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The present invention relates to a method and arrangement for packing and transporting drinking straws in a transport box, the straws being carried in plastic film at certain distances from each other and in parallel as a continuous strip of straws.
A cardboard box is used to pack the continuous strip of straws, normally directly from the strip producing machine. The box is transported to a plant for filling liquid foods, normally drinks, such as juice, into packages for later consumption by individual consumers.
Downstream of the liquid food packaging machine, a straw applicator device is arranged, where the strip of straws is fed from the opened box. The sealed film portions between the straws are cut to produce individually packed straws, and each filled package is provided with a straw, affixed for example by hot-melt adhesive.
The continuous strip of drinking straws is today fed into a cardboard box with standard dimensions in a manner that from a certain point-of-view may be regarded as virtually random. The dimensions of the box are chosen to suit conventional storage and transport systems and may amount to roughly 600×600×600 mm.
The strip of straws can be fed into the box over a reciprocating arm, so that the strip is distributed over the area of the box. This means that the adjacent layers of the strip in the box are oblique to each other or form angles with each other or in other words that the straws of the different layers are arranged obliquely to each other.
The internal volume of the box is hereby utilized in a very poor way, so that the transport and storage costs will be unnecessary high. Another important drawback is that the straws can be bent or damaged in other ways, because they are not fully supported by underlying straws. The straws, made of a plastic material, are rather thin-walled and are comparatively vulnerable, especially some time after their manufacture.
The mentioned drawbacks are according to the invention obviated in that the strip of straws is fed without lateral displacements in a straight stack with parallel layers into a transport box with an internal width corresponding to the width of the strip.
It is also within the scope of the invention to have more than one such stack in a box. In such a case the internal width of the box corresponds to the combined width of the stacks.
According to an embodiment of the present invention, the opposite ends of the strip of straws are sealed together so as to form a continuous closed-loop strip of interconnected straws.
The invention will be described in further detail below, reference being made to the accompanying drawings, in which:
FIG. 1 is a schematic illustration of the present way of packing and transporting a strip of drinking straws,
FIG. 2 is a similar illustration of the inventive way of packing and transporting a strip of straws,
FIG. 3 is a perspective view of a box for packing and transporting a strip of straws according to the invention,
FIGS. 4 and 5 illustrate the packing of the strip of straws, where FIG. 4 shows four strip lengths or layers at distances from each other and FIG. 5 shows the same four strip lengths brought together as in the box.
FIG. 6 is a schematic illustration of a way of packing according to a second embodiment of the present invention, and
FIGS. 7 and 8 are schematic views of a particular embodiment of a strip of drinking straws adapted to-be packed in accordance with the present invention.
Drinking straws are generally denoted 1 in the drawings. They are simply shown as tubes but may for example be of a telescopic type now commonly used. In the manufacturing plant the drinking straws 1 are usually enclosed between two continuous plastic films 2, that are sealed together around the straws to produce a continuous strip 3 of enclosed straws. Four such strips 3 are for example shown in a side view in FIG. 4. The straws 1 are arranged parallel to each other and are spaced apart. The continuous strip of straws is packed in a box and transported for example to a plant where drinks or other liquid foods are filled into packages. A straw applicator machine is arranged downstream of the liquid food packaging machine and the strip of straws is fed into the straw applicator machine from the opened box. In the straw applicator machine, the sealed film portions between the straws are cut to produce individually packed straws, that are affixed, for example by hot-melt adhesive, to filled packages, ready for use by a consumer.
Traditionally, the continuous strip 3 of straws is fed into a standard box in a virtually random manner. Such a used standard box suited for conventional transport and storage systems may have the following dimensions: length 600 mm, width 575 mm and height 620 mm. The strip 3 is fed into the-box over a reciprocating arm in order to distribute the strip over the area of the box, which means that a packing pattern as suggested in FIG. 1 can be obtained. The straws 1 of one layer can be arranged obliquely with respect to the straws of the underlying layer and so forth.
This means that the internal volume of the box is very poorly utilized and that much air is transported, leading to unnecessary high transport and storage costs. Further, the virtually random packing of the straws means that the straws can become damaged during transportation and storage, i.e. because they are not fully supported by underlying straws and are susceptible to bending. (The straws are comparatively soft, especially after their manufacture.)
FIGS. 2-5 illustrate an improved way of packing and transporting straws 1 in a continuous strip 3.
FIG. 3 illustrates a box 4 used according to the invention. Its most important feature is that its internal width is adapted to the width of the strip 3 of straws. In the practical case illustrated in FIG. 3 the external width of the box 4 is 115 mm, whereas its length may be 1150 mm and height 600 mm, which makes it well suited for existing transport systems. Also, its dimensions, especially its small width, allow storage with a better utilization of storage space.
As the packing of the continuous strip 3 of straws in the box 4 is no longer random, the straws 1 in the box are parallel to each other not only in one layer but in all layers throughout the box 4, as is schematically illustrated in FIG. 2. Furthermore, the distance between successive straws 1 in the continuous strip 3 of straws is normally (also in the present random packing in the existing wider box) larger than the outer diameter of the straws 1, which means that the straws 1 from one layer will fit in between the straws in the previous and/or next layer in the box.
This is illustrated in FIGS. 4 and 5. In both these Figures four layers of the continuous strip 3 of straws 1 are shown. For the sake of clarity, the four layers are shown spaced from each other in FIG. 4, whereas they are shown together in FIG. 5 in the way the actual packing occurs in the box.
It appears in FIGS. 4 and 5 that one of the two plastic films 2 normally is virtually flat, whereas the other one winds enclosingly around the individual straws 1. This means that when two “opposing” layers as is shown in the upper part or the lower part of FIG. 4, respectively are laid against each other, the straws of one layer fit into the interspaces between the straws of the other layer.
The result is as is clearly visible in FIG. 5 that the resulting thickness of two layers is practically the same as that of one layer or that four layers result in about the same thickness as two.
In a standard box of the size mentioned above 35000 straws may be packed, whereas a box with the dimensions also mentioned above and having one stack of straws can hold 20000 straws. This means that a volume gain of up to 65% may be obtained by the packing according to the invention, which can lead to a total cost reduction of about 5%. Such a cost reduction may be of great importance in a mass production field with fierce competition.
Another important advantage is that the previous problem with deformed or damaged straws in the box is eliminated, even when the box is subjected to tough transportation conditions.
According to the arrangement of FIG. 6, the opposite ends of the strip 3 of drinking straws 2 are sealed together, e.g. at 6, so as to form a continuous closed loop strip 7 of interconnected straws which is arranged within a transport box 4 having an internal width substantially corresponding to the length of the straws 1.
The two ends may be sealed together e.g. after a linear strip 3 is arranged in the box to forms a Stack of layers as described above, but keeping an end portion 11 adjacent to the bottom layer along an end wall 12 of the box; a free end of this portion 11 is then sealed to a free end of the top layer once the stack is completed.
This arrangement eliminates the problem of finding the free end of the strip when opening the box; this can be problematical if a linear (i.e. not closed-loop) strip is used since, during transportation, the end of the strip laid on the top layer may be displaced and fall down between the inner side of the box and the straws contained therein, making it very difficult and time consuming to locate the end of the strip of straws.
According to the arrangement of FIG. 6, a user need not worry about finding the end of the strip of straws. it is sufficient to hold the closed-loop strip 7 at any convenient point, and then cut the strip 7 so that it can be used for sequentially dispensing the straws.
FIGS. 7 and 8 show a particular embodiment of a straw strip, referenced 13, in which straws 1 are not fully enclosed between the plastic films 2; rather, the plastic films 2 have a width which is less than the length of the straws 1, and are sealed together at intervals so as to form a plurality of equidistantly spaced sleeves 14, from which opposite end portions 15, 16 of the straws 1 project axially. This arrangement is. particularly suitable for automatic straw dispensers.
The invention is not limited to the shown and described embodiment with a box for only one straight stack. A box may be dimensioned for more than one such stack.