Title:
Bag with Valve
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A storage bag for storing items such as food includes a flexible plastic sidewall configured to provide an interior volume, a sealable opening for accessing the interior volume, and a one-way valve element attached to the sidewall and communicating with the interior volume. The opening may be closed and latent air within the storage bag may be evacuated through the valve element. The valve element may also be flexible and its flexibility may be similar to that of the bag itself. In an aspect, the valve element can be a low profile valve element which has a height dimension that is relatively small with respect to the other dimensions of the storage bag and/or valve element. In other aspects, the valve element can have a compact size such that its width, surface area and other similar dimensions are relatively small compared to the other dimensions of the storage bag and/or valve element.



Inventors:
Reuhs, Rebecca S. (Chicago, IL, US)
Dorsey, Robert T. (Orland Park, IL, US)
Borchardt, Michael G. (Naperville, IL, US)
Bergman, Carl L. (Loveland, OH, US)
Application Number:
11/838601
Publication Date:
12/20/2007
Filing Date:
08/14/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D33/01; B65D33/00; B65D33/16; B65D33/24; B65D81/20
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
HELVEY, PETER N.
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
THE CLOROX COMPANY (OAKLAND, CA, US)
Claims:
1. A storage bag comprising: a first sidewall having a sidewall surface area and a sidewall thickness, the first sidewall including a hole disposed therethrough; and a one-way valve element attached to the first sidewall over the hole, the valve element having a valve height and a valve surface area, the valve element being a low profile valve element.

2. The storage bag of claim 1, wherein the ratio of the sidewall surface area to the valve height is between about 1800:1 to about 30,000:1.

3. The storage bag of claim 1, wherein the ratio of the sidewall surface area to the valve height is about 9430:1.

4. The storage bag of claim 1, wherein the ratio of the valve height to the sidewall thickness is between about 1:1 to about 20:1.

5. The storage bag of claim 1, wherein the ratio of the valve height to the sidewall thickness is about 4.4:1.

6. The storage bag of claim 1, wherein the ratio of the valve surface area to the valve height is between about 40:1 to about 350:1.

7. The storage bag of claim 1, wherein the ratio of the valve surface area to the valve height is about 43:1.

8. The storage bag of claim 1, wherein the hole has a hole width, the ratio of the hole width to the valve height is between about 10:1 to about 70:1.

9. The storage bag of claim 1, wherein the hole has a hole width, the ratio of the hole width to the valve height is about 17.9:1.

10. The storage bag of claim 1, wherein the valve element has a valve width, the ratio of the valve height to the valve width is between about 0.01:1 to about 0.035:1.

11. The storage bag of claim 1, wherein the valve has a valve width, the ratio of the valve height to the valve width is about 0.018:1.

12. The storage bag of claim 1, wherein the hole having a hole width, the valve element having a valve width, the ratio of the hole width to the valve width is between about 0.01:1 to about 0.70:1.

13. The storage bag of claim 12, wherein the ratio of the hole width to the valve width is about 0.24:1.

14. The storage bag of claim 12, wherein the hole is circular such that the hole width is a diameter and the valve is circular such that the valve width is a diameter.

15. A storage bag of claim 1, wherein the hole having a hole area, the ratio of the sidewall surface area to the hole area is between about 1500:1 to about 10,000:1.

16. The storage bag of claim 15 wherein the ratio of the sidewall surface area to the hole area is about 4780:1.

17. A storage bag of claim 1 wherein the ratio of the sidewall surface area to the valve surface area is between about 40:1 to about 750:1.

18. The storage bag of claim 17, wherein the ratio of the sidewall surface area to the valve surface area is about 216.2:1.

19. The storage bag of claim 1, wherein the hole is circular.

20. The storage bag of claim 1, wherein the valve element is single ply.

21. The storage bag of claim 1, wherein the valve element is multi-ply.

22. (canceled)

23. (canceled)

24. (canceled)

25. (canceled)

26. (canceled)

27. (canceled)

28. (canceled)

29. A storage bag comprising: a first sidewall including a hole disposed therethrough; the hole having a hole width; a one-way valve element attached to the first sidewall over the hole, the valve element having a valve width; wherein the ratio of the hole width to the valve width is about 0.01:1 to about 0.70:1.

30. (canceled)

31. (canceled)

32. A storage bag comprising: a first sidewall having a sidewall surface area including a hole disposed therethrough, the hole having a hole area; a one-way valve element attached to the first sidewall over the hole; wherein the ratio of the sidewall surface area to the hole area is about 1500:1 to about 10,000:1.

33. (canceled)

34. A storage bag comprising: a first sidewall having a sidewall surface area including a hole disposed therethrough; a one-way valve element having a valve surface area attached to the first sidewall over the hole; wherein the ratio of the sidewall surface area to the valve surface area is about 40:1 to about 750:1.

35. (canceled)

36. A storage bag comprising: a first sidewall having a sidewall surface area and a sidewall thickness; a one-way valve element attached to the first sidewall, the valve element having a valve height and a valve surface area, the valve element having an aperture, the valve element being a low profile valve element; wherein the aperture has an aperture width the ratio of the aperture width to the valve height is between about 10:1 to about 70:1; wherein the aperture having an aperture width, the valve element having a valve width, the ratio of the aperture width to the valve width is between about 0.01:1 to about 0.70:1; and wherein the aperture having an aperture area, the ratio of the sidewall surface area to the aperture area is between about 1500:1 to about 10,000:1.

37. (canceled)

38. (canceled)

39. (canceled)

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This patent application is a continuation-in-part of copending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/880,784, filed Jun. 29, 2004 which is incorporated by reference in its entirety.

BACKGROUND

Plastic bags are used for a variety of purposes including storing food items. Such bags can be made from a thermoplastic sidewall material arranged to provide an interior volume that can receive items for storage via an opening disposed into the sidewall. Often these bags have interlocking closure strips on the rim of the opening of the bag so that it may be sealed once an item has been placed in the bag. These types of bags may also be heat-sealed or glued at the rim of the bag to provide a more permanent closure. Such plastic bags are often made from flexible thermoplastic sheet material so that they can accommodate a variety of shapes and sizes of objects.

A common problem with these types of bags is that once the opening has been closed, latent air may remain trapped in the interior volume of the bag. This causes many problems. First, the latent air trapped in the bag can increase the overall size of the bag which is undesirable and causes difficulties in storing the bag. Additionally, this trapped latent air causes many problems when the item stored in the bag is a food item. The trapped air can cause the stored food items to spoil or dehydrate. When the bag is stored in a freezer, the trapped air can also contribute to freezer burn of the stored food items.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE DISCLOSURE

In various aspects, the invention provides a vacuum storage bag with a flexible plastic sidewall configured to provide an interior volume for receiving storage items. To access the interior volume, a resealable opening can be disposed through the sidewall. To remove latent air that is trapped in the interior volume once the opening has been sealed, a valve element can be attached to the sidewall so as to communicate with the interior volume. The valve element allows latent air to be evacuated from the bag once the opening has been sealed. To improve the functionality and the packability of the storage bag, the valve element can be a low profile or compactly sized valve element.

Such a valve element can have various characteristics associated with it. One characteristic of such a valve element is that the valve element can have a low profile wherein the ratio of the height of the valve to the gauge thickness of the sidewall of the bag can be small. A low profile valve element may also be characterized as having a low ratio of height as compared to the surface area of the bag sidewall. The valve element may also be compactly sized wherein the ratio of the maximum width of a sidewall to the maximum width of the valve element is large. Another characteristic of a compact sized valve element is that it may have a high ratio of surface area of the sidewall of the bag to the surface area of the aperture in the bag. Another characteristic of the valve element is that the flexibility of the sidewall of the plastic bag is similar to the flexibility of the valve element. The valve element may also be constructed using a single-ply construction or a multi-ply construction. There are, additionally, other characteristics of a valve element which are discussed and claimed herein.

A benefit of this storage bag is that the advantages offered by a flexible plastic bag are not impaired by a large or inflexible valve element. An additional advantage of these types of bags is that the bags are easier to pack and store. This may lead to reduced cost associated with the manufacturing of these vacuum storage bags. These and other features and advantages of the invention will be apparent from the foregoing drawings and detailed description of the embodiments.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the vacuum storage bag and an evacuation device designed in accordance with the teachings of the invention, the bag having a valve element such as a flexible, low profile, compact sized valve element

FIG. 2 is an exploded view of one embodiment of the vacuum storage bag and valve element of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional view of the valve element and storage bag taken along line A-A in FIG. 1, illustrating the valve element covering a hole disposed through the bag sidewall.

FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional view of the valve element and storage bag taken along line A-A in FIG. 1, illustrating the valve element partially displaced from the bag sidewall during evacuation.

FIG. 5 is an elevational view of the vacuum storage bag and valve element of FIG. 1.

FIG. 6 is a sectional view of the vacuum storage bag and valve element taken along line B-B of FIG. 5.

FIG. 7 is a cross-sectional view of another embodiment of the valve element and storage bag.

FIG. 8 is a cross-sectional view of another embodiment of the valve element and storage bag.

FIG. 9 is a cross-sectional view of another embodiment of the valve element and storage bag.

FIG. 10 is an exploded view of another embodiment of the vacuum storage bag and valve element such as a flexible, low profile, single-ply valve element attached over a hole in the sidewall.

FIG. 11 is another embodiment of the vacuum storage bag and valve element, such as, a flexible, low profile valve element attached over an aperture in the sidewall.

FIG. 12 is another embodiment of the vacuum storage bag and valve element, such as, a flexible, low profile valve element attached over an aperture in the sidewall.

FIG. 13 is another embodiment of the vacuum storage bag and valve element, such as, a flexible, low profile valve element attached over an aperture in the sidewall.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE EMBODIMENTS

Now referring to the drawings, wherein like reference numbers refer to like elements, there is shown in FIG. 1 a vacuum storage bag 100 that can be made of flexible thermoplastic materials and that can be used for the storage of food items. In the illustrated embodiment, the storage bag 100 is made from a first sidewall 102 and an opposing second sidewall 104 overlying and joined to the first sidewall to provide an interior volume 106. The first and second sidewalls 102, 104 are joined along a first side edge 110, a parallel or non-parallel second side edge 112, and a closed bottom edge 114 that extends between the first and the second side edges. The sidewalls 102, 104 can be joined along the first and second side edges 110, 112 and bottom edge 114 by any suitable process such as, for example, heat sealing. Because of the four perpendicular sides in the illustrated embodiment, the storage bag 100 has a generally square or rectangular shape, however, in other embodiments, the storage bag can have any other suitable size or shape.

The first and second sidewalls can be made from any suitable material such as, for example, high density polyethylene, low density polyethylene, polypropylene, ethylene vinyl acetate, nylon, polyester, and polyamides. The flexible and pliable nature of the thermoplastic material enables the bag to be folded and packaged in a cardboard box with a number of like bags for commercial distribution.

To access the interior volume 106, the top edges 120, 122 of the first and second sidewalls 102, 104 remain unjoined to provide an opening 124. To seal the opening 124, first and second interlocking fastening strips 126, 128 can be attached to the interior surfaces of the respective first and second sidewalls 102, 104. The first and second fastening strips 126, 128 extend generally between the first and second side edges 110, 112 parallel to and spaced below the top edges 120, 122. In some embodiments, the bag 100 can include a movable slider straddling the fastening strips 126, 128 to facilitate sealing and unsealing of the opening 124. In other embodiments, the bag can include additional or different suitable closure mechanisms for sealing closed the opening.

To evacuate the storage bag 100 of latent or entrapped air after the opening has been closed a one-way valve element 130 is included at an exposed location on the bag. The valve element 130 can be attached to the first flexible sidewall 102 and can communicate with the interior volume 106. The valve element 130 could also be attached to the second sidewall 104.

The one-way valve element 130 can be configured to open under an applied pressure differential thereby allowing air from the interior volume to escape and to close after elimination or reduction of the pressure differential. To establish the pressure differential, a vacuum device can be used. For example, as illustrated in FIG. 1, the vacuum device 132 is configured as a hand-held, electrically operated device having a nozzle 134 adapted to interface with the valve element 130. In the illustrated embodiment, the evacuation device 132 can be sized so that the rim 136 provided by the nozzle 134 can extend around and about the valve element 130 when the nozzle 134 is placed against the bag 100. When the device is interfaced with the valve element and activated, the vacuum device 132 draws air from the interior volume 106 through the valve element 130. The vacuum device can also be configured as a tabletop unit and can utilize various evacuation principles such as hand-operated pumps, mechanical pumps, water aspirators, oral suction, and the like.

Referring to FIG. 2, in the present embodiment, the valve element can be constructed using a multi-ply arrangement. The valve element 130 can include a base layer 142 and a corresponding top layer 144. The base layer 142 and top layer 144 can be made from any suitable material such as, for example, a flexible, transparent thermoplastic film. Additionally, the base layer and the top layer can be made from the same or different materials. Examples of suitable thermoplastic materials for the valve element include high density polyethylene, low density polyethylene, polypropylene, ethylene vinyl acetate, nylon, polyester, polyamide, poly vinyl chloride (PVC) and ethylene vinyl alcohol. The valve element can be made from the same or different materials as the bag sidewalls. The base layer 142 can be circular with an aperture 146 disposed through it such that the base layer appears annular in shape. The top layer 144 is positioned over and secured to the base layer 142 so as to cover the aperture 146. In this embodiment the top layer 144 corresponds in size and shape to the base layer 142 such that the two layers provide a circular periphery 148 for the valve element 130. In other embodiments, the valve element can have other suitable shapes including any various polygonal shapes.

To secure the top layer 144 to the base layer 142, in the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 2, two parallel strips of adhesive 150 can be applied to the base layer extending along either side of the aperture 146. The unadhered portions of the top and base layers 142, 144 corresponding to the layer material between the two adhesive strips 150 can provide an expandable and collapsible channel 170. The channel 170 can extend generally from the aperture 146 to opposing exit points corresponding to the periphery 148 of the valve element 130. The valve element 130 is then adhered by a ring of adhesive 158 (indicated by dashed lines on the underside of the base layer 142) to the flexible bag 100 so as to cover a hole 156 disposed through the first sidewall 102. Once attached, the aperture 146 should align with the hole 156.

FIG. 3 depicts a detailed cross-sectional view of the valve element 130 taken along line A-A in FIG. 1, illustrating the channel 170 in a collapsed position with the valve element covering the hole 156 disposed in the sidewall 102. In the position shown in FIG. 3, the valve element 130 can prevent air from the environment from entering into the interior volume 106.

FIG. 4 depicts a detailed cross-sectional view of the valve element 130 taken along line A-A in FIG. 1, illustrating the top layer 144 partially displaced with respect to the sidewall 102 during evacuation. During evacuation, air from the internal volume 106 passes through the hole 156 in the first sidewall 102 and the aperture 146 in the base layer 142 and thereby places the channel 170 into the expanded condition. Once evacuation is completed, the resilient top layer 144 can return to its prior position covering and sealing the aperture 146 and hole 156 and thereby collapsing the channel 170 as depicted in FIG. 3. To assist in sealing the bag, in various embodiments the valve element can include a sealant material such as a gel or oil between the top and base layers.

Referring to FIG. 5 and FIG. 6, the valve element 130 may have a valve width 180, a surface area 181, and a height or thickness 182. The valve width 180 may be in a first range of about 0.50 inches (1.270 cm) to about 1.50 inches (3.810 cm), in a second range of about 0.50 inches (1.270 cm) to about 1.25 inches (3.75 cm), and in a third range of about 0.50 inches (1.270 cm) to about 1.0 inches (2.540 cm). The valve surface area 181 may be in a first range of about 0.20 inches2 (1.290 cm2) to about 1.77 inches2 (11.419 cm2), in a second range between about 0.20 inches2 (1.290 cm2) to about 0.79 inches2 (5.097 cm2), and in a third range between about 0.20 inches2 (1.290 cm2) to about 0.31 inches2 (2.0 cm2). The valve height 182 may be, in a first range of about 0.005 inches (0.013 cm) to about 0.025 inches (0.064 cm), in a second range between about 0.010 inches (0.025 cm) to about 0.020 inches (0.051 cm), and in a third range between about 0.012 inches (0.030 cm) to about 0.017 inches (0.043 cm). By way of example, the valve width can be 0.78 inches, the surface area can be 0.61 inches, and the height can be about 0.014 inches. In the illustrated embodiment with a circular valve element, the maximum width 180 corresponds to a diameter and the surface area 181 could be calculated by the formula A=Π*r2 wherein r is the radius or one-half of the valve diameter. Additionally, the first sidewall 102 has a thickness 184 and the second sidewall has a thickness 185 which can be defined as the thickness of the thermoplastic sheet material that comprises the sidewalls. The thickness 184, 185 may be in a first range of about 0.001 inches (0.0025 cm) to about 0.005 inches (0.0127 cm), and in a second range between about 0.002 inches (0.0051 cm) to about 0.004 inches (0.0102 cm). In one embodiment, the thickness 184, 185 may be about 0.0032 inches (0.0076 cm). In another embodiment, the sidewall thickness 184 may be different than the sidewall thickness 185.

In accordance with one aspect of the invention, the valve element 130 can be configured as a low profile valve element. A characteristic of such a valve element is that it has a relatively low or small height dimension 182 as measured from the sidewall surface. The ratio of the valve height 182 to the thickness 184 can be in a first range between about 1:1 to about 20:1, in a second range between about 4:1 to about 10:1, and in a third range between about 4:1 to about 6:1. In one embodiment, the ratio of the valve height 182 to the thickness 184 can be about 4.4:1. With the valve element having a height or thickness comparable to the bag sidewall thickness, the valve element can be sufficiently flexible to enable folding of the bag.

A low-profile valve element can have other characteristics. The bag sidewall 102 can have a sidewall width 190, a sidewall height 192 and a sidewall surface area 183. The sidewall width 190 may be in a first range between about 3 inches (7.620 cm) to about 15 inches (38.1 cm), in a second range between about 5 inches (12.70 cm) to about 12 inches (30.48 cm), and in a third range between about 7 inches (17.78 cm) to about 12 inches (30.48 cm). The sidewall height 192 may be in a first range between about 3 inches (7.62 cm) to about 20 inches (50.8 cm), in a second range between about 5 inches (12.7 cm) to about 15 inches (38.10 cm), and in a third range between about 9 inches (22.86 cm) to about 12 inches (30.48 cm). The surface area 183 may be in a first range between about 0.25 inches2 (1.613 cm2) to about 1 inches2 (6.452 cm2) and in a second range between about 0.30 inches2 (4.916 cm2) to about 0.50 inches2 (8.194 cm2). For example, the bag sidewall 102 can have a width 190 of about 11 inches (27.940 cm) and a height 192 of about 12 inches (30.480 cm) and thus a surface area of about 132 square inches (851.611 sq. cm). The ratio of the area 183 of the first sidewall to the height 182 of the low-profile valve can be in a first range between about 1800:1 to about 30,000:1, in a second range between about 2500:1 to about 15,000:1, and in a third range between about 5000:1 to about 12,000:1. In one embodiment, the ratio of the area 183 of the first sidewall to the height 182 of the low-profile valve 130 can be about 9429:1. As another characteristic, the ratio of the surface area 181 of the low-profile valve element 130 to the height 182 of the low-profile valve element can be in a first range between about 40:1 to about 350:1, in a second range between about 40:1 to about 70:1, and in a third range between about 40:1 to about 60:1. In one embodiment, the ratio of the surface area 181 of the low-profile valve element 130 to the height 182 of the low-profile valve element can be about 43:1.

In another aspect, the characteristics of the valve element 130 can be assessed in comparison to the hole 156 disposed through the sidewall 102. The hole 156 may have a hole width 186 in a first range between about 0.094 inches (0.239 cm) to about 0.500 inches (1.270 cm), in a second range between about 0.125 inches (0.318 cm) to about 0.406 inches (1.031 cm), and in a third range between about 0.156 inches (0.396 cm) to about 0.344 inches (0.874 cm). In one embodiment, the hole width 186 may be about 0.1875 inches (0.476 cm). Another characteristic of the valve element 130 is that the ratio of the hole width 186 of the hole 156 to the valve element height 182 can be in a first range between about 10:1 to about 70:1 and in a second range between about 15:1 to about 20:1. In one embodiment, the ratio of the hole width 186 of the hole 156 to the valve element height 182 can be about 17.9:1.

As another characteristic, the ratio of the valve element height 182 to the width 180 of the valve element 130 can be in a first range between about 0.01:1 to about 0.035:1, and in a second range between about 0.016:1 to about 0.024:1. In one embodiment, the ratio of the valve element height 182 to the width 180 of the valve element 130 can be about 0.018:1.

In another aspect of the invention, the valve element can be compactly sized. For example, the ratio of the width 186 of the hole 156 to the width 180 of the valve element 130 can be in a first range between about 0.010:1 to about 0.035:1, in a second range between about 0.025:1 to about 0.50:1, and in a third range between about 0.15:1 to about 0.35:1. In one embodiment, the ratio of the width 186 of the hole 156 to the width 180 of the valve element 130 can be about 0.24:1. The area 187 of the hole 156 may be in a first range of about 0.007 inches2 (0.045 cm2) to about 0.200 inches2 (1.29 cm2), in a second range between about 0.012 inches2 (0.077 cm2) to about 0.120 inches2 (0.774 cm2), and in a third range between about 0.02 inches2 (0.129 cm2) to about 0.10 inches2 (0.645 cm2). In one embodiment, the hole area 187 may be about 0.028 inches2 (0.181 cm2). As another characteristic, the ratio of the surface area 183 of a sidewall to the area 187 of the hole 156 in the sidewall can be in a first range between about 1000:1 to about 21,000:1, in a second range between about 1500:1 to about 10,000:1, and in a third range between about 3,000:1 to about 7,000:1. In one embodiment, the ratio of the surface area 183 of the sidewall 102 to the area 187 of the hole 156 disposed in the sidewall can be about 4780:1.

As another characteristic, the ratio of the surface area 183 of the sidewall 102 to the surface area 181 of the valve element 130 can be in a first range between about 40:1 to about 750:1, in a second range between about 100:1 to about 300:1, and in a third range between about 150:1 to about 250:1. In one embodiment, the ratio of the surface area 183 of the sidewall to the surface area 181 of the valve element 130 can be about 216.2:1.

Referring to FIGS. 3 and 6, the aperture 146 in the base layer 142 is larger than the hole 156 in the sidewall 102. In other embodiments, the aperture in the base layer may be smaller than the hole in the sidewall. Referring to FIG. 7, the aperture 246 in the base layer 242 is smaller than the hole 256 in the sidewall 202. The aperture 246 can have characteristics and dimensions similar to the hole 156 described herein. The aperture 246, the valve, and the bag can have any of the characteristics and ratios described herein, including combinations of those characteristics.

In other embodiments, the aperture in the base layer may be the same size as the hole in the sidewall. Referring to FIG. 8, the aperture 346 in the base layer 342 is the same size as the hole 356 in the sidewall 302. The hole 356 can have characteristics and dimensions similar to the hole 156 described herein. The hole 356, the valve and the bag can have any of the characteristics and ratios described herein, including combinations of those characteristics and ratios.

In other embodiments, the aperture in the base layer may be misaligned with the hole in the sidewall. Referring to FIG. 9, the aperture 446 in the base layer 442 is not aligned with the hole 456 in the sidewall 402. The resulting hole 485 may have a hole width 486. The hole 485 can have characteristics and dimensions similar to the hole 156 described herein. The hole 485, the valve, and the bag can have any of the characteristics and ratios described herein, including combinations of those characteristics. In addition, the aperture 446 may be a different size or the same size as the hole 456.

The low profile or compactly sized valve element of the foregoing type can offer various advantages. For example, the valve element is sized sufficiently small so as to not interfere with packaging and use of the bag. Another advantage is that the sidewall hole through which the valve element communicates with the interior volume can be relatively small, which in turn helps maintain the strength and integrity of the sidewall. Another advantage is that, because of its low height and flexible thermoplastic material, the valve element mimics the flexibility of the bag sidewall material. Hence, the bag can be easily folded or conform around an item located in the interior volume.

Referring to FIG. 10, another embodiment of the invention may be constructed using a single-ply, low-profile valve element 530. In the embodiment depicted in FIG. 10, the single-ply, low-profile valve element 530 is constructed using only a single layer 544 attached directly to a sidewall 502. The single layer 544 can be positioned over an aperture or hole 556 disposed through the sidewall 502. Moreover, the single layer can be made from any suitable material including flexible, transparent thermoplastic film. The valve element 530 is configured to open under an applied pressure differential thereby allowing air from the interior volume 506 to escape and to close after elimination or reduction of the pressure differential. While in the illustrated embodiment the valve element 530 is circular, in other embodiments the valve element can have any suitable shape including any various polygonal shapes.

To secure the valve element 530 to the sidewall 502, in the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 10, two parallel strips of adhesive 550 can be applied to the single layer 544 to correspond to opposite sides of the hole 556. In other embodiments, other suitable joining methods besides or in addition to adhesive can be employed to secure together the single layer and the sidewall such as, for example, heat sealing. The unadhered portions of the single layer 544 located between the two adhesive strips 550 can provide an expandable and collapsible channel 552 (indicated in dashed lines on the sidewall 502) between the first sidewall and the single layer. Particularly, the channel 552 extends from the hole 556 to opposing exit points 548 that correspond to the periphery of the valve element 530. Hence, when a pressure differential is applied across the valve element, the unadhered portion of the single layer 544 can displace with respect to the sidewall 502 thereby expanding the channel 552 and allowing air from the interior volume to pass through the hole 556 and escape to the environment. Once the pressure differential is removed, the single layer 544 can resiliently recover its initial position resealing the aperture 556.

The single ply valve element 530 illustrated in FIG. 10 can have any of the characteristics and ratios described herein, including combinations of those characteristics and ratios. Hence, the single ply valve element can be a low profile or compactly sized valve element.

Illustrated in FIG. 11 is another embodiment of a low-profile valve element 630. The illustrated valve element 630 has a rectangular shape. The valve element 630 is configured to open under an applied pressure differential thereby allowing air from the interior volume 606 to escape and to close after elimination or reduction of the pressure differential. In this embodiment, the rectangular, low-profile valve element 630 includes only a single layer 644 of flexible thermoplastic material attached directly to the sidewall 602 so as to be positioned over and cover a hole 656 disposed through the sidewall 602. Because of its rectangular shape, the width of the valve 630 can be the distance between opposite ends 646, 647 of the rectangular shape.

To secure the single layer 644 to the sidewall 602, in the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 11, two patches of adhesive 650 can be applied to the sidewall 602 along either side of the hole 656. The single layer 644 is placed adjacent the sidewall 602 so that opposite ends 646, 647 of the layer align and bond with the adhesive patches 650 and an unadhered middle portion extends over and covers the hole 656. The un-adhered portion of the single layer 644 delineates an expandable and collapsible channel 652 (indicated in dashed lines against the sidewall 602) between the layer and the sidewall. The channel 652 can extend between the hole 656 to opposing exit points that correspond to the periphery 648 of the valve element 630. When a pressure differential is applied about the valve element 630, the layer 644 displaces with respect to the sidewall 602 to expand the channel 652 and allow air to escape from the interior volume 606.

The single layer valve element 630 illustrated in FIG. 11 can have any of the aforementioned characteristics and ratios, including various combinations of those characteristics and ratios. Accordingly, the single layer valve element can be a low profile or compactly sized valve element.

FIG. 12 is another embodiment of a low profile valve element 730. The illustrated valve element 730 has a truncated circle shape. The valve element 730 can include a base layer 742 and a corresponding top layer 744. Other than the shape, the valve element 730 is constructed similar to the valve element in FIG. 2 and operates in a similar manner as the valve element in FIG. 2. The base layer 742 can include a straight top portion 745, a straight bottom portion 747, a curved side portion 749 and a curved side portion 751. In this embodiment, the top layer 744 corresponds in size and shape to the base layer 742.

The valve element 730 can have any of the aforementioned characteristics and ratios, including various combinations of those characteristics and ratios. In one embodiment, the valve may have a surface area of 0.425 inches2 (2.742 cm2). Hence, the valve element can be a low profile or compactly sized valve element.

FIG. 13 is another embodiment of a low profile valve element 830. The illustrated valve element 830 has a truncated circle shape. The valve element 830 can include a single layer 844. Other than the shape, the valve element 830 is constructed similar to the valve element in FIG. 11 and operates in a similar manner as the valve element in FIG. 11. The layer 844 can include a straight top portion 845, a straight bottom portion 847, a curved side portion 849 and a curved side portion 851.

The valve element 830 can have any of the aforementioned characteristics and ratios, including various combinations of those characteristics and ratios. In one embodiment, the valve may have a surface area of 0.425 inches2 (2.742 cm2). Hence, the valve element can be a low profile or compactly sized valve element.

All references, including publications, patent applications, and patents, cited herein are hereby incorporated by reference to the same extent as if each reference were individually and specifically indicated to be incorporated by reference and were set forth in its entirety herein.

The use of the terms “a” and “an” and “the” and similar referents in the context of describing the invention (especially in the context of the following claims) are to be construed to cover both the singular and the plural, unless otherwise indicated herein or clearly contradicted by context. The terms “comprising,” “having,” “including,” and “containing” are to be construed as open-ended terms (i.e., meaning “including, but not limited to,”) unless otherwise noted. Recitation of ranges of values herein are merely intended to serve as a shorthand method of referring individually to each separate value falling within the range, unless otherwise indicated herein, and each separate value is incorporated into the specification as if it were individually recited herein. All methods described herein can be performed in any suitable order unless otherwise indicated herein or otherwise clearly contradicted by context. The use of any and all examples, or exemplary language (e.g., “such as”) provided herein, is intended merely to better illuminate the invention and does not pose a limitation on the scope of the invention unless otherwise claimed. No language in the specification should be construed as indicating any non-claimed element as essential to the practice of the invention.

Preferred embodiments of this invention are described herein, including the best mode known to the inventor(s) for carrying out the invention. Variations of those preferred embodiments may become apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art upon reading the foregoing description. The inventor(s) expect skilled artisans to employ such variations as appropriate, and the inventor(s) intend for the invention to be practiced otherwise than as specifically described herein. Accordingly, this invention includes all modifications and equivalents of the subject matter recited in the claims appended hereto as permitted by applicable law. Moreover, any combination of the above-described elements in all possible variations thereof is encompassed by the invention unless otherwise indicated herein or otherwise clearly contradicted by context.