Title:
INSULATED PACKAGE INSERT APPARATUS AND METHOD
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An insulated packaging insert, and apparatus and a method of producing the insert are disclosed, wherein a sealing and a cutting process for producing the insert from a blank of material optimizes a fit of the insert to a shipping container; minimizes a contamination of the insert; and minimizes a cost of the insert.



Inventors:
Thomas, Eric (Lambertville, MI, US)
Application Number:
11/865230
Publication Date:
04/03/2008
Filing Date:
10/01/2007
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
53/493, 53/429
International Classes:
B65D81/38; B65B63/04
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
ELOSHWAY, NIKI MARINA
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP (Toledo, OH, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A container insert comprising a bottom having an outer edge, a plurality of sidewalls extending upwardly from the outer edge of the bottom forming an open upper end, the bottom and the sidewalls formed from a rectangular sheet of thermally insulated material

2. The insert according to claim 1, wherein the material is a foil laminated insulated material.

3. The insert according to claim 2, wherein the foil laminated insulated material includes a laminate of air bubble cushioning material.

4. The insert according to claim 1, including at least one fluid tight seam joining one of the sidewalls to the edge of the bottom of the insert.

5. The insert according to claim 1, including at least one flap formed at the open upper end of the insert and extending upwardly from one sidewall and adapted to fold to a closed position over the open upper end.

6. The insert according to claim 5, including an adhesive disposed on the at least one flap and adapted to secure the flap in the closed position.

7. The insert according to claim 6, wherein the adhesive is a pressure sensitive adhesive.

8. The insert according to claim 1, wherein an adhesive is disposed on at least one of the sidewalls and adapted to secure the insert within a container.

9. An apparatus for manufacturing a container insert comprising: a framework defining a shape of a container insert to be formed from the perform; and a sealing member disposed adjacent the framework for selectively cooperating with the framework to form linear seals in the preform.

10. The apparatus according to claim 9, including at least one cutting arm attached to the framework and moveable between an open position and a closed position.

11. The apparatus according to claim 10, including an actuator to selectively move the at least one cutting arm to the open position and the closed position.

12. The apparatus according to claim 11, wherein the at least one cutting arm includes a pair of spaced apart cutting blades, the cutting blades adapted to penetrate the material forming the preform when the at least one cutting arm is in the closed position.

13. The apparatus according to claim 9, wherein the sealing member includes a support frame having a rotatable cross member journaled thereto, a pair of elongate spaced apart bars extending outwardly from the cross member and moveable between an open position and a closed position.

14. The apparatus according to claim 13, wherein each bar includes at least one electrical heating element.

15. The apparatus according to claim 14, wherein the at least one electrical heating element contacts the preform received on the frame when the bars are in the closed position.

16. A method of producing a container insert comprising the steps of: providing a preform formed from a substantially rectangular sheet of material, the perform having opposing spaced apart sealed side edges, an open end and a spaced apart closed end between the edges; providing a framework to receive the open end of the perform; disposing the preform on the framework causing the preform to substantially conform to the shape of the framework; folding the material adjacent the closed end of the preform forming a pair of spaced apart pouches extending from opposing edges of the closed end of the preform; forming a seal in each pouch along the respective edges of the closed end; separating the pouches from the preform; and removing the preform from the frame.

17. The method according to claim 16, including the step of forming a pair of spaced apart longitudinal slits in at least one side of the preform as the preform is removed from the frame, the slits extending to the open end of the preform forming at least one flap adapted to fold to a closed position.

18. The method according to claim 18, including the step of applying an adhesive to the at least one flap, wherein the adhesive strip is adapted to secure the at least one flap in the closed position.

19. The method according to claim 16, including the step of applying an adhesive to at least one side of the preform to secure the insert within a container.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/848,737 filed on Oct. 2, 2006, hereby incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to a package insert, and more specifically to an insulated package insert; and an apparatus and a method of producing the insert.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Insulated package inserts are used to provide thermal insulation and moisture proof linings to standard shipping containers. U.S. Pat. No. 5,820,268 is exemplary of an insulating container insert of the prior art. The insert is typically produced from a flat sheet of moisture resistant insulating material. The insulating material is formed into a desired shape such as a box adapted to fit into a cardboard shipping container, for example. A series of folds are made and selected edges are joined with adhesive strips or by heat sealing. The finished insert is placed inside the shipping container to form a liner that provides thermal insulation and a moisture barrier for the shipping container.

Folding the flat sheet of insulating material into the desired shape results in formation of gusseted pouches of superfluous insulating material. The pouches can interfere with the fit of the insert to the associated container. Typically, the pouches must be secured to an outer surface of the insert with an adhesive strip to prevent the pouches from interfering with the fitting of the insert into the associated container. The process of securing the pouches increases the cost of manufacturing. Additionally, the adhesive strip may be damaged or lost during use, thereby allowing the pouches to become separated from secure attachment.

The pouches are typically located at the closed end of the insert, where the contents of the insert can become trapped. Liquids and dry goods that are placed in the container having such an insert may travel into the pouches and become trapped. The trapped contents create a contamination issue when handling recycled inserts, and reduce the ability to reuse the inserts.

Known processes for forming the insert typically include the creation of a series of folds to form a closeable top. The manufacturing cost of the insert is increased due to the additional time and labor associated with the folding process employed to form the closeable top.

It would be desirable to produce an insulated package insert free of pouches to optimize a fit of the insert to a shipping container; to minimize a contamination of the insert; and to minimize the cost of the insert.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Compatible and attuned with the present invention, an insulated package insert free of pouches to optimize a fit of the insert to a shipping container; to minimize a contamination of the insert; and to minimize the cost of the insert, has surprisingly been discovered.

In one embodiment, an insert for a container comprises a bottom, a pair of opposing ends and a pair of opposing sides extending upwardly from the bottom forming an open upper end, wherein the insert is formed from a substantially planar sheet of material, the bottom and ends and sides having a single layer of the material.

In another embodiment, an apparatus for manufacturing an insert for a container from a preformed pouch comprises a frame disposed on a base and having an upper plate and a spaced apart lower plate, the frame adapted to receive an open end of the pouch; and a sealing member disposed on the base adjacent to the frame providing a source of heat energy adjacent the upper plate of the frame, wherein the heat energy is employed to join selected surfaces of the pouch to facilitate forming the insert.

The invention also provides a method of producing an insert for a package that comprises the steps of providing a pouch formed from a substantially rectangular planar sheet of material, the pouch having one sealed edge and a spaced apart opposing sealed edge, an open end and a spaced apart closed end between the edges; providing a generally box shaped frame to receive the open end of the pouch, the frame effective to shape the pouch into a generally box shaped insert having a bottom, a pair of opposing ends and a pair of opposing sides extending upwardly from the bottom forming an open upper end; folding the material adjacent the bottom of the insert to shape the bottom of the insert and form a pair of spaced apart gusseted pouches extending from the bottom of the insert; forming a seal at the bottom of the insert along an edge of each of the gusseted pouches; and separating the gusseted pouches from the insert.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The above, as well as other advantages of the invention, will become readily apparent to those skilled in the art from the following detailed description of an embodiment of the invention when considered in the light of the accompanying drawings, in which:

FIG. 1 is a plan view of a blank of material from which the package insert shown in FIG. 7 is formed;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a preform formed from the blank shown in FIG. 1 during an intermediate step in producing the insert shown in FIG. 7;

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of apparatus for producing the package insert illustrated in FIG. 7 showing a sealing member and a cutting member of the apparatus in an open position;

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of the preform shown in FIG. 2 inverted and disposed on the frame shown in FIG. 3;

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of the preform and frame shown in FIG. 4 showing the sealing member and the cutting member of the apparatus in a closed position;

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of the preform and frame shown in FIG. 6, the preform partially moved upwardly on the frame showing the cutting member in the closed position to form slits in the preform to provide closure flaps in the completed insert; and

FIG. 7 is a perspective view in partial section of the completed package insert incorporating the features of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

The following detailed description and appended drawings describe and illustrate an exemplary embodiment of the invention. The description and drawings serve to enable one skilled in the art to make and use the invention, and are not intended to limit the scope of the invention in any manner. In respect of the methods disclosed, the steps presented are exemplary in nature, and the order of the steps is not regarded as necessary or critical.

Referring now to the drawings and in particular to FIG. 1, a substantially planar rectangular blank of material 10 is shown. The blank 10 is employed to form an insert 100, shown in FIG. 7. The insert 100 is designed to be removably received in a container, such as corrugated box, to provide a substantially fluid tight insulated lining to the container. The blank of material 10 is a deformable laminate having a layer 12 of a bubble pack material or air bubble cushioning material and a superposed layer 14 of metallic foil or film. The material is a thermoplastic material to facilitate the formation of welded or heat sealed seams between abutting edges and surfaces of the material. It should be understood that other materials can be used including a non-laminate material such as a polyethylene foam or a bubble pack material; or other laminates such as a layer of metalized polyethylene, metalized polyester, or metalized polypropylene, for example.

The blank 10 has opposing spaced apart end edges 16, 18 and opposing spaced apart side edges 20, 22. The sheet 10 is folded in half along fold line 24. Once the blank 10 is folded, the abutting portions of the respective side edges 20 and 22 are joined together forming the generally bag shaped preform 26 having the metallic foil layer 14 at the outer surface as shown in FIG. 2. The end edges 16, 18 are not joined and form an open end of the preform 26. The sides 20, 22 may be joined by heat sealing or by employing an adhesive strip, for example.

FIG. 3 illustrates an apparatus incorporating the features of the invention. The apparatus is adapted to form the completed insert from the preform 26. As is clearly seen in FIG. 3, the apparatus includes pairs of like members. For clarity, only one of the like members is described in detail.

The apparatus includes a base 52 having a frame 54 disposed thereon. The frame 54 has an upper plate 56 and a spaced apart lower plate 58. Vertical members 60 are disposed between plates 56, 58 to maintain the upper plate 56 in spaced apart relation to the lower plate 58. A pair of elongate members 62 is disposed on opposing edges of the upper plate 56. The frame 54 is adapted to be received by the open end of the preform 26, as shown in FIG. 4.

The apparatus includes a pair of cutting arms 64 hingedly attached to opposing sides of the lower plate 58. The arms 64 can be pivoted between an open position as shown in FIGS. 3 and 4 and a closed position as shown in FIGS. 5 and 6. The arms 64 are substantially coextensive in length to the side of the frame 54 to which the arms 64 are attached.

An actuator mechanism is employed to simultaneously move the arms 64 between the open and the closed position. In the illustrated embodiment, a cable 68 is attached to each of the arms 64. The cables 68 are simultaneously slackened or tightened to cause the arms 64 to move to the open position or the closed position, respectively. The slackening and tightening of the cables 68 can be accomplished manually or through an automated means such as a remote electric motor and spool assembly (not shown) to wind and unwind the cables 68 thereon, for example.

A cutting blade 70 is disposed on each of the vertical edges of the cutting arms 64. The blades 70 are adapted to contact the outer surface of the preform 26 adjacent the open end when the arms 64 are in the closed position, as shown in FIGS. 5 and 6. A guard 72 is disposed on the arms 64 adjacent each blade 74. The guard 72 shields the blade 74 from inadvertently contacting the user of the apparatus or other materials that may be in the vicinity of the apparatus.

A sealing member 74 is disposed on and supported by the base 52 in a spaced relation to the frame 54. The sealing member 74 includes an upstanding support frame 76 having a rotatable cross member 78 suitably supported in journal bearings 79 disposed thereon. A pair of elongate spaced apart bars 80 is attached to the rotatable cross member 78. The rotatable cross member 82 is adapted to allow the bars 80 to be pivoted between an open position as shown in FIGS. 3, 4, and 6 and a closed position as shown in FIG. 5. The bars 80 are adapted to juxtapose over the elongate members 62 when the bars 80 are moved to the closed position.

An electrically powered heating element 82 is disposed on each of the bars 80. The heating elements 82 are in electrical communication with a source of electrical energy (not shown). The heating elements 82 transform the electrical energy into heat energy, which is employed to join surfaces of the blank 10 to facilitate the manufacture of the insert 100. A control device can be provided to control the heat energy provided by the heating elements 82. A handle 84 is attached to the bars 80 to facilitate an operator of the apparatus moving the bars 80 between the open position and the closed position, and applying a downward force on the bars 80 against the elongate members 62 while in the closed position. It should be understood that the apparatus may include an automated means of moving the bars 80 to the open position and the closed position.

Although only a source of heat energy is associated with the sealing member 74, it should be understood that cutting means (not shown) can be provided in addition to the source of heat energy. The cutting means employed to separate any superfluous material from the insert 100.

The steps for forming of the completed insert 100 from the preform 26 employing are illustrated in FIGS. 4, 5, and 6. The bars 80 and the arms 64 of the apparatus are disposed in the open position as shown in FIG. 4. The preform 26 is opened by spreading the mid-sections of the edges 16 and 18 and thereby causing the joined edges 20 and 22 to move toward each other forming the open end in the preform 26 between the ends 16, 18. The preform 26 is inverted from the position illustrated in FIG. 2 and the open end of the preform 26 is received by the frame 54. The preform 26 is oriented on the frame 54 to substantially center the joined edges 20 and 22 in respect to the respective sides of the frame 54 having the elongate members 62 and the cutting arms 64.

The operator caused the preform 26 to be moved downwardly on the frame 54 until the closed end of the preform 26 contacts the upper plate 56. When the preform 26 is fully received on the frame 54, the preform 26 conforms to the general rectangular shape of the frame 54 forming the substantially rectangular sidewalls 104 of the completed insert 100. The bottom 102 of the insert 100 is defined by folding the preform 26 along lines 90, 90′ and 92, 92′ shown in FIG. 4. The folds shape the closed end 102 of the insert 100 to conform to the generally rectangular shape of the upper plate 56 of the frame 54. Additionally, the shaping of the preform 26 to the frame 54 and the folds 92, 92′ form a pair of spaced apart upstanding triangular pouches 94, 94′ adjacent the folds 92, 92′, respectively. The pouches 94, 94′ are formed of superfluous material that is removed from the preform 26 to form the insert 100.

To remove the pouches 94, 94′, the pouches 94, 94′ are folded inwardly along the fold lines 92, 92′, as shown in FIG. 5. The bars 80 are then pivoted downwardly to the closed position. In the closed position, the heating elements 82 are in contact with a side of the pouches 94, 94′ along the fold lines 92, 92′, respectively. The heat energy from the heating elements 82 cause the material of the insert 100 to become plastic and thereby after sufficient cooling forms a sealed seam 96. the sealed seam 96 is more clearly illustrated in FIG. 7, along each fold line 92, 92′.

After the bars 80 are moved to the open position, the pouches 94, 94′ are cut from the preform 26. The cuts to remove the pouches 94, 94′ are made outboard of the sealed seam 98 to maintain the substantially fluid tight nature of the insert 100. The process of cutting can be accomplished by manual means or an automated cutting means (not shown). The elongate members 62 provide a guide for a knife or other cutting tool to facilitate a straight cut to remove the triangular pouches 94, 94′.

Next, the cutting arms 64 are moved to the closed position, as shown in FIGS. 5 and 6. When in the closed position, the cutting blades 70 are caused to contact and penetrate the material forming the sides of the preform 26. The preform 26 is then moved upwardly on the frame 54 as shown in FIG. 6. As the preform 26 is moved upwardly, the cutting blades 70 form slits 98 in the preform 26 adjacent the vertical corners formed therein. The slits 98, shown partially formed in the preform 26 in FIG. 6, originate at a selected point along the corners and extend vertically to the open end of the preform 26 creating the foldable top flaps 106 in the completed insert 100. Each flap may be folded inwardly along a respective fold line 99 forming a closed top to the insert 100.

The flaps 106 formed by the cutting the slits 98 eliminate the costly labor associated with making a series of folds to create the closed top. Further, the flaps 106 are formed as part of the process of shaping the preform 26 into the completed insert 100. By completing these two manufacturing steps in the same process, the manufacturing cycle time is shortened, which reduces a manufacturing cost of the insert 100.

The apparatus can also produce an insert without the flaps 106. To produce the insert 100 without the flaps 106, the arms 64 can be maintained in the closed position when the preform 26 is received on the frame 54. This arrangement positions the preform 26 over the arms 64 and the frame 54, rather than between the arms 64 and the frame 54, which prevents the cutting blades 70 from contacting the preform 26 and cutting the slits 98 to form the flaps 106. Alternatively, the arms 64 can be maintained in the open position for the entire manufacturing process, which also prevents the cutting blades 70 from contacting the preform 26 and cutting the slits 98 to form the flaps 106.

The completed insert 100 formed from the preform 26 employing the apparatus is shown in FIG. 7. The insert 100 has the bottom 102 with the sidewalls 104 extending upwardly from the respective edges 90, 90′, 92, 92′ of the bottom 102. The sidewalls 104 include the flaps 106 extending therefrom which can be folded inwardly along the line 99 to form a closed top to the insert 100.

An adhesive strip 108, such as a double sided pressure sensitive adhesive strip, can be disposed on at least one of the flaps 106. The fastener 108 is adapted to secure the flaps 106 in the closed position. Additionally, an adhesive strip 110, similar to the strip 108, can be disposed on a outer surface of at least one of the sidewalls 104. The adhesive strip 110 is adapted to secure the insert 100 within the container, such as the cardboard box, for example. The process of disposing the adhesive strips 108, 110 on the insert 100 can be accomplished by manual means or automated means (not shown).

A single layer of material is present in the bottom 102 and sidewalls 104 of the insert to optimize the fit of the insert 100 to a shipping container. Additionally, the removal of the pouches 94, 94′ from the insert 100 eliminates the pouches 94, 94′ as a location for liquids and dry goods that are placed in the insert to be trapped which increase the ability to reuse the insert 100.

The completed insert 100 is manufactured at a minimized cost compared to the inserts of the prior art. Rather than making a multitude of precision folds as is required to make the inserts disclosed in the prior art, only the fold 24 and the pair of folds 92, 92′ are required to form the insert 100. The reduced number of folds in the insert 100 reduces the labor cost to manufacture the insert 100 in respect to the inserts disclosed in the prior art.

Additionally, manufacturing the insert 100 from the substantially rectangular planar blank of material 10 eliminates the necessity to pre-cut the sheet to a selected shape to facilitate the forming of the insert. The blank 10 can be obtained from a roll of the material by making a simple straight line cut across the width of the roll of material. The simple straight line cut can be completed quickly and economically as compared to die cutting a sheet to a selected shape or cutting a sheet to conform a selected pattern.

From the foregoing description, one ordinarily skilled in the art can easily ascertain the essential characteristics of this invention, and without departing from the spirit and scope thereof, can make various changes and modifications to the invention to adapt it to various usages and conditions.