a seal. In a further embodiment of the present invention, the resealable closure structure 20 includes a bead of caulking composition 100 in the gap between two parallel sets of opposed interlocking profiles 150 and additional caulking composition 99 between at least one set of interengaging profiles (23, 26) and (24, 28).

In another embodiment, shown in FIG. 5 (without showing certain reference numbers for clarity), the resealable closure 20 includes a bead of sealant material 45 in the gap between two parallel sets of opposed interlocking profiles 150. The sealant material 45 is a composition of high EVA & high MI polymers selected to provide a high-conformance region in the closure, as described above. Additionally, a bead of sealant material 53, 55 may be applied to the distal tip of each male profile 23, 24. In general, suitable sealant material comprises compositions of polymers as described above or alternatively ultra-low density (ULD) polymers (as defined above) with EVA additives at a 2% or higher loading. Beads of sealant material 45, 53, 55 ensure that an air-tight barrier exists between substantially the entire length of interengaging profiles (23, 26) and (24, 28) when the resealable closure structure 20 is engaged. A bead of sealing material 45 may also be positioned on both sides of a single set of opposed interlocking profiles 150, as depicted in FIG. 6. Similar to the above described embodiments, a bead of caulking composition may be employed between parallel sets of opposed interlocking profiles and/or the caulking composition may be employed between at least one set of interengaging profiles (23, 26) and/or (24, 28).

Referring now to FIG. 7, in yet another embodiment of the present invention, the resealable closure 20 may be provided by resealable closure strips having independent and substantially symmetric profiles 160, 162, 164, 166, unlike the embodiments above utilizing asymmetrical structures. Accordingly, the heads (described below) are not offset relative to the stems. That is, each symmetric element 160, 162, 164, 166 includes a head 170 and a stem 172. The head 170 is disposed generally symmetrically on the stem 172. The symmetric profiles 160, 162, 164, 166 are disposed with two elements of each panel 112, 114 and are spaced and configured so that the gap between adjacent elements defines a void region which has a shape corresponding to the shape of the symmetric profiles 160, 162, 164, 166. This embodiment further includes outer elements 180, 182. The outer elements 180, 182 are offset toward the symmetric profiles 160, 162, 164, 166 and bias the symmetric profiles 160, 162, 164, 166 into each other. The outer elements 180, 182 are sized and shaped to correspond to the outer most two symmetric profiles 160, 166. Similar to the above described embodiments, a bead of caulking composition may be employed between one or more of the symmetric profiles 160, 162, 164, 166. Additionally or alternatively the profiles may incorporate a region of sealing material, as described above, for example, by co-extrusion of the sealing material with the base material comprising the profile. Resealable closures 20, interengaging profiles 21, and profile members are well known, and a variety of configurations are useable in accordance with the principles of this disclosures; see, for example, U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,524,002; 6,152,600; 5,839,831; and 5,252,281, each of which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

Additionally, although not depicted in FIG. 7, multiple sets of opposing interlocking profiles may be employed incorporating independent and substantially symmetric profiles, wherein a bead of caulking composition may be position between two sets of opposing interlocking profiles. The bead of caulking composition may be employed separately or in conjunction with caulking composition disposed between each of the symmetric profiles. It is noted that the present invention is not limited to profile geometries disclosed above, as any profile geometry may be utilized and is within the scope of the present disclosure, so long as the geometry of the profiles is compatible with the caulking composition in a manner that provides an air-tight seal.

Referring to FIG. 8, in one embodiment of the present invention, the resealable closure 20 comprises a opening and a clamping means. The clamping means may comprise a clip 170 that is separate from the evacuable bag 14, in which the clip 170 seals the opening 18 of the bag 14 in clamp seal engagement. In another embodiment the clamping means may further include a mandrel 171, wherein the opening 18 of the evacuable bag 14 is rolled around the mandrel 171 and the clip 170 compresses the portion of the evacuable bag 14 rolled about the mandrel in clamp seal engagement.

Referring back to FIG. 1 a, the storage device 10 further includes a vacuum conduit having one end in fluid communication with the interior of the storage space 22 and which includes a vacuum valve assembly 30. The vacuum valve assembly 30 is in fluid communication with the storage space 22 and defines a sealable passage through which liquids and/or gases may be drawn. The vacuum valve 30 is often a one-way evacuation valve, allowing fluid flow therethrough in only one-direction; generally, the direction is from storage space 22 of evacuable package 14 to the exterior of evacuable package 14.

Referring to FIG. 9, in one embodiment the vacuum valve assembly 30 includes a base 31 having a flat surface 33 with at least one opening 37 there through, a resilient valve element 35, and an alignment device 39. The base 31 is sealingly engaged to the evacuable bag 14. The valve element 35 is generally flat and disposed adjacent to the flat surface 33. The alignment device 39 is coupled to the base 31 and is structured to bias the valve element 35 against the flat surface 33. The valve element 35 is structured to move between a first position, wherein the opening 37 is open, and a second position, wherein the opening 37 is sealed. The valve element 35 is normally biased to the second position. The base 31 has a defined shape, such as, but not limited to a concave disk. The outer surface 41 of the base 31 is a generally flat torus.

The vacuum valve 30 can be any suitable valve, including those known as “Goglio” type or “Raackmann” type. Goglio-type valves are available, for example, from Bosch, Wipf, and Wico; Raackmann-type valves are available, for example, from Amcor. Other examples of suitable vacuum valves 30 include those described in U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,913,803; 6,733,803; 6,607,764; and 6,539,691, each of which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety. In one embodiment of the present invention, the vacuum valve assembly may be consistent with the valves disclosed in U.S. Patent Application Publication 11/100,301, entitled “EVACUATABLE CONTAINER”, filed Apr. 6, 2005. It is noted that the sealing nature of the valve element 35 may be enhanced by incorporating a sealing material and/or a caulking composition into the sealing members of the valve assembly. In another embodiment, the vacuum valve assembly 30 may further include at least one rib (not depicted) extending from the interior side of the valve assembly base 31, wherein the rib extending from the base 31 ensures that the valve assembly is not obstructed during application of the vacuum.

As shown in FIGS. 1 a-1 b, 10 a-10 c, 11 a-11 d, and 15, the storage device 10 further includes a stand-off structure 70. The stand-off structure 70 provides a communicating passage for the removal of liquids and gases. This is, preferably, a strip 71 of film having a pattern of channels 72 embossed, or cut, therein. The stand-off structure channels 72 are designed not to collapse even when the bag 14 is placed under a vacuum. The channels 72 may be in any shape, such as, but not limited to a honeycomb pattern (FIG. 10 a), a grid or partial grid (FIG. 10 b), a series of parallel grooves (FIG. 10 c) or a series of triangular columns (FIG. 11 c). Referring to FIG. 15, the cavity face 85 of the stand-off structure 70 faces the vacuum valve assembly 30 and the protrusion face 86 of the stand-off structure 70 faces the storage space 22.

The honeycomb pattern of channels is depicted in isometric view in FIG. 11 a, in which the channels 72 that provide the communicating passage for the removal of liquids and gases is defined by a series of polyhedron structures 100. Referring now to FIG. 11 b, in another embodiment of the stand-off structure 70, the pattern of channels 72 for the removal of liquids and gasses may be provided by a series of curvilinear columns 120.

Regardless of the geometry selected for providing the channels, the stand-off structure 70 produces a passage for the removal of liquids and gases by providing a cross-section with a series of raised surfaces and recessed surfaces. In one embodiment, the standoff structure is integral with a fluid conduit providing fluid communication between the interior of the storage device and a vacuum system by which the storage device is evacuated, and which comprises a vacuum valve, the standoff structure, optionally a quick-connect device, optionally a liquid/vapor separator and the suction side of a vacuum pump. Referring to FIG. 12 a, channels 72 are provided in the area defined between the raised surfaces 74 and recessed surfaces 75 of the stand-off structure's 70 cross-section. The stand-off structure 70 may have a series of channels 72 on one side of the standoff structure 70, as depicted in FIG. 12 a, or on both sides of the stand-off structure 70, as depicted in FIG. 12 b. Referring to FIG. 11 c, in one embodiment of the present invention, the cavity face 85 of the stand-off structure 70 comprises channels 72 and the protrusion side 86 comprises a series of communicating passages produced by a plurality of polyhedron structures.

As shown in FIGS. 13 a-13 d, 14 and 15, the stand-off structure 70 may be bonded to the inner side of the bag 14, on the same side of the evacuable bag 14 as the vacuum valve assembly 30. Although thermal bonding of the stand-off structure 70 to the side of the evacuable bag 14 is preferred, any conventional bonding method may be utilized as known by those skilled in the art. The stand-off structure 70 is positioned at a location corresponding to the location of the vacuum valve assembly 30. Multiple valve assemblies 30 and multiple stand-off structures 70 may be utilized in a single storage device 10, as depicted in FIG. 13 d.

As shown in FIG. 13 a, the coupling of the stand-off structure 70 may be accomplished prior to folding over the plastic sheet 16, wherein the entire side periphery 73 of the stand-off structure is bound to the plastic sheet 16. Referring to FIG. 13 b, in another embodiment, the coupling of the stand-off structure 70 to the storage device 10 may be accomplished by bonding only selected portions of the stand-off's side periphery 73 to the plastic sheet 16. Additionally, as opposed to limiting the stand-off structure 70 to a single side of the storage device 10, the stand-off structure 70 may be coupled to extend across both sides of the bag 14, as shown in FIG. 13 c. In another example, the stand-off structure 70 may be positioned to extend diagonally across the plastic sheet as depicted in FIG. 13 d. It is noted that examples depicted in FIGS. 13 a-13 d have been provided for illustrative purposes and that other configurations in the positioning of the stand-off 70 are within the scope of the present invention, so long as the stand-off 70 is positioned to be in fluid communication with the vacuum valve assembly 30 in a manner that allows for the removal of liquids and gasses from the storage device 10.

FIG. 14 depicts the positioning of the stand-off structure 70 once the plastic sheet 16 is folded over upon itself and two lateral sides 15 are sealed adjacent to the periphery forming the storage space 22. In the illustrated embodiment, the stand-off structure 70 is depicted as being bound to the face of the plastic sheet 16 within the storage space 22, wherein the channels 72 of the stand-off structure 70 face the surface of the plastic sheet 16 to which the stand-off structure 70 is bound. In an alternate embodiment, the stand off structure 70 may include channels 72 on both sides of the stand off structure 70 (FIG. 12 b), in which the channels on a first side of the stand off structure 70 face the surface of the plastic sheet 16 to which the stand-off structure 70 is bound and the channels 72 on the second side of the stand off structure 70 face the opposing plastic sheet.

FIG. 15 illustrates the cross-section of the storage device 10 depicted in FIG. 14 along reference line 9-9, in which the channels 72 of the stand-off structure 70 are clearly depicted as facing away from the storage space 22 and towards the vacuum valve assembly 30 as well as the surface of the plastic sheet 16 to which the stand-off structure 70 is bound. Prior to the application of a vacuum, the portion of the stand-off structure 70 opposing the vacuum valve assembly 30 may be separated from the vacuum valve assembly 30 by a distance D1 ranging from about 0.003″ to about 0.25″.

In one application, a vacuum pump is attached to the vacuum conduit which includes at least one vacuum valve and in fluid communication therewith, at least one standoff structure. The vacuum pump is operated, applying a vacuum to the interior of the storage device through the vacuum valve assembly 30 and standoff assembly causing the storage space 22 to collapse upon a food article contained therein. During the application of the vacuum, the stand-off structure 70 separates the food article from the vacuum valve assembly 30, ensuring that the food article does not obstruct the flow of air or liquids to be removed from the storage space 22, and insuring that the walls of the storage device conform tightly to the food article. Additionally, as the vacuum causes the portion of the plastic sheet 16 opposing the stand off structure 70 to collapse upon the raised portions of the stand-off structure 70, any remaining liquid and air may be removed via the stand-off structure's 70 recessed channels. During the application of the vacuum, the distance D1 separating the vacuum valve assembly 30 from the opposing raised surfaces of the stand-off structure 70 may be substantially eliminated while maintaining an effective passageway for removing the remaining air and liquids from the storage device through the stand-off structure's 70 recessed channels.

The evacuable package 14 may be produced via any suitable processes. For example, the evacuable package may be made by a horizontal process (e.g., where the flexible material 12 forming side panels 17, 19, and resealable closure 20 move in a generally horizontal direction), a vertical process (e.g., where the flexible material 12 forming side panels 17, 19, and resealable closure 20 move in a generally vertical direction), and combinations thereof.

In one general embodiment of a horizontal process, two extended lengths of the flexible material 12, each forming a side panel 17, 19 move in a generally horizontal direction. An extended length of resealable closure 20 may be attached to side panels 17, 19 or may already be integral with the flexible material 12. A stand-off structure 70 can be attached to one or more of the side panels 17, 19, or can be integral with side panels 17, 19, or can be side panels 17, 19. A vacuum valve 30, and an optional corresponding hole, are typically installed into/produced in one of the extended lengths of flexible material 12 at predetermined intervals, to correspond to one vacuum valve 30 per evacuable package 14. After the various elements have been joined to form an extended length, seals, which will result in lateral sides 15 and bottom edge 13 may be made. Lateral seal portions (not illustrated) which are seals located proximal the overlap of the lateral sides 15 and the resealable closure 20, are usually made (e.g., crushed) simultaneously with the lateral sides 15 seals, but could be made in a separate step.

In alternate embodiment of a horizontal process, one extended length of flexible material 12 moves in a generally horizontal direction. This flexible material is folded to form both side panels 17, 19 and bottom edge 13. Any order of applying resealable closure, stand-off structure 70 and vacuum valve 30 can be used. Similar to the above embodiment, after the various elements have been joined to form an extended length, the lateral sides 15 and lateral seal portions ma y be made.

In one embodiment of a vertical process, two extended lengths of the flexible material 12, each forming a side panel 17, 19 move in a generally vertical downward direction. Similar to above, an extended length of resealable closure 20 may be attached to the side panels 17, 19, before, after, or concurrently with the bottom 13 being sealed, or the resealable closure 20 may already be integral with the flexible material 12. A stand-off structure 70 can be attached to one or more of the side panels 17, 19, or can be side panels 17, 19. A vacuum valve 30, and an option corresponding hole, are typically installed into/produced in one of the extended lengths of flexible material 12 at predetermined intervals, to correspond to one vacuum valve 30 per evacuable package 14. After the various elements have been joined to form an extended length, seals, which will result in lateral sides 15 may be made. Lateral seal portions (not illustrated) which are seals located proximal the overlap of the lateral sides 15 and the resealable closure 20, are usually made (e.g., crushed) simultaneously with the lateral sides 15 seals, but could be made in a separate step.

In alternate embodiment of a vertical process, one extended length of flexible material 12 moves in a generally vertical direction. This flexible material is folded to form both side panels 17, 19 and bottom edge 13. Any order of applying resealable closure, stand-off structure 70 and vacuum valve 30 can be used. Similar to the above embodiment, after the various elements have been joined to form an extended length, the lateral sides 15 and lateral seal portions may be made.

It will be appreciated that the resealable closure structure 20, shown in FIG. 1 a, may be operated by hand, however, as shown in FIGS. 1, 16 a and 16 b, the resealable closure 20 may also include a closing clip 80 and end clips 82. The closing clip 80 is a rigid U-shaped member 84 structured to fit snugly over at least the first and second side protrusions 54, 56, 58. The U-shaped member 84 is structured to bias the male protrusion 54 into the groove 60 formed by the other protrusions 56, 58 as the U-shaped member 84 is moved over the protrusions 54, 56, 58. In the embodiments of the present invention incorporating multiple protrusions, the U-shaped member 84 may be structured to also fit snugly over multiple protrusions 62, 64, wherein the U-shaped member also biases at least one additional male protrusion 62 into at least one additional groove formed by the other protrusions 64. The closure clip 80 functions to ensure that the interlocking profiles 21 are engaged as the clip 80 is disposed along a first direction, but does not affect the engagement of the interlocking profiles 21 when disposed along the direction opposite to that of the first direction. More specifically, the closure clip 80 does not separate the interlocking profiles when being traversed over engaged interlocking profiles 21. The end clips 82 are bonded to the ends of the resealable closure 20 and arrest the motion of the closing clip as it traverses the bag 14. The cross-section of an end clip is depicted in FIG. 17.

As mentioned above, in one embodiment the reclosable storage device comprises a portion of a system which includes a vacuum device having a low pressure side attached to a vacuum conduit which is in fluid communication with the interior of the storage device and which conduit includes a vacuum valve (described above). Optionally, the assembly includes also a quick-disconnect means in the vacuum conduit between the vacuum pump and the storage device and optionally includes a gas/liquid separator means in the vacuum conduit between the suction side of the vacuum pump and the storage device.

As will be appreciated, any number of vacuum devices can be utilized to evacuate a reclosable storage device in accordance with the present invention, however, in some embodiments, it is preferred to employ a hand-held or portable vacuum pump. An example of one suitable portable device is illustrated in FIG. 21. The portable vacuum pump assembly illustrated in FIG. 21, pump 40, includes a power source, such as a battery, a vacuum pump having a suction side and an exhaust side, and a motor, (all not shown). The vacuum pump may be connected to the fluid conduit connected to the interior of the storage device by a quick-connect means, wherein one portion of the quick-connect means is integral with the vacuum pump assembly and another portion of the quick-connect means is integral with the flexible storage device. An example of this is illustrated in FIG. 1 as engagement end 42 of vacuum pump 40. As illustrated, engagement end 42 has a defined shape, for example, a convex disk, concave disk or a disk shaped to fit within the medial opening of the outer surface of a vacuum valve assembly's defining one end of a fluid conduit associated with a storage device. The engagement end 42 has a defined shape structured to engage the vacuum valve assembly 30 and defines a passage that is in fluid communication with the vacuum pump 40. Thus, the engagement end of the portable vacuum pump 40 may function as a quick-connect means, for example, as illustrated in FIGS. 18(a) and 18(b) a suction cup tip 260, in which the suction cup tip 260 incorporates integrated stand off structures 261 to maintain suction during application of the vacuum as depicted in FIGS. 18(a) and 18(b). It is noted that other quick-connect means, for example, vacuum tips (engagement end 42) have been contemplated and are within the scope of the present invention, so long as the engagement end 42 geometry provides a quick connect engagement with the vacuum valve assembly. A “quick connection engagement” requires sealing of the vacuum valve assembly 30 and engagement end 42 without separate fasteners or the removal of separable sealing members. It will be appreciated that the system may also utilize more conventional coupling means to join the vacuum system to the fluid conduit to provide fluid communication between the suction side of the vacuum pump and the interior of the storage device.

As shown in FIGS. 19 and 20, the assembly may also include a liquid separator assembly 90. The liquid separator assembly 90 is structured to collect a liquid, while allowing gases to be drawn into the suction side of the vacuum pump assembly 40. In one embodiment, the liquid separator assembly 90 includes a tube 92, and accumulator housing 94 and a diverter 96. The tube 92 further includes a base 98 structured to sealingly engage both the attachment end 42 and the accumulator housing 94. The accumulator housing 94 is shaped as a cup and is structured to contain a liquid. The diverter 96 is structured to engage the distal end of the tube 92 and redirect the fluid flow from an axial direction in the tube 92 into the accumulator housing 94. Thus, when assembled, the attachment end 42 is coupled to the lower side of the tube base 98 and the accumulator housing 94 is coupled to the upper side of the tube base 98. The diverter 96 is disposed at the distal end of the tube 92. Thus, there is a fluid passage from the attachment end 42 into the accumulator housing 94.

In operation, the portable vacuum pump 40 is structured to engage the vacuum conduit connected to the interior of the storage device, for example, as illustrated, the outer surface of the vacuum valve assembly 30. When the portable vacuum pump 40 is engaged and actuated the vacuum valve assembly 30 is actuated by the resultant pressure differential, the valve element 35 moves into the first position (described above) and the vacuum conduit passage is open and fluid (gas and liquid) is withdrawn from the bag 14 through the vacuum conduit into the suction side of the vacuum pump. The fluid may be both liquid and gas. When a separator assembly is present in the vacuum conduit, liquid and gas are drawn into the liquid separator assembly 90, the liquid contacts the diverter 96 and is deposited in the accumulator housing 94. Thus, the liquid is not drawn with the gas towards the vacuum pump. The gas is exhausted via the vacuum pump from the vacuum pump assembly 40. When the accumulator housing 94 needs to be emptied, a user may simply remove the tube 92 and base 98 allowing the liquid to drain from the vacuum pump assembly 40.

When a portable vacuum pump 40 is actuated, air is withdrawn from the storage space 22. Thus, as shown in FIG. 21, an item, such as a food article 1 shown in ghost, may be placed in a storage device 10. The stand-off structure 70 is structured to prevent the plastic sheet that forms the evacuable bag 14, or an item within the bag 14, from obstructing the vacuum valve assembly 30. That is, the channels 72 on the stand-off structure 70 provide a path for liquids and gases within the bag 14 to reach the vacuum valve assembly 30. In the embodiments of the invention in which the stand-off assembly has channels positioned on both sides of the stand-off structure 70, the channels contacting the item contained within the bag ensures that liquids and gasses are not trapped between the stand-off structure 70 and the item contained within the storage space.

To further assist in facilitating the removal of fluids from the evacuable package 14 to form a vacuum, it may be useful to restrict flow of solids and/or liquids proximal the valve 30. Thus, in one embodiment, one or more barriers may be utilized proximal at least a portion of the vacuum valve 30. These barriers may be a part of the stand-off structure 70, or may be separate from the stand-off structure 70. One embodiment of a useful barrier arrangement is illustrated in FIG. 22 a. In the illustrated embodiment, the evacuable package 14 includes a vacuum valve 30 surrounded by a plurality of barriers 76. The plurality of barriers 76 at least assist in defining a plurality of channels 77, which assist in providing fluid communication between the vacuum valve 30 and the storage space 22 of the evacuable package 14. The barriers 76 generally interconnect a first side of the evacuable package 14 to a second opposing side of the evacuable package 14, thereby restricting movement of fluids and/or liquids into and/or proximal the vacuum valve 30.

The plurality of barriers 76 may be formed by any suitable methods. For example, at least a portion of the first side panel 17 of the evacuable package 14 may be bonded to a portion of the second side panel 19 of the evacuable package 14 (e.g., via heat sealing and/or an adhesive), thereby creating one or more barriers 76 integral with both these first and second side panels 17, 19. Thus, the barriers 76 may comprise an uninterrupted span from the first side panel 17 to the second side panel 19 of the evacuable package 14. In one embodiment, the barriers 76 consist essentially of portions of the first and second side panels 17, 19 of the evacuable package 14. In another embodiment, a polymeric material may be bonded to each of the first and second side panels 17, 19 of the evacuable package 14 to provide the barriers 76. In the illustrated embodiment, the plurality of barriers 76 are intermittently spaced about at least a portion of the vacuum valve 30. Thus, the plurality of barriers 76 at least assist in defining a portion of one or more of the channels 77.

The barriers 76 may be spaced about the valve 30 in any suitable arrangement. By way of example, the barriers 76 may define at least a portion of an ellipse, as illustrated in FIG. 22 a. In another example, and with reference to FIG. 22 b, the barriers 76 may be located in a non-linear and/or non-elliptical fashion about at least a portion of the periphery of the valve 30. In another embodiment, and with reference to FIG. 22 c, at least some of barriers 76 may be disposed on a line, thereby defining a sealing line. This sealing line may be oriented in any manner relative the valve 30, but is generally oriented transverse to at least one lateral side 15 of the evacuable package 14. One particularly useful aspect of this embodiment is that the sealing line may assist in providing a visual indicator to a user of the evacuable package 14 regarding the filling limits of the evacuable package 14. More particularly, the sealing line may be visible from the exterior of the evacuable package 14, thereby facilitating visual confirmation of a fill level for the evacuable package 14 by a user.

In a related embodiment, a separate visual indicator may be utilized on the exterior of the evacuable package 14. This visual indicator may correspond with the orientation of the sealing line. Thus, the fill level of the evacuable package 14 may be further emphasized. In one embodiment, the visual indicator is a color indication and/or a textural indication. This visual indicator may also be utilized without the use of barriers 76, thereby providing an external visual indicator to a user of the fill level of the evacuable package.

As illustrated in FIGS. 22 a and 22 b, the barriers 76 may be utilized without a stand-off structure 70, thereby reducing material costs associated with production of the evacuable package 14. In another embodiment, a stand-off structure 70 may be used in conjunction with the barriers 76. For example, a stand-off structure 70, such as described above, may be utilized proximal the barriers 76. In a particular embodiment, and as illustrated in FIG. 22 c, at least a portion of some of the plurality of barriers 76 may overlap with the stand-off structure 70, thereby providing various fluid evacuation pathways and further assisting in removal of fluids from the evacuable package 14. In one embodiment, the barriers 76 are a portion of the stand-off structure 70.

The plurality of barriers 76 may be located in any suitable location within the evacuable package 14. As described above, the plurality of barriers 76 may be located proximal the periphery of the vacuum valve 30. In another embodiment, and with reference to FIG. 22 d, the barriers 76 may be located proximal at least a portion of the perimeter of evacuable package 14. In this embodiment, a plurality of barriers 76 a-76 h may at least assist in defining a plurality of pathways 78 and channels 77 a-77 d via which fluids may flow to the vacuum valve 30. In the illustrated embodiment, a first barrier 76 a is located proximal the vacuum valve 30 and is substantially parallel to a lateral side 15 a of the evacuable package 14. A second barrier 76 b is also located proximal the lateral side 15 a of the evacuable package 14 and is offset from the first barrier 76 a, thereby defining at least a portion of a channel 77 a through which fluids may flow to the vacuum valve 30. A third barrier 76 c is interconnected to the second barrier 76 b and is substantially orthogonal to the second barrier 76 b. Thus, the third barrier 76 c is located substantially parallel to the bottom 13 of evacuable package 14 and is substantially orthogonal to the lateral sides 15 a, 15 b of the evacuable package 14. A fourth barrier 76 d is also located substantially parallel to the bottom 13 of the evacuable package 14 and is offset from the third barrier 76 c, thereby defining a channel 77 b through which fluids may flow to the vacuum valve 30. In turn, barriers 76 e, 76 f, 76 g and 76 h may also be utilized to define channel 77 c and channel 77 d through which fluids may flow to the vacuum valve 30. These barriers may be formed as described above, such as by a heat sealing and/or an adhesive. A vacuum pump 40 may be utilized in conjunction with the vacuum valve 30 to remove at least a portion of the fluids within the evacuable package 14 via pathways 78, channels 77 a, 77 b, 77 c and 77 d.

As may be appreciated, a resealable closure 20 may also be utilized in accordance with any of the above referenced barrier embodiments. For example, and with continued reference to FIG. 22 d, a resealable closure 20 may be utilized in conjunction with the evacuable package 14 and plurality of barrier structures 76 a-76 h. The resealable closure 20 may also be used with any of the embodiments as described above and with any of the embodiments illustrated in FIG. 22 a-22 c.

As noted above, a stand-off structure 70 may be utilized within the evacuable package 14 to facilitate fluid communication between the interior of the evacuable package 14 and the vacuum valve 30. As may be appreciated, extra materials and/or handling time may be required to interconnect the stand-off structure 70 to the interior of the evacuable package 14. Thus, in one embodiment of the present invention, a resealable closure comprising a stand-off structure may be used. One embodiment of such a resealable closure is illustrated in FIGS. 23, 24 and 25 a-25 c, in which the evacuable package 14 may include a resealable closure 230 that includes at least a portion of the stand-off structure 70 and/or the vacuum valve 30. The use of such resealable closure 230 may facilitate restricted manufacturing time and/or decrease material costs, as will be described in further detail below.

Referring now to FIGS. 25 a-25 c, the evacuable package 14 includes a resealable closure 230 that includes a first flange 50, such as described above, and a second flange 52′. The second flange 52′ includes a top portion 52 a, such as the second flange 52 described above. The second flange 52′ also includes a skirt portion 52 b interconnected to, and often integral with, the top portion 52 a. The skirt portion 52 b comprises a stand-off structure 70, such as any of the stand-off structures described above. In one embodiment, the stand-off structure 70 is an embossed structure, as will be described in further detail below. Each of the flanges 50, 52′, may include the interengaging profiles 21, such as any of the interengaging profiles described above.

The second flange 52′ may include a vacuum valve 30 interconnected therewith. In this regard, any of the vacuum valve assemblies described above may be utilized in conjunction with the skirt portion 52 b of the second flange 52′. For example, a hole may be punched in the skirt portion 52 b followed by interconnection of a vacuum valve 30 to the skirt portion 52 b relative to the punched hole. In another embodiment, and as described in further detail below, the vacuum valve 30 may be integral with the skirt flange portion 52 b, where the vacuum valve 30 is formed via ultrasonic welding and/or thermal heating techniques.

The top portion 52 a and skirt portion 52 b of the resealable closure 230 may comprise any suitable material. For example, the top portion 52 a may comprise a first polymeric material (e.g., low-density polyethylene (LDPE) or linear-low density polyethylene (LLDPE)) having a melting point of about at least about 350° F., such as at least about 370° F. The skirt portion 52 b may comprise this same first polymeric material, or the skirt portion 52 b may comprise a second polymeric material. For example, it may be desirable to facilitate bonding of a vacuum valve 30 to the skirt portion 52 b without substantial degradation of the skirt portion. Thus, in one embodiment, the skirt portion 52 b may comprise a polymeric material having a melting point of at least about 275° F., such as at least about 350° F., or at least about 400° F., or even at least about 420° F. to facilitate ultrasonic welding of and/or thermal bonding of the vacuum valve 30 to the skirt portion 52 b. One useful material in this regard is medium density polyethylene (MDPE).

In a related approach, the top portion 52 a may have an average thickness, excluding the interengaging profiles 21, such as at least about 3 mils. The skirt portion 52 b may have an average thickness, such as at least about 10 mils, 20 mils or even at least about 30 mils. In the latter regard, bonding of the vacuum valve 30 to the skirt portion 52 b may be facilitated due to the increased thickness of the skirt portion 52 b. In one approach, the ratio of the thickness of the skirt portion 52 b to the thickness of the top portion 52 a is at least about 1.5:1, such as at least about 3:1, at least about 5:1, or even at least about 10:1.

The first flange 50 and second flange 52′ of the resealable closure 230 may be produced by any known or developed techniques. One embodiment for creating a resealable closure 230 comprising a stand-off structure 70 is illustrated in FIG. 26. In the illustrated embodiment, the second flange 52′ is fed between an anvil roll 87 and an embossing roll 88, the embossing roll 88 including an embossing portion 91 and a non-embossed portion 89. As the second flange 52′ is fed through the anvil roll 87 and the embossing roll 88, the embossing portion 91 embosses the skirt portion 52 b of the second flange 52′, thereby providing a stand-off structure 70 thereon. The intermittent non-embossed portion 89 of the embossing roll 88 facilitates production of non-embossed portions 79 of the skirt portion 52 b of the second flange 52′. Such non-embossed portions 79 facilitate a hermetic seal at the lateral edges 15 of the evacuable bag 14 by providing a relatively smooth surface for welding of ends of the resealable closure 230 to the flexible material 12 of the evacuable bag 14.

The embossing may be accomplished while the resealable closure 230 is in a cold form, such as prior to the resealable closure 230 being interconnected with the flexible material 12, which results in construction of the evacuable package 14. Alternatively, the skirt portion 52 b may be embossed while the resealable closure 230 is being manufactured. In this regard, the resealable closure 230 could then be immediately fed to an apparatus for interconnection of the resealable closure 230 to the flexible material 12, thereby facilitating increased manufacturing efficiency.

As noted above, a vacuum valve 30 may be utilized in conjunction with the resealable closure 230 and stand-off structure 70. In one approach, a vacuum valve assembly 30 may be interconnected to the resealable closure 230, such as via thermal welding, chemical bonding, or adhesives. In this regard, a hole may be punched through a portion of the resealable closure 230, after which a vacuum valve 30 may be positioned relative to the hole and bonded thereafter to the resealable closure 230.

In another embodiment, a vacuum valve may be formed integral with the resealable closure 230. One system for forming such a vacuum valve is illustrated in FIG. 27 a. In the illustrated embodiment, a valve forming source 46, such as an ultrasonic forming source or a thermal forming source, is used to form the vacuum valve 30 via tip 47 and anvil 48. More particularly, the resealable closure 230 may be placed between the anvil 48 and the valve forming source 46. A portion of the resealable closure 230 (e.g., a skirt portion) may be contacted by a die 49 of the anvil 48, while an opposing side of the same portion of the resealable closure 230 is subjected to energy from the valve forming source. The energy (e.g., ultrasonic and/or thermal) provided to that portion of the resealable closure 230, in conjunction with the die 49, mold that portion of the resealable closure 230 into the desired valve shape. For example, the thermoplastic molding techniques described in any of U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,569,368; 6,981,936; 6,840,675; 6,733,622; 6,662,410; 6,036,796; and 5,948,337 may be used to form the vacuum valve 30. Valves of this type are available from ENR Group, Inc. of Slinger, Wis. As may be appreciated, this process may be applied to a single resealable closure 230, as illustrated in FIG. 27 a, or may be applied to a strip containing a plurality of resealable closures 230, as illustrated in FIG. 27 b.

As may be appreciated, various types of food products may be utilized in accordance with the present invention. For example, raw meats may often be utilized within the evacuable package 14. Such meats may include various liquids, such as blood, which, while non-frozen, may appear normal to a user. However, upon removal of fluids from the evacuable package 14, such as via the vacuum pump 40 described above, followed by freezing of the meat, portions of liquids within the evacuable package 14 may streak and/or otherwise provide a undesirable visual appearance to a user. Thus, in one embodiment of the present invention, a wicking material may be utilized in conjunction with the evacuable package 14 to facilitate wicking of liquids away from food products, thereby restricting possible undesired visual effects. One embodiment of such an evacuable package 14 is illustrated in FIG. 28. In the illustrated embodiment, the evacuable package 14 includes a resealable closure 20, such as described above, a vacuum valve 30, such as described above, and a stand-off structure 70, such as described above. The evacuable package 14 also includes a plurality of barriers 76, which at least assist in defining a plurality of channels 77, such as described above. The plurality of barriers 76 define wicking section WS, which allows for the wicking of liquids into a wicking material 93. More particularly, fluids from the storage space 22 of the evacuable package 14 may drawn to and/or flow through channels 77 and into the wicking section WS. The wicking material 93 collects such liquids, thereby removing those liquids from the central portion of the storage space 22 of the evacuable package 14, which may assist in reducing undesired visual effects from freezing of a material. The barriers 76 also restrict the wicking material 93 from movement outside of the wicking section WS of the evacuable package 14.

In another embodiment, the wicking material 93 is utilized within the storage space 22 of the evacuable package 14 without the use of barriers 76. In this embodiment, an adhesive or other suitable type of bonding material may be utilized to adhere the wicking material 93 to one or more of the side panels 17, 19 of the evacuable bag, thereby restricting movement of the wicking material 93 within the evacuable package 14.

The wicking material 93 may be may be any material adapted to wick, adsorb or absorb liquids. For example, the wicking material 93 may be a cellulose-based material, such as paper, or a synthetic absorbent (e.g., a sponge), a desiccant material, or any other material adapted to wick, adsorb or absorb liquids. The wicking material 93 may be associated with the evacuable package 14 at any suitable time. In one approach, the wicking material 93 is applied to at least one side of the flexible material 12 during the production of the evacuable bag 14. For example, a label-type applicator may be utilized to apply a paper-type wicking material to the flexible material 12 at any suitable time during a horizontal or vertical bag manufacturing process, as described above.

While illustrative embodiments of the invention are disclosed herein, it will be appreciated that numerous modifications and other embodiments may be devised by those skilled in the art. Therefore, it will be understood that the appended claims are intended to cover all such modifications and embodiments that come within the spirit and scope of the present invention.

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
US8529129Mar 13, 2008Sep 10, 2013S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc.Closure element for a pouch
US8740591Mar 20, 2008Jun 3, 2014Reynolds Consumer Products LLCFood storage bag vacuum pump
US20070090109 *May 21, 2004Apr 26, 2007Martin GustavssonValve
US20100160877 *Dec 21, 2009Jun 24, 2010Jonathan KaganMembranes, systems, and methods for applying reduced pressure to a subcutaneous tissue site
US20100183249 *May 30, 2008Jul 22, 2010Bischof + Klein Gmbh & Co. KgPackaging Container
Classifications
U.S. Classification383/63, 383/103, 383/105
International ClassificationB65D33/01, B65D33/16, B65D33/00
Cooperative ClassificationB65D81/2023, B65B31/04, B65D33/2508, B65D81/2038, B65D33/2541, B65D33/2591, B65D81/261
European ClassificationB65B31/04, B65D33/25A, B65D81/20B3, B65D81/20B2, B65D81/26C, B65D33/25A3, B65D33/25C
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