Title:
Plastic container having a flexible section and method of manufacture
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A plastic container and method of making the container. The container comprises a rigid section, a collapsible section, and an outlet provided in the rigid section for allowing the dispensing of a liquid within the container, the rigid section providing rigid support for the container when the container is filled with a liquid.



Inventors:
Ralph Jr., Piccinino L. (Rush, NY, US)
Corby, Kenneth D. (Rochester, NY, US)
Application Number:
10/269430
Publication Date:
04/15/2004
Filing Date:
10/11/2002
Assignee:
Eastman Kodak Company
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
222/95, 222/107, 222/94
International Classes:
B65D77/06; B65D83/00; (IPC1-7): B65D35/22
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
CARTAGENA, MELVIN A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Milton S. Sales (Rochester, NY, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. A plastic container having a rigid section, a collapsible section, and an outlet provided in said rigid section for allowing the dispensing of a liquid within said container, said rigid section providing rigid support for said container when said container is filled with a liquid.

2. A plastic container according to claim 1 wherein a liquid stored in said container is dispensed by gravity feed through said outlet.

3. A plastic container according to claim 1 wherein a liquid stored in said container is dispensed by pumping said liquid through said outlet.

4. A plastic container according to claim 1 wherein a liquid contained in said container is dispensed by applying a pressure to said collapsible section so as to force liquid out of said outlet.

5. A plastic container according to claim 1 wherein said rigid section forms a bottom support wall.

6. A plastic container according to claim 5 wherein said bottom support wall is configured such that said outlet is provided at the lowest drainage point when in the dispensing position.

7. A plastic container according to claim 1 wherein said rigid section comprises about one half or greater than the size of the film container.

8. A plastic container according to claim 1 wherein said collapsible section has a configuration that is a substantially a mirror image of the shape of said rigid section.

9. A plastic container according to claim 1 wherein said collapsible section collapses into said rigid section as a result of liquid being dispensed from said container.

10. A plastic container according to claim 1 wherein said rigid section is made up of a low density.

11. A plastic container according to claim 5 wherein said bottom wall is provided with at least one supporting rib so as to provide rigidity to said rigid section.

12. A plastic container according to claim 1 wherein said rigid section terminates in an outer peripheral edge where said collapsible section is secured.

13. A plastic container according to claim 12 wherein said collapsible section is thermally bonded or any other bonding technique known in the industry to said peripheral edge.

14. A plastic container according to claim 12 wherein said collapsible section is adhesively bonded.

15. A plastic container according to claim 1 wherein said collapsible section is made up of a low density polyethylene and has a thickness no greater than about 3 mm preferably in a range of 1.5-3 mm.

16. A package assembly comprising: a plastic container having a rigid section, a collapsible section, and an outlet provided in said rigid section for allowing the dispensing of a liquid within container, said rigid section providing rigid support for said container when said container is filled with a liquid; a rigid support structure having an internal chamber for receiving said plastic container and an opening for receiving said outlet provided on said plastic container for allowing the dispensing of liquid therethrough.

17. A package assembly according to claim 16 wherein a plurality of said chambers are provided in said rigid support structure, each chamber designed to receive one of said plastic containers.

18. A container assembly according to claim 16 wherein said rigid support structure having a top wall that is signed to be substantially adjacent to the top of said rigid section and a bottom wall designed to be adjacent to a bottom wall of said rigid section and a side wall being positioned substantially adjacent said side wall of said rigid section.

19. A method of manufacturing a plastic container having a rigid section, a collapsible section, and an outlet provided in said rigid section for allowing the dispensing of a liquid within container, said rigid section providing rigid support for said container when said container is filled with a liquid, comprising the steps of: providing a plastic rigid section in a supporting mold segment, said rigid plastic section having an outlet and a peripheral outer edge that terminates in a ledge, said rigid section comprising approximately half of the configuration of said container; providing a thermoform sheet that covers said peripheral ledge; applying a sufficient amount of force to said thermoform sheet so as to cause said thermoform sheet to be drawn within the internal configuration of said rigid section while the edge of said sheet is maintained in firm contact with said ledge; and securing the outer periphery of said thermoform sheet to said ledge.

20. A method according to claim 19 wherein said thermoform sheet is heated at a temperature to assist in allowing said sheet to be drawn within the internal cavity of said rigid section.

21. A method according to claim 20 wherein said thermoform sheet has a melting temperature lower than the melting temperature of said rigid section.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0001] The present invention is directed to a plastic container having a collapsible section designed for allowing improved delivery of a liquid contained therein. The container is particularly useful in an environment where no vending of the container is desired and where contamination or exposure to air of the liquid is detrimental.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] There are many situations when the dispensing of a liquid from a container must be done in a manner so as to avoid any potential contamination of the liquid and where liquid contained must not be exposed to the external environment of the container. In a photographic processor, it is often necessary to dispense a processing solution for replenishing the processing solution within a processing chamber. The processing solution may be for example, a developer solution, that deteriorates quickly if exposed to the outside air or environment. The exposure to air becomes even more of a problem when certain types of processing solutions are used for rapid processing of the photosensitive media.

[0003] Typically in a conventional photographic processor the replenishment is dumped into a mixing tank and is later delivered to the processing tank at the appropriate time. This results in a relatively long exposure of the processing liquid to air. In other systems, such as where the processing chemistry is supplied in rigid plastic containers/bottles, often in a package containing a plurality of rigid containers. Since there is typically no venting of the container, pumps are required for dispensing of the liquid contained therein.

[0004] There is also a need in the prior art to provide a container and system for delivery of the system in a reliable manner. Quite often, there are required special mechanisms and devices for securely holding the container in position for proper dispensing of the liquid contained therein.

[0005] Applicants have invented an improved container that dispenses processing solution in an efficient manner while minimizing or avoiding any potential contamination or premature oxidation of the liquid contained therein.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0006] In accordance with one aspect of the present invention there is provided a plastic container having a rigid section, a collapsible section, and an outlet provided in the rigid section for allowing the dispensing of a liquid within the container, the rigid section providing rigid support for the container when the container is filled with a liquid.

[0007] In accordance with another aspect of the present invention there is provided a package assembly comprising:

[0008] a plastic container having a rigid section, a collapsible section, and an outlet provided in the rigid section for allowing the dispensing of a liquid within container, the rigid section providing rigid support for the container when the container is filled with a liquid;

[0009] a rigid support structure having an internal chamber for receiving the plastic container and an opening for receiving the outlet provided on the plastic container for allowing the dispensing of liquid therethrough.

[0010] In accordance with yet another aspect of the present invention there is provided a method of manufacturing a plastic container having a rigid section, a collapsible section, and an outlet provided in the rigid section for allowing the dispensing of a liquid within the container, the rigid section providing rigid support for the container when the container is filled with a liquid, comprising the steps of:

[0011] providing a plastic rigid section in a supporting mold segment, the rigid plastic section having an outlet and a peripheral outer edge that terminates in a ledge, the rigid section comprising approximately half of the configuration of the container;

[0012] providing a thermoform sheet that covers the peripheral ledge;

[0013] applying a sufficient amount of force to the thermoform sheet so as to cause the thermoform sheet to be drawn within the internal configuration of the rigid section while the edge of the sheet is maintained in firm contact with the ledge; and

[0014] securing the outer periphery of the thermoform sheet to the ledge.

[0015] These and other aspects, objects, features and advantages of the present invention will be more clearly understood and appreciated from a review of the following detailed description of the preferred embodiments and appended claims and by reference to the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0016] In the detailed description of the preferred embodiments of the invention presented below, reference is made to the accompanying drawings in which:

[0017] FIG. 1 illustrates a perspective view of a container made in accordance with the present invention;

[0018] FIG. 2 is an exploded perspective view of the container of FIG. 1 illustrating the two sections of the container;

[0019] FIG. 3 illustrates a cross sectional view of the container of FIGS. 1 and 2 in the dispensing position that is filled with a liquid to be dispensed;

[0020] FIG. 4 is a view similar to FIG. 3 illustrating the container after the liquid contained therein has been fully dispensed;

[0021] FIG. 5a is a perspective view of a package containing a plurality of containers of the type of FIG. 1 made in accordance with the present invention;

[0022] FIG. 5b is a top plan view of FIG. 5a;

[0023] FIG. 5c is a cross section view of the package of FIG. 5b as taken along line 5-5;

[0024] FIG. 5d is an exploded view of the package and containers of FIG. 5a;

[0025] FIG. 6 is a cross-sectional view of the package and containers of FIG. 5c illustrating the package in the preferred dispensing position;

[0026] FIG. 7a is a cross section view of one mold apparatus for making the container of FIGS. 1-4 illustrating the first step in producing the two part container;

[0027] FIG. 7b is a view similar to FIG. 7a illustrating the container as fully formed in the mold apparatus; and

[0028] FIG. 8 is a schematic view of a processing apparatus incorporating a container of FIGS. 1-4.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

[0029] Referring to FIGS. 1-4, there is illustrated a plastic container 10 made in accordance with the present invention. The plastic container 10 comprises a rigid section 12 and a flexible collapsible section 14 integrally formed therewith. The rigid section includes an outlet 16 through which a liquid 18 may be placed into the container and/or dispensed at a later time. The rigid section 12 is designed such that a sufficient degree of support is provided to the container 10 such that it does not collapse and is able to support the container 10 and the liquid 18 contained therein. Whereas the flexible collapsible section 14 is designed to hold and assist in containing the liquid 18 within the container 10 and which is also designed to collapse during dispensing of a liquid 18.

[0030] FIG. 3 illustrates the container 10 in the filled and preferred dispensing position. It is to be understood that any type of liquid 18 may be provided in container 10. In the particular embodiment illustrated, the container 10 is designed to be used with a photographic processor and thus contains a photographic processing chemical, for example, but not limited to developer solution, bleach solution, bleach fix solution, fix solution, etc.

[0031] The rigid section 12 includes a base section 20 which in the preferred embodiment illustrated is tapered toward the outlet 16 such that the outlet 16 is located at the lowest point of the base section 20. Preferably the base section 20 when in the dispensing position is positioned at an angle α with respect to the horizon to allow easy flow of the liquid to outlet 16. In the particular embodiment illustrated, the angle α is preferably in the range of less 1° to 5°. However, it is to be understood that angle α may be at any appropriate angle so long as the liquid freely flows toward outlet 16. The rigid section 12 also has an upstanding support portion 22 which preferably extends to the maximum height H of the container 10 and extends the round for approximately half of the periphery of container 10. The upstanding portion 22 preferably has a substantially zero height at its lateral ends 17, 19 where it meets base section 20. Preferably rigid section 16 has a height H that extends along the cross sectional periphery of at least ¼ of the periphery. Since the container 10 in the embodiment illustrated is substantially rectangular, the height H extends along one of the sides of the container.

[0032] The outer end 21 of the rigid section 12 preferably terminates in a peripheral flange 24 to which the flexible collapsible section 14 is secured. The rigid section 12 may be made out of any appropriate plastic and is of a construction design that it can support the liquid contained therein. In a particular embodiment illustrated, container 10 is designed to hold approximately 1.5 liters and rigid section is made out of LLDPE (Linear Low Density Polyethlyene) plastic having a thickness T of about 2-3 mm. Since the rigid section 12 may contain a fairly large amount of liquid optional supporting ribs 30 may be provided along the base section 20 as illustrated by FIG. 5. In the particular embodiment illustrated, four supporting ribs 30 are provided. However, it should be understood that any appropriate desired number of supporting ribs may be provided as needed or desired. The size and shape of the ribs will vary depending on the size of container 10 and the material from which the base section is made.

[0033] The flexible collapsible section 14 is designed to be of sufficient strength to hold the liquid 18 within container 10, yet be of sufficient flexibility such that when the liquid 18 is withdrawn from container 10 the section 14 will collapse to the position as illustrated in FIG. 4. In the particular embodiment illustrated, the flexible collapsible section 14 has a configuration that is substantially the mirror configuration of the rigid section 12 such that when it collapses it substantially conforms to the inner configuration of the rigid section 12. In the particular embodiment illustrated, the flexible collapsible section 14 is made out of LDPE (Low Density Polyethlyene) material and had a thickness of about 1.5-3 mm. However, it is to be understood that the flexible collapsible section 14 may be made of any appropriate material. In the embodiment illustrated, the flexible collapsible section 14 terminates in an outer peripheral flange 32 which substantially matches in configuration the outer periphery of flange 24 such that when rigid section 12 and flexible collapsible section 14 are secured together between flanges 24 and 32 respectively a generally symmetrical container 10 is formed. As previously noted and as illustrated in FIG. 4, the collapsible configuration of section 14 is designed to substantially conform to the inner periphery of the rigid section 12. In the preferred embodiment illustrated, a slight bend 34 is provided at a location such that it coincides with the outlet 16 so as to assist in allowing of the liquid 18 to be dispensed.

[0034] Referring to FIGS. 5a, 5b, 5c, 5d and 6, there is illustrated a package/container 50 for containing a plurality of containers 10 therein for dispensing a plurality of different processing solutions to a photographic processor. In the particular embodiment illustrated, three containers 10 are illustrated. However, it is to be understood that the package 50 may be designed to have any desired number of containers 10. The package 50 comprises a base section 52 having a bottom wall 53 and four upstanding walls 54 that defined the periphery. The package also comprises a top section 56 having a top wall 57 and side walls 59. The top section 56 is designed to be placed over base section 52 as illustrated. A pair of top members 67, 69 are provided for support. The members each have cut out sections 72 designed to receive and engage outlet 16 of containers placed within container 50. The container 50 in the embodiment illustrated is divided up into two retaining sections 58, and 60 each designed to retain a single container 10. The top portion 57 and members 67, 69 are designed to be substantially adjacent to the upper terminal end 70 of the rigid section 12 of each container 10. The walls 54, 59, 57, 67 and 69 combine together to substantially hold each of the containers 10 in a substantially vertical position. The outlet 16 of each container is designed to extend through an associated opening 71 in top wall 57 and the cut out sections 72 formed in members 67, 69. Preferably, as illustrated, the cut out sections 72 assist in holding outlet 16. Package 50 is thus configured such that the containers 10 will each be held in the appropriate dispensing position for allowing dispensing of the liquid through the outlet 16. It is important that package 50 maintain the containers 10 in a substantially confined position to avoid the containers from moving and/or tipping while in package 50. Therefore, very little distance D is provided between side 75 of the container 10 and adjacent portions of the package. If different size containers 10 are placed in each of the sections 58 and 60, appropriate spacers may be provided that may be associated with the top portion 56 or separately placed therein to assure that the container is maintained in a stable position within its retaining section.

[0035] As illustrated by FIG. 6, containers 10 in package 50 is illustrated in the preferred dispensing position such that liquid 18 may be dispensed by gravity feed. As liquid is dispensed, the collapsible section due to its flexibility characteristic will be drawn into rigid section 14. Thus, all that is necessary to allow dispensing is a valve (connected to outlet 16 or to a conduit connected to outlet 16) that opens and closes. If the container 10 is placed at a level above the tank to receive the liquid 18, gravity may used for dispensing of the liquid 18 without the need of any pumps. However, if desired and described later herein, pumps may be used to dispense liquid from container 10.

[0036] Referring to FIGS. 7a and 7b, there is illustrated one method in which a container 10 in the present invention may be made. In particular, the rigid section 12 is first formed by a separate molding process, for example, but not limited by mold injection techniques as is well known in the art and then placed into a mold assembly 80 having a base portion 82, a movable section 84 and a top assembly 86 for providing an appropriate sealing pressure. Like numerals of rigid section 12 indicating like parts as previously discussed. In this embodiment a sheet 88 is provided in the mold assembly 80 for forming a collapsible flexible section 14 as illustrated by FIG. 7a. In this embodiment the sheet 88 is held in position by a pair of clamps 90. Appropriate pressure and heated air are provided for forming of sheet 88 into collapsible flexible section 14 as illustrated by FIG. 7b. Thereafter, appropriate trimming is provided at the end of flanges 24 of rigid section. Thereafter, the integrally formed container 10 is removed and filled as appropriate.

[0037] FIG. 8 is a schematic view of a processing apparatus 100 that incorporates use a package 50 containing a plurality container 10a, 10b, 10c and 10d into a replenishment delivery system. The apparatus 100 includes a plurality of processing tanks 112, 114 and 116 each designed to hold a processing solution. A processing path 168 is defined which passes through tanks 112, 114 and 116 along which a photosensitive media travels for processing of the media, such as photographic film and/or paper. The apparatus 100 also includes a dryer 120 wherein the media is dried. After the media has been dried it is delivered outside of the apparatus 100 through an appropriate outlet 122 as is conventionally done for further treatment (for example, but not limited to scanning, cutting, packaging, etc). In the particular embodiment illustrated, three processing tanks are provided. Processing tank 112 being a developer tank for containing a develop solution; tank 114 being bleach/fix tank for containing a bleach/fix processing solution, and processing tank 116 for holding a wash processing solution. It is of course to be understood that any desired number of processing tanks may be provided containing the appropriate processing solutions as may be required by the photosensitive media being processed.

[0038] A computer 124 is provided for controlling operation of the apparatus 10 as is conventionally done. Thus, appropriate computer programs are provided for controlling operations of the various components that are provided in apparatus 100 and for controlling the appropriate sequence of operation of the various components as required for processing the particular photosensitive media being processed including the replenishment system. As is typical with photographic processors, media enters the apparatus 100 through inlet 126 and is transported along the processing path 168 and delivered outside of the apparatus 100 through outlet 122. The transport mechanism may be of any type suitable for transporting of the media, for example but not by way of limitation, roller assemblies.

[0039] The apparatus 100 includes a replenishment and delivery system 130 for providing replenishment solution to each of the tanks 112, 114 and 116. The apparatus 100, in the embodiment illustrated, is designed to receive a package 50 containing a plurality of individual discrete containers 10a, 10b, 10c and 10d, each containing an appropriate replenishment solution to be used to replenishment the processing solution in each of the processing tanks 112, 114 and 116. The containers 10a and 10b contain processing solutions that are to be measured and forwarded to the processing tank 112 whereas the processing solution in container 10c is to be provided to processing tank 114, and processing solution in container 10d is to be provided to processing tank 116. As can be seen, containers 10a, 10b, 10c and 10d each contain a different amount of processing solution. This is because different amounts of processing solution are required for processing a predetermined amount of media that is being processed. Thus, the size and quantity of these processing containers are designed such that each will provide the appropriate amount for replenishment of the respective processing solution for processing a predetermined amount of media.

[0040] The package 50 is placed on an appropriate support surface 141 Each of the containers 10a, 10b, 10c, and 10d is provided with an appropriate valve assembly or connection 142, 144, 146 and 148, respectively, for allowing the processing solution to be emptied from each of the containers. Computer 124 controls the appropriate valves and other mechanisms necessary for dispensing and delivering the processing solutions to the processing chambers/tanks. In the particular embodiment illustrated, each container 10a, 10b, 10c, and 10d is appropriately connected to respective pumps 150, 152, 154, and 156. Each of the pumps 150, 152, 154, and 156, through respective appropriate conduits 158, 160, 162 and 164 are fluidly connected to respective retaining vessels 170, 172, 174 and 176. Valves 190, 192, 194, and 196 are provided such that one valve is associated with the outlets 171, 173, 175, and 177 of each of the retaining vessels 170, 172, 174, and 176, respectively. Pumps 151, 153, 155 and 155 are provided for pumping solution from the metering retaining vessels 170, 172, 174, and 176, to its associated processing tank 112, 114, and 116.

[0041] Each of the retaining vessels 170, 172, 174 and 176 are also provided with an associated sensing system (not shown) for determining when a predetermined amount of processing solution has been supplied to the retaining vessel for use in controlling the dispensing of a predetermined amount of processing solution from the associated container to its respective associated processing tank.

[0042] It is to be understood that various changes and modifications may be made without departing from the scope of the present invention. The present invention being defined by the claims that follow.

Parts List

[0043] 1

 10container
 10acontainer
 10bcontainer
 10ccontainer
 10dcontainer
 12rigid section
 14flexible, collapsible section
 16outlet
 17lateral ends
 18liquid
 19lateral ends
 20base section
 21outer end
 22upstanding portion
 24peripheral flange
 30supporting ribs
 32outer peripheral flange
 34bend
 50container/package
 52base section
 53bottom wall
 54walls
 56top portion
 57top wall
 58section
 59side wall
 60section
 67members
 69members
 70terminal end
 71opening
 72cut out section
 75side
 80mold assembly
 82base
 84movable section
 86top assembly
 88sheet
 90clamps
100apparatus
112processing tank
114processing tank
116processing tank
120dryer
122outlet
124computer
126inlet
130delivery system
141support surface
142valve assembly/connection
144valve assembly/connection
146valve assembly/connection
148valve assembly/connection
150pumps
151pumps
152pumps
153pumps
154pumps
155pumps
156pumps
157pumps
158conduits
160conduits
162conduits
164conduits
168processing path
170retaining vessels
171outlets
172retaining vessels
173outlets
174retaining vessels
175outlets
176retaining vessels
177outlets
180pumps
182pumps
184pumps
186pumps
190valves
192valves
194valves
196valves
Ddistance
Hmaximum height
Nterminal
Tthickness