Title:
PACKAGING A CONTINUOUS LENGTH OF PRODUCTS USING INDEXED LAYERS
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present disclosure provides a method of packaging a continuous length of a product or material in a container using rows or layers that are indexed a pre-determined distance when placed on a previous row or layer. The method permits an end-user to dispense the entire contents of a container with one set-up, and eliminates the need to splice within the box to obtain a continuous supply of the product. The indexed layers form horizontal layers that provide stability and balance to the container while the product or material is dispensed by an end-user. Indexed layers provide a natural separation plane between adjacent layers so that the product or material can be dispensed more quickly. A container that is packaged and filled using indexed rows or layers of a product or material by the method is also disclosed.



Inventors:
Jensen, Ronald (Chicago, IL, US)
Beu, Richard (Yorba Linda, CA, US)
Versteylen, Sayandro (Ontario, CA, US)
Application Number:
12/561717
Publication Date:
03/18/2010
Filing Date:
09/17/2009
Assignee:
PAPER-PAK INDUSTRIES
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
53/473
International Classes:
B65B25/14; B65B63/04
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
TECCO, ANDREW M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
OHLANDT, GREELEY, RUGGIERO & PERLE, LLP (ONE LANDMARK SQUARE, 10TH FLOOR, STAMFORD, CT, 06901, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A method for packaging a continuous length of products in a container comprising: dispensing said products into the container with a dispensing machine to form a first row across a lengthwise dimension; indexing said products by an index distance that is shifted in relation to said first row; dispensing a second row of said products into the container with said dispensing machine to form a partial overlap of said second row along a lengthwise dimension of said first row, wherein said second row is offset in relation to said first row by said index distance; dispensing one or more additional rows of said products into the container, wherein each of said one or more additional rows is offset from an immediate previous row by an index distance, wherein said first row, said second row, and said one or more additional rows of said products form a horizontal layer of said products in the container.

2. The method according to claim 1, wherein said dispensing machine moves back-and-forth across the container for dispensing said first row, said second row, and said one or more additional rows of said products into the container.

3. The method according to claim 1, wherein the container moves back-and-forth under a dispensing machine for dispensing said first row, said second row, and said one or more additional rows of said products into the container.

4. The method according to claim 1, wherein said indexing is performed by shifting said dispensing machine in relation to the container, shifting the container in relation to said dispensing machine, or shifting both said dispensing machine and the container, wherein each row is offset from an earlier row by an amount of said index distance.

5. The method according to claim 1, further comprising: tilting the container or said dispensing machine to assist dispensing of said products into the container.

6. The method according to claim 5, wherein said tilting is by positioning the container or said dispensing machine on a moveable device to move and/or rock the container or said dispensing machine during said dispensing.

7. The method according to claim 1, further comprising: reversing direction of dispensing after said horizontal layer of indexed rows of products reaches a widthwise edge of the container.

8. The method according to claim 1, further comprising: inserting a mechanical device between adjacent rows to press the ends of said first row, second row, and said one or more additional rows closer to the edge of the container to maximize use of space.

9. The method according to claim 1, further comprising: inserting a tamping device to press down the ends of said first row, second row, and said one or more additional rows to flatten in the container to maximize use of space.

10. The method according to claim 1, further comprising repeating said dispensing and said indexing to form a second horizontal layer of indexed rows of products in the container.

11. The method according to claim 8, further comprising repeating said dispensing and said indexing to form three or more horizontal layers of indexed rows of products in the container.

12. The method according to claim 1, wherein the container is filled with a continuous length of products formed into horizontal, indexed layers.

13. The method according to claim 10, wherein the container is filled with a continuous length of products without splicing.

14. The method according to claim 1, wherein the container is a large box that can rest flat upon a pallet.

15. The method according to claim 1, further comprising a tail of said products extending beyond the container as an attachment site for continuous feed of said products.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 61/097,865, filed on Sep. 17, 2008, which is incorporated by reference herein.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of Invention

The present disclosure provides a method of packaging a continuous length of a product or material in a container using rows or layers that are indexed (offset) a pre-determined distance when placed on a previous row or layer, and a package or container filled with indexed rows or layers by the present method.

2. Description of the Related Art

Continuous lengths of a material or of a finished product, such as an absorbent pad, can be easily packaged and shipped to end-users in a container (such as a large box) or by winding on a roll.

There are advantages to packaging a product in a box as compared with a roll. For example, a large box filled with products can be easily stored and shipped to the end-user because a box fits on a pallet and stacks more easily, with less wasted space, as compared with a large roll. Also, a large box generally can contain more linear feet of a continuous length of a product as compared with a similarly-sized roll, and thus requires fewer set-ups by the end-user, and less down time.

In addition, a box or other flat-bottomed container can be placed on the ground or on a table while the end-user is unloading the product, rather than being lifted onto a spindle or rod, as must be done for a large roll, thereby reducing the risk of accident or of “telescoping” if the large roll is mishandled or improperly loaded onto the spindle.

However, packaging a continuous length of a product or material into a box by conventional methods has disadvantages that can limit its practicality. Conventional packaging techniques for continuous lengths of a product or material, such as “fan folding,” operate by dispensing layer upon layer of the product, back and forth, thereby forming several stacks or “lanes” of the product in the box. Using such techniques, when a first “lane” of the product reaches the top height of the container, the product is cut, and a new stack of the product is started immediately adjacent to the first stack, at the bottom of the box. The new stack is built, as the first, by folding layer upon layer of the product, back and forth, until a second stack is formed up to the top of the box, and so on. The process continues in this manner until the entire interior volume of the box is filled by multiple vertical stacks or lanes of a product, where these stacks are aligned and adjacent, but not connected, to each other.

However, a box or other container that is filed by laying in multiple stacks or lanes of a product has disadvantages that make it inefficient and impractical for an end-user. Because each of the stacks in the box are unconnected with the next stack, the manufacturer or end user has to splice the tail of each stack with the head of the adjacent stack; otherwise, the dispensing machine has to be re-threaded with the product as each individual stack is depleted. From a practical point of view, splicing the tail of one stack to the head of an adjacent stack has the disadvantage that the tail of one row is located at the bottom of the box, and the head of the adjacent stack is at the top of the box.

Another drawback of such conventional packaging techniques is that, as the end-user begins to deplete the contents of the box, the box can become unbalanced and unstable. Also, as each stack is used up by the end-user, the remaining stacks of the product can fall over into the empty portions of the box after enough stacks are depleted, particularly when the box itself has become unbalanced midway through use. Some have tried to prevent the remaining stacks from falling over into the empty part of the box by placing a physical divider between each of the stacks or lanes. However, dividers can interfere with smooth, continuous uptake of a product from the box, particularly if the end-user has spliced together adjacent lanes for a continuous feed. Also, dividers reduce the amount of space available to package the product or material.

Also, conventional techniques have the problem that, as one stack is being unloaded by machine, the motion of pulling one stack of the product out of the container can cause the adjacent row to fall over, causing the box to become unbalanced and adding to the difficulties in dispensing the next row.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present disclosure provides a method of packaging a continuous length of a product or material in a container that forms “indexed” rows or layers of the product or material in the container, such that each row or layer dispensed into the container is slightly offset or shifted (i.e., “indexed”) in relation to the previous row or layer to partially overlap the previous layer. As additional rows of a product or material continue to be dispensed into the container, the indexed rows form horizontal layers that fill the container.

The present disclosure also provides a container or package that is filled by the present method with a continuous length or strip of a product or material in indexed rows that form horizontal layers.

The indexed rows of the present method are placed in the container by a dispenser (dispensing device) that lays a first row of a product or a material into a container on its bottom surface. After the first row of material reaches an opposite edge of the container from the starting edge, the dispensing device reverses direction, folding the product or material over, and begins to place down a second row of product or material that partially overlaps the first row, but in an opposite (reciprocal) direction. The second row is offset (indexed) in relation to the first row by a certain distance, called an index distance. The index distance can be caused by moving the dispensing device, moving the container, or by a combination of both.

The above method is repeated for a third row, fourth row, and so on, so that there is a plurality of rows of product or material dispensed into the container, with each successive row of product or material placed in the reverse direction in relation to the previous row, and offset therefrom by an index distance. The successive rows form a first horizontal layer that extends from one end to an opposite end of the container. After the first horizontal layer is formed, the dispensing device continues to dispense successive rows of the product or material in the opposite direction (toward the opposite end of the container) to form a second horizontal layer. This is repeated until the container is filled to a desired height, weight, or amount of the product or material. A container can, if desired, be filled by this method with a single, continuous length of products or materials.

Movement of the dispensing machine and/or the container while the product or method is being dispensed therein can improve the speed and efficiency of the present method. The container can be positioned on a mechanical device that can tilt or rock the container in any direction. Tilting the container as the row of the product or material approaches each edge and end of the container assists the folding of the product or material close to each edge, thereby maximizing the use of space therein. Optionally, an inserted mechanical device or burst of compressed air that exerts a force against the product or material as it folds pushes the fold closer to the edge of the container, to maximize the use of space in the container.

Likewise, after the container has been shipped to an end-user, tilting and/or moving the container can increase the speed and efficiency by which the product or material is removed from the container for use.

The present method permits a single, continuous length of a product or material to be dispensed into a container. This permits a very large amount of the product or material to be placed within a container, and also permits an end-user to remove the product or material from the container as a continuous feed requiring a single set-up, thereby reducing down time and inconvenience.

The product or material is dispensed into the container in successive rows that are indexed in relation to the previous row to form horizontal layers, which provides stability and safety as the container is being filled, and later when the product or material is removed from the container for use by the end-user. The present method provides a natural separation plane between adjacent rows, permitting the product or material to be dispensed by an end-user quickly and cleanly, and eliminating the need for physical dividers used in conventional techniques to prevent stacks from shifting or falling in the container when a portion has been removed by an end-user. The present method also eliminates the need for splices of the products or material within a container.

A container that is packaged by the present method also has advantages over a large roll. A container of the present disclosure can be filled with a larger amount of a continuous length of products or materials than a large roll. A container of the present disclosure rests solidly on a pallet, and so is safer and easier to transport than a large roll. Also, a container packaged by the present method can be placed on a floor or table for unloading as a continuous feed by an end-user, which avoids the need to load a large roll onto a spindle for use.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1A is a perspective view of an exemplary embodiment of the present disclosure illustrating a container (shown as a box resting on a pallet) that is being filled with a continuous length of a product or material by the present method.

FIG. 1B is a magnified section of the product or material being placed in the container by the embodiment of the method in FIG. 1A, showing a second row of a product or material that is indexed a certain distance in relation to a first row of the product.

FIG. 2 is a cross-sectional side view of the container being filled from a dispensing device by the embodiment of the method in FIG. 1A.

FIG. 3 is a plan view of the container filled by the embodiment of the method in FIG. 1A, showing a container having a horizontal layer of indexed rows of a product or material.

FIG. 4A, FIG. 4B, and FIG. 4C are plan views that illustrate a sequence of steps for placing indexed rows of a product or material in a container by the method of the present disclosure. Specifically, FIG. 4A illustrates a first row of a product or material being laid in a container. FIG. 4B illustrates a second row of the same material being laid in the container in an opposite direction from the first row that is indexed (offset) a certain distance in relation to the first row, such that the first row and second row partially overlap. FIG. 4C illustrates a third row of the same product or material being laid in the container in an opposite direction of the second row that is indexed (offset) in relation to the second row.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Referring to the drawings and, in particular, FIG. 1A and FIG. 1B, there is illustrated an embodiment of a method for dispensing a continuous length of a product or material 12 into a container 10 by dispensing a plurality of rows or layers 20 in container 10 that are each indexed (offset) from the previous row by a certain distance. The plurality of rows form a first horizontal layer, second horizontal layer, and so on until container 10 is filled to a desired height, weight, or quantity of product or material 12. A dispensing device 14 can be used to dispense the plurality of rows of product or material 12 into container 10. Alternatively, product or material 12 can be placed in container 10 by hand. The plurality of rows are a continuous length of product or material 12.

As shown in FIG. 1A and FIG. 1B, indexed rows 20 are formed by dispensing a first row 22 of product or material 12 into container 10 by dispensing device 14, starting at a first edge 13 located in container 10. Alternatively, first row 22 can start at any position on the bottom of container 10. After first row 22 is dispensed into container 10 and reaches an opposite edge 15 (in relation to starting edge 13), dispensing device 14 reverses direction, thereby folding product or material 12 over to produce a fold 23. Dispensing device 14 then dispenses a second row 24 of product or material 12 into container 10 that partially overlaps first row 22 but is indexed (shifted) in relation to first row 22 by an certain distance that is called an index distance 28, as illustrated in FIG. 1B, and in FIGS. 4A and 4B.

When second row 24 is placed by dispensing device 14 and reaches edge 13 of container 10, dispensing device 14 reverses direction again, thereby folding product or material 12, and starting a third row 26 of product or material 12 that partially overlaps second row 24 but is indexed (shifted) by index distance 28 relative to second row 24 away from first row 22. This is also illustrated in FIGS. 4B and 4C.

Dispensing device 14 (also called “dispenser” herein) is a device that can transfer a product or material 12 from an external storage source (not shown) into the interior space of container 10. An example of dispensing device 14 is a gantry. Alternatively, products or material 12 can be placed into container 10 “by hand,” as long as successive rows are indexed in relation to the previous row.

Further steps may be taken to increase the amount of product or material 12 that can be dispensed into container 10. To help anchor first row 22 to container 10, a portion of first row 22 can be fastened or adhered to container 10 with a fastener such as, but not limited to, glue, tape, and hook-and-eye devices such as VELCRO®.

A mechanical device, such as a “fork” (not shown) can be inserted into fold 23 to press and force fold 23 as close as possible to edge 13, 15 of container 10, in order to provide a maximum “footprint” of product or material 12 in container 10. Alternatively, a device that provides a burst of compressed air can be used to accomplish this. For instance, with reference to FIG. 1B, a fork or similar device could be inserted between first row 22 and second row 24 to press fold 23 toward edge 15. Pressing a fold toward an edge is particularly useful when product or material 12 is thick or stiff and the row would otherwise end some distance from edge 13, 15.

As illustrated in FIG. 1B, first row 22 and second row 24 are offset or displaced in relation to each other by index distance 28. In the particular exemplary embodiment in FIG. 1B, index distance 28 is shown as ½″; however, index distance 28 can be any amount or distance that is less than an extant (usually width) of product or material 12, as long as there is a partial overlap between two adjacent rows. Index distance 28 depends on the dimensions and characteristics of product or material 12 being dispensed into container 10. Typically, index distance 28 can be from about five-hundredths of an inch (0.05″) to about ten inches (10″). Index distance 28 is preferably from about one-tenth of an inch (0.10″) to about five inches (5″), and more preferably from about one-fifth of an inch (0.20″) to about two inches (2″). Index distance 28 can be identical between successive adjacent rows (e.g., index distance 28 between first row 22 and second row 24 would be identical to index distance 28 between second row 24 and third row 26), or can have an index distance 28 that varies among successive rows. Index distance 28, when not a uniform amount, can vary according to a fixed ratio among rows or can vary randomly. For example, index distance 28 can be made to vary among successive rows according to a certain ratio (e.g., a ratio of 1:3, where index distance 28 is ¼″ between first row 22 and second row 24, and is ¾″ between second row 24 and third row 26, and is ¼″ between third row 26 and a fourth row, and so on). The physical characteristics of product or material 12, such as its thickness, stiffness, coefficient of friction, can affect the choice of index distance 28 between rows.

The offset of adjacent rows, such as between first row 22 and second row 24, is created by a movement by dispensing device 14, or by a movement of container 10, and/or by a combination of both, that displaces the row of the product or material 12 being dispensed into container 10 by a specified amount from the previous row. As illustrated in FIG. 1A and FIG. 1B, second row 24 is dispensed into container 10 so as to partially overlap first row 22 (in an opposite or reciprocal direction in this exemplary embodiment), but is offset from first row 22 by index distance 28. Such movement of dispensing device 14 and/or container 10 is repeated for a plurality of rows of the product or material 12, with each new row placed in an opposite direction, and indexed, in relation to the previous row. Such indexed rows form a first horizontal layer of product or material 12 that extends from end 17 to end 19 of container 10. After completion of a first horizontal layer, the process is repeated toward the opposite direction to form a second horizontal layer from end 19 to end 17. This continues until container 10 is filled with horizontal layers of product or material 12 up to a desired height, weight, or quantity. This method can be used to dispense a single, continuous length of a product or material 12 into container 10; or, alternatively, to dispense more than one length of product or material 12 in container 10.

An advantage to creating the offset among rows by moving dispensing device 14 is that the dispensing device may be lighter (or at least is a consistent weight) and more maneuverable than container 10, which can vary considerably in weight as the container fills. However, placing container 10 on a mechanical device, such as one or more cams, that permits container 10 to be easily tilted, rocked, and moved, can also be used to create the offset among successive rows. For example, dispensing device 14 can move straight back and forth, while container 10 shifts a certain distance to create index distance 28 between adjacent rows. In addition, combining movement of dispensing device 14 and container 10 can be an aid to efficient dispensing of products or materials into container 10 by the present method. The movements can achieve different ends: container 10 can be tilted at the end of placing each row into the container, to help the rows fall all the way toward edges 13, 15, thereby providing maximum use of space in container 10, while dispensing device 14 is moved a certain distance to create the proper offset between successive rows.

Referring to FIG. 2, dispensing device 14 dispenses a plurality of rows of a continuous length of a product or material 12 into container 10 (in this exemplary embodiment, container 10 is shown as a large box). Arrows above container 10 indicate that dispensing device 14 can move in any direction as each row is laid into container 10. Movement of dispensing device 14 can assist placement of product or material 12 so that the row reaches all the way to an edge or wall of container 10, using as much of the available space within container 10 as possible. The arrows in FIG. 2 also indicate that container 10 may be tilted, rocked, or moved in any direction so that indexed rows 20 can extend as close as possible to edges 13, 15 of container 10.

For example, container 10, such as a box, can be tilted from a neutral level position by movement of the cams so that the upper edge of container 10 is between about 1 to about 70 degrees above or below neutral position, and preferably between about 5 to about 45 degrees from neutral position. After a row of product or material 12 is placed in container 10, and dispensing device 14 reverses direction and begins to place the next row of product or material 12 in an opposite direction in relation to the previous row, container 10 returns to a neutral position, and then tilts toward the opposite side just as the new row approaches the opposite edge of container 10, helping to extend the new row closer to the edge of container 10.

Referring to FIG. 3, container 10 is shown as partially filled with product or material 12 by dispensing device 14 by the present method. Transverse lines 30 are marks or perforations in product or material 12 that correspond to individual sections of product or material 12, in the continuous length of product or material 12. As an example, transverse lines 30 in FIG. 3 can illustrate the size of individual absorbent food pads that are connected and packaged in container 10 as a continuous length of hundreds of absorbent food pads, that will eventually be dispensed in a continuous feed by an end-user and cut at transverse marks or perforation 30, so that a single absorbent food pad is placed in a food tray. Arrows above and to the side of container 10 indicate that dispensing device 14 and/or container 10 can be moved, tilted or rocked in any direction to assist placement of the indexed rows in the box to maximize use of space in container 10.

An “end-user” is a customer or employee who uses and consumes product or material 12 that has been previously packaged in container 10 for its intended use; that is, one who removes product or material 12 from container 10.

Likewise, when product or material 12 is being removed from container 10 by an end-user, container 10 can be advantageously placed on a moveable device, including one or more cams, that permit container 10 to be moved and/or rocked back and forth to assist removing product or material 12 from container 10.

FIGS. 4A through 4C illustrate an exemplary embodiment of the present method to placing rows 20 of product or material 12 in container 10. FIG. 4A illustrates laying a first row 22 of a product or material 12 along the bottom of container 10, starting at the edge marked A1 and going to edge A2.

Referring to FIG. 4B, after first row 22 reaches edge A2, the dispensing device reverses direction and places down a second row 24 of the same product or material 12 in container 10 in an opposite (reciprocal) direction from first row 22, that is, from the edge marked A2′ to edge A1′. However, as shown in FIG. 4B, second row 24 does not completely overlay first row 22, but rather overlaps only a part of first row 22. The amount that the first row 22 and second row 24 are offset in relation to each other is index distance 28.

Referring to FIG. 4C, the method continues as a third row 26 of the same product or material 12 is placed in container 10 in an opposite (or reciprocal) direction on second row 24, i.e., from the edge marked A1″ to edge A2″, but third row 26 is displaced or offset from second row 24 by an index distance 28, such that second row 24 and third row 26 partially overlap, but not entirely.

The process shown in FIG. 4A through FIG. 4C illustrate a pattern by which three rows of product or material 12 are placed into container 10 by an embodiment of the present method. The method continues in this same way, along the direction indicated by the large arrow underneath each of FIGS. 4A-4C, with successive rows (fourth row, fifth row, and higher, not shown) being placed in container 10 such that the entire bottom of the container is covered with product or material 12, from first end A1/A2 to opposite (second) end B1/B2. The successive rows 22, 24, 26, and higher (not shown) thereby form a first horizontal layer. In the exemplary embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 4A to 4C, the first row 22, second row 24, and third row 26, each of which is indexed in relation to the next-previous row, together comprise a portion of one horizontal layer in container 10.

When each horizontal row of a product or material 12 is placed in container 10—for instance, when a row is laid between along end B1/B2 in FIG. 4C—the method proceeds in the same manner as before but in the opposite direction, placing successive rows of a product or material 12 from end B1/B2 toward end A1/A2, each row of which is offset or displaced from the next-earlier row by an index distance 28. In this way, a second horizontal layer of product or material 12 is placed over the first horizontal layer in container 10.

Once the second horizontal row is completed (i.e., when the row of product or material 12 reaches end A1/A2), the method begins a third horizontal row in the opposite direction, laying down rows of a product or material 12 from A1/A2 to B1/B2, to form a third horizontal layer that rests on the second horizontal layer and first horizontal layer. A plurality of horizontal layers is laid in container 10 until container 10 is filled to a desired height, weight, or number of units of the product or material 12.

Although FIGS. 4A to 4C show an exemplary embodiment of rows laid in patterns of first row from A1 to A2, then a second row from A2′ to A1′ and a third row A1″ to A2″, a variety of other patterns to lay down the rows of a product or material 12 can also used. Using the same identifiers as used in FIGS. 4A to 4C, the product or material 12 can be laid down in a pattern that starts around the perimeter of container 10 (A1 to A2, A2 to B2, B2 to B1, B1 to A1—in a “box” pattern), and then adds a second layer of product or material 12 that is indexed (offset) a desired distance from the first layer, following the same pattern. Other patterns, such as cross-hatching (A1/A2 to B1/B2, followed by zig-zag patterns A1 to B2, B2 to A2, A2 to B1, B1 to A1) are also possible in the present method, depending on the shape, thickness, and stiffness of the product or material 12, as long as successive rows are indexed (offset) a certain distance from the previous row to provide a partial overlap.

The product or material 12 can be a single continuous strip among first row 22, second row 24, third row 26, and all subsequent rows, until container 10 is filled, thereby producing a container 10 that is packaged with a continuous length or strip of a product or material 12. Alternatively, a cut or break in product or material 12 can be made by the manufacturer when a desired length of material is reached; for example, after a certain number of linear feet have been packaged. In this way, two or more lengths of a strip of a product or material 12 can be placed in container 10.

Although product or material 12 is continuous, there can be perforations or cut-lines on product or material 12 to assist the end-user to identify individual products, as illustrated in FIG. 3 by transverse lines 30.

The preceding disclosure refers to a single pass of a continuous material as a “row,” but the same could also be referred to as a “layer.” Thus, the present method comprises a method of packaging a container 10 using a series of passes of dispensing device 14 to place indexed layers of a product or material 12 in container 10 that are each offset or shifted in relation to an underlying layer by a certain index distance 28, so that the individual layers partially overlap to form indexed layers. A series (or set) of such indexed layers across a level of container 10 forms a horizontal layer. Horizontal layers are formed in this manner to fill container 10 with a desired amount of the product or material 12.

A container or package 10 that is filled by the present method with a continuous length or strip of product or material 12 in indexed rows or layers is also provided. Container 10 can be a large box, or any container that is able to hold a large quantity of a product or material. Container 10 can be made of any material, including, but not limited to, cardboard, wood, metal, paper, plastic, composite, or polymer. Container 10 preferably has dimensions of about forty inches (40″) by about forty-eight inches (48″) by about forty-six inches (46″), in order to fit easily on a pallet. However, container 10 can be of any dimension that permits indexed rows or layers of product or material 12 to be packaged therein by the present method.

The present method can be used for packaging and dispensing a variety of products or materials, including products or materials that are fibrous materials, such as fabrics and non-wovens. The present methods for packaging can also be used for packaging and/or dispensing finished products, including products that can be dispensed as a continuous piece and cut by the end-user, such as absorbent food pads and/or other absorbent articles. The product or materials 12 that are packaged by the present method are typically uniform in thickness, size, and/or texture, but the present method would also work where the product or material 12 had varied parameters at various locations in its continuous length, as long as the successive rows could be placed in indexed rows in container 10.

As an example, a continuous length of absorbent food pads of more than 21,000 linear feet can be packaged in container 10 by the present method as a single, continuous length, with marks or perforations to indicate the individual food pads. To remove the absorbent food pads from container 10 that were placed therein using the present method, an end-user is able to set up the packaged container one time to permit all of the absorbent food pads to be dispensed continuously and quickly from container 10. The absorbent food pads, in this example, can be cut (or separated along pre-made perforations) to a desired size to fit in a food tray as they are dispensed.

The present method for packaging a product or material 12 in container 10 offers the following advantages over the same product or material 12 packaged on a large roll. A roll does not hold as many linear feet of product or material 12 as can be packaged in container 10 by the present method. Also, a roll is more difficult for an end-user to load, as a roll must be lifted onto a spindle before product or material 12 could be dispensed. Also, a large roll requires more space for shipping, with more wasted space between rolls, as compared with container 10. Also, container 10 fits on a pallet and so can be more easily transported than a roll.

The present method also offers several other advantages over conventional packaging techniques that places long strips of products or material in a container. Conventional packaging techniques lay successive rows of product or material to form a series of stacks or “lanes” in the container, which can cause the container to become unstable during the dispensing process as the stacks are depleted, and risks having the remaining stacks fall over into the interior of the container that is vacated during the dispensing process. By comparison, the horizontal layers formed by the present method can be dispensed by an end-user without causing instability of the container 10, as the product or material 12 is dispensed evenly from the length and width of the entire container. Also, conventional packaging techniques do not permit an entire container to be dispensed as a single, continuous feed unless the adjacent lanes are spliced together. By contrast, the present method permits all of product or material 12 in container 10 to be dispensed as a single, continuous length (if desired), without splicing. The present method also avoids the need to place dividers between the vertical stacks or lanes that are formed by conventional packaging techniques. By comparison, the horizontal layers formed by the present method offer the advantages of stability when removing product or material 12 from container 10, eliminate the need to use dividers, and maximize the use of space within container 10, thereby providing an end-user with greater safety and speed when removing product or material 12 from container 10.

Each container that is packaged or filled by the present method can have a “tail” of product or material 12. The tail can extend outside of container 10 or can be contained inside of it. If desired, a tail from a first container can be connected to a tail in a second container, to further increase the efficiency of the method to dispense a continuous feed of product or material 12 from the first and second container with a single set-up.

Although various illustrative and representative embodiments have been described herein, other modifications and configurations are available and are to be considered as being within the scope of the present disclosure.