Title:
METHOD AND PLANT FOR PACKAGING OF FLEXIBLE BAGS
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The invention relates to a method for packaging of flexible bags, filled with a liquid or non-liquid, foodstuff or non-foodstuff, sterile or non-sterile product. A packaging box is fitted on an introduction tube, essentially extending the whole height of the box. A flexible bag is dispensed from a supply point for flexible bags into the box through a funnel and the introduction tube, which forms an extension. The packing box, containing the flexible bag for the introduction tube is removed. The plant for the packaging of flexible bags filled with a liquid or non-liquid, foodstuff or non-foodstuff, sterile or non-sterile product, carries out the method.



Inventors:
Minaud, Thierry (Senlis, FR)
Trotignon, Franck (Dizy, FR)
Capelle, Michel (Grauves, FR)
Pontcharraud, Didier (Paris, FR)
Lallement, Cendrine (Bouzy, FR)
Application Number:
11/816088
Publication Date:
09/10/2009
Filing Date:
02/10/2006
Assignee:
SMURFIT KAPPA BAG IN BOX ANONYME (F-51200 Epernay, FR)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
53/473, 53/564, 53/253
International Classes:
B65B5/02; B31B50/28; B31B50/86; B65B5/06; B65B39/14
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
WEEKS, GLORIA R
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Egbert Law Offices, PLLC (1001 Texas Ave., Suite 1250, HOUSTON, TX, 77002, US)
Claims:
1. Method for packaging flexible bags filled with a liquid or non-liquid, foodstuff or non-foodstuff, sterile or non-sterile product, said method comprising the steps of: inserting a package cardboard box onto an insertion tube extending substantially over a full height into said package cardboard box; dropping a flexible bag, from a flexible-bag supply station, into said package cardboard box through a funnel and said insertion tube being an extension of said funnel; removing the package cardboard box containing the flexible bag from said insertion tube.

2. Method according to claim 1, wherein the step of inserting the box comprises: starting from a cardboard cut-out; and pre-shaping said package cardboard box around said insertion tube, forming a shaping core.

3. Method according to claim 1, wherein the step of dropping a flexible bag is performed in an inclined position.

4. Method according to claim 3, wherein the step of dropping a flexible bag comprises: subjecting the flexible bag to a substantially parabolic path; and presenting the funnel by inclining the package cardboard box in an inclined direction close to a tangent line to the path of the flexible bag.

5. Method according to claim 3, wherein the step of dropping a flexible bag comprises: using a control means for axial displacement of the funnel and insertion tube according to a vertical movement for bringing the package cardboard box on a path of the flexible bag.

6. Method according to claim 5, wherein said control means insert or remove the package cardboard box with respect to the insertion tube.

7. Method according to claim 1, wherein the step of dropping of the filled flexible bags into the package cardboard box (7) occurs at random.

8. Method according to according to claim 1, wherein package cardboard boxes are subjected to a continuous rotary motion.

9. Plant for packaging flexible bags filled with a liquid or non-liquid, foodstuff or non-foodstuff, sterile or non-sterile product, for implementation of the method according to claim 1, said plant comprising: a packaging unit; a flexible-bag supply station; a station, supplying preformed package cardboard boxes or cardboard cut-outs; a loading station; and a finishing and/or evacuation station, said loading station being comprised of, at least at a level of said loading station, an insertion tube, said insertion tube being inserted substantially over full height into a package cardboard box and forming an extension of a funnel through which a flexible bag drops into the package cardboard box.

10. Plant according to claim 9, further comprising: means for receiving a cardboard box with a view to inserting the box onto the insertion tube and subsequently removing the box from the insertion tube.

11. Plant according to claim 10, wherein the means for receiving ensure reception of a cardboard cut-out at a level of a supply station, permitting folding of the box on the insertion tube forming a shaping core.

12. Plant according to claim 9, further comprising: a support being movable at least in inclination, thanks to tilting means and having said funnel extended by an insertion tube mounted on said tilting means, the package cardboard box being presented in an inclined position.

13. Plant according to claim 11, further comprising: means for controlling axial displacement of the funnel and the insertion tube.

14. Plant according to claim 9, wherein a rotary station provided with several identical stations distributed around one rotary station with a same axis of rotation, the stations defining, successively, the supply station, the loading station and the finishing and/or evacuation station, each station being comprised of a support provided with a tilting means, a funnel extended by an insertion tube and mounted on said tilting means, and means for receiving a pre-shaped cardboard box or a cardboard box cut-out.

15. Plant according to claim 14, wherein each station is further comprised of a means for controlling axial displacement of said funnel and the insertion tube, according to a vertical displacement or a displacement with a vertical component.

16. Plant according to claim 14, wherein each station comprises an additional means for closing the cardboard box after filling and/or means for providing said cardboard box with a seizing handle at the time of the closing.

17. Plant according to claim 9, being a linear type.

18. Plant according to claim 9, wherein the station for supplying flexible bags is comprised of a conveyor belt ensuring conveying and evacuation of a flexible bag by imparting a path to said flexible bag, the funnel being substantially tangent, the package cardboard box being inserted on the insertion tube and presented in an inclined position.

19. Plant according to claim 14, wherein the tilting means and the receiving means and the finishing means, are controlled by cams, such as fixed and/or movable cams, distributed concentrically around an axis of the rotary station.

20. Plant according to claim 14, wherein rotation of said rotary station is continuous.

21. Plant according to claim 14, wherein the funnel or the insertion tube or both have an inner surface treated for enhanced sliding of the flexible bag during falling.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED U.S. APPLICATIONS

Not applicable.

STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT

Not applicable.

NAMES OF PARTIES TO A JOINT RESEARCH AGREEMENT

Not applicable.

REFERENCE TO AN APPENDIX SUBMITTED ON COMPACT DISC

Not applicable.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The invention relates to a method and a plant for packaging flexible bags filled with a liquid or non-liquid, foodstuff or non-foodstuff, sterile or non-sterile product.

This invention relates to the field of the methods and plants for packaging flexible bags of a liquid or non-liquid, foodstuff or non-foodstuff, sterile or non-sterile product.

2. Description of Related Art

Including Information Disclosed Under 37 CFR 1.97 and 37 CFR 1.98.

Various products packaged in varying-capacity flexible bags are already known. The latter are provided with a plug designed capable of receiving a stopper, usually in the form of a distribution tap, aimed at facilitating the pouring of said product.

These flexible bags are made by superimposing at least two films of synthetic material, of the single or multiple layer type, according to the product contained therein. After the filling, they are packaged in boxes, usually in the form of cardboard cases, or even cases made of synthetic material. As a matter of fact, the cardboard-packaging technique usually adopted consists of pre-shaping packaging cardboard boxes suitable for the capacity of the flexible bags, then conveying them to the filling unit for said bags.

In particular, when they are filled and closed by means of a stopper, they are successively brought to a cardboard-packaging station or, through a conveyor belt, they are dropped into a funnel under which has previously been arranged a pre-shaped cardboard box of a suitable size.

In this respect, while this cardboard is closed at its lower portion, it includes, at its upper portion, closing flaps that are maintained as wide open as possible and separated from the path of the wine skin, through the funnel itself.

It is obvious that, at its mouth communicating with a cardboard box, the funnel should be defined with a small cross-section, in order to be sure that a flexible bag is inserted without tear into this cardboard box while passing through the opening provided for at the level of the latter.

As a matter of fact, in the case of small-volume flexible bags, the risk of their blocking in the funnel is thus increased, since their weight is not sufficient to force their passing through the latter whose cross-section is reduced.

Anyway, under the action of its dropping and entering into contact with the cardboard box, the flexible bag is subjected to important frictions, which may lead to a local deterioration and, thus, to a risk of leaking.

Furthermore, that risk is very high since, in order to guarantee the insertion in some way of the flexible bag into the cardboard box, it is dropped vertically into the latter. Therefore, it can be considered that said flexible bag is brutally handled, which results into a non inconsiderable number of defective packages. To this is to be added the problem related to the risk of tears at one of the walls of the cardboard of the closing, in this case the tap the plug of the flexible bag is generally provided with, during this falling in vertical position. As the case may be, this not only slows down the progress of the flexible bag, increases the risks of blocking, and creates a risk of leaking, but, in addition, can result into changing its positioning inside the package.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

This invention provided is aimed at coping with all the above-mentioned disadvantages through a method for packaging flexible bags and a plant for implementing same, the peculiarity of which resides in that a flexible bag is inserted into a cardboard box by means, not only, of a funnel, but also through an insertion tube extending the latter so as to extend substantially over the full length of the cardboard box. Thus, along almost the full path of falling of the flexible bag, the latter is not in contact with the walls of the cardboard box and there is no risk for the same to be damaged.

Furthermore, this flexible bag moves along the walls of the funnel and the insertion tube the surface of which can be treated so as to avoid any tear or damage to this flexible bag.

In addition, in order to be sure that, at the time of the insertion into the cardboard box the insertion tube penetrates easily into the latter, while passing through the partly open portion created by the closing flaps in the upper portion of this cardboard box, said insertion tube can be defined, at its end opposite the funnel, with a cross-section substantially smaller than the inner cross-section of the cardboard box. Over a large portion of its height and, in particular, at the level of the junction with the funnel, a cross-section adjusted to this inner cross-section of the cardboard box is maintained, so as to provide an as large as possible free passageway for the flexible bag.

Within the framework of a second inventive step, it has been devised using this easy insertion of a flexible bag into its package, thanks to the funnel and its insertion tube, in order to ensure the packaging in a form permitting to exert less stress on said flexible bag.

In particular, one has thought of inclining the cardboard box so that the flexible bag is not merely freely dropped into the latter, but is naturally inserted by sliding.

This procedure, besides avoiding damaging a flexible bag, considerably reduces the risks of tearing the plug and its stopper when entering into the cardboard box.

As regards the plant permitting the implementation, it can be designed linear or in the form of a rotary station whose means it is comprised of, in particular, the means for receiving a pre-shaped cardboard box. Its insertion onto the insertion tube of a funnel, its tilting into an inclined position, its straightening and its discharge, are controlled by cams, in particular fixed or movable cams, concentric to the axis of rotation of the rotary station.

The invention provides an important gain in productivity, in the preferred embodiment in the form of a continuous rotary box-filling line, compared to the traditional linear lines or also to sequential rotary box-filling lines.

The advantages deriving from this invention mainly reside in that not only the packaging of the flexible bags in cardboard boxes occurs more easily, but, in addition, in that the risks of damaging are reduced, despite the production rhythms that can be higher than before.

To this end, this invention regards a method for packaging flexible bags filled with a liquid or non-liquid, foodstuff or non-foodstuff, sterile or non-sterile product, characterized in that:

    • a package cardboard box is inserted onto an insertion tube extending substantially over the full height into this package cardboard box;
    • from a flexible-bag supply station, such a flexible bag is dropped into the package cardboard box through a funnel and the insertion tube forming the extension of the latter; and
    • the package cardboard box containing the flexible bag is removed from the insertion tube.

The invention also relates to a plant for packaging flexible bags filled with a liquid or non-liquid, foodstuff or non-foodstuff, sterile or non-sterile product, for the implementation of the method according to any of the preceding claims, including a packaging unit including a flexible-bag supply station, a station for supplying preformed cardboard boxes or cardboard cut-outs, a loading station and a finishing and/or evacuation station. The plant includes, at least at the level of the loading station, an insertion tube designed capable of being inserted substantially over the full height into a package cardboard box and forming the extension of a funnel through which a flexible bag is designed capable of being dropped into said package cardboard box.

Furthermore, the separation of the flexible bags, starting from a multiple-row strip, at the filling place is an operation that is conducted not only very easily, but it avoids making pre-cutting lines as was required in the past.

Furthermore, by pre-shaping the package cardboard box for a flexible bag directly around a tubular shaping core serving as an insertion funnel for said flexible bags, one maximizes, for a package cardboard box with a certain cross-section, the cross-section for the passing of the flexible bag through the funnel. This permits, hence, to advantageously cope with the problem of the passing of said flexible bags through the funnel, but also the risk of burning at the contact with the package cardboard box.

Further aims and advantages of this invention will appear during the following description referring to exemplary embodiments given indicatively and not restrictively.

The understanding of this description will be facilitated by referring to the attached drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a schematic and perspective view of a representation of the packaging of a flexible bag, starting from a cardboard cut-out folded back so as to form a package cardboard box into which flexible bag is dropped through a funnel extended by an insertion tube and around which the cardboard box can be formed.

FIG. 2 is a side schematic view of a loading station for receiving flexible bags filled in a first lower position of arrival of the cardboard box.

FIG. 3 shows a side schematic view, in a way similar to FIG. 2, the same unit, in an upper position of the cardboard box.

FIG. 4 shows another schematic view, in a way similar to FIGS. 2 and 3, the same station in a tilted position for collecting a filled flexible bag and, partly, the station for supplying same.

FIG. 5 is a partial elevational view and vertical cross-section view, of a plant with a rotary table according to the invention, shown according to the line A-A of the station for supplying filled flexible bags.

FIG. 6 is a partial top schematic view of the plant shown in FIG. 5.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

This invention refers to a method and a plant for packaging flexible bags filled with a liquid or non-liquid, foodstuff or non-foodstuff, sterile or non-sterile product.

In a preferred embodiment, such a plant is continuously rotating, with cam-control means for the various actuating devices. In another embodiment, the plant can be made linear and continuous.

Usually, the flexible bags 1 aimed at containing liquid or non-liquid products, namely foodstuff or the like, are made of at least two films of synthetic material or the like, of the single or multiple layer type, superimposed and welded at their periphery so as to define a container.

At least one of the films is drilled with an opening for receiving a plug 2 receiving a stopper such as a distribution tap or the like.

A filling unit 3 is specially designed for ensuring the filling of these bags 1, also called wine skins, as the case may be either through the plug 2 or an opening that is subsequently closed by welding when this filling operation is completed.

Anyway, at the exit from the filling unit 3, these flexible bags 1 are evacuated toward a packaging station 4. In this connection, though this packaging unit 4 can be linear, according to a particular design of the invention, it is in the form of a rotary table 5 having multiple stations 6 for depositing the flexible bags 1 in cardboard packages 7 or the like.

According to a first embodiment, at the level of this rotary packaging unit 4, the package cardboard boxes 7 arrive pre-formed at the level of a station for feeding cardboard boxes 8 in order to be transferred, afterwards, to the level of a loading station 9, under a funnel 10 for inserting a flexible bag 1.

Thus, during the following step, such a flexible bag 1 is dropped by gravity and randomly, passing through the funnel 10, into said cardboard box 7 maintained partly open in its upper portion 11.

This cardboard box 7 is then brought toward the next evacuation and/or finishing station where it can be, as the case may be, directly evacuated or subjected to one or several finishing operations, for example pressing the wine skin in the cardboard box 7, closing of its upper portion 11, equipping with a gripping handle, marking, etc.

Advantageously, the flexible bag 1 is inserted into this package cardboard box 7 through the funnel 10, but also into an insertion tube 12 extending the latter in its lower portion. This insertion tube 12 is designed capable of plunging into this package cardboard box 7, substantially along the full height of the latter. This insertion tube 12 prevents the bag from rubbing against the cardboard box 7, and in particular against a junction lip on which such a cardboard box 7 is generally closed during its shaping.

Thus, while passing from the cardboard-box feeding station 8 to the loading station 9, it is subjected to an upward movement in order to be inserted onto this insertion tube 12, considering that it can obviously also be contemplated to rather move the latter and the funnel 10 associated thereto in order to achieve the desired result.

The advantage of extending the funnel 10 by an insertion tube 12 resides in that during the fall of the flexible bag 1, the latter does not rub along the inner walls of the cardboard box 7 and does not risk to be damaged by the latter, in particular at the junction with the flaps it is crowned with and which contribute to its closing at the upper portion 11.

According to another preferred embodiment of the invention, at the level of this packaging unit 4, such a package cardboard box 7 can be preformed around said insertion tube 12 substantially constituting a shaping core. Thus, as schematically shown in FIG. 1, at the level of this packaging unit 4 are conveyed the flexible bags 1 proceeding from the filling unit 3, considering that it is also fed with cardboard box cut-outs 13.

As schematically shown in this FIG. 1, one of these cut-outs 13 is first of all folded around the shaping core 17 defined by the insertion tube 12, so as to pre-shape the package cardboard box 7, that is furthermore closed in its lower portion.

Thus, the plant for the implementation of the method according to this embodiment includes, in this case, a station for feeding cardboard box cut-outs 13 and a pre-shaping station 14 at the outlet of which the package cardboard box 7 passes to the loading station 9 where, being already inserted onto this insertion 12, it is placed under the station 8 for feeding filled flexible bags 1.

It is obvious that, without modifying the scope of the invention, it is possible to insert the package cardboard box 7 onto the insertion tube 12, but also to proceed in a reversed way, i.e. to insert the insertion tube 12 under the package cardboard box 7.

Such a flexible bag 2 falls, here too, by gravity into said package cardboard box 7, guided by the insertion funnel 10 and said insertion tube 12.

At the level of a finishing and/or evacuation station 15, the package cardboard box 7 is, by a downward movement with respect to the funnel 10, removed from the insertion tube 12 allowing its closing in the lower portion.

According to another advantageous peculiarity of the invention, at the level of the loading station 8, the cardboard box 7 is presented in an inclined position, in order to ensure the insertion of a filled flexible bag 1.

These flexible bags 1 are evacuated from the filling unit 3 by means of a conveyor belt 16, which ensures their conveying toward a flexible-bag supply station 17 at the level of the packaging unit 4.

In a preferred embodiment as can be seen in FIG. 5, this flexible-bag supply station 17 consists of at least one conveyor belt, which may furthermore be defined by the conveyor belt 16 ensuring the evacuation of the flexible bags at the outlet of the filling unit 3.

The speed of this conveyor belt 16 can be modulated and/or programmed. In this respect, the driving of this conveyor belt can be ensured by means of an electronic-switching brushless motor.

According to another peculiarity of the invention, through this conveyor belt 16 is imparted to the flexible bags 1 a substantially parabolic path, which substantially forms the extension of the funnel 10 when a cardboard box 7 inserted onto the insertion tube 12 is presented in a tilted position.

As already explained above, this peculiarity can be associated with a rotary machine as shown in the figures of the attached drawings, as well as with a linear machine.

Thus, at the level of the flexible-bag supply station 17, each filled flexible bag 1 is conveyed, then evacuated, through the conveyor belt 16, in an initial direction tangent to the profile of the latter in its downstream portion.

This bag falls by gravity and follows a substantially parabolic path until the inlet of the funnel 10.

The invention is designed so as to present the funnel 10 in an inclined direction close to the tangent line to the path of the flexible bag 1 at the time of its evacuation when leaving the conveyor 16.

This arrangement allows avoiding the flexible bag 1 from pivoting during its insertion into the cardboard box 7. Furthermore, its fall is smooth and over a limited height, while any shock of the plug and its stopper, in this case the distribution tap, against the wall of the funnel 10 is avoided.

Such random deposition permits to achieve a high rhythm, while preserving the filled flexible bag 1 during its packaging.

Thus, though a packaging unit 4 according to the invention generally includes:

    • a station 8 for supplying cardboard boxes 7 or cardboard box cut-outs 13;
    • eventually a pre-shaping station 14;
    • a loading station 9 for receiving the pre-shaped cardboard box 7 with a view, on the one hand, to inserting it onto the insertion tube 12 corresponding to the funnel 10 and, on the other hand, to bringing it into an inclined position;
    • a finishing and/or evacuation station 15, at the level of which the package cardboard boxes 7 are removed from the insertion tube 12, in order to be evacuated, as the case may be, before or after its closing in the upper portion; and
    • in the case of a design as a rotary unit, this packaging unit 4 includes a rotary table 5 provided with several identical stations 18 distributed around one and the same axis of rotation 19 and capable of defining, successively, the supply station 8, the loading station 9 and the finishing and/or evacuation station 17. It should be underlined here that this summing up of the stations the packaging unit 4 is comprised of is in no way restrictive.

Anyway, each station 18 includes, mounted on a support 20, movable at least in inclination, even vertically or according to a movement with a vertical component, a funnel 10 extended by an insertion tube 12, as well as means 21 for receiving, as the case may be, a pre-shaped cardboard box 7 or a cardboard box cut-out 13. These receiving means 21 are aimed at either simply receiving a pre-shaped cardboard box in order to insert it onto the insertion tube 12 and to remove it later from same, or to fold said cardboard box cut-out 13 on said insertion tube 12 defining, in that case, a shaping core.

It should be noted that in the case of a mere receiving of a pre-shaped cardboard box 7, as shown in FIGS. 2 to 4 of the attached drawings, the receiving means 21 can be of a pneumatic type with vacuum-pads in order to allow them gripping a cardboard box, maintaining it and inserting it onto the insertion tube 12, subsequently removing it and ensuring its evacuation.

Such a station 18 can also receive additional means, for pressing the filled flexible bag 1, closing the cardboard box after filling, and even means for providing it with a seizing handle, at the time of this closing.

The movable support 20 includes, furthermore, tilting means 22 through which the cardboard box 7 inserted onto the insertion tube 12 can be brought in an inclined position under the station 17 for supplying flexible bags 1.

Advantageously, the tilting means 22, as well as the receiving means 21, even the finishing means, not shown, are controlled by cams, such as fixed and/or movable cams, distributed concentrically around the axis 19 of the rotary table 5.

Of course, further embodiments can be contemplated.

In this respect, if the movable support 20 is provided with tilting means 22, it can also be provided with control means for axially moving the funnel 10 and its insertion tube 12, this in order to impart to the latter a vertical displacement with a vertical component that con contribute, as the case may be, to bringing the package cardboard box 7 on the path of the flexible bag 1 and/or its insertion onto and removal from the insertion tube 12.

In order to minimize the risk of damaging the flexible bag 1 during its reception in the funnel 10, then in the cardboard box 7, the inner surface of this funnel 10, as well as that of the insertion tube 12, is advantageously treated in order to enhance the sliding of the flexible bag 1 during its fall.

It should be noted that, though said insertion tube 12 can, in the case in which it forms a core for shaping the cardboard box 7, be strictly adapted to the inner cross-section of the latter, this insertion tube 12 can, when these cardboard boxes 7 arrive pre-shaped at the level of the packaging unit 4, be provided with a section having a truncated shape 24 in its lower end portion 23, in order to facilitate its insertion between the flaps 25 at the time of its insertion into the cardboard box 7.

As a matter of fact, besides this lower end portion 23, the insertion tube 12 can have a cross-section that is strictly adapted to the inner cross-section of the cardboard box 7, so as to preserve, at the level of its junction with the funnel 10, an opening with a maximum cross-section for the passing through of the flexible bag 1.

It should also be noted, as can be seen in FIGS. 2 to 5, that the truncated section at the lower end portion 23 of the insertion tube 12 can substantially be defined by corner parts 26 aimed, they too, at facilitating the insertion into the package cardboard box 7.

Also according to the invention, the operation of the packaging unit 4 is subjected to suitable management and control means authorizing a perfect synchronism between the arrival of the flexible bags 1 through the supply station 17 and the arrangement of the stations 18 in front of each of the stations they must define. Such management and control means also advantageously ensure the synchronization of the movements of the means 21 for receiving the pre-shaped cardboard boxes 7 or the cardboard box cut-outs 13 with respect to the tilting means 22 and the various finishing means, not shown.

In a preferred embodiment, the movement of the stations 18 with respect to the supply station 17 is continuous.

The execution of a rotary table with continuous movement is a particularly cheap solution and ensures a very quick operation, as well as easy maintenance.

As clearly appears from the preceding description, this invention advantageously copes with the drawbacks of the state of the art in this field.