Title:
Packaging, storing and dispensing system for printed materials
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A method of packaging custom-printed business cards includes the steps of printing a quantity of business cards and dividing the quantity of business cards into a plurality subquantities of business cards. Each subquantity of business cards is inserted into an individual card chamber of an individual blister pack and substantially sealed. The blister pack is substantially sealed by applying a backing to the blister pack. The blister pack is self dispensing eliminating the need for a separate business card holder.



Inventors:
Curry, Scott S. (Edina, MN, US)
Application Number:
11/301501
Publication Date:
07/12/2007
Filing Date:
12/13/2005
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
53/473, 206/232, 206/469, 206/555
International Classes:
B65D73/00; B65B5/06; B65B35/30; B65D1/34; B65D71/00
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
DESAI, HEMANT
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
PATTERSON THUENTE PEDERSEN, P.A. (MINNEAPOLIS, MN, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A system for packaging, storing and dispensing a printed quantity of business cards, comprising: a one piece packaging unit capable of receiving the entire quantity of business cards subdivided into a plurality of subquantities of business cards, the packaging unit being divided into a plurality of modules, each module capable of receiving one of the subquantities of the business cards and structured to protect the business cards from soiling and damage; the modules being individually or severally separable from the packaging unit while a separated module remains intact and the remaining unseparated modules remain intact; and each module defining an openable access port through which a single business card is dispensable while the module still protects undispensed business cards in the module.

2. The system as claimed in claim 1, wherein the modules each comprise a blister pack.

3. The system as claimed in claim 1, wherein the module is semi rigid.

4. The system as claimed in claim 1, wherein the modules are arranged caravan style.

5. The system as claimed in claim 1, wherein the modules are separable by tearable perforations.

6. The system as claimed in claim 1, wherein the modules are separable by cutting along marked indicia.

7. The system as claimed in claim 1, wherein the modules are at least partially transparent such that at least one business card is visible therethrough.

8. The system as claimed in claim 1, wherein the openable access port comprises a tear away slit.

9. The system as claimed in claim 1, wherein the module comprises corner beads, domes, other protrusions or indentations to increase strength.

10. The system as claimed in claim 1, wherein the openable access port comprises a removable portion created by perforations in the module.

11. The system as claimed in claim 1, wherein the openable access port comprises an opening in a wall of the module and a removable closure.

12. The system as claimed in claim 11, wherein the removable closure can be reclosed.

13. A method of packaging, storing and dispensing custom-printed business cards, the method comprising the steps of: printing a quantity of business cards; dividing the quantity of business cards into a plurality of subquantities of business cards; inserting each subquantity of business cards into a module of a one piece packaging unit that is divided into a plurality of modules, each module capable of receiving one of the subquantities of the business cards and structured to protect the business cards from soiling and damage; individually or severally separating at least one module from the packaging unit while each module whether separated or unseparated remains intact; and dispensing a single business card from at least one module through an openable access port defined by the module through which the single business card is dispensable while the module still protects undispensed business cards in the module.

14. The method as claimed in claim 13, wherein the modules each comprise a blister pack.

15. The method as claimed in claim 13, wherein the module is semi rigid.

16. The method as claimed in claim 13, wherein the modules are arranged caravan style.

17. The method as claimed in claim 13, wherein the modules are separable by tearable perforations.

18. The method as claimed in claim 13, wherein the modules are separable by cutting along marked indicia.

19. The method as claimed in claim 13, wherein the modules are at least partially transparent such that at least one business card is visible therethrough.

20. The method as claimed in claim 13, wherein the openable access port comprises a tear away slit.

21. The system as claimed in claim 13, wherein the module comprises corner beads, domes, other protrusions or indentations to increase strength.

22. The system as claimed in claim 13, wherein the openable access port comprises a removable portion created by perforations in the module.

23. The system as claimed in claim 13, wherein the openable access port comprises an opening in a wall of the module and a removable closure.

24. The system as claimed in claim 23, wherein the removable closure can be reclosed.

25. A method of packaging custom-printed printed units, the method comprising the steps of: printing a quantity of printed units; dividing the quantity of printed units into a plurality of subquantities of printed units; inserting each subquantity of printed units into an individual chamber of an individual blister pack; substantially sealing the blister pack by applying a backing to the blister pack and providing the blister pack with an openable access port through which individual printed units may be accessed.

26. The method as claimed in claim 25, further comprising the step of joining the blister packs to one another with a perforation dividing a first blister pack from a second blister pack such that the first blister pack can be separated from the second blister pack along the perforation.

27. The method as claimed in claim 25, further comprising the step of joining the blister packs to one another with a marking separating a first blister pack from a second blister pack such that the first blister pack can be separated from the second blister pack by cutting along the marking.

28. The method as claimed in claim 25, in which the blister packs are joined caravan style.

29. The method as claimed in claim 25, in which the openable access port comprises a tear off portion in the backing to allow access port to the subquantity of printed units by a user.

30. The method as claimed in claim 25, wherein the subquantities of printed units each contain about 250 printed units or less.

31. The method as claimed in claim 25, wherein the subquantities of printed units are of unequal preselected size.

32. The system as claimed in claim 25, wherein the openable access port comprises a removable portion created by perforations in the blister pack.

33. The system as claimed in claim 25, wherein the openable access port comprises an opening in a wall of the blister pack and a removable closure.

34. The system as claimed in claim 33, wherein the removable closure can be reclosed.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The invention relates generally to the handling of printed materials. More particularly, the invention relates to the modularized packaging, storing and dispensing of printed materials such as business cards.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Business cards are often ordered, printed, and sold in large quantities, often exceeding five hundred or one thousand items at a time. Commonly, after printing, the business cards are packaged into cardboard boxes and shipped or delivered. Users often keep the business cards in the cardboard boxes, in or on their desks, and remove a selected number of cards before going to an event or on a business-related trip.

Business card users often travel for business purposes to meetings, trade shows, and other events. Most of the time the user may exchange business cards with less than a dozen business contacts each day. However, at a trade show or convention, the user may distribute hundreds of cards to contacts in the course of a single day. Thus, it becomes important for the user to have an ample supply of business cards at hand. Carrying an entire box of business cards on long trips or to the floor of a trade show, is impractical. Business cards, out of their package, however, are easily susceptible to loss and damage. Loose cards are easily scattered, dog-eared and soiled. The more that business cards are handled prior to dispensing, the greater the likelihood that the card will lose integrity due to wear or soiling.

Users can place a rubber band or paper clip to hold a larger number of cards for trips of long duration. However, clips and rubber bands can distort or damage the cards. In addition, once out of the box, the cards can be susceptible to being bent, torn, or otherwise damaged. The presentation of a damaged or dog-eared business card to a business prospect makes a poor impression on the prospect and may lead to the loss of a sale or valuable business contact.

Business card holders can be used to protect a smaller quantity of cards in the interim between removal of the cards from their package and the handing out of the cards. The holders can contain a limited number of business cards, usually in the range of 5 to 20 cards. However, when a user is on a relatively long trip, or when a larger number of cards are needed, the holder's capacity to contain and protect cards can be insufficient.

Current methods of packaging of business cards require that the business cards be packaged largely by hand, and that the lid to the business card box be applied manually. The process of preparing and printing business cards is largely accomplished by automation and can be done with high speed machinery. The requirement for manual packaging of the business cards at the end of the process dramatically limits the speed with which cards can be packaged and shipped.

Blister style packaging has been successfully used to automate the packaging of items such as pharmaceuticals.

U.S. Patent Publication No. 2002/0189964, U.S. Pat. No. 3,380,578, U.S. Pat. No. 4,588,090 and U.S. Patent Publication No. 2005/0056554 are representative disclosures of blister style packaging, but to date there have been no examples of blister style packaging that address the particular needs of packaging, storing and dispensing business cards.

The business card production industry would benefit greatly from a different approach to packaging business cards that is amenable to automation. In addition, the users of business cards would benefit from business card packaging that allows users to transport and store business cards in smaller quantities than the typical lots of 500 to 1000 while still maintaining the cards in excellent condition so that the users can make a good impression on recipients of the cards.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The problems outlined above are in large measure solved by the present invention. The invention gives users of business cards or other printed units access to bulk numbers of business cards stored in modular separable packets or modules. The modular separable packets are substantially sealed from the environment and protect the cards therein from wear and soiling until the cards are dispensed. The modular separable packets are structured to allow individual dispensing of the business cards while still providing substantial protection to the remaining business cards in the packet. The invention allows users to transport and store business cards in relatively small quantities, while still maintaining the cards in excellent condition and accommodating individual dispensing of the cards.

The invention includes modules such as blister pack packaging adapted to store approximately 50-100 business cards in modularized packages. The modularized packages are positioned together in groups, with each modularized package individually separable from the group. A tear away strip on each modularized package can be selectively removed to provide for the dispensing of individual cards from the modularized package.

The invention also includes a process of packaging business cards or other printed materials at the end of the printing process. The process of packaging the cards is readily adaptable to automation.

The method includes the steps of printing a quantity of business cards, dividing that quantity of business cards into a plurality of sub-quantities and individually packaging each sub-quantity of business cards into a substantially sealed blister package containing approximately 10-250 business cards.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a blister package in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 2 is an exploded perspective view of a blister package in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of a series of three blister packs connected in a caravan fashion;

FIG. 4 is a flow chart of a process in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 5 is a bottom perspective view of a blister pack including a tear off portion with the tear off portion intact;

FIG. 6 is a bottom perspective view of a blister pack including a tear off portion with the tear off portion removed;

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of an exemplary blister pack having features to increase its rigidity;

FIG. 8 is a perspective view of an exemplary blister pack having features to increase its rigidity;

FIG. 9 is a perspective view of an exemplary blister pack for packaging printed materials having an irregular shape and features to increase its rigidity; and

FIG. 10 is a perspective view of another exemplary blister pack for packaging printed materials having an irregular shape and features to increase its rigidity.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Referring to FIGS. 1 and 2, the present invention generally includes a system for packaging and distributing business cards C, or the like, utilizing modules such as blister packs 10. Blister pack 10 generally includes blister portion 12 and backing 14. This application will generally discuss the invention in the context of business cards C however, it is to be understood that the invention may be used with other types of printed materials as well.

Blister portion 12 generally includes flat portion 16 and card chamber 18. Blister portion 12 may be formed of a transparent, opaque or translucent plastic or other synthetic material. Generally thermoplastics are used for the forming of the blister portion 12 but other materials may be used as well. Blister portion 12 of the present invention may be at least partially transparent.

An exemplary card chamber 18 is substantially rectangular in shape and is dimensioned to receive business cards C or other printed materials. Card chamber 18 generally includes short sides 20, long sides 22, and display side 24. Short sides 20 and long sides 22 are dimensioned to receive business cards C or other printed materials. Display side 24 may be substantially transparent to allow viewing of enclosed business cards C or other printed materials. Other chamber shapes may be used to accommodate variously shaped printed materials.

The depth 26 of card chamber 18 is dimensioned to accommodate a conveniently preselected number of business cards C. For example, depth 26 may be selected so that card chamber 18 can accommodate 20 to 100 business cards C or other printed items.

Referring now to FIG. 2, an exploded view of blister pack 10 is shown including a quantity 28 of business cards C. Backing 14 is a substantially planar thin sheet of material. Backing 14 may be formed of cardboard, plastic or other appropriate material. Desirably, backing 14 is pierced by a perforated opening 30. Backing 14 may also be structured to have other uses. For example, backing 14 may be designed to be used as a business card holder or as a luggage tag. Either the business card holder or the luggage tag can hold one or more business cards C. The luggage tag can be attached to an item of luggage or other item for the purpose of identifying the owner of the item.

Referring to FIG. 2, 5, and 6, perforated opening 30 is dimensioned to have a length approximately equal to the length of short sides 20. Perforated opening 30 is located at one end of card chamber 28. Perforated opening 30 is dimensioned so that when perforated opening 30 is open a user may remove a small quantity of business cards C. For example, perforated opening 30 may be dimensioned so that a user may remove 1 to 10 business cards C therethrough. Perforated opening 30 is desirably arranged so as to be removable without tools by merely tearing off tear off portion 32 of backing 14.

Once tear off portion 32 is removed a user may access quantity 28 of business cards C. Placement of perforated opening 30, is such that it allows ready removal of a small number of business cards by hand, while maintaining the rest of quantity 28 of business cards C in place inside card chamber 18, where business cards C are protected from damage and soiling.

Referring now to FIG. 3, in one embodiment of the invention, backing 14 may be configured as continuous backing 34. Continuous backing 34 may be secured to multiple blister portions 12 caravan style. Optionally, separate backings 14 that make up continuous backing 34 are connected by perforated joints. For the purposes of this application, perforations or perforated joints are defined to be any localized weakening of the structure of backing 12 or blister portion 12 that allows adjacent backings 12 or blister portions 12 to be separated by tearing by hand without the need for scissors or other cutting tools. Perforations may include but are not limited to, actual perforations, thinning of the localized area or weakening of the localized area by heat. Continuous backing 34 allows for the packaging of multiple sub-quantities of business cards while still keeping the entire order connected together as a unit until it is separated by a user. Alternatively, continuous backing 34 may be marked for cutting with scissors or other tools.

In another embodiment of the invention, multiple blister portions 12 may be joined by perforated joints 36 to create a caravan style package of multiple blister portions 12. A benefit of the availability of multiple blister portions 12 connected together caravan style is that a user may select one or more sub-quantities of business cards in one or more blister portions 12 for removal to be taken along as needed.

Referring now to FIG. 4, a block diagram of a series of steps in a method of packaging business cards or other printed materials is depicted. The production of a custom made order of business cards or other printed materials begins with printing step 38. In this step, a quantity of custom made printed materials may be produced by conventional printing means. The custom business cards or other materials will typically include such information as business name, individuals name, address, phone number, and other contact information along with a business logo and related information.

After the printing step 38 is complete dividing step 40 is performed. In dividing step 40, the large quantity of custom made printed items such as business cards C are divided into a plurality of sub-quantities. The sub-quantities may be equal smaller quantities of printed materials such as 50-100 business cards. The sub-quantities may also be unequally divided so that a significant quantity of business cards, for example 300-500, are packaged together for placement in a fixed location such as a desk drawer and the remaining quantity of business cards are divided into smaller quantities of 50-100 for ease of transportation by the end user.

Next comes inserting step 42. In the inserting step 42 the various sub-quantities of business cards are placed into card chambers 18 of blister portions 12 of multiple blister packs 10 as described above. The blister packs 10 may be of substantially identical size or may vary in size depending upon the desired packaging arrangement.

Next, backer application step 44 is performed. In the backer application step 44, the backer 14 is applied to blister portions 12 to substantially seal blister packs 10. When blister packs 10 are substantially sealed, individual sub-quantities of business cards C or other printed materials are protected from dirt or damage. In one embodiment of the invention the blister packs 10 are connected together caravan style, as described above.

Next, the multiple blister packs 10, whether attached together caravan style or individually are placed into a common package 46. Thus, multiple blister packs 10 containing business cards C are joined together in a common unit. In the final step, shipping 48, the package of business cards or other printed materials is shipped to the end user.

In another embodiment of the invention, blister packs 10 of different sizes or configurations may be used together to package a variety of different printed materials. The blister packs 10 or other modules may, for example, contain business cards, stationery and envelopes for a particular individual. In another example, business cards and marketing materials for a particular product or marketing campaign may be supplied in blister packs 10 or other modules that are joined together for a representative's convenience. The blister packs 10 containing varying types of printed materials may be joined or separate and packaged together in a common package. The blister packs 10 may be sized and shaped differently from one another to accommodate the various printed materials.

It may be necessary to coordinate the printing and packaging processes so that the various printed materials are grouped together appropriately. For example, if business cards, envelopes and stationary are all printed on different manufacturing lines, the lines would need to be coordinated so that the three different items would converge for packaging.

Referring to FIGS. 1-3 and 5-6 an exemplary reinforced blister pack 50 is depicted. Reinforced blister pack 50 includes short sides 20, long sides 22, display side 24 and corner beads 52. Short sides 20 and long sides 22 are dimensioned to receive business cards C or other printed materials. Corner beads 52 are formed at the junctures of short sides 20 and long sides 22 in this example. Comer beads 52 may also be formed at the edges 54 where short sides 20 and long sides 22 meet display side 24. Comer beads 52 can be formed at some or all of the eight edges of blister pack 50.

Referring to FIG. 7, another embodiment of reinforced blister pack 50 is depicted. In this embodiment, reinforced blister pack 50 includes raised perimeter 54. Raised perimeter 54 extends substantially along edges 56. Raised perimeter 54 surrounds sunken plateau 58. This embodiment may also include corner beads 52.

Referring to FIG. 8, reinforced blister pack 50 may also include a dome 60. One or more dome 60 may include a steeper portion 62 and a flattened portion 64. As depicted in FIG. 8, corner beads 52 may used in combination with dome 60. Domes 56 may include but are not limited to circular, oval or quadrilateral in shape.

Referring to FIG. 9, another embodiment of reinforced blister pack 50 is depicted. This embodiment is formed to accept irregularly shaped printed items. This embodiment also includes corner beads 52 and domes 60, Referring to FIG. 10, another embodiment of reinforced blister packs 50 is depicted. This embodiment is formed to accept irregularly shaped printed items and includes domes 60.

In operation, an end user may select one or more sub-quantities of business cards C in blister pack 10 for use at a time. This allows an end user to maintain the business cards or other printed materials in pristine condition until it is desired to remove them for distribution. Thus the business cards or other printed materials remain in excellent condition, allowing a user to make a positive impression upon business contacts to which printed materials are distributed.

The present invention may be embodied in other specific forms without departing from the central attributes thereof, therefore, the illustrated embodiments should be considered in all respects as illustrative and not restrictive, reference being made to the appended claims rather than the foregoing description to indicate the scope of the invention.