Title:
DRINKING FITMENT
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A low-cost sportscap (2) has a nozzle (6) defining a drinking orifice. The nozzle is assembled from below into an outer shell (4) which is moulded as one piece and includes an overcap (16) and a base (14). A foil annulus (8) is used to seal a coupling part (50) of the nozzle to the outer shell (4) and also preferably to provide a mechanism by means of which the closure can be assembled to a container neck (10). A primary ex-factory seal is created by a valve (42) inside the overcap engaging with the drinking orifice. This can be resealed by the user when the overcap (16) is attached to the base by hinge means (32).



Inventors:
Von Spreckelsen, Henning (Woking, GB)
Mcgeough, Peter Michael (Woking, GB)
Application Number:
12/158660
Publication Date:
12/17/2009
Filing Date:
12/19/2006
Assignee:
BAPCO CLOSURES RESEARCH LTD. (WOKING, GB)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
215/316
International Classes:
B65D41/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
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20030085193Feeding bottle assemblyMay, 2003Hsu
20060060554Blow molded plastic aerosol containerMarch, 2006Garman
20060243696Tip design for reducing capillary leakage and water loss for plastic container closuresNovember, 2006Spada et al.
20090145874Bottle combinationJune, 2009Hite
20050194340Double-walled drinking vesselSeptember, 2005Huang
20070289938Container identification bandDecember, 2007Spooner
20040074863Crown closure with curled lower edgeApril, 2004Ramsey et al.
20090236304Environmentally Friendly Tamper-Evident Safety ClosureSeptember, 2009Watson
20090101618PLASTIC CLOSURE COMPRISING A DRINKING OR POURING NECK AND FOIL PIERCING DEVICEApril, 2009Seelhofer



Primary Examiner:
EDWARDS, BRETT J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Christopher, Kulish J. P. C. (1531 Norwood Avenue, Boulder, CO, 80304, US)
Claims:
1. A closure for a container comprising: an outer shell defining a base adapted to be fitted to a container neck and an overcap which is connected to the base by a removable tamper elements; a separate nozzle defining a drinking orifice assembled within the outer shell; and an induction heat-sealing foil; characterised in that the foil is an annulus welded to the base and nozzle; and the overcap has a valve seal depending from an internal surface to engage with and seal the drinking orifice.

2. A closure as claimed in claim 1, wherein: the foil provides means by which the base can be welded to the container neck.

3. A closure as claimed in claim 1, wherein: the base comprises a threaded skirt by means of which it can be connected to a standard threaded bottle neck finish.

4. A closure as claimed in claim 1, wherein: the nozzle carries a valve wall adapted to seat within a container neck.

5. A closure as claimed in claim 1, further comprising: hinge means connecting the overcap and base.

6. A closure is claimed in claim 4, wherein: the hinge means is defined by a retained portion of the tamper band.

7. A closure as claimed in claim 1, wherein: the base and overcap are made in one piece.

8. A closure as claimed in claim 1, wherein: the nozzle has a base flange adapted to seat in a recess within the base of the outer shell, and wherein the heat sealing foil covers a gap between the base flange and the base.

9. A closure as claimed in claim 1, wherein: the nozzle has a base flange which covers an inner edge of the foil.

10. A closure as claimed in claim 1, made from a plastics material selected from Polyethylene (PE), Polypropylene (PP) including OPP, or compostable plastics grown from crops such as PLA (polylactic acid).

11. A closure as claimed in claim 1, wherein: the nozzle is made of PET.

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD

The present invention relates to drinking fitments or drinking bottle closures of the type known as sports caps or sipper caps that are designed to allow a consumer to drink “on the go” from a container to which the cap is fitted.

Such closures have a base which fits to the neck of a container. The base provides an outer shell to hold a nozzle or mouthpiece that defines a drinking orifice. The mouthpiece is shaped to be received within the consumer's mouth and drinking takes place by a combination of sucking on the mouthpiece and squeezing the bottle.

BACKGROUND ART

There are a number of considerations which are significant in the design of such closures. These include ex-factory sealing and resealing of the container; the cost and weight of the closure and container; the cost, complexity and efficiency of the mould needed to make the closure; coverage of the mouthpiece when not in use; tamper evidence; and littering issues and choking hazards created by small removable parts.

Existing designs of such closures can be classified by the number of parts in the moulding.

The commonest three-part designs have a base which is screwed to the neck of the container and seals to it by means of internal valve. The mouthpiece is a reciprocating nozzle (typically white) that can be pulled upwards to unseal a drinking orifice. Resealing is provided by pushing the nozzle back down. The nozzle therefore acts as both a mouthpiece and pull-up drinking valve. This push-pull design is typically provided with a tear-off overcap or dust cover that is connected to the base by means of a frangible region and provides a domelike cover over the nozzle. Once removed this lightweight cover is discarded. Although this closure can be resealed by the consumer, this leaves the mouthpiece exposed. There are also considerable problems with such closures as consumers tend to open the drinking valve by pulling on it with their teeth. This also encourages consumers to chew the mouthpiece resulting in damage. Because the base can be unscrewed from the cap, the containers are often reused. Reuse of a damaged closure can result in the risk of the nozzle becoming detached and creating a choking hazard.

These closures can be fitted to standard bottlenecks. A tamper evidence band surrounds the bottom of the base in the conventional way. As the container cannot be refilled through the mouthpiece this must be removed in order to allow the container to be re-filled. Tamper evidence systems which lock the base to the neck of the bottle therefore inhibit consumers from reusing the container.

WO WO 03/051734 A (ALTO PLASTICS LIMITED). 2003-06-23. describes a sportscap or sipper cap of this general type which has an induction heat-sealed foil provided across a bottle neck to provide the ex-factory seal instead of a depending valve seal inside the base to seal against the interior of the bottleneck. This reduces the complexity of base moulding but requires a construction to pierce the seal. In this sipper cap the mouthpiece is pushed down to pierce the seal opening the drinking valve.

This first type of closure is relatively heavy and because of its complex design and construction is expensive to produce as three separate mouldings are required and a two-stage assembly step. This design also results in discarded/lost overcaps.

A second type of closure design comes in two parts and has no drinking valve in the mouthpiece but provides a hinged cover with a depending valve formed in its upper surface to engage within an opening in the nozzle to provide sealing and resealing capability. In order to allow the valve to clear the top of the mouthpiece as the cover is closed, a large, flexible hinge is provided. The cover is moulded as a separate component and an assembly step is required. The design must also include a mechanism to allow the parts to be joined so that they cannot be pulled apart. These features make the moulds more expensive and less efficient and increase the cost of the moulded parts. Such a design has been adopted for use on HIGHLAND SPRING® 750 ml PET sportscap bottles which have been distributed since March 2005.

The overcap is secured to the base by a frangible region with a small portion which can be torn off in order to start the tearing process. It is desirable that the small portion should remain attached to the base to prevent littering.

As before, the base has an internal valve and is screwed onto the bottleneck, thus prohibiting any weight savings in the container or closure.

An example of this type of two-part closure in which the cover is moulded in a closed position is shown in

US 2005116382 A (NUSBAUM PHILIPPE (FR); CELERIER YANNICK (FR); LE CAM JEREMY (FR)). 2005-06-02.

or

WO WO 2004/007313 A (BERICAP). 2004-01-22.

In order to simplify the moulding process and allow the use of a single mould, a third type of design with a hinged overcap is moulded in an open position. See for EP 1364886 A (BERICAP). 2003-11-26.

An example of this type of design was used in 2005 on the EVIAN® ACTION 750 ml PET container. The mould is relatively complex and therefore expensive to produce. Since the closure is moulded in the open position a mechanical robot arm is needed to close the closures. This adds to the cycle time of the moulding operation and makes it relatively inefficient. The closure is still screwed to the bottleneck and sealed by a valve. Reliable tamper evidence on the overcap closure is difficult with this type of design. A tear-off strip is provided on the base of the EVIAN® ACTION closure and interlocks with projections on an edge of the overcap in such a way that it prevents opening of the cap without its prior removal by the consumer. However the strip is not physically connected to the overcap as in previous tamper evidence designs. Although it would be difficult to re-engage the parts if the closure were opened without first removing the strip, this could be done with care. The tear-off strip also creates a littering issue.

TECHNICAL PROBLEM

All of the existing designs leave unsolved the technical problem of allowing weight reduction in the container neck. Moreover a large proportion of the weight of the closure is in the bulky base.

It would also be desirable to provide a design that uses a mould that is economical to produce and can operate at high rates while still offering consumers the security of reliable tamper-evidence on the overcap combined with resealability.

TECHNICAL SOLUTION

The present invention accordingly provides a closure for a container comprising an outer shell defining a base adapted to be fitted to a container neck and an overcap which is connected to the base by a removable tamper element; a separate nozzle defining a drinking orifice assembled within the outer shell; and an induction heat-sealing foil; characterised in that the foil is an annulus welded to the base and nozzle; and the overcap has a valve seal depending from an internal surface to engage with and seal the drinking orifice.

The features of the preamble of this claim are described in combination by Alto Plastics Limited above. The advantages of the present invention are best realised by moulding the nozzle separately while keeping the base and overcap in one piece.

Preferably the foil provides means by which the base can be welded to the container neck, but if desired the base may have a standard screw threaded skirt so that it can be used with a conventional container having a PCO neck finish.

Preferably the nozzle carries a valve wall adapted to seat within a container neck. This is particularly advantageous when the sports cap is to be fitted to a container with pressurised contents.

ADVANTAGEOUS EFFECTS

Alto failed to produce a low cost sports cap. By using two simple parts that are easily assembled and held together by the foil sealing step, the invention simultaneously offers solutions to all the design considerations discussed in paragraph [0003] above. By making the base and overcap in one piece, a reliable leak-free seal is ensured without requiring an accurate mould.

Elimination of a screw-threaded base and internal valve seal mean that the base of the closure of the invention is much easier to mould and can be relatively light weight. Further weight savings can be provided by eliminating the screw threaded neck of the container.

The tamper band around the overcap is preferably only partially removable to prevent littering. Since the overcap is preferably retained by hinge means so that the drinking orifice can be resealed, littering issues are minimised.

The sportscap of the invention can be moulded from Polyethylene (PE), Polypropylene (PP) including OPP, or compostable plastics grown from crops such as PLA (polylactic acid). It is also possible to make the nozzle from PET. This is not currently possible with the prior art designs where the nozzles are currently moulded as part of a base. PET is too brittle to remove a base from a mould without rotating the base out of the mould, which costs a lot in capital and cycle time. These material suggestions are not intended to preclude the use of other plastics not listed, or another plastic such as nylon, or PVC or others for the nozzle.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

In order that the invention may be well understood, some embodiments thereof will now be described, by way of example only, with reference to the accompanying diagrammatic drawings in which:

FIG. 1 shows an exploded view of the components of a first embodiment of the closure;

FIG. 2 shows a plan view of the closure of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a vertical cross-section on the line A-A in FIG. 2;

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of the closure after it has been opened;

FIG. 5 is a vertical cross-section through an assembled closure in accordance with a second embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 6 shows an exploded view of the components of the closure of FIG. 5;

FIG. 7 shows a vertical cross-section through an assembled closure in accordance with a third embodiment of the invention; and

FIG. 8 shows a vertical cross-section similar to FIG. 3 of a fourth embodiment of the closure.

BEST MODE FOR CARRYING OUT THE INVENTION

The closure 2 is assembled from an outer shell 4, a mouthpiece nozzle 6, and a foil annulus 8. The closure 2 is assembled to an open neck 10 of a container 12.

The outer shell 4 is moulded as a single element. It is made up of a base 14 that supports an upstanding cylindrical wall 15. An overcap 16 is connected to the wall 15 by means of a removable tamper element 18 placed within a weakened annular join 19 between a top of the wall 15 and a lower edge of the overcap 16. The base 14 has a skirt 20 that is provided with a series of spaced internal projections 22 that enable it to snap fit over an outwardly projecting bead 24 at a rim of a container neck 10.

The skirt 20 depends from an annular base plate 26 which covers an outer part of the opening of the neck 10 and has a central circular opening 30 surrounded by the cylindrical wall 15. A hinge formation 32 permanently connects the cylindrical wall 15 to the overcap 16. The hinge 32 is a strip which extends from beneath the weakened join 19 and merges with a side wall of the overcap 16. The length of the hinge is designed to permit easy opening and closing of the overcap without interference with the nozzle 6.

The tamper element 18 is a removable oval section with a free tab 38. The removable element 18 is joined at a lower edge 36 to the cylindrical wall 15 and at an upper edge 34 to the overcap 16. These joints are provided by means of a frangible region. The tab 38 projects slightly proud of the tamper element to allow the user to pull the tab forward and initiate a tear along the frangible regions. The tab 38 and a released portion of the tamper element 18 can be retained with the base by limiting the extent of the frangible region at edge 34 or 36. Since the shell 4, comprising base 14, wall 15 and overcap 16, is moulded as one piece with the tamper element 18, it is not essential to have great accuracy of moulding as all parts are already connected through a plastics membrane so that there is no possibility of leakage. If the parts have to be fitted together in a leak-free manner, they would need to be moulded with much greater accuracy.

A depending, cylindrical valve seal 42 projects from an internal surface 44 of the overcap 16.

The outer shell can be injection moulded from plastics such as polyethylene (PE), polypropylene(PP) including OPP (Oriented polypropylene—a working-copy PP variant which is clear like PET but a lot cheaper), or compostable plastics grown from crops such as PLA (polylactic acid). If a sports cap which provides a gas barrier is required, then the outer shell can be made of a barrier material.

The nozzle 6 is a separate moulding having a coupling part 50 to engage with the outer shell 4 and a mouthpiece part that defines a drinking orifice 52. The nozzle is hollow. The outer shape of the mouthpiece can be shaped to make it comfortable to engage with the mouth as with prior art mouthpieces. The drinking orifice 52 is shaped to correspond with the valve seal 42 and provide both a primary ex-factory seal and a resealing capability for the closure.

The coupling part 50 is a projecting annular flange 54 that extends from a lower edge of the external wall of the nozzle 6. The flange 54 seats against the base plate 26 with the wall of the nozzle fitting snugly within the cylindrical wall 15. A valve wall (not shown) adapted to seat within a container neck may depend from the outer edge of flange 54. This variation is illustrated in FIG. 7.

The nozzle 6 is preferably made of any of the plastics suggested for the outer shell or PET as the moulding is a simple shape and can easily be removed from the mould despite its brittleness. The nozzle may have a layer of ethylene vinyl alcohol (EVOH) embedded within it. EVOH provides a good gas barrier. However, the nozzle 6 does not need to be made from a barrier material in order to produce a barrier sports cap. It is only essential to have the outer shell 4, that is the base 14, wall 15 and cover 16 made from a barrier material.

An annulus of foil 8 completes the closure 2. The foil annulus is stamped out from a thin sheet of aluminium foil coated on each surface with a plastics coating that is compatible with the plastics of the components to which it is to be welded by induction heat sealing. This is described in the art as double sided induction heat sealing (IHS) foil.

The foil annulus 8 has a circular edge 58 sized to fit within the base plate 26 and possibly also extend partially down an inside of the skirt 20 of the base 14 if it is desired to weld the foil to a side wall of the container as described WO WO 03/062061 A (SPRECKELSEN MCGEOUGH LTD). 2003-07-31.

An opening 60 is stamped out of a circular disc of foil at a position to correspond to the position of the circular opening 30 of the base plate 26.

Assembly

In order to assemble the closure from the moulded outer shell 4 and nozzle as described above, the foil annulus 8 is stamped from a foil sheet and dropped into the base 14 of the inverted outer shell 4. The nozzle 6 is then inserted or dropped through the opening 30 in the base plate 26 of the base 14 of the outer shell 4 until the valve 42 engages with and grips the drinking orifice 52. The foil annulus 8 is then trapped between the flange 50 and the base plate 26 with an outer part of the annulus exposed between an outer edge of the flange 50 and a wall of the skirt 20. The closure is then subjected to induction heating to seal the foil 8 to the base plate 26 and weld the outer shell and nozzle together where the flange 50 overlies the base plate 26. The flange 50 may be thin and designed to be sacrificial and melted over the edge 60 of the foil or, if thicker, must terminate sufficiently short of the skirt 20 in order to enable a neck of the container to be placed in contact with the foil 8 in order to be welded to it. This design eliminates the need to bend a sacrificial wall over the inner edge 60 of the foil as in the second embodiment.

The assembled closure can then be welded to the neck of a bottle by a separate induction heat sealing operation.

While the use of the annulus of foil 8 to seal the nozzle 6 into the base 14 has been described, it will be appreciated that the components could be designed so that the nozzle would snap fit into the base. The foil 8 would then be necessary only for sealing the base to a bottle or other container.

The closure 2, as assembled, is completely sealed and can be supplied to a bottling factory and sterilised prior to assembly to a container. It will be appreciated that the presence of the foil 8 means that the container does not need the normal threaded neck formation as the closure is preferably sealed to the container by a second welding operation. Nevertheless, this closure can be fitted to an unmodified container with an appropriately designed skirt 20. See FIG. 8.

Where the container is intended for pressurised fluids, it may be necessary to provide foil on the skirt 20 in order to weld to a wall of a PET bottle. For PET bottles intended for still water, the weld strength provided by a weld to the bead 24 at the rim of the container may be sufficient.

SECOND EMBODIMENT

A second embodiment of the closure is shown in FIGS. 5 and 6 (wherein like reference numerals are used for like parts). This design is the same as the first embodiment except for the coupling part 50 at the base of the nozzle 6, the base of the outer shell 4 and the method of assembly.

In this embodiment the overcap 16 is connected to the base 14 by means of a tamper band 18. The base 14 has a skirt 20 that terminates in a lip 22 adapted to snap fit over an outwardly projecting bead 24 at a rim of a container neck 10.

The skirt 20 depends from an annular base plate 26 which covers an outer part of the opening of the neck 10. In this embodiment, the plate 26 is stepped to define an internal recess 28. Although an annular base plate of uniform width is illustrated in FIG. 5, it will be appreciated that a circular opening 30 in the base plate that receives the nozzle 6 may be offset to one side so that it is easier for the consumer to reach.

A hinge formation 32 permanently connects the base 14 to the overcap 16. The hinge 32 is a strip which extends from beneath the tamper band 18 and merges with a side wall of the overcap 16. The length of the hinge is designed to permit easy opening and closing of the overcap without interference with the nozzle 6. Offsetting the nozzle away from the hinge 32 also reduces the length of hinge strip required.

The tamper band 18 is connected at each edge 34, 36 to a lower edge of the overcap 16 and the base plate 26 respectively. This connection is provided by means of a frangible region along at least a portion of the edge 34 and at least a portion of the length of the lower edge 36. A tab 38 projects from the tamper band to allow the user to grip the band 18 and initiate a tear along the frangible regions. The tab 38 and a released portion of the tamper band 18 can be retained with the base by limiting the extent of the frangible region at edge 36. This type of retained tamper band is employed in the HIGHLAND SPRING® 750 ml PET sportscap bottles discussed above. However, in that case the base and overcap are moulded as separate parts rather than as an integral outer shell 4 as taught here. When the shell 4, comprising base 14 and overcap 16, is moulded as one piece with the tamper element 18 a much reduced accuracy of moulding is required as all parts are already connected through a plastics membrane so that there is no possibility of leakage. If the parts have to be fitted together in a leak-free manner as required by this prior art, they must be moulded with much greater accuracy.

A peak 40 is provided on the overcap 16 to facilitate reclosure.

The nozzle 6 is as described in the previous embodiment except that the coupling part 50 is a projecting annular flange 54 that extends from an external wall of the nozzle 6 just above its lower edge in order to leave a short sacrificial wall 56 below the flange 54. The flange 54 seats in the recess 28 in the base plate 26 with the wall of the nozzle fitting snugly within the opening 30.

An annulus of foil 8 completes the closure 2 as before. It will be appreciated that if the nozzle is to be offset the foil annulus will not be of uniform width around its circumference.

Assembly of the Second Embodiment

In order to assemble the closure from the moulded outer shell 4 and nozzle as described above, the nozzle 6 is inserted from below through the opening 30 in the base plate 26 of the base 14 of the outer shell 4 until the valve 42 engages with and grips the drinking orifice 52. The foil annulus 8 is stamped from a foil sheet and dropped into the recess defined between the sacrificial wall 56 and skirt 20 thus covering the gap between an edge of flange 54 and the outer shell that would otherwise be difficult to sterilise. The foil 8 is then welded to the closure. The tool that places the foil in the recess also folds sacrificial wall 56 over the edge 60 of the foil opening where the aluminium would otherwise be exposed. When the foil is heated, the plastic of this sacrificial wall 56 melts over the exposed aluminium edge to embed it as described in

WO WO 2005/092728 A (SPRECKELSEN MCGEOUGH LTD). 2005-10-06.

As with the first embodiment, the closure can be sealed to a container in a separate induction heat sealing operation utilising the exposed portion of the foil 8.

THIRD EMBODIMENT

A third embodiment of the closure is shown in FIG. 7 (wherein like reference numerals are used for like parts). This design is similar to the first embodiment except that the nozzle 6 is not centred within the base 14 but offset and a new sealing valve structure is shown on the coupling part 50. An alternative nozzle profile is shown and the overcap has a second outer valve seal 82 concentric with valve seal 42 to engage with an outer surface of the nozzle 6. This embodiment is assembled in the same way as the first embodiment.

The coupling part 50 terminates in a depending valve wall 80 that is designed to push fit into the open neck 10 of the container 12. This is particularly advantageous when the closure is being used on a container containing pressurised contents such as carbonated drinks. In this situation, the pressure will act to force the valve wall 80 against the neck holding the closure in position.

In order to enable the outer shell 4 to be moulded in one piece the opening 30 in the base 14 cannot have a smaller diameter than the inner diameter of the cover 16. It will be appreciated that if the advantages of this simple one piece moulding are foregone, then the outer shell could be moulded in the same way as the EVIAN® ACTION closure described at paragraph [0013] above.

FOURTH EMBODIMENT

The closure of FIG. 8 differs from the first embodiment only in that it is designed to fit in a conventional manner on a standard pre-form PCO neck finish in any of the popular sizes such as 28 mm, 30 mm, 33 mm, 35 mm, 38 mm and 43 mm or 45 mm. The skirt 20 is provided with an internal screw thread 70 to co-operate with the external threads on the standard neck. The lower edge of the skirt 20 may be connected to a tamper evident strip 72 by breakable bridges 74. This embodiment of the closure can be used without the need for any modification of existing bottles.

Variations

Although a separate hinge 32 has been described, it will be possible to create a hinge by retaining part of the tamper band 18 as a permanent connection between the overcap and base.

The tamper element 18 could also be omitted and the lower edge of the overcap 16 joined to the base by a frangible region. The peak 40 would then need to be sufficiently substantial to enable the user to use it to initiate the tearing off of the overcap 16 leaving just a portion of its edge connected to the base to serve as hinge means.

If the closure is to be used on a bottle with an integral gas barrier, it may be desirable to include a foil seal within the area of the valve 42. This can be done by the techniques described

GB 2412368 A (SPRECKELSEN MCGEOUGH LTD). 2005-09-28. 2005.