Title:
Container Sealing and/or Protection Apparatus
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Apparatuses and methods for sealing and/or protecting containers are disclosed herein. In various embodiments, a container sealing and/or protection apparatus may comprise a cover and a sleeve coupled to the cover and configured to fit around at least a portion of a container, wherein the cover and the sleeve are configured to slide onto at least a portion of the container and wherein the sleeve is adapted to constrict upon application of heat to resist detachment of the cover from the container and/or to environmentally seal the container.



Inventors:
Gardner, Eric (Vancouver, WA, US)
Application Number:
11/382654
Publication Date:
11/15/2007
Filing Date:
05/10/2006
Assignee:
NORTHWEST PROPERTY SOLUTIONS LLC. (Vancouver, WA, US)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
53/420
International Classes:
B65D65/00; B65B61/00
View Patent Images:
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20040262172Selling ream wrap for private labelsDecember, 2004Nowak
20050228355Feminine protection kitOctober, 2005Briggs
20080275421Label, Medicine Bag and Storage Container with the LabelNovember, 2008Tanaka et al.
20070235370Protective chassis cover system and methodOctober, 2007Reale
20040245146Portable lap tray with adjustable torso protector sectionDecember, 2004George III et al.
20030196921Simplified identification of sterilized equipmentOctober, 2003Giordano
20060060493Tamper resistant seals for transparent or other egg cartonsMarch, 2006Marshall
20040104138Large-capacity shipment and display binJune, 2004Remaks



Primary Examiner:
HARMON, CHRISTOPHER R
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
SCHWABE WILLIAMSON& WYATT (PORTLAND, OR, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A container sealing and/or protection apparatus, comprising: a cover; a sleeve coupled to the cover; and wherein the cover and the sleeve are configured to slide onto at least a portion of the container and wherein the sleeve is adapted to constrict upon application of heat to resist detachment of the cover and/or sleeve from the container and/or to environmentally seal the container.

2. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the cover is configured to overlie a top portion of a container and the sleeve is configured to cover one or more sides and a bottom of the container.

3. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the sleeve comprises two or more side members configured to fold to a position generally orthogonal to the cover.

4. The apparatus of claim 3, wherein the side members are coupled to each other by welding.

5. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein at least a portion of the sleeve consists of a heat shrinkable polymer layer.

6. The apparatus of claim 5, wherein the heat shrinkable polymer layer is at least one layer chosen from a polyvinyl chloride layer, a polyethylene layer and a polyolefin layer.

7. The apparatus of claim 5, wherein the heat shrinkable polymer layer has a thickness up to about 7 millimeters prior to application of heat to the polymer layer.

8. A container sealing and/or protection apparatus, comprising a generally flat sheet, the sheet having a first portion configured to cover a first side of a container, and a second portion disposed around the perimeter of the first portion and configured to fold to cover one or more additional sides of the container, the second portion adapted to constrict upon application of heat thereto such that the second portion substantially conforms to a shape of the container to resist detachment of the sheet from the container and/or to environmentally seal the container.

9. The apparatus of claim 8, wherein the first portion is configured to cover a top of the container and the second portion is further configured to fold to encompass one or more sides and at least a portion of a bottom of the container.

10. The apparatus of claim 8, wherein at least a portion of the second portion consists of a heat shrinkable polymer layer.

11. The apparatus of claim 10, wherein the heat shrinkable polymer layer is at least one layer chosen from a polyvinyl chloride layer, a polyethylene layer, and a polyolefin layer.

12. The apparatus of claim 10, wherein the heat shrinkable polymer layer has one or more first portions that have a first thickness and one or more second portions that have a second thickness.

13. The apparatus of claim 12, wherein the different thicknesses result in different rates of shrinkage between the first portions and the second portions.

14. The apparatus of claim 10, wherein the heat shrinkable polymer layer is responsive to the application of heat from a hair dryer.

15. The apparatus of claim 12, wherein the second portions are thicker than the first portions and strategically located to provide for greater wear resistance.

16. A method for sealing and/or protecting a container, comprising: providing a container sealing and/or protection apparatus having: a cover; a sleeve coupled to the cover; and wherein the cover and the sleeve are configured to slide onto at least a portion of a container and wherein at least the sleeve is adapted to constrict upon application of heat; sliding the container sealing and/or protection apparatus onto the container; and applying heat to the sleeve to constrict the sleeve to resist detachment of a lid from the container and/or to environmentally seal the container.

17. The method of claim 16, wherein said providing the container sealing and/or protection apparatus having the cover and the sleeve comprises providing a container sealing and/or protection apparatus having a cover configured to overlie a top of a container and a sleeve configured to cover one or more sides and a bottom of the container.

18. The method of claim 16, further comprising: providing a second container sealing and/or protection apparatus having: a second cover; a second sleeve coupled to the second cover; and wherein the second cover and the second sleeve are configured to slide onto at least a portion of the container and wherein the second sleeve is adapted to constrict upon application of heat; sliding the second container sealing and/or protection apparatus onto the container so that both the first and second container sealing and/or protection apparatuses overlap to collectively cover all surfaces of the container; and applying heat to the second sleeve to constrict the second sleeve to resist detachment of the second cover from the container and/or to environmentally seal the container.

19. The method of claim 18, wherein the providing a first container sealing and/or protection apparatus having a sleeve and/or providing a second container sealing and/or protection apparatus having a sleeve comprises providing one or more container sealing and/or protection apparatus having two or more flaps configured to be folded to a position generally orthogonal to the cover.

20. The method of claim 19, further comprising bonding the two or more flaps to each other.

21. The method of claim 16 further comprising: providing a second container sealing and/or protection apparatus having a generally flat sheet, the sheet having a first portion configured to cover a first side of a container, and a second portion disposed around the perimeter of the first portion and configured to fold to cover one or more additional sides of the container, the second portion adapted to constrict upon application of heat to constrict and substantially conform to a shape of the container; placing the second container sealing and/or protection apparatus onto the container such that it overlaps the first container sealing and/or protection apparatus; and applying heat to one or more sections of the second portion to constrict the one or more sections such that the first and second container sealing and/or protection apparatus collectively cover all surfaces of the container and to resist detachment of the sheet from the container and/or to environmentally seal the container.

22. The method of claim 16, wherein the providing the container sealing and/or protection apparatus comprises: providing a generally flat sheet, the sheet having a first portion configured to cover a first side of a container, and a second portion disposed around the perimeter of the first portion and configured to fold to cover one or more additional sides of the container, the second portion adapted to constrict upon application of heat to constrict and substantially conform to a shape of the container to resist detachment of the sheet from the container and/or to environmentally seal the container; and applying heat to one or more sections of the second portion to constrict the one or more sections to form a sleeve to fit around at least a portion of the container.

23. The method of claim 22, further comprising: providing a second container sealing and/or protection apparatus having a generally flat sheet, the sheet having a first portion configured to cover a first side of a container, and a second portion disposed around the perimeter of the first portion and configured to fold to cover one or more additional sides of the container, the second portion adapted to constrict upon application of heat to constrict and substantially conform to a shape of the container to resist detachment of the sheet from the container and/or to environmentally seal the container; placing the second container sealing and/or protection apparatus onto the container; applying heat to one or more sections of the second portion to constrict the one or more sections to form a sleeve to fit around at least a portion of the container and so that both container sealing and/or protection apparatuses overlap to collectively cover substantially all surfaces of the container; and applying heat to the sleeve of the second container sealing and/or protection apparatus to constrict the second sleeve to resist detachment of the sheet from the container and/or to environmentally seal the container.

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD

Embodiments of the invention relate generally to the field of packaging and storage, and more particularly to apparatuses and methods associated with and/or using a shrink-wrap cover on such packaging as a protective type barrier.

BACKGROUND

Practically all of today's households and businesses have at least one demand in common: the need for practical storage solutions. To that end, many of these households and businesses use various types of containers such as boxes, plastic totes, and the like. In addition to storing, various containers are used for other uses including organization and transportation of goods.

Oftentimes, sealing and protection of items in these containers is desired. For example, plastic totes are readily available in many stores and generally are sold with lids; however, the lids may not necessarily remain steadfastly attached to the plastic tote especially in situations in which the plastic tote is overfilled or if the attachment mechanism has become worn with age or overuse. Furthermore, the lid does not provide any indication of or deterrent to tampering with the contents of the container. With respect other types of containers, protection against the elements and pests may be desired. For example, cardboard boxes may not stand up well against rain, snow, or the invasion of pests.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Embodiments of the present invention will be readily understood by the following detailed description in conjunction with the accompanying drawings. Embodiments of the invention are illustrated by way of example and not by way of limitation in the figures of the accompanying drawings.

FIGS. 1A and 1B illustrate isometric views of a container sealing and/or protection apparatus and method of sealing a container in accordance with various embodiments;

FIG. 2 illustrates a top view of a container sealing and/or protection apparatus in accordance with various embodiments;

FIG. 3 illustrates a top view of a container sealing and/or protection apparatus in accordance with various embodiments; and

FIGS. 4A and 4B illustrate isometric views of a container sealing and/or protection apparatus and method of sealing a container in accordance with various embodiments.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION

In the following detailed description, reference is made to the accompanying drawings which form a part hereof and in which is shown by way of illustration embodiments in which the invention may be practiced. It is to be understood that other embodiments may be utilized and structural or logical changes may be made without departing from the scope of the present invention. Therefore, the following detailed description is not to be taken in a limiting sense, and the scope of embodiments in accordance with the present invention is defined by the appended claims and their equivalents.

Various operations may be described as multiple discrete operations in turn, in a manner that may be helpful in understanding embodiments of the present invention; however, the order of description should not be construed to imply that these operations are order dependent.

The description may use orientation and/or perspective-based descriptions such as up/down, back/front, and top/bottom. Such descriptions are merely used to facilitate the discussion and are not intended to restrict the application of embodiments of the present invention.

The description may use the phrases “in an embodiment,” or “in embodiments,” which may each refer to one or more of the same or different embodiments. Furthermore, the terms “comprising,” “including,” “having,” and the like, as used with respect to embodiments of the present invention, are synonymous.

The phrase “A/B” means “A or B.” The phrase “A and/or B” means “(A), (B), or (A and B).” The phrase “at least one of A, B and C” means “(A), (B), (C), (A and B), (A and C), (B and C) or (A, B and C).” The phrase “(A) B” means “(B) or (A B),” that is, A is optional.

The terms “coupled” and “connected,” along with their derivatives, may be used. It should be understood that these terms are not intended as synonyms for each other. Rather, in particular embodiments, “connected” may be used to indicate that two or more elements are in direct physical or electrical contact with each other. “Coupled” may mean that two or more elements are in direct physical or electrical contact. However, “coupled” may also mean that two or more elements are not in direct contact with each other, but yet still cooperate or interact with each other.

FIGS. 1A and 1B illustrate container sealing and/or protection devices in accordance with various embodiments of the present invention. In these embodiments and as shown, container sealing and/or protection apparatus 100 may comprise cover 2 and a sleeve 4, which may be formed from one or more side members 12. Cover 2 and side members 12 may be coupled together such that they form a sleeve type device that may be configured to fit around at least a portion of container 6. Container sealing and/or protection apparatus 100 may also be adapted to constrict upon application of heat to strategic locations, such as corners, seams, edges and the like.

In various embodiments, this constriction may result in the sealing of container 6 so that container sealing and/or protection apparatus 100 remains attached to container 6 such that container 6 and/or its contents are protected against certain environmental conditions, such as for example, moisture, dust, pests, etc. In some embodiments, a hermetic sealing of container 6 may result. And in other embodiments, the container sealing and/or protection apparatus 100 may also serve to help lid 8 remain secured to container 6. Further, in various embodiments, sealing and/or protecting container 6 may seal and/or protect container 6 and/or contents of container 6 from tampering. Still further, in various other embodiments, sealing and/or protecting container 6 may prevent contents of container 6 from spilling out and/or to keep a lid from becoming displaced from container 6.

Container sealing and/or protection apparatus 100 may be used to seal and/or protect any one of various types of containers 6. For example, in various embodiments, container sealing and/or protection apparatus 100 may be used, for example, to seal and/or protect plastic totes and/or cardboard moving boxes.

In various embodiments, at least a portion of container sealing and/or protection apparatus 100 may be formed at least partially from a material capable of constricting upon application of heat to cause container sealing and/or protection apparatus 100 to conform to a shape of container 6. For example, in various embodiments, a heat-shrinkable material may be used that is solely a heat-shrinkable polymer layer, or more than one layer of a non-heat shrinkable material may be used in conjunction with a heat shrinkable material. Such heat-shrinkable polymers may include, for example, poly vinyl chloride, polyethylene and polyolefin.

Heat-shrinkable material used to construct container sealing and/or protection apparatus 100 may have any one of various thickness depending on the applications. For example, in various embodiments, heat-shrinkable material having a thickness of up to about 7 millimeters may be used. In some embodiments, a thicker thickness may be desirable for any number of reasons including increased durability, longevity, etc. In various other embodiments, heat-shrinkable material having a thinner thickness may be desirable for any number of reasons including, for example, reduced weight and/or aesthetic reasons. Furthermore, the thickness and/or particular material of heat-shrinkable material may be selected so that a lower temperature heat source may be used to constrict container sealing and/or protection apparatus 100. For example, it may be desirable for a user to be able to use a standard household hair blow dryer to constrict container sealing and/or protection apparatus 100 so that an industrial, higher-temperature heat gun need not be used. In some of these embodiments, a heat-shrinkable material having a thickness of about 4 millimeters may be suitable.

In various embodiments, any portion or all of container sealing and/or protection apparatus 100 may be formed from a heat-shrinkable material. For example, in various embodiments, part or all of sleeve 4 may be heat-shrinkable, such that upon application of heat, the side members 12 shrink to generally conform to the container sides 10. In various other embodiments, sleeve 4, side members 12, corners 14 and/or cover 2 may be heat-shrinkable to further enhance container conformity. Yet in various other embodiments, portions of container sealing and/or protection apparatus 100 may be formed from a non-heat-shrinkable material to enhance durability, aesthetics, and the like. For example, in one embodiment, sleeve 4 may consist of a heat-shrinkable material and cover 2 may consist of a fabric, various plastics, etc.

Container sealing and/or protection apparatus 100 may be further constructed in a number of geometric configurations. For example, in one embodiment, sleeve 4 may be generally orthogonal to cover 2 and/or slightly tapered to conform to a tapered sided container 6. In one embodiment, sleeve 4 of container sealing and/or protection apparatus 100 may be formed in a variety of ways and have features depending on the desired geometry. As shown in FIG. 1, for example, there are four side members 12 and four corners 14.

Although FIG. 1 shows container sealing and/or protection apparatus 100 as being generally rectangular in shape, in various other embodiments container sealing and/or protection apparatus 100 may be circular, triangular, polygonal, etc. For example, if container sealing and/or protection apparatus 100 were triangular in form, cover 2 may be generally triangularly shaped and there may be three side members 12 (versus the four shown in FIG. 1).

Container sealing and/or protection apparatus 100 may also be configured to cover multiple sides of a container. For example, in various embodiments and as shown in FIG. 1, container sealing and/or protection apparatus 100 may be configured to cover a top 8 and sides 10 of a container 6. However, in other embodiments, container sealing and/or protection apparatus 100 may be configured to cover top 8, sides 10, and bottom (not shown) of container 6. In this embodiment, sleeve 4 of container sealing and/or protection apparatus 100 may wrap around the bottom of container 6 and shrink upon application of heat to cover container 6 on top 8, sides 10, and at least a portion of the bottom.

In one embodiment, where the container has a flanged edge portion where the lid mates with the container, the container sealing and/or protection apparatus may be particularly well suited for helping to secure the lid to the container. In such an embodiment, the sleeve 4 may be adapted to conform to the sides of the container, thereby snugly fitting around the flanged portion. Not only does this allow for lid securement, but also may keep the hand grips accessible to facilitate handling of the container without removing the sealing and/or protection apparatus.

In various embodiments, the container sealing and/or protection apparatus 100 may be formed by molding a contiguous sheet of material. For example, as shown in FIG. 2, container sealing and/or protection apparatus 100 may comprise a cover 2 and a sleeve 4 cut from the same contiguous sheet, wherein the sleeve comprises one or more side members 12. In such an embodiment, side members 12 may be configured to fold to a position generally orthogonal to cover 2 to form a container sealing and/or protection apparatus 100 similar to one shown in FIG. 1. In some of these embodiments, edges 17 of side members 12 may be coupled to each other by seam welding to form a seamed corner 14. For example, edges 17 may be PVC welded.

FIG. 3 illustrates a container sealing and/or protection apparatus 100 also configured from a single sheet. Container sealing and/or protection apparatus 100 may comprise a first portion 18 and a second portion 20 disposed around the perimeter of first portion 18. In various embodiments, at least second portion 20 may be adapted to constrict upon application of heat to constrict and substantially conform to a shape of a container 6. So configured, the integrated corners 22 may be adapted to shrink at a proportionally greater or lesser rate than other portions of second portion 20 in order to manipulate the fit of the sleeve to the container and/or to urge the container sealing and/or protection apparatus 100 to conform to the container shape and help to resist detachment and/or to environmentally seal the container 6.

In various embodiments, first portion 18 may be configured to cover a first side of a container 6, and second portion 20 and corners 22 may be configured to fold to cover one or more additional sides of a container 6 and/or the bottom of container 6.

In various embodiments, heat may be applied to one or more sections of second portion 20 and/or corners 22 to constrict such areas in a manner so as to form a sleeve to fit around at least a portion of a container 6. For example, as shown in FIG. 3 heat may be applied to sections 22 prior to or after placing container sealing and/or protection apparatus 100 onto a container 6 to form a sleeve (as shown, for example, at 4 of FIG. 1). In various ones of these embodiments, heat may then be applied to other areas of second portion 20 and/or corners 22 to further constrict second portion 20 so that second portion 20 substantially conforms to a shape of a container.

In various embodiments of the present invention, a container may be sealed and/or protected by using one or more container sealing and/or protection apparatuses in accordance with embodiments of the present invention. FIGS. 4A and 4B illustrate examples of such a container sealing and/or protection apparatus 100. In one embodiment, a first container sealing and/or protection apparatus 24 may be applied to a first side of container 6. A second container sealing and/or protection apparatus 26 may be positioned on a second side of container 6 such that the apparatuses engage the container from opposite directions.

In various embodiments, heat may be applied to the first container sealing and/or protection apparatus 24 and/or second sealing and/or protection apparatus 26 to resist and/or prevent detachment of the first container sealing and/or protection apparatus 24 from container 6 and/or to environmentally seal container 24.

In some of these embodiments, a container 6 may be protected and/or sealed by first placing the first container sealing and/or protection apparatus 24 onto container 6, then applying heat to the first container sealing and/or protection apparatus 24 to urge conformation to a portion of the container. Second container sealing and/or protection apparatus 26 may then be placed onto container 6 and heat applied thereto to urge conformation to the container and/or sealing with the first container sealing and/or protection apparatus 24. However, in various other embodiments, the first container sealing and/or protection apparatus 24 and second container sealing and/or protection apparatus 26 may both be placed onto container 6 and such that heat may be applied simultaneously to both container sealing and/or protection apparatuses 24, 26.

In various embodiments, the first container sealing and/or protection apparatus 24 and second container sealing and/or protection apparatus 26 may be placed onto opposite sides of container 6. As shown in FIGS. 4A and 4B, first container sealing and/or protection apparatus 24 and second container sealing and/or protection apparatus 26 may be oriented such that substantially all surfaces of container 6 are covered by both container sealing and/or protection apparatuses 24, 26. For example, as shown in FIG. 4B, first container sealing and/or protection apparatus 24 may be placed onto a bottom of container 6 and then second container sealing and/or protection apparatus 26 is placed onto the top of container 6. In various other embodiments, more than two container sealing and/or protection apparatuses may be used. In still other embodiments, container sealing and/or protection apparatuses may cover less than all surfaces of container 6. For example, it may be desired to cover merely an opening or one or more sides of container 6 completely without covering other sides completely.

Furthermore, in various embodiments, one or both of first container sealing and/or protection apparatus 24 and second container sealing and/or protection apparatus 26 may be configured to cover a top, one or more sides, and a bottom of a container 6. For example, a container sealing and/or protection apparatus may have a cover configured to cover a top of container 6, and the container sealing and/or protection apparatus may further have a sleeve configured to cover sides and at least a portion of a bottom of the container 6.

Still further, in various embodiments, first container sealing and/or protection apparatus 24 and second container sealing and/or protection apparatus 26 may be configured identically or differently from each other. For example, in various embodiments and as shown in FIGS. 4A and 4B, first container sealing and/or protection apparatus 24 and second container sealing and/or protection apparatus 26 may both consist of a cover and a sleeve (as discussed more fully previously). In various embodiments, the sleeve of one or both of container sealing and/or protection apparatuses 24, 26 may comprise two or more flaps which may or may not be welded to each other prior to or after placing the container sealing and/or protection apparatus onto a container 6. In various other embodiments, one or both of container sealing and/or protection apparatuses 24, 26 may comprise a generally flat sheet having a first portion to cover a first side of a container 6, and a second portion disposed around the perimeter of the first portion and configured to fold to cover one or more additional sides of a container 6.

Although certain embodiments have been illustrated and described herein for purposes of description of the preferred embodiment, it will be appreciated by those of ordinary skill in the art that a wide variety of alternate and/or equivalent embodiments or implementations calculated to achieve the same purposes may be substituted for the embodiments shown and described without departing from the scope of the present invention. Those with skill in the art will readily appreciate that embodiments in accordance with the present invention may be implemented in a very wide variety of ways. This application is intended to cover any adaptations or variations of the embodiments discussed herein. Therefore, it is manifestly intended that embodiments in accordance with the present invention be limited only by the claims and the equivalents thereof.





 
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