Title:
Food packaging system
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A form, fill and seal packaging machine bottom fills a carton. The machine includes a lid application station for applying a lid to the carton open top at an upper edge and means for removing the carton from the mandrel. The carton is positioned on a conveyor and is conveyed to a filling station disposed along the conveyor for filling product into the carton. After filling, the carton is indexed to a bottom flap folding station for folding the bottom flaps toward one another and a bottom fin sealing station for sealing a portion of the bottom wall flaps to one another to form an elongated fin. A bottom panel folding station folds the bottom panels toward one another to form a sealed bottom wall and a discharge station discharges the packages from the machine. A method for forming the carton and a carton formed by the method are also disclosed.



Inventors:
Shean, Gary (Chicago, IL, US)
Kaczor, Brian (Palatine, IL, US)
Schmid, Manfred (US)
Ljungstrom, Tommy (Hoor, SE)
Lemanski, Eric (Chicago, IL, US)
Application Number:
10/417488
Publication Date:
10/21/2004
Filing Date:
04/17/2003
Assignee:
SHEAN GARY
KACZOR BRIAN
SCHMID MANFRED
LJUNGSTROM TOMMY
LEMANSKI ERIC
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
53/281, 53/471, 53/574
International Classes:
B65B1/02; B65B7/26; B65B43/10; B65D5/06; B65D43/16; (IPC1-7): B65B7/28; B65B43/08
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20080168749APPARATUS AND METHOD FOR PACKAGING SIDING PANELSJuly, 2008Regelski et al.
20080277306Tubular Sachet PackNovember, 2008Schick et al.
20040074863Crown closure with curled lower edgeApril, 2004Ramsey et al.
20080160249PACKAGING MATERIAL AND METHOD OF TRANSPORTING HONEYCOMB STRUCTURED BODYJuly, 2008Makino
20090301031Wrap Removal SystemDecember, 2009Jacobs et al.
20020095911Plastic fruit bag unsealing deviceJuly, 2002Chang
20090056279Method of packing silicon and packing bodyMarch, 2009Sasaki
20040020171Web cutterFebruary, 2004Biba et al.
20030101697Bale wrapping deviceJune, 2003Martensen et al.
20090301903Packaging Article, A Wrapped Ream of Paper, and MethodsDecember, 2009Andersson et al.
20080019617Method of packaging manufactured stoneJanuary, 2008Rasquinha et al.



Primary Examiner:
TAWFIK, SAMEH
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Levenfeld Pearlstein LLC (Tetra Pak) (Chicago, IL, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. A form, fill and seal packaging machine for forming a package, filling the package and sealing the package, the package being formed from a plurality of upstanding side walls, each contiguous with its adjacent side walls, the carton including a bottom wall contiguous with the upstanding side walls, the bottom wall being formed from a plurality of bottom wall flaps, the upstanding side walls defining an open top having an upper edge, and the bottom wall flaps defining an open bottom, the packaging machine comprising: a carton magazine for storing a plurality of cartons, the cartons being in a flat folded form and having a longitudinal side seal; a carton erection station for receiving the cartons and opening the cartons to a tubular form; a mandrel for receiving one carton in the tubular form and for carrying the carton, the carton positioned on the mandrel such that the top of the carton is positioned at a free end of the mandrel; a lid application station for applying the lid to the carton open top at the upper edge; means for removing the carton from the mandrel; a conveyor; a filling station disposed along the conveyor for filling product into the carton; a bottom flap folding station for folding the bottom flaps toward one another; a bottom fin sealing station for sealing a portion of the bottom wall flaps to one another to form an elongated fin; a bottom panel folding station for folding the bottom panels toward one another to form a sealed bottom wall; and a discharge station for discharging the packages from the machine.

2. The packaging machine in accordance with claim 1 including an inverter for inverting the cartons following bottom panel folding.

3. The packaging machine in-accordance with claim 1 including a membrane application station disposed prior to the lid application station for applying a membrane to the carton at the carton open top.

4. The packaging machine in accordance with claim 1 including a bottom panel sealing station for sealing the bottom panels to the sealed bottom wall.

5. A method for forming a carton comprising the steps of: erecting a tubular carton having a plurality of upstanding side walls, each contiguous with its adjacent side walls, the carton including a bottom wall contiguous with the upstanding side walls, the upstanding side walls defining an open top having an upper edge, and an open bottom; providing a lid having a peripheral frame having an open central portion and a cover extending across the periphery to close the open central portion; applying and sealing the lid to the open top of the carton; filling the carton through the open bottom; providing a seal in the bottom to form a sealed bottom having an elongated upstanding fin; and folding the fin onto the sealed bottom.

6. The method in accordance with claim 5 wherein the folding step forms triangular panels in the sealed bottom, and including the step of folding the triangular panels onto the sealed bottom to form a sealed bottom wall.

7. The method in accordance with claim 5 including the step of inverting the carton following the folding step.

8. The method in accordance with claim 5 including the step of forming corners of the upstanding walls, at the top edge, so as to have a curved profile.

9. The method in accordance with claim 5 including the step of applying a membrane to the open top prior to applying and sealing the lid to the open top of the carton.

10. The method in accordance with claim 9 including the step of flushing the filled carton with an inert gas prior to sealing the bottom wall.

11. A carton comprising: a plurality of upstanding sidewalls, each contiguous with its adjacent side walls and a bottom wall contiguous with the upstanding side walls, the upstanding side walls defining an open top and having an upper edge, the upstanding side walls and bottom wall formed from a single blank of paperboard material; and a lid formed from a polymeric material, the cover having an outer frame defining a periphery and a cover portion disposed within the periphery, the cover being wherein the outer frame is affixed to the carton at the upper edge, and wherein a juncture of each of the upstanding walls with its adjacent side walls, at the upper edge, is formed having curved corners.

12. The carton in accordance with claim 11 including a membrane affixed to the upper edge, at about the outer frame.

13. The carton in accordance with claim 12 wherein and outer edge of the membrane is positioned between the outer frame and the carton upper edge.

14. The carton in accordance with claim 11 wherein the lid has rounded corners.

15. The carton in accordance with claim 11 wherein the carton has four upstanding side walls and wherein opposing side walls are parallel to one another.

16. The carton in accordance with claim 11 wherein the cover is connected to the outer frame by a hinge.

17. The carton in accordance with claim 16 wherein the lid is formed as an unitary member and wherein the hinge is formed integral with the outer frame and with the cover.

18. The carton in accordance with claim 11 wherein the carton includes a longitudinal side seal formed therein extending from the bottom wall to the upper edge, the side seal being formed in one of the side walls intermediate edges thereof, and wherein the carton having the side seal formed therein, forms a tubular erected carton.

19. The carton in accordance with claim 18 wherein the bottom wall is formed from a plurality of bottom panels, the bottom panels being contiguous with adjacent bottom panels and having a continuous seal portion extending along an edge thereof opposite of the upstanding side walls, the bottom seal being formed by sealing the bottom panel seal portion onto itself to form an elongated fin.

20. The carton in accordance with claim 19 wherein the fin is folded flat onto the bottom panels to define a pair of triangular walls, and wherein the triangular walls are folded onto the bottom wall to define a sealed rectangular bottom wall.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0001] The present invention is directed to a food packaging system. More particularly, the present invention is directed to a food packaging system in which a package top is formed and the foodstuff is filled into the package from the package bottom.

[0002] Food products are packaged in all types of packages, from paperboard cartons for many liquid food products to bag-in-box packages for many solid and particulate food products, e.g., dry foods. One commonly known package for dry food items is a flexible plastic bag inside of a paperboard box. This package is attractive due to its low cost and ease of use and packaging.

[0003] One principle drawback to the bag-in-box package is that it is not reclosable with any sense of certainty. In a typical arrangement, the bag is folded or rolled onto itself and a tab is inserted into a mating slit in the box. The boxes are typically formed from a relatively light-weight paperboard material that is susceptible to tearing. To this end, in closing the bag-in-box package (after it has been initially opened) there is little to no assurance that the package will remain closed.

[0004] Moreover, such a packaging arrangement requires two packages to be formed. That is, the product is filled into the bag which must itself be sealed, and the box must be formed (i.e., bottom formed and sealed and top formed and sealed) with “filling” of the bag in the box carried out, generally between these steps. Such a system requires additional processing equipment, additional packaging process steps, and additional handling of the food product.

[0005] Some dry foods are also packaged in paperboard containers typically use for liquid food product. In this use, the paperboard container, typically a gable-top carton, is either opened by separating the gable panels or is fitted with a closure that permits reclosing the package. Once the gable panels are separated, the level of assurance that the panels are reclosed is low, at best. As such, this arrangement has been found to be unacceptable. As to the use of closures, typically, the opening (for access into the package) is too small for use with non-liquid (non-readily flowable) product.

[0006] Alternately, dry food are also packaged in composite cans. Typically, these are formed from a paperboard cylinder and cylinder bottom, to which polymer tops are affixed. While these overcome many of the drawbacks of other dry food packages, the cost of the composite can is quite high. In addition, the packaging equipment is capital intensive and the inefficiencies in transporting and storing empty (essentially fully) constructed cans is high.

[0007] Accordingly, there exists a need for a package for dry food product that is easy to use. Desirably, such a is readily reclosable. More desirably, such a package uses commonly known packaging materials. Most desirably, such a package uses known packaging equipment technology, that is, the packaging operation can be carried out using known packaging machines.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0008] A form, fill and seal packaging machine is configured to form a package, fill the package and seal the package. The package is formed from a plurality of upstanding side walls, each contiguous with its adjacent side walls. The carton includes a bottom wall contiguous with the upstanding side walls and formed from a plurality of bottom wall flaps. The upstanding side walls define an open top having an upper edge. The bottom wall flaps define an open bottom.

[0009] The machine is configured to form a readily reclosable, easy to use package for dry food product. Such a package is formed from commonly known packaging materials. and is formed on known, modified packaging equipment technology.

[0010] A present machine includes a carton magazine for storing a plurality of cartons in a flat folded form and having a longitudinal side seal. A carton erection station receives the cartons and opens the cartons into a tubular form.

[0011] Each carton is positioned on a mandrel for receiving the carton in the tubular form. The cartons are positioned on the mandrels such that the top of the carton is positioned at a free end of the mandrel. The cartons are indexed to a lid application station for applying a lid to the carton open top at the upper edge. The cartons are then removed their respective mandrels and positioned on a conveyor.

[0012] The cartons are then conveyed to a filling station disposed along the conveyor for filling product into the carton and a bottom flap folding station for folding the bottom flaps toward one another. A bottom fin sealing station seals a portion of the bottom wall flaps to one another to form an elongated fin and a bottom panel folding station folds the bottom panels toward one another to form a sealed bottom wall. The cartons are then discharged from the machine.

[0013] In that the cartons are formed, filled and sealed up-side-down (that is, bottom filled), in one embodiment, the cartons are inverted following bottom panel folding to reside in a right-side-up orientation. In a preferred embodiment, a membrane application station is disposed prior to the lid application station for applying a membrane to the carton at the carton open top.

[0014] To effect final folding and sealing of the bottom wall flaps, a bottom panel sealing station is configured to seal the bottom panels to the sealed bottom wall.

[0015] A method for forming the carton includes the steps of erecting a tubular carton having a plurality of upstanding side walls, each contiguous with its adjacent side walls, and a bottom wall contiguous with the upstanding side walls. The upstanding side walls define an open top having an upper edge, and an open bottom.

[0016] The method includes providing a lid having a peripheral frame having an open central portion and a cover extending across the periphery to close the open central portion, applying and sealing the lid to the open top of the carton, filling the carton through the open bottom, providing a seal in the bottom to form a sealed bottom having an elongated upstanding fin and folding the fin onto the sealed bottom.

[0017] A preferred method includes forming triangular panels in the sealed bottom, and folding the triangular panels onto the sealed bottom to form a sealed bottom wall. The carton can be inverted following the folding step.

[0018] Preferably, the method includes the step of forming corners of the upstanding walls, at the top edge, so as to have a curved profile. The method can include the step of applying a membrane to the open top prior to applying and sealing the lid to the open top of the carton. Optionally, the method can include the step of flushing the filled carton with an inert gas or evacuating the carton prior to sealing the bottom wall.

[0019] A carton formed on the machine and in accordance with the above method includes a plurality of upstanding sidewalls, each contiguous with its adjacent side walls and a bottom wall contiguous with the upstanding side walls. The upstanding side walls define an open top and have an upper edge. The upstanding side walls and bottom wall are formed from a single blank of paperboard material.

[0020] A lid formed from a polymeric material having an outer frame defining a periphery and a cover portion disposed within the periphery is affixed to the carton at the upper edge. A juncture of each of the upstanding walls with its adjacent side walls, at the upper edge, is formed having curved corners. The lid can likewise have rounded corners.

[0021] The carton can include a membrane affixed to the upper edge, at about the outer frame. The membrane can be positioned between the outer frame and the carton upper edge.

[0022] In a preferred carton, the cover is connected to the outer frame by a hinge. Most preferably, the lid is formed as an unitary member and the hinge is formed integral with the outer frame and with the cover.

[0023] A present carton includes a longitudinal side seal formed extending from the bottom wall to the upper edge. The side seal is formed in one of the side walls intermediate edges thereof. In one embodiment, the carton bottom wall is formed from a plurality of bottom panels. The bottom panels are contiguous with adjacent bottom panels and have a continuous seal portion extending along an edge thereof opposite of the upstanding side walls. The bottom seal is formed by sealing the bottom panel seal portion onto itself to form an elongated fin. The fin is folded flat onto the bottom panels to define a pair of triangular walls, and the triangular walls are folded onto the bottom wall to define a sealed rectangular bottom wall.

[0024] These and other features and advantages of the present invention will be apparent from the following detailed description, in conjunction with the appended claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS

[0025] The benefits and advantages of the present invention will become more readily apparent to those of ordinary skill in the relevant art after reviewing the following detailed description and accompanying drawings, wherein:

[0026] FIG. 1 is a perspective illustration of a carton having a flip lid and formed from a gable top carton blank embodying the principles of the present invention;

[0027] FIG. 2 is a perspective illustration of the lid in an open condition;

[0028] FIG. 3 is a perspective illustration of the lid closed;

[0029] FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional view of the lid frame taken along line 4-4 of FIG. 2;

[0030] FIG. 5 is a perspective view of a bottom of the carton;

[0031] FIG. 6 is a plan view of an exemplary carton blank for forming the carton;

[0032] FIG. 7 is a perspective illustration of a machine for forming, filling and sealing the carton;

[0033] FIG. 8 is a perspective illustration showing the carton residing on a mandrel, and further showing the coming application of a membrane to the carton top;

[0034] FIG. 9 is a perspective illustration showing the carton positioned at a lid application station;

[0035] FIG. 10 is a perspective illustration showing the carton as it removed from the mandrel and positioned in a station chain; and

[0036] FIG. 11 is a perspective illustration showing cartons in the prefolding, folding and sealing stations of the machine.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

[0037] While the present invention is susceptible of embodiment in various forms, there is shown in the drawings and will hereinafter be described a presently preferred embodiment with the understanding that the present disclosure is to be considered an exemplification of the invention and is not intended to limit the invention to the specific embodiment illustrated.

[0038] It should be further understood that the title of this section of this specification, namely, “Detailed Description Of The Invention”, relates to a requirement of the United States Patent Office, and does not imply, nor should be inferred to limit the subject matter disclosed, herein.

[0039] Referring now to the figures and briefly first to the FIGS. 7-11 there is shown a system 10 for food packaging. The system is configured to package dry foods in a modified gable-top/brick-type carton or package 12 configuration, illustrated generally in FIGS. 1 and 5. The gable top carton 12 will be well recognized by those skilled in the art, as will the brick-type (exemplary of which is the TETRA BRIK® brand) package. The carton 12 includes first 14, second 16, third 18 and fourth 20 side panels forming a rectangular container. However, unlike conventional gable top cartons, in which the first and fifth panels are joined to one another to form a “corner” of the first and fourth panels, in the present carton the first panel 14 is split so that the fifth panel 22 joins the two portions 14a, 14b of the first panel 14 to one another. This result in the carton side seal or seam 24 being formed in the first panel 14, rather than at a corner of the carton. This is to effect rounded corners as indicated at 26 at the carton top 28 (and to prevent the seam 24 from residing at a corner), as will be described below.

[0040] The carton 12 is also modified in that the flaps that would otherwise form the top of the carton 12 are removed. Preferably, in the converting process, the carton blank 30 is formed having a smaller area by eliminating the top panels, thus reducing the amount of paperboard that is needed to form the blank 30. Advantageously, such a design reduces the overall cost of the paperboard for the package 12 by reducing the amount of material needed.

[0041] The present package 12 includes a top or lid 32 formed from, for example, a polymeric material such as polypropylene. Other materials are also contemplated for use, such as low density polyethylene (LDPE) or high density polyethylene (HDPE). This type of package 12 provides a number of advantages. The package 12 provides an aesthetically appealing package. That is, has a neat and clean appearance. Moreover, in that the package 12 is structurally stable, it serves well for marketing and merchandising on a store shelf.

[0042] The lid 32 can be configured so that it “locks” closed after initial opening. That is, after the first opening of the lid 32, a latch or other cooperating elements 34 can be used to assure that the lid 32 remains closed to prevent, for example, spillage in the event that the package 12 tips or falls over. This can also prevent contamination of the product in he package 12 by preventing the ingress of foreign matter. Typically, the lid 32 includes an outer frame 36 which is sealed to the carton 12 and a cover or closure 38 that is hingedly mounted to the frame 36. In a present embodiment, the frame 36, cover 38 and hinge 40 are formed from polypropylene as a single unit in an molding process. Preferably, the lid 32 is formed so as to overlie the inside, the top edge and the outside of the carton 12 at the top 28, as seen in FIG. 4.

[0043] The machine or system 10 for forming, filling and sealing the packages 12 is also modified from a standard gable top-type form, fill and seal package machine. A present machine 10 is a turret-type machine having a plurality of vertical mandrels 46 mounted to a rotating turret 48. However, those skilled in the art will recognize that various other types of machines, as well as machine orientations can be used to effect the present package formation and forming method.

[0044] The carton 12 is erected and is positioned on (inserted onto) a mandrel 46. Unlike known gable top form, fill and seal machines, the carton 12 is inserted onto the mandrel 46 bottom first. That is, that portion of the carton that will ultimately become the top 28 of the carton 12 is positioned at a free end 50 of the mandrel 46.

[0045] The carton 12 and mandrel 46 are rotated to a film cutting and membrane applicator station, indicated generally at 52 . At this station, a membrane 54 is cut (to conform to the top profile of the carton 12) and is sealed to the carton 12 at the top edge 28, thus providing a removable carton seal. It is envisioned that membrane cutting and sealing (to the carton) will be effected at a single stations; however, it is also anticipated that these functions will be carried out at separate stations. The seal provides for environmentally sealing the product in the carton 12 prior to first opening or use. The membrane 54 can be sealed to the inside or the outside of the carton 12.

[0046] The carton 12 and mandrel 46 are then rotated to lid applicator station 56. At the applicator station 56, the lid 32 is sealed to the carton top 28, over the membrane 54. Presently, the lid 32 is sealed to the top 28 using a hot-melt adhesive. However, it is anticipated that other sealing methods may be used.

[0047] As set forth above, the carton side seal 24 is formed along a panel, such as at panel 14, (as opposed to at a corner) so that the top 28 can be formed having rounded corners 26. The bending or rolling profile for these corners is shown in the blank 30 illustrated in FIG. 6, and indicated generally at 58. This configuration is used so that the lid 32 can likewise have rounded corners or a rounded profile. This reduces the stresses in the package 12 (in particular at the corners), and enhances the seal integrity of the lid 32/carton 12 interface at the corners.

[0048] The top-formed package is then removed from the mandrel 46 and positioned in a station chain 70. The station chain 70 is configured to convey the package 12 through a plurality of stations. The package 12 unloaded into the station chain 70 with the bottom seal (discussed below) perpendicular to the carton 12 path. The stations can be disposed in a linear array or in a circular fashion, or in any other known manner. Typically, a first station is a bottom breaker or pre-breaker 76 (also referred to as a pre-folder), at which the panels 42 are pre-folded or broken along previously formed creases lines or score lines 44. This facilitates the final folding and sealing of the panels 42.

[0049] Following pre-breaking, the carton 12 is conveyed to the filling station 72, at which the carton 12 is filled with product. As will be recognized from a study of the figures and the above description, the carton 12 is being filled from the open bottom 40. That is, the top 28 of the carton 12 has already been formed and sealed by application of the (optional) membrane 54 and the lid 32, and the product enters and is filled into the open carton bottom 40.

[0050] Subsequent to filling, the carton 12 is indexed to a bottom final folding and sealing station 78. At the final folder 78, the panels 42 folded to form an elongated fin 79 and the fin 79 is sealed to form a sealed bottom 81. In conjunction with forming the fin 79, gussets 80 are formed (as triangular bottom panels) similar to the seal formed on a brick-type package. That is, the triangular panels or gussets 80 are formed externally of the package 12 and are then folded over onto the bottom 40 (externally of the package 12, as indicated at 82) rather than folded into an inner portion of the package (i.e., internally). The folded flaps 42 are then heated and sealed to the package 12.

[0051] Prior to bottom sealing, a number of optional, anticipated processes are envisioned. In that it is desirable to provide a package having a maximum shelf life and/or a package in which the product is maintained as “fresh” as possible, one or more processes can be carried out to eliminate oxygen in the package 12. The presence of oxygen is often associated with product degradation. To this end, the “air” that remains in the package 12 can be evacuated following product filling and prior to bottom wall 40 sealing. This can be done in a number of ways, for example, by applying a vacuum to the carton 12 following filling or by providing a “vacuum” atmosphere at the filling and/or sealing stations 72, 78. Alternately, the carton 12 can be flushed with an inert gas, such as nitrogen, prior to sealing. These processes, in conjunction with hermetically sealing the membrane 54 to the carton 12, will enhance product life and quality.

[0052] As set forth above, a modified known machine 10 is used for the present food packaging system. To effect use of the known machine, many components of the known machine have been removed in favor of those components necessary to carry out the “inverted” filling, membrane and lid application. The machine 10 as used, has had those components typically used to form and seal the carton bottom removed. In their stead, a number of stations have been installed.

[0053] A film storage and cutting and membrane application station or stations, as indicated generally at 52 and 56 have been installed. In addition, a lid magazine (not shown) has been added for storing preformed lids. Lids are transferred to a hot-melt station (e.g., also at 56) at which a hot melt adhesive is applied to the lid 32. The lid 32 is then moved into contact with the carton 12 and applied to the carton 12 during an indexed “stop” time.

[0054] After lid 32 application, the carton 12 is indexed to an unload station 84. The present machine 10 uses a side gripping suction cup unloader (not shown) to “pull” the carton 12 from the mandrel 46 and position the carton 12 in the station chain 70. The carton 12 is unloaded with the bottom seal (or future fin 79 orientation) perpendicular to the carton 12 path. The carton 12 is then indexed, by movement of the station chain 70, to the pre-breaker 76 where the bottom panels 40 are pre-broken or pre-folded. Pre-folding facilitates carrying out the final folding and sealing operations. Following pre-folding, the package 12 is filled. Following filling, the package 12 can be evacuated or flushed and the bottom sealed. Following sealing, the package 12 can be inverted (i.e., turned over so that it is upright), and can be reoriented (with the bottom seal parallel to the package 12 path) for final packaging and distribution.

[0055] It has been found that the present package 12 has a number of advantages over known packages, and that the method and materials for carrying out package 12 forming, filling and sealing, have a number of advantages over known processes and materials. The package 12 has the advantage of being a relatively low cost package using known and widely accepted package formats (e.g., gable-top and brick-type formats), with efficiencies and lower costs in (empty) package storage and transport. The package 12 is structurally stable thus providing enhanced display and merchandising options.

[0056] The process for forming, filling and sealing advantageously can be carried out on a standard form, fill and seal machine 10 that has been modified to include membrane 54 application, and lid 32 storage and application capabilities. Moreover, in that the package 12 formats or types are known, the machine 10 used to form, fill and seal the package is readily adapted from known form, fill and seal type machines that have proven success.

[0057] All patents referred to herein, are hereby incorporated herein by reference, whether or not specifically done so within the text of this disclosure.

[0058] In the present disclosure, the words “a” or “an” are to be taken to include both the singular and the plural. Conversely, any reference to plural items shall, where appropriate, include the singular.

[0059] From the foregoing it will be observed that numerous modifications and variations can be effectuated without departing from the true spirit and scope of the novel concepts of the present invention. It is to be understood that no limitation with respect to the specific embodiments illustrated is intended or should be inferred. The disclosure is intended to cover by the appended claims all such modifications as fall within the scope of the claims.