US 3788463 A
In order to facilitate the handling of merchandise and to protect it during transit from the manufacturer to the wholesaler, jobber and retailer, an improved bundling method is provided for unitizing a plurality of light weight identical article-filled containers, each of which has at least one flat surface and preferably two parallel flat surfaces. The containers are delivered by a belt conveyor to a feed chute from which they are fed in a neat compact array into a bag made from a shrink film, e.g., a biaxially oriented heat shrinkable film. The bag with the ordered array of containers loosely filling it then is conveyed through a heated shrink tunnel wherein the bag is shrunk about the array to tightly enshroud and securely retain the containers in their prearranged compact formation. Prior to shrinking the bag has an open mouth and a closed bottom and the open mouth extends beyond the formation of containers inserted in the bag. Upon shrinking the bag mouth constricts on the formation to effectively close the mouth of the bag. Any construction of bag may be used.
Claims available in
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Patent 91 Ruff 1 BUNDLING METHOD AND ARTICLE PRODUCED THEREBY  Inventor: Stanley Ruff, New Rochelle, NY.
 Assignee: Maryland Cup Corporation, Owings Mills, Mich.
 Filed: Jan. 31, 1972  Appl. No.: 222,097
 US. Cl. 206/65 S, 53/30, 206/45.33, 229/D1G. 12  Int. Cl 865d 65/16, B65d 85/62  Field of Search..... 206/65 S, 65 C, 65 B, 65 R, 206/45.33; 229/DIG. 12; 53/30 Primary ExaminerWilliam T. Dixson, Jr. Attorney, Agent, or FirmKirschstein, Kirschstein, Ottinger & Frank [451 Jan. 29, 1974 5 7 ABSTRACT In order to facilitate the handling of merchandise and to protect it during transit from the manufacturer to the wholesaler, jobber and retailer, an improved bundling method is provided for unitizing a plurality of light weight identical article-filled containers, each of which has at least one flat surface and preferably two parallel flat surfaces. The containers are delivered by a belt conveyor to a feed chute from which they are fed in a neat compact array into a bag made from a shrink film, e.g., a biaxially oriented heat shrinkable film. The bag with the ordered array of containers loosely filling it then is conveyed through a heated shrink tunnel wherein the bag is shrunk about the array to tightly enshroud and securely retain the containers in their prearranged compact formation; Prior to shrinking the bag has an open mouth and a closed bottom and the open mouthextends beyond the formation of containers inserted in the bag. Upon shrinking the bag mouth constricts-on the formation to effectively close the mouth of the bag. Any-construction of bag may be used.
17 Claims, 6 Drawing Figures BUNDLING METHOD AND ARTICLE PRODUCED THEREBY BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION 1. Field of the Invention This invention relates generally to the bundling art and more particularly to an improved method for forming a novel enshrouding bundle with an open-mouthed closed-bottom bag of a heat shrinkable film.
2. Description of the Prior Art Many factory produced. article-filled containers are comparatively small, e.g., have dimensions in the order of about one to about eight inches. Examples thereof are: cups containing foodstuffs such as ice cream, sour cream, butter and cheese; cans containing beverages and other liquids or foodstuffs; bottles containing beverages and other liquids; and packages, e.g., paperboard and cardboard boxes, containing any of a variety of items such, for example, as cosmetics, automotive and hardware small parts like screws, nuts, bolts, washers, spark plugs, gaskets, carburetors, lamp bulbs and distributor caps, bathroom accessories, soap cakes, soap powder, detergents, jewelry, books, magazines, and candy. Such article-filled containers are inconvenient to ship loose; hence, it has been customary to bundle the same for economy of handling and shipment from a factory through the. distribution chain to a retailer who opens the budnlefor sale of individual filled containers to the public. Typical bundling procedures are paper wrap bundling, shrink film wrap bundling, cartoning and paper bagging. Paper wrap bundling, shrink film wrap bundling, and cartoning are time consuming and costly and usually involve the employment of sophisticated and expensive machinery. Paper bagging is simple and less expensive, but it, too, leaves much to be desired. Thus, the containers must be loosely fitted into paper bags which then must be tightened as best as is possible by hand and closed as by adhesive tape. No matter how carefully bundled, the paper bags permitted-shifting of the containers therein so that bag-bundles were somewhat difficult to handle as well as requiring considerable manual labor to package.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION 1. Purposes of-the Invention It is an object of the present invention to provide an improved method for bundling a plurality of identical article-filled containers that are to be handled and transported in a compact and ordered array within a bundle.
Another object of the present invention is to provide an improved bundle of a compact and ordered array of identically article-filled containers for convenience in handling and transport.
Another object of the present invention is to provide improved bundling means for protecting a plurality of containers in a compact and ordered array during transit from the manufacturer through the jobber, distributor, dealer, etc., to a retailer.
A further object of the present invention is to provide an improved method for bundling a plurality of containers for handling and transport, the method being lower in cost and simpler to perform than heretofore possible.
Other objects of the invention in part will be apparent and in part will be pointed out hereinafter.
The invention accordingly consists in the features of construction, combinations of elements, arrangement of parts and series of steps which will be exemplified in the construction and process hereinafter described, and of which the scope of application will be indicated in the appended claims.
2. Brief Description of the Invention The present inventionprovides a new method for fabricating a novel bundle in which a compact and ordered array of article-filled containers is unitized for handling and transport. An open-mouthed closedbottom bag composed of a heat shrinkable plastic film, which may, by way of example, be from 1 to 3 mils thick, is loosely placed over a plurality of identical article-filled containers, each of which has at least one flat surface. Preferably, the containers have stiff walls such as is conventional in cups, cans, bottles and boxes. The containers are small, i.e., have dimensions ranging from about one inch to about eight inches. The total weight of all the filled containers in a bundle should not exceed forty pounds. The feature common to all of the aforementioned filled containers is that they may be readily grouped or stacked in an interfitting relationship in an ordered and compact array, i.e., formation, and since they all have at least one flat surface they may be efficiently placed in a feed chute from which they are shifted en masse intothe heat shrinkable plastic film bag in which they are loosely received with the open mouth of the bag extending beyond the formation, one end of which is adjacent the closed bottom of the bag. The shifting is performed by pushing with the aid of any suitable means, either manually or automatically. The bag, together with the containers therein, is placed upon a conveyor that traverses a heated shrink tunnel wherein the bag is heatedto a temperature such that the plastic film of the bag shrinks about the previously arranged compact ordered array of containers to constrict the mouth of the bag and tighten the bag on the array thereby providing a unitized bundle that greatly simplifies transit from the manufacturer through the distribution chain to a retailer.
There are many advantages to bag shrink film bundling. First of all, the bag bundle after shrinking conforms to the shape of the grouped containers so as to provide a neat appearance with no looseness or wrinkles. The containers are immobilized to prevent dam- -age thereto such as by scuffing or breaking, and to make handling, bulk packing, stacking and transporting easier. Bag shrink film bundling is lower in cost than strapping with steel bands since the products that are so stabilized may be loaded and unloaded during transit and storage with simplified apparatus. Another important feature of bag shrink film bundling is that the removed packaging material is much easier to dispose of than was the prior art material. Furthermore, bag shrink film bundling is faster and cheaper and uses less man-hours than paper bag bundling and forms a much tighter bundle.
The bags utilize plastic films such as polyethylene, polyvinylchloride, polypropylene, etc., which are oriented during manufacture to provide the shrink characteristics. While the film is being manufactured it is stretched under accurately controlled temperatures and tensions to create the molecular orientations required. Once this has been achieved the film is cooled so as to lock the film in the controlled, stretched condition. After a bag of the film is loosely placed around an ordered and compact array of containers that are to be bundled, the stored shrink energy of the film is released by heating to soften the plastic, thereby allowing the film to go back to its original, unstretched condition. For proper operation of the invention the film should shrink in longitudinal and transverse directions.
One specific example of a biaxially oriented film useful in a bundle of the instant invention is cross linked polyethylene. The orientation process described briefly hereinabove increases the tensile strength of the film so that thinner gauges may be used with an attendant reduction in costs. Depending upon the film that is used, a shrinkage of as much as 70 to 80 percent is possible.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS In the accompanying drawings, in which are shown various possible embodiments of the invention,
FIG. 1 is an exploded perspective view illustrating one example of the article-filled containers and typical apparatus that may be used in carrying out the method aspect of the present invention; A
FIG. 2 is a fragmentary plan view, partially in horizontal section, of the apparatus shown in FIG. 1;
FIG. 3 is a schematic plan view illustrating another step of the method comprising the present invention;
FIG. 4 is a perspective view illustrating one possible arrangement of the containers that comprises the bundle aspect of the present invention;
FIG. '5 is another perspective view illustrating an alternative arrangement of the containers within a bundle comprising the present invention; and
FIG. 6 is still another perspective view illustrating a further alternative arrangement of the containers within a bundle of the present invention.
DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT FIGS. 1, 2 and 3 illustrate a typical apparatus that may be used in practicing the method comprising the present invention. A plurality of identical article-filled containers 10 are placed on the upper reach of a belt conveyor 12 in the ultimately desired transverse (cross) registry and juxtaposition, and with successive cross rows mutually spaced apart as a function of the delivery characteristics of a filling and closing machine and the speed of the conveyor. The containers are of any type that includes at least one flat surface, the bottom, and an opposed parallel surface, the top, when the array of containers includes vertical stacks forming plural layers. A single flat surface is sufficient when the array includes no vertical stacks, e.g., is a single layer. The first cross row of an array of containers is delivered by the belt conveyor to the infeed edge 14 of a feed chute l6 and rides smoothly over this edge. Conveniently the feed chute is composed of horizontal flat bottom wall 18 the rear edge of which constitutes the aforesaid infeed edge. 14, this edge being located slightly below the level of the upper reach of the belt conveyor 12 and immediatelyadjacent that portion of the upper reach which is trained about the forward roller 20 of the belt conveyor. The base 18 is of rectangular configuration being sufficiently large to nicely accommodate an ordered and compact array of the containers. Extending upwardly from the base are opposed vertical side walls 21, 22. The front edges 24 of the side walls are sloped upwardly and rearwardly to facilitate ensheathing of a bag therearound. The top and front of the feed chute are open so that the feed chute in effect constitutes a U-shaped trough the rear of which is perpendicular to the base and the front of which is inclined rearwardly and upwardly with respect to the base.
The containers as grouped in the feed chute may be in. an orthogonal array composed of straight rows and straight columns, or in a staggered array, the overall configurations being that of a rectangular parallelopiped. g
The first cross row or first two cross rows fed into the chute by the conveyor 12 transfer from the upper reach on to the base 18 of the chute the first row being pushed into the chute and the second row while being pushed into the chute, pushing the first row further along the chute while maintaining the transverse integrity of the two cross rows. This integrity is maintained principally because the space between the two side walls 21, 22 is such as to nicely, i.e., slidably, accommodate the overall width of the cross rows. That is to say this space is substantially equal to, but not less than the width of a cross row, so that as successive rows are delivered into the chute, the containers of each cross row will stay in contact with one another and in transverse registry, and successive containers of successive cross rows will stay in longitudinal registration, i.e., will not shift transversely. However, friction exists between the bottoms of the containers and the base 18 of the feed chute. This friction tends to prevent an unlimited number of cross rows from being transferred from the conveyor into the feed chute. Usually, although this is not necessarily the case, approximately two cross rows of containers will be delivered from the belt conveyor into the feed chute, and subsequent cross rows will remain on the conveyor. Since customarily it will be de sirable to have more than two cross rows of containers in an array, in order to enable such a larger number of cross rows of containers to be transferred from the conveyor to the feed chute, either mechanism may be employed for that purpose or, more simply, and in accordance with the preferred form of the invention, an operator pushes succeeding rows of containers that are located adjacent the delivery end of the conveyor from the conveyor across the infeed edge of the feed chute on to the base 18. The operator continues to do this until the desired number of cross rows of containers are disposed on the feed chute.
Then the operator pushes the entire array of containers from the feed chute into a bag 28 which is draped around the feed chute, as shown for example in FIG. 2. The bag is pulled on to the feed chute with its open mouth 30 first passing over the inclined forward edges 24 of the feed chute until the bag is opened, or the bag may previously have been opened, and preferably until the closed bottom of the bag approaches the front edge of the feed chute. The bottom of the bag may be actually in abutment with the front edge of the feed chute, although this is not necessary. It suffices if the bottom of the bag is near the front edge.
If it is desired to have the array of containers in staggered relationship a feed chute is employed which is wider than the width of a cross array by not less than and approximately equal to one half the width of a container. The operator then assists in transferring containers from the conveyor to the feed chute, and during the transfer, shifts alternate rows right and left, so that successive cross rows are staggered. Some arrays have the containers so disposed that alternate containers in cross rows and alternate containers in longitudinal rows are inverted top for bottom. This enables a more compact array to be secured. The inversion of the containers can be performed either in the closing machine or in an inverting machine subsequent to the closing machine, or can be performed by the operator who will invert every other container in every cross row. The containers have dimensionson the order of about one to about eight inches, and their total weight, including contents, does not exceed forty pounds. The containers have stiff walls, being made, for example, of plastic, waxboard, paperboard, glass or sheet metal. The containers may be in the form of round cups, round cans, round bottles or round or square boxes. An infinite variety of articles may fill the containers, e. g., dairy products, liquids, foodstuffs, beverages, powders, and miscellaneous merchandise.
The bag 28 is composed of plastic heat-shrinkable biaxially oriented film material. It will be appreciated that the feed chute will maintain the containers in their ordered compact array as they are transferred from the feed chute into the bag, and the array thereafter will not tend to be appreciably displaced even though, as soon will be pointed out, the bag initially is larger than the array.
The bag 28 has an open mouth 30, side walls 32 and a closed bottom 34. The bag may be of any type, e.g., a flat bag composed of two rectangular panels sealed to one another on three sides so that the bottom is formed from end portions of the panels, or a flat-bottomed side gusseted bag. The length of the bag is selected to be such that the mouth of the bag extends beyond the formation (array) of containers disposed therein. The amount of extension must not exceed the amount of lengthwise shrinkage of which the bag is capable in the subsequent shrinking step. The bottom of the bag is located adjacent the exit end of the feed chute 16 and the bag mouth is positioned adjacent the entry end to the guide means.
Any suitable means may be used to push the array of containers from the feed chute into the bag. The pushing can be done by hand or machine.
Continued movement of the containers to the right (FIG. 2) causes the containers to fill the bag and, concurrently, to push the filled bag 28 off the feed chute and on to a conveyor 36 having an upper reach at the height of the lower surface of the feed chute. The array of containers is a loose fit in the bag, the difference in girth of the array and the bag being less than the girthwise shrinkage of which the bag is capable in the subsequent shrinkage step.
As shown in FIG. 3, the conveyor 36 transports the filled bag 28 to and through a heated shrink tunnel 38. As is well known, by controlling the rate of speed of the bag 28 through the tunnel 38 and the temperature of the hot air in the tunnel 38 the plastic bag 28 is caused to shrink about the array of containers 10. Upon leaving the shrink tunnel 38 the plastic bag 28 is allowed to cool either at room temperature or by the application thereto of relatively cool air which is shown schematically in FIG. 3 by the arrow 40. The shrinking of the bag takes place in two directions. One is girthwise, i.e., around the bag. The other is lengthwise of the bag, i.e., in a direction between the mouth and bottom. The girthwise shrinkage causes the mouth of the bag to constrict and form a retaining inturned flange 41 which defines an opening that is smaller than the girth of the array. This flange, therefore, effectively closes the bag mouth. The lengthwise shrinkage pulls the retaining flange toward an end of the array and tightly compresses the array between it and the closed bottom of the bag. The girthwise shrinkage also pulls the circumference of the bag tightly against the circumference of the array. Thus the shrink bag tightly grips the array in length and girth so as to stabilize the pattern of the array and unitize the same. In this condition the bundled array can easily be transported and handled as if it had been tied, strapped, baled or cartoned.
Several of the bundles that may result from carrying out the method comprising the present invention are shown in FIGS. 4, 5 and 6. In the bundle 42 shown in FIG. 4 there are twenty four containers arranged in two vertically stacked layers of four by three orthogonally related containers each. Still another arrangement is shown in FIG. 6 wherein a bundle 44 is comprised of alternately erect and inverted containers in order to minimize the volume of'the bundle.
Particular note should be taken of the fact that the open end 30 of the bag 28 is considerably reduced in size after the application of heat and is, in fact, smaller than the smallest container. Thus no container can fall out and all of the containers are kept in their neat and compact relative positions.
The bags desirably are transparent or translucent so that the containers can be readily identified visually. Attention is directed to the concave segments 46 of the bag between adjacent containers where the bag has shrunk in at zones where the shrinkage has not been halted by the walls of the containers. Such concave segments inhibit shifting of the containers within the bundle.
In an embodiment of the present invention biaxially oriented, thermplastic film between 1 mi] and 3 mils thick is used at a typical shrink temperature between 330 and 380 F. Typical biaxially oriented polyethylene, polyvinylchloride and polypropylene films are used. Polyethylene and polypropylene packaging films will shrink up to to percent in a lengthwise direction and about 30 to 40 percent in a girthwise direction when subjected to aforesaid temperatures.
From the foregoing it will be readily seen that an improved method for bundling a plurality of like containers, each having at least one flat surface, has been provided. The present invention eliminates the need for costly banding, bundling and cartoning apparatuses and provides an improved unitized bundling that greatly facilitates the transport of the containers from the manufcaturer through the distribution chain to the retailer. A large number of containers may be easily handled in a single bundle thus reducing the labor costs involved as well as protecting the containers from damage during transit.
It thus will be seen that there is provided an improved method for producing a novel bundle which achieves the several objects of the invention and is well adapted to meet the conditions of practical use.
As various possible embodiments might be made of the above invention, and as various changes might be made in the embodiment above set forth, it is to be understood that all matter herein described or shown in the accompanying drawings, is to be interpreted as illustrative and not in a limiting sense.
comprising the steps of;
a. arranging the containers in a compact formation which has top and bottom flat parallel surfaces defined by said containers;
b; enshrouding the formation en masse in a heat shrinkable plastic bag having an open mouth and a closed bottom and in which the formation is loosely received;
0. an end of the formation being adjacent the bottom of the bag and the opposite end of the formation being spaced inwardly of the mouth by an amount less than the bag is capable of shrinking lengthwise; and
. without closing the mouth of the bag subjecting the bag and the containers therein to a temperature and for a time sufficient to shrink the bag onto the formation and with the mouth of the bag constricting to form a retaining inturned flange, with the length of the bag shrinking to tightly press the formation between the flange and the bag bottom, with adjacent containers in mutual contact and with the girth of the bag shrinking to tightly embrace the girth of the formation.
2. A method in accordance with claim 1 wherein the containers are of round transverse cross section.
3. The method in accordance with claim I further including the step of applying relatively cool air to the bag after the bag is shrunk.
4. The method in accordance with claim 1 wherein said arranging step comprises stacking the containers in at least two superimposed. layers each having a plurality of containers.
5. The method in accordance with claim 1 wherein said arranging step comprises arranging the containers in the same vertical orientation.
6. The method in accordance with claim 5, wherein said arranging step includes stacking the containers in at least two superimposed layers.
7. The method in accordance with claim 1 wherein said arranging step comprises placing alternate articles in opposite vertical orientation.
8. An improved bundle comprising:
a. a plurality of like article-filled closed stiff-walled containers having dimensions no one of which exceeds about eight inches, each container having at least one flat surface, the total weight of the filled containers being less than forty pounds, said containers being arranged in a compact pre-arranged formation in the shape of a rectangular parallelopiped and with adjacent containers in mutual contact, said' formation having top and bottom flat parallel surfaces defined by said containers; and
b. a heat shrunk plastic bag tightly encasing said articles, said bag having a closed bottom pressed against one end of the formation and an open mouth with a constricted in-turned retaining flange pressed against the other end of the formation, the girth of the bag tightly embracing the girth of the formation whereby said containers are securely retained in the bag and prevented from moving within the formation.
9. The bundle in accordance with claim 8 wherein the containers are of round transverse cross section.
10. The bundle in accordance with claim 8 wherein the containers are arranged in groups of at least two stacked layers.
11. The bundle in accordance with claim 8 wherein the containers face in the same direction and are arranged in groups of at least two stacked layers.
12. The bundle in accordance with claim 8 wherein the containers alternately face in opposite vertical orientations.
13. The bundle in accordance with claim 8 wherein the bag is made of a biaxially oriented film.
14. The bundle in accordance with claim 13 wherein the film is between 1 mil and 3 mils thick.
15. The bundle in accordance with claim 8 wherein the bag is pellucid.
16. A method as set forth in claim 2 wherein the bag, after shrinking tightly onto the formation of containers of round transverse cross section, includes outwardly concave segments between adjacent containers.
17. A bundle as set forth in claim 8 wherein the heat shrunk bag that tightly presses the formation includes concave segments between adjacent containers.
UNITED STATES PATENT OFFICE CERTIFICATE OF CORRECTION Patent No. 3,788,463 Dated January 29, 1974' Inventor s) STANLEY I RUFF It is certified that error appears in the above-identified patent and that said Letters Patent are hereby corrected as shown below:
On the Title and Abstract Page of the patent, under heading  Assignee change "Mich." to, --'Maryland- Signed and seal this 9th day of July 1974.
MCCOY M. GIBSQN, JR. H c. MARSHALLMDANN, Attesting Officer Commissione'rbf Patents ORM PO-1050 (10-59) u sooMm-oc bean-Poe wus. covnnuim' manna omc: nu o-Ju-au.