Title:
Methods for manufacturing package strips
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Various methods for making package strips having a number of individual packages of a consumer product and separable from one another by perforations are disclosed. The individual packages have reclosable plastic zippers, which are applied during the manufacture of the package strips either transversely or lengthwise onto the sheet of polymeric film material from which the packages are fashioned.



Inventors:
Matthews, David J. (Gilman, IL, US)
Application Number:
10/369964
Publication Date:
08/19/2004
Filing Date:
02/19/2003
Assignee:
MATTHEWS DAVID J.
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
53/450
International Classes:
B65B61/18; (IPC1-7): B65B61/18; B65B9/00
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
HUYNH, LOUIS K
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
DAY PITNEY LLP (One Stamford Plaza 263 Tresser Boulevard, 7th Floor, Stamford, CT, 06901, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. A method for manufacturing package strips having a preselected number of individual packages of a consumer product, each of said individual packages having a reclosable plastic zipper, said method comprising the steps of: a) providing a top sheet of polymeric film material and a bottom sheet of polymeric film material; b) providing a supply of reclosable zipper strip; c) attaching preselected lengths of said reclosable zipper strip, one for each individual package being manufactured, transversely upon one of said top and bottom sheets at package-length intervals thereon; d) depositing a consumer product to be packaged on said bottom sheet at package-length intervals thereon; e) covering said consumer product with said top sheet; f) sealing said top sheet over said consumer product; g) attaching said preselected lengths of said reclosable zipper strip to the other of said top and bottom sheets; h) making a cross seal on a side of said consumer product opposite to said preselected length of reclosable zipper strip to form said individual packages thereof; i) making perforations between each pair of individual packages to enable said individual packages to be separated from one another; and j) cutting between pairs of individual packages at preselected intervals to obtain said package strips having a preselected number of individual packages.

2. A method as claimed in claim 1 wherein step a) is performed by providing a sheet of polymeric film material and by folding said sheet lengthwise over said consumer product to form said top sheet and said bottom sheet.

3. A method as claimed in claim 2 wherein two lateral edges of said sheet are sealed to one another to seal said top sheet over said consumer product.

4. A method as claimed in claim 1 wherein step a) is performed by providing a sheet of polymeric film material and by folding both lateral edges thereof toward one another over said consumer product to form said top sheet and said bottom sheet.

5. A method as claimed in claim 4 wherein said two lateral edges are sealed to one another with a fin seal to seal said top sheet over said consumer product.

6. A method as claimed in claim 1 wherein step a) is performed by supplying said top sheet separately from said bottom sheet.

7. A method as claimed in claim 1 further comprising the step of activating a peel seal on said preselected lengths of reclosable zipper strip.

8. A method as claimed in claim 2 wherein said preselected lengths of said reclosable zipper strip extend for substantially one half of the width of said sheet of polymeric film material.

9. A method as claimed in claim 4 wherein said preselected lengths of said reclosable zipper strip extend for substantially one half of the width of said sheet of polymeric film material.

10. A method as claimed in claim 6 wherein said preselected lengths of said reclosable zipper strip extend for substantially the width of said bottom sheet of polymeric film material.

11. A method as claimed in claim 1 further comprising the step of providing said preselected lengths of said reclosable zipper strip with sliders.

12. A method as claimed in claim 1 further comprising the step of providing a peel seal between said top sheet and said bottom sheet adjacent to said preselected lengths of reclosable zipper strip.

13. A method as claimed in claim 1 wherein step f) is performed by heated drive rolls.

14. A method as claimed in claim 1 wherein said preselected number of individual packages in said package strips is in a range from five to eight.

15. A method as claimed in claim 1 wherein said preselected number of individual packages in said package strips is one.

16. A method for manufacturing package strips having a preselected number of individual packages of a consumer product, each of said individual packages having a reclosable plastic zipper, said method comprising the steps of: a) providing a flow-wrap machine having a conveyor for consumer products to be packaged, said conveyor having a gap running lengthwise therealong; b) depositing a consumer product on said conveyor at package-length intervals thereon; c) providing a sheet of polymeric film material having two lateral edges; d) providing a supply of reclosable zipper strip; e) dispensing said reclosable zipper strip lengthwise over said gap in said conveyor; f) dispensing said sheet of polymeric film material lengthwise over said conveyor above said reclosable zipper strip and said consumer products; g) wrapping said sheet of polymeric film material lengthwise around said conveyor and said consumer products; h) sealing said lateral edges of said sheet of polymeric film material to one another on the underside of said conveyor; i) sealing said reclosable zipper strip to said sheet of polymeric film material above and below said conveyor along said gap therein; j) making cross seals on each side of said consumer product to form said individual packages thereof; k) making perforations between each pair of individual packages to enable said individual packages to be separated from one another; and l) separating pairs of individual packages from one another at preselected intervals to obtain said package strips having a preselected number of individual packages.

17. A method as claimed in claim 16 wherein in step b) said consumer product is deposited on said conveyor in side-by-side pairs at package-length intervals on opposite sides of said gap in said conveyor, wherein in step e) two reclosable zipper strips are dispensed lengthwise over said conveyor between said consumer products making up said side-by-side pairs, and further comprising the step of perforating said sheet of polymeric film material lengthwise between said two reclosable zipper strips to produce two package strips side-by-side one another.

18. A method as claimed in claim 16 further comprising the step of activating a peel seal on said reclosable zipper strip.

19. A method as claimed in claim 16 wherein in step h) said lateral edges of said sheet of polymeric film material are sealed to one another with a fin seal.

20. A method as claimed in claim 16 further comprising the step of providing said reclosable zipper strip with sliders at package-length intervals.

21. A method as claimed in claim 16 wherein said preselected number of individual packages in said package strips is at least four.

22. A method as claimed in claim 16 wherein said preselected number of individual packages in said package strips is one.

23. A method as claimed in claim 16 wherein step i) is performed by heated drive rolls.

24. A method as claimed in claim 16 wherein step i) is performed by a drag sealer.

25. A method as claimed in claim 16 wherein step i) is performed by lengthwise seal bars.

26. A method as claimed in claim 16 wherein steps j) and k) are performed by a pair of rotating seal bars.

27. A method as claimed in claim 16 wherein steps j) and k) are performed by upper and lower rows of cross seal bars.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0001] 1. Field of the Invention

[0002] The present invention relates to reclosable plastic packages of the variety in which consumer products are packaged for retail sale. More particularly, the present invention relates to strips of packages wherein individual packages making up the strip are separable from one another by perforations therebetween.

[0003] 2. Description of the Prior Art

[0004] The present invention relates to improvements in the package-making art and may be practiced in the manufacture of thermoplastic bags and packages of the kind that may be used for various consumer products, but which are particularly useful for food products which must be kept in moisture- and air-tight packages, free from leakage until initially opened for access to the product contents. The prior art is fairly well developed, but nevertheless has aspects worthy of development and improvement.

[0005] In the present case, package strips made on horizontal form-fill-and seal (HFFS) machines or on flow-wrap machines are well known in the art. There has long been an interest in producing strips of individual packages, wherein each individual package has a reclosable plastic zipper. The present invention provides for this need.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0006] Accordingly, the present invention comprises methods for manufacturing package strips having a preselected number of individual packages of a consumer product. Each of the individual packages has a reclosable plastic zipper. The methods fall into two general categories. In one, lengths of reclosable zipper strip are applied transversely onto a sheet of polymeric film material from which the packages are being made on a horizontal form-fill-and-seal (HFFS) machine. In the other, reclosable zipper strip is applied lengthwise on an flow-wrap machine in which the consumer products being wrapped pass down a conveyor.

[0007] In both general methods, the reclosable zipper strip is sealed to what will be the top and bottom sheets of the package. Optionally, a peel seal between the flange portions of the reclosable zipper strip may be formed and activated.

[0008] Cross seals are formed between each individual package, and perforations made to enable the individual packages to be separated form one another. The package strips, comprising any number of individual packages, are formed by cutting or tearing them from the downstream end of the manufacturing apparatus as desired.

[0009] The present invention will now be described in more complete detail with frequent reference being made to the drawings identified as follows.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0010] FIG. 1 is a schematic view of an apparatus for manufacturing package strips whose individual packages have transverse zippers;

[0011] FIG. 2 is a cross-sectional view of a zipper-application station for the apparatus shown in FIG. 1;

[0012] FIG. 2A is a cross-sectional view of an alternate zipper-application station for zippers having sliders;

[0013] FIG. 3 is a perspective view of a sheet of polymeric film material passing over a folding board in the apparatus shown in FIG. 1;

[0014] FIG. 3A is an enlarged view of the indicated portion of FIG. 3;

[0015] FIG. 4 is a schematic cross-sectional view of the cross-sealing, perforating and cutting stations of the apparatus shown in FIG. 1;

[0016] FIG. 4A is a schematic cross-sectional view, analogous to that of FIG. 4, for the case where the zippers have sliders;

[0017] FIG. 5 is a schematic cross-sectional view of the same stations as are shown in FIG. 4 where the zipper has a peel seal;

[0018] FIGS. 5A and 5B are enlarged views of the indicated portions of FIG. 5;

[0019] FIG. 6 is a schematic view of another apparatus for manufacturing package strips whose individual packages have transverse zippers;

[0020] FIG. 7 is a schematic view of still another apparatus for manufacturing package strips whose individual packages have transverse zippers;

[0021] FIG. 8 is a schematic view of an apparatus for manufacturing package strips whose individual packages have lengthwise zippers;

[0022] FIG. 9 is a schematic view of another apparatus for manufacturing package strips whose individual packages have lengthwise zippers;

[0023] FIG. 10 is a schematic view of still another apparatus for manufacturing package strip whose individual packages have lengthwise zippers; and

[0024] FIG. 11 is a schematic view of yet another apparatus for manufacturing package strips whose individual packages have lengthwise zippers.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

[0025] Turning now to these figures, FIG. 1 is a schematic view of an apparatus for practicing the method for manufacturing the package strips of the present invention. Apparatus 10 comprises a drive roller 12 and a companion roller 14 forming a nip therewith for supplying a sheet 16 of polymeric film material in package-length increments from a supply roll 18 thereof. The sheet 16 proceeds to zipper-application station 20 which applies lengths of reclosable zipper strip 22 transversely onto sheet 16 at package-length intervals from a supply not shown.

[0026] FIG. 2 is a cross-sectional view of zipper-application station 20. The station 20 comprises a zipper guide 24 which pivots counterclockwise around hinge 26, when urged to do so by spring 28, to release a length of reclosable zipper strip 22 which has been attached to sheet 16. It will be appreciated by those of ordinary skill in the art that zipper guide 24 is but an example of those known in the art and useful for the practice of the present invention. The station 20 also comprises a first seal bar 30 and a second seal bar 32, one on each side of the sheet 16, for attaching the length of reclosable zipper strip 22 thereto.

[0027] Reclosable zipper strip 22 includes a male interlocking profile 34 and a female interlocking profile 36. The former includes a male interlocking member 38, perhaps having an arrowhead-shaped cross section as shown in FIG. 2, and a flange 40 integrally formed therewith. The latter includes a female interlocking member 42, perhaps comprising two inwardly curving members having barbed edges and defining a channel as shown in FIG. 2, into which male interlocking member 38 snappingly engages, and a flange 44. The mutually facing surfaces of flanges 40,44 may have ridges 48 to facilitate gripping when a package having reclosable zipper strip 22 is being opened. It should be understood that reclosable zipper strip 22 is an example of the strips that may be used in practicing the present invention, and that the present invention is not to be construed to be limited to such a specific zipper design.

[0028] First seal bar 30 and second seal bar 32 seal the length of reclosable zipper strip 22 to film 16, and optionally form a peel seal between the two flanges 40,44. Specifically, the upper portion 50 of first seal bar 30 is rubber, while the upper portion 52 of second seal bar 32 is heated so that, when the first and second seal bars 30,32 clamp together, flange 44 is sealed to sheet 16 without being sealed to flange 40 as well. The first and second seal bars 30,32 may also have lower portions 54,56, respectively, which activate an optional peel seal 58 between flanges 40,44. Peel seal 58, alternatively, may be formed during the manufacture of the reclosable zipper strip 22.

[0029] FIG. 2A is a cross-sectional view of an alternate zipper application station 20′ for use where the reclosable zipper strip 22′ has a slider 49. Elements appearing in both FIGS. 2 and 2A have the reference numbers used in FIG. 2, and the descriptions thereof given above are equally applicable for them in FIG. 2A. Reclosable zipper strip 22′ in FIG. 2A has a slider 49, which separates the male and female interlocking profiles 34,36 from one another when moved in one direction along zipper strip 22′, and joins them together when moved in the other direction. Zipper guide 25 is modified, relative to zipper guide 24 in FIG. 2, to accommodate slider 49.

[0030] Referring back to FIG. 1, individual lengths 60 of reclosable zipper strip 22 are attached transversely to film 16 at package-length intervals. The individual lengths 60 extend for approximately one half of the width of the sheet 16, and, in the schematic view of FIG. 1, are attached adjacent to one of the two lateral edges of the sheet 16. Proceeding along in the direction of travel of sheet 16 from zipper-application station 20, sheet 16 passes through a dancer 62 which accumulates sheet 16 so that its incremental motion past zipper-application station 20 is converted to a continuous motion.

[0031] Sheet 16 continues from dancer 62 to folding board 64. FIG. 3 is an enlarged view of folding board 64 and of sheet 16 passing thereover, and FIG. 3A is a further enlarged view of the indicated portion of FIG. 3. Folding board 64 extends for half the width of the sheet 16, namely the half having the individual lengths 60 of reclosable zipper strip 22, or of reclosable zipper strip 22′ having slider 49, attached thereto, and changes the direction of travel of the sheet 16 by 90°. As a consequence, the half of the sheet 16 not supported by the folding board 64 becomes slack, enabling it to be folded over the half having the individual lengths 60 of reclosable zipper strip 22. The consumer product 63 being individually packaged is deposited on the sheet 16 in the amounts intended for each individual package between each individual length 60 of reclosable zipper strip 22 on or adjacent to folding board 64, such as at point 65, so that the sheet 16 is folded over the consumer product 63. It should be noted that the sheet 16 could alternatively be folded by other methods known to those of ordinary skill in the art and not requiring a 90° change in direction of travel to accomplish the folding.

[0032] FIG. 3A provides a perspective view of the end of an individual length 60 of reclosable zipper strip 22 as attached to sheet 16. As illustrated, individual length 60 extends for approximately one half of the width of the sheet 16, and does not quite extend to the lateral edge 66 of the sheet 16. The optional slider 49 is also shown in FIG. 3A.

[0033] Returning again to FIG. 1, as the sheet 16 is being folded longitudinally by folding board 64, lateral edge 68 is brought over and on top of lateral edge 66. Heated drive rolls 70, somewhat downstream from folding board 64, carry out two functions. Firstly, they drive sheet 16 at a constant rate, pulling it over the folding board 64 so that it may be folded as required. Secondly, heated drive rolls 70 seal the folded sheet 16 along lateral edges 66,68 and optionally along crease 72.

[0034] Downstream from heated drive rolls 70 are three additional stations for completing the manufacture of the package strips. Referring to FIG. 4, seal station 74 seals flange 40 of reclosable zipper strip 22 to the half of sheet 16 which has been folded over by folding board 64.

[0035] Seal station 74 comprises a heated seal bar 76 and an unheated seal bar 78. Both bars 76,78 rotate as indicated by the curved arrow adjacent thereto, bar 76 rotating in a counterclockwise sense and bar 78 rotating in a clockwise sense. Each makes one half of a complete rotation in the time required for one of the individual packages to pass thereby, it being recalled that the sheet 16 is moved at a constant rate by heated drive rolls 70, and does not come to a stop at seal station 74 or at the other two stations whose function is to be discussed below. The rotation is synchronized such that the bars 76,78 are oriented vertically, as shown in FIG. 4, as the reclosable zipper strip 22 arrives so that the intended sealing can occur.

[0036] It is to be noted that unheated seal bar 78 has silicone-rubber pads 80 at each end to apply pressure, but not heat, to flange 44 while heated seal bar 76 seals sheet 16 to flange 40. This is intended to prevent flanges 40,44 from being sealed to one another.

[0037] One package length downstream is another station, which seals the bottom of each individual package and provides perforations to enable the individual packages to be separated from one another. Specifically, seal/perforation station 82 comprises a first and a second heated seal bar 84,86, the former including a perforator 88. Both bars 84,86 rotate as indicated by the curved arrows adjacent thereto, bar 84 rotating in a counterclockwise sense and bar 86 rotating in a clockwise sense. Each makes one half of a complete rotation in the time required for one of the individual packages to pass thereby, as was the case with bars 76,78. Again, the rotation is synchronized such that the bars 84,86 are oriented vertically, as shown in FIG. 4, as the reclosable zipper strip 22 arrives so that the intended sealing and perforating can occur. Seal bars 84,86 provide a bottom seal 90 for each individual package, and perforator 88 provides perforations so that each individual package can be separated from the next.

[0038] A further package length downstream is yet another station which cuts the package strips being manufactured to a desired length comprising some preselected number of individual packages. The preselected number may be any number, including one. As such, cutting station 92 comprises first and second bars 94,96, the former including a cutting knife 98. Both bars 94,96 rotate as indicated by the curved arrows adjacent thereto, bar 94 rotating in a counterclockwise sense and bar 96 rotating in a clockwise sense. Each makes one half of a complete rotation in the time required for the preselected number of individual packages desired for the strip to pass thereby, at which time cutting knife 98 cuts the strip 100 from the rest of the individual packages, each containing consumer product 63, being manufactured.

[0039] FIG. 4A is a schematic cross-sectional view, analogous to that of FIG. 4, for the case where the reclosable zipper strips 22′ have sliders 49. When comparing FIGS. 4 and 4A with one another, it will be noted that the consumer product 63 being packaged is downstream of the reclosable zipper strip 22′ for a given package in FIG. 4A, while it was upstream of the reclosable zipper strip 22 in FIG. 4. The significance of this difference between FIGS. 4 and 4a will become apparent in the discussion to follow.

[0040] As in FIG. 4, seal station 74 comprises heated seal bar 76 and unheated seal bar 78. Seal station 74 functions in the same manner as described above to seal sheet 16 to flange 40 without sealing flanges 40,44 to each other.

[0041] Downstream from seal station 74 in FIG. 4A is seal/perforation station 82′, which differs from seal/perforation station 82 in FIG. 4. Seal/perforation station 82′ seals the bottoms of the individual packages being manufactured, provides perforations to enable the individual packages to be separated from one another, and optionally activates a peel seal at the tops of the individual packages. Specifically, seal/perforation station 82′ comprises first and second heated seal bars 84′,86′, the latter including a perforator 88′. As in seal/perforation station 82 in FIG. 4, seal bars 84′,86′ rotate in the directions indicated, making one half of a complete revolution in the time required for one of the individual packages to pass by station 82′. The upstream portions of first and second seal bars 84′,86′ provide a bottom seal 90 for each individual package, perforator 88′ provides perforations so that each individual package can be separated from that preceding it, and the downstream portions of the first and second seal bars 82′,84′, which do not meet one another as closely as the upstream portions which form bottom seal 90, may activate an optional peel seal 91 at the top of the preceding package. It should be understood that the perforations and optional peel seal 91 in an individual package give a consumer access to slider 49 so that the individual package may be opened by manipulation thereof.

[0042] Cutting station 92 is one package length downstream from seal/perforation station 82′, and is as described above for FIG. 4. Cutting knife 98 cuts the strip 100, seen in FIG. 1, from the rest of the individual packages, each containing consumer product 63, being manufactured between bottom seal 90 and optional peel seal 91.

[0043] FIG. 5 shows the same stations as are shown in FIG. 4 for the case where flanges 40,44 of reclosable zipper strip 22 are joined to one another with peel seal 58. FIGS. 5A and 5B are enlarged views of the indicated portions of FIG. 5. In all other respects, a discussion of FIGS. 5, 5A and 5B would be identical to that above for FIG. 4 and, as such, it will not be repeated here. Further, reclosable zipper strip 22′, having a peel seal 58 and a slider 49, could also be used in the manufacture of reclosable packages in the manner illustrated in FIG. 4A.

[0044] FIG. 6 is a schematic view of an apparatus slightly different from that shown in FIG. 1 for practicing the method for manufacturing the package strips of the present invention. Apparatus 110 is substantially the same as apparatus 10. Accordingly, the preceding discussion applies to apparatus 110, and elements in FIG. 6 to which the preceding discussion equally applies will be given the same drawing reference numbers as appear in FIG. 1, except to the extent described below.

[0045] Referring to FIG. 6, and comparing it to FIG. 1, it will be immediately apparent that zipper-application station 20 still applies individual lengths 60 of reclosable zipper strip 22 to film 16 at package-length intervals, but that, instead of being applied adjacent to one of the two lateral edges 66,68 of the sheet 16, they are centered with respect to the lateral edges 66,68. Moreover, downstream from dancer 62, the lateral edges 66,68 are folded toward one another and sealed together with a fin seal 114 by heated drive rolls 112, which also drive the sheet 16 at a constant rate. In all other respects, apparatus 110 is the same as apparatus 10. That is to say, downstream from the heated drive rolls 112, the manufacture of package strip 100 is completed by seal station 74, seal/perforation station 82 and cutting station 92, as previously described.

[0046] FIG. 7 is a schematic view of still another apparatus for practicing the method for manufacturing the package strips of the present invention. Apparatus 120 is much the same as apparatuses 10,110, and elements appearing in FIG. 7 to which the preceding discussion equally applies will be given the same drawing reference numbers as are used in FIGS. 1 and 6, and will not be described again.

[0047] Referring, now, to FIG. 7, apparatus 120 produces package strips using two supplies of plastic film material rather than one which must be folded over the consumer product being packaged. Specifically, apparatus 120 uses a top sheet 122 of polymeric film material dispensed from a supply roll 124 and a bottom sheet 126 of polymeric film material dispensed from a supply roll 128.

[0048] Turning first to the top sheet 122, this sheet may be fed or dispensed from supply roll 124 in package-length increments and lengths of reclosable zipper strips attached transversely thereto at some point, such as point 130, before dancer 62, which converts the incremental motion of the top sheet 122 to continuous motion driven by heated drive rolls 70. Length 132 of reclosable zipper strip, applied using a zipper-application station like that shown in FIGS. 1 and 6 but not included in FIG. 7, extends for substantially the full width of top sheet 122 between its lateral edges 134,136.

[0049] Bottom sheet 126, fed from supply roll 128, proceeds at a constant rate to a point, such as point 138, where a consumer product 139 may be placed thereon at package-length intervals. Bottom sheet 126 has lateral edges 140,142 which are sealed to lateral edges 134,136, respectively, by heated drive rolls 70. Thereafter, the manufacture of package strip 100 is completed by seal station 74, seal/perforation station 82 and cutting station 92, as previously described.

[0050] FIGS. 8 through 11 are schematic views of additional apparatuses for practicing the method for manufacturing the package strips of the present invention. The main difference between these additional apparatuses and those already discussed above is that reclosable zipper strips run longitudinally on the sheet of polymeric film material, rather than transversely, during the manufacturing of the package strips. The additional apparatuses can all be classified as flow-wrap machines.

[0051] Specifically, referring to FIG. 8, apparatus 150 includes a spool 152 from which reclosable zipper strips 154 are continuously dispensed. Although not shown in FIG. 8, it is within the scope of the present invention to provide reclosable zipper strips 154 with sliders at package-length intervals. A sheet 156 of polymeric film material is dispensed from a supply roll 158 over and onto a conveyor 160 which carries the consumer products 162 being packaged in two rows, individual consumer products in each row being side-by-side with those in the other and separated from those in the same row by a package-length interval. Conveyor 160 has a gap 161 running down its center for a purpose to be explained below. Consumer products 162 are deposited on conveyor 160 at points 163 at the beginning thereof.

[0052] The sheet 156, with two reclosable zipper strips 154 beneath it, wraps around the conveyor 160 and consumer products 162, its two lateral ledges 164,166 being joined to one another by a fin seal, like that shown in FIG. 6, on the underside of the conveyor 160. Heated drive rolls 170 drive the sheet 156 continuously through the apparatus 150, sealing the reclosable zipper strips 154 to the sheet 156 above and below the conveyor 160 and activating any peel seals that may be included on the reclosable zipper strip 154, the gap 161 down the center of the conveyor 160 being provided for this purpose. Perforator 172, mated with a roll 174 through the same gap, perforates the sheet 156 down the center to enable the two package strips 176 being manufactured to be separated lengthwise from one another.

[0053] Downstream from perforator 172 is a seal/perforation station 178 similar to seal/perforation station 82 shown in FIGS. 3 and 4 and discussed above. Seal/perforation station 178 comprises a first and a second heated seal bar 180,182, one of which includes a perforator. Both bars 180,182 rotate as indicated by the curved arrows adjacent thereto, bar 180 rotating in a counterclockwise sense and bar 182 rotating in a clockwise sense. Each makes one half of a complete rotation in the time required for one of the individual packages being manufactured to pass thereby. The rotation is synchronized such that the bars 180,182 are oriented vertically, as shown in FIG. 8 as the lengthwise gap separating consumer products 162 arrives at the seal/perforation station 178 so that the downstream seal for one individual package, the upstream seal of the preceding package, and the perforation between them can be made. The package strips 176 can then be made any desired number of individual packages long, including one single package long, by tearing them from apparatus 150 at the appropriate frequency.

[0054] Referring, now, to FIG. 9, apparatus 190 is similar to apparatus 150 of FIG. 8. Elements appearing in FIG. 9 identical to those of apparatus 150 have been given the same drawing reference numbers as appear in FIG. 8 and will not be described again.

[0055] Apparatus 190 differs from apparatus 150 in the manner in which the sheet 156 of polymeric film material is driven through the apparatus and sealed to reclosable zipper strips 154. Instead of heated drive rolls 170, apparatus 190 includes a drag sealer 192 which seals the reclosable zipper strips 154 to the sheet 156 above and below the conveyor 160 and activates any peel seals that may be included on the reclosable zipper strip 154, the gap 161 down the center of the conveyor 160 being provided for this purpose. Downstream from the drag sealer 192 are a pair of drive rolls 194 which drive the sheet 156 continuously through the apparatus 190. In other respects, apparatus 190 is identical to apparatus 150.

[0056] Apparatus 200, shown schematically in FIG. 10, is similar to apparatus 150 of FIG. 8. Heated drive rolls 170 drive the sheet 156 continuously through the apparatus 200, sealing the reclosable zipper strips 154 to the sheet 156 above and below the conveyor 160 and activating any peel seals that may be included on the reclosable zipper strip 154, the gap 161 down the center of the conveyor 160 being provided for this purpose.

[0057] In apparatus 200, seal/perforation station 204 takes the place of seal/perforation station 178 in apparatus 150. Seal/perforation station 204 includes an upper row 206 of four seal bars 208 and a lower row 210 of four seal bars 212. Seal bars 208 or seal bars 212 include a perforator to perforate the cross seal being made between each individual package being manufactured.

[0058] Upper row 206 and lower row 210 travel in mirror-image, four-step cycles following rectangular, or D-shaped, paths as suggested by the arrows above and below them, respectively. Initially, upper row 206 and lower row 210 clamp together to apply cross seals and perforations to four consecutive side-by-side pairs of individual packages, and, remaining clamped together, move downstream with them for a time sufficient to make the seals, as the sheet 156 is being driven continuously by heated drive rolls 170. The upper row 206 and lower row 210 then separate from one another, and move upstream four-package-length intervals to complete the cycle and to begin the next one.

[0059] In apparatus 220, shown schematically in FIG. 11, seal/perforation station 222 applies cross seals and perforations, drives the sheet 156, and, in addition, seals the reclosable zipper strips 154 to the sheet 156 on both sides of the packages and activates any peel seals that may be included on the reclosable zipper strips 154.

[0060] As above, elements of apparatus 220 which are identical to those previously described for FIG. 8 will not be redescribed, and have been given the same drawing reference numbers in FIG. 11. As for seal/perforation station 222, this station comprises an upper row 224 of five cross-seal bars 226 and a lower row 228 of five cross-seal bars 230. Cross-seal bars 226 or cross-seal bars 230 include a perforator to perforate the cross seal being made between each individual package being manufactured.

[0061] In addition, the upper row 224 and the lower row 228 include four lengthwise seal bars 232, two of which seal the reclosable zipper strips 154 to the sheet 156 on each side of the individual packages, while the other two activate any peel seals that may be included on reclosable zipper strips 154.

[0062] Upper row 224 and lower row 228 travel in mirror-image, four-step cycles following rectangular, or D-shaped, paths as suggested by the arrows above and below them, respectively. Initially, upper row 224 and lower row 228 clamp together to apply cross seals and perforations, as well as to attach the reclosable zipper strips 154 and to activate any peel seals which may be provided, to five consecutive side-by-side pairs of individual packages. Then, remaining clamped together, upper row 224 and lower row 228 pull sheet 156 downstream by an amount equal to five package lengths. The upper row 224 and lower row 228 then separate from one another, and move upstream five package lengths to complete the cycle and to begin the next one.

[0063] Modifications to the above would be obvious to those of ordinary skill in the art, without bringing the invention so modified beyond the scope of the appended claims.