Title:
Offset opening tabs for plastic zippered bags and plastic containers
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Offset opening tabs for zippered plastic bags and a variety of disposable and reusable containers which make opening a container fast and easy, as well as solving the difficulties experienced by diverse types of users who have functional or situational finger dexterity limitations or compromised vision that make opening packages a cumbersome or frustrating event.



Inventors:
Ballard, Marlin Daniel (Austin, TX, US)
Application Number:
11/979281
Publication Date:
05/08/2008
Filing Date:
11/01/2007
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
383/65
International Classes:
B65D33/16; B65D43/26
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Primary Examiner:
BYRD, LATRICE CHENELL
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Marlin Daniel Ballard (Austin, TX, US)
Claims:
1. A resealable plastic bag with a common zipper closure mechanism that is modified to utilize offset opening tabs to be grasped and pulled apart in opposite directions in order to separate the male and female sides of the zipper closure mechanism; and which offset opening tabs can be shaped like a sine wave or repetitive squares, triangles, truncated triangles, or other easy-to-grasp repetitive shapes running parallel to the length of the zipper closure mechanism such that the peaks of the tabs on one flap of the bag would align with the troughs between the tabs on the other flap of the bag.

2. Plastic bag modification in claim 1, plus the adding of contrasting colors of opaque or semi-opaque paint, ink, or other colorant to the inside or the outside of the offset opening tabs, or to only one flap (or set of tabs), to facilitate identification of the direction to pull the offset opening tabs in order to separate the male and female sides of the zipper closure mechanism.

3. Plastic bag modification in claim 1, plus adding contrasting visual patterns, shapes, or lines to the inside or the outside of the offset opening tabs, or to only one flap (or set of tabs), to facilitate identification of the direction to pull the offset opening tabs in order to separate the male and female sides of the zipper closure mechanism.

4. Plastic bag modification in claim 1, plus adding physical textures to the inside or the outside of the offset opening tabs, or to only one flap (or set of tabs), to facilitate identification of the direction to pull the offset opening tabs in order to separate the male and female sides of the zipper closure mechanism.

5. A packaging enclosure or product container having at least two mated or adhered parts that is constructed from plastic, foil, paper, synthetic materials, or a combination of those types of materials, that is modified to utilize offset opening tabs to be grasped and pulled apart in opposite directions in order to expose the product contained inside; and which offset opening tabs can be shaped like a sine wave, or repetitive squares, triangles, truncated triangles, or other easy-to-grasp repetitive shapes running parallel to the length of the adhered flaps such that the peaks of the tabs on one flap of the container would align with the troughs between the tabs on the other flap of the container.

6. Packaging enclosure modification in claim 5, plus the adding of contrasting colors of opaque or semi-opaque paint, ink, or other colorant to the inside or the outside of the offset opening tabs, or to only one flap (or set of tabs), to facilitate identification of the direction to pull the offset opening tabs in order to open the enclosure and expose the product contained inside.

7. Packaging enclosure modification in claim 5, plus adding contrasting visual patterns, shapes, or lines to the inside or the outside of the offset opening tabs, or to only one flap (or set of tabs), to facilitate identification of the direction to pull the offset opening tabs in order to open the enclosure and expose the product contained inside.

8. Packaging enclosure modification in claim 5, plus adding physical textures to the inside or the outside of the offset opening tabs, or to only one flap (or set of tabs), to facilitate identification of the direction to pull the offset opening tabs in order to open the enclosure and expose the product contained inside.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS:

Provisional Patent Application 60/856/098 by Marlin Daniel Ballard dated Nov. 2, 2006 and titled “Hand Gripping Tab Structure for Zippered Bags”

STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT

Not Applicable

REFERENCE TO SEQUENCE LISTING

Not Applicable

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to a modification of the opening mechanism for resealable plastic bags that have a zippered closure device, as well as to the same type of modification of the opening mechanism for flexible thermo-formed and pressure-formed plastic, synthetic, paper, foil, or laminated containers used as disposable, temporary, or recloseable packaging for a variety of food and retail products, which are often referred to as peel packs and laminates, easy open lidding, shrink films, or blister packs.

PRIOR ART: The advent of modern synthetic and paper packaging meant the introduction of product enclosures that had little resemblance to what was seen in the first half of the 20th century. Although most product containers were touted as easy to open, certain packaging materials such as plastic were often notoriously difficult and frustrating to open or remove. Resealable plastic zipper bags and a variety of plastic, synthetic, or paper packaging have turned out to be some of the most difficult to open containers, primarily because it was the simplest solution during manufacturing to cut the sandwiched edges of most packaging in a smooth, straight line, leaving completely flush edges. A significant trait of plastic is that static electricity combined with the thinness of the plastic membrane tends to cause it to adhere to nearby similar and dissimilar substances. Consequently, opening the flaps with straight, flush edges on the opposing sides of zippered plastic bags is usually a slow and frustrating task, which is made even harder if the user has compromised vision or manual dexterity or must wear some sort of hand protection which limits the sense of touch and ability to manipulate very thin membranes that are often adhering together in a manner that resists separation. Trying to separate the edge flaps of nonpliable plastic, foil, paper, or synthetic packaging in styles other than zippered bags is equally frustrating, since the rigidity of some of the materials causes the material to snap back when it is partially separated from the flush, adjacent flap, especially if the flaps are partially or totally adhered. The manufacturing processes used to adhere the halves of some pliable containers make them equally difficult to open or peel back, especially when the opening flaps are stuck together all the way to the edge of the package.

No completely effective method has previously been devised to alleviate the difficulty in opening plastic zippered bags or other multi-part product containers (not referring to clamshell containers) that require separating the parts of the container by peeling back a lid, cover, or protective film. Several inventors have suggested the use of longitudinal ridges and waves on either the inside or outside of the opening flaps on zippered bags (U.S. Pat. No. 4,363,345, No. 5,009,828, and No. 5,259,904), but these have not proved to help users separate the closely sandwiched flaps, nor have these methods been utilized on multi-part containers such as blister packs or peel packs. Some manufacturers have avoided fusing the flaps all the way to edge of the enclosure on blister packs, peel packs, and some types of lidding, but the sandwiched flaps must still be separated. U.S. Pat. No. 4,479,244 suggested longitudinally sliding the opposing sides of the zippers in opposite directions in order to open a recloseable bag, however that assumes the zipper halves will not significantly adhere to each other, and it also assumes the user has sufficient thumb and finger strength to slide the tightly wedged zipper halves against each other. Although one inventor (U.S. Pat. No. 5,618,111) suggested embossing a pattern on the body of plastic zipper bags in order to make them distinctive in appearance, none has proposed using that approach applied to the opposing flaps of zipper bags to aid in separating the opposing flaps. Manufacturers of plastic zipper bags have used a variety of colored stripes and geometric shapes on their bags for branding and to indicate when the zipper is closed or open, but that use of decoration has not been used to aid in the opening of zipper bags or other types of peel open containers. Tactile indicators (U.S. Pat. No. 6,217,215 and No. 6,877,898 B2) have been suggested to aid in closing plastic zipper bags, but no straightforward, effective means to separate the opposing zipper halves or the two halves of a blister pack or peel pack have been offered prior to the current invention.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The prior art in the disposable and resealable packaging industry has been characterized by difficult to open, and in some cases seemingly impossible to open, plastic bags and containers, paper wrappers and lidding, peel packs, sealing film and laminates, and blister packs. Utilizing offset opening tabs to separate and open the zipper closure mechanism on plastic bags, or to open any type of disposable or reusable packages, virtually eliminates the opening difficulty experienced by the average user with normal dexterity and good vision. Offset opening tabs are equally effective with users who have limited vision, impaired finger agility or sense of touch, or who must wear gloves or hand protection. Offset opening tabs are adaptable to virtually any situation that requires the separation of two closely aligned or sandwiched membranes, paper, or packaging material. The primary objective of the invention is the creation of a package for which the means of opening is convenient and self-apparent. Simply stated, the goal for the invention is to allow the user to instantly grasp one and only one opening tab/flap with one hand, and to immediately grasp the other tab/flap and only that tab with the other hand, and to instantly know which direction to pull with each hand.

An additional goal of the invention is to create a two-fold market niche for both the sellers of products by employing unique shaped containers that are easy to open and reseal, as well as to allow a manner of product branding through form and function of the actual package for the packaging manufacturers who are often not permitted by the product sellers to print or emboss a brand name on the packaging material itself. Acceptance by both product sellers and industrial packaging users will be found with both small operations that hand-fill zippered bags as well as high rate producers that must open the previously closed zippered bags for machine filling. Zippered bags with offset opening tabs are easily adaptable for use by a machine, since the tabs can be grasped and separated by a high speed device as easily as by a person.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 shows a side view of a typical zippered plastic bag with an array of offset opening tabs (11 and 12) at the top of the figure or openable end of the bag. The illustrated bracket (15) at the top of the figure refers to the pair of opposing flaps attached to the zipper closure mechanism (13). The opposing flaps are composed of multiple offset opening tabs (11 and 12) that are grasped to separate the flaps and the attached male (13A) and female (13B) sides of the zipper closure mechanism (13). The midpoint intersections (16) of the opposing sine wave patterns coincides with the thermally sealed edges (14) of the plastic bag.

FIG. 2 is a top view of the openable end of the bag. The arrows indicate the direction that the offset opening tabs (11 and 12) must be pulled in order to separate the male (13A) and female (13B) sides of the zipper closure mechanism (13).

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

One embodiment of the present invention relates to a modification of the opening structure for resealable plastic bags that use a zippered closure mechanism. Currently configured zippered bags are often hard to open because of the difficulty of separating the two flaps composing each side of the zippered closure mechanism. Specifically, even users with good manual dexterity and average vision may find it difficult to open a zippered plastic bag by grasping one flap between the fingers of one hand and the other flap between the fingers of the other hand, and separating the opposing sides of the zipper mechanism.

The inventive concept is the reshaping of the two flaps (15) attached to the opposing sides of the zippered closure (13) to make grasping much easier and require less concentration, so that separating the sides of the zipper (13A and 13B) is effortless, self-apparent, and does not require undue attention. The solution proposed herein is to reshape the opposing flaps (15) by cutting each flap into a configuration which has multiple tabs (11 and 12) for grasping, and by placing the tabs on one flap in a position such that they are offset relative to the tabs on the other flap. This configuration of tabs will allow the user's left hand to quickly grasp a tab from one flap while the right hand grasps a tab from the other flap, prior to separating the flaps of the zipper mechanism. Consequently, the two opposing flaps (15) can be easily grasped and pulled apart (FIG. 2).

One preferred configuration of the tabs (11 and 12) on each flap (15), would be to have them in the shape of a sine wave running parallel to the length of the zipper (13) such that the peaks of the tabs (11) on one flap of the bag would align with the troughs between the tabs (12) on the other flap of the bag. This configuration would facilitate the manufacturing process by allowing for easy cutting of the tabs (11 and 12) by a cutter shaped like a sine wave, as the sheet of plastic film is moved longitudinally down the processing line. The tabs (11 and 12) could also be square cut, triangular cut, truncated triangles, combinations of these shapes, or any of a variety of other shapes which would enable easy grasping by a user's fingers.

A second and independent modification is to make the appearance and/or the feel of the surface distinct on each of the two flaps (15) of the bag. This distinct appearance could be accomplished by applying opaque or semi-opaque paint, ink, colorant, or other opaque substance to the outside of the flaps (15), and then applying a contrasting color or no color to the inner portion of both flaps, or vice versa (applying color to the inside of the flaps but not to the outside), or to only one flap, to give a visual indication of whether you are looking at the inner side or outer side of the flaps. This feature would allow for easy visual identification of the direction (shown by arrows in FIG. 2) in which adjacent tabs should be grasped and pulled in order to open the bag or container. Other variations of the embodiment to make the surface appearance of the flaps (15) distinct would be to use visual patterns, colored lines or patterns, or physical textures applied to the outside of the flap, and utilizing opposite, diverse, or no surface treatments on the inside of each flap, or vice versa. Therefore, a user would be able to quickly make a visual or manual identification of the dissimilar appearing tabs, even with compromised vision, in order to grasp the correct tab to separate the sides of the zipper and open the bag. As noted above, ridges and waves have been previously patented for use on the flaps of zippered bags to aid with gripping, however the use of texturing with the current invention is not primarily for gripping purposes, but rather to allow a user to be able to tell without looking whether they are touching the inside or outside of an offset opening tab, so that the user can quickly determine the proper direction to move each hand.

An additional embodiment of the present invention is the use of the concept of offset opening tabs for virtually any type of disposable or reusable packaging, wrapping, or covering that requires the separation of two thin membranes that tend to adhere to each other or stay closely sandwiched together because of static electricity or adhesive forces resulting from the high heat and pressure of manufacturing processes. This inventive concept can be utilized on sterile healthcare products such as gauze, sponges, and single-use packages, or on food and retail product containers such as thermo-formed peel packs or blister packs. Utilizing offset opening tabs is often necessary to allow the user the ability to open containers while using sterile gloves or other cumbersome hand protection, and/or for users who have impaired manual dexterity and/or limited vision. Multiple offset opening tabs could be employed along a full side, or on all sides of a container that can ultimately be opened, so that the user could grasp anywhere along the side of the package to remove the lidding or separate the halves of the enclosure.

With respect to the potential manufacturing process for this invention, in one embodiment of the inventive concept, the bags would be produced by starting with a continuous roll of plastic sheet film which is a width of approximately two times the height of the finished bag. At some point during the manufacturing process, but before the plastic sheet is folded and thermally bonded into the final bag configuration, the sine wave shaped tabs (11 and 12) would be created by a cutter along both of the running edges of the roll of plastic sheet material, which will eventually become the flaps (15) for each side of the zipper mechanism. The peaks of the sine wave (11) along one edge would be aligned with the troughs of the sine wave (12) along the opposing edge, such that after folding the material into a bag configuration, the sine wave shaped tabs will be staggered with reference to each other (FIG. 1). The thermally bonded edges (14) of each side of the bag will be located at the midpoint (16) where the sine waves converge between the peaks and the troughs. At some point during the manufacturing process, but before the running sheet material is folded into a bag configuration and thermally bonded, the male zipper strip (13A) will be applied to one edge/flap (15) and the female zipper strip (13B) will be applied to the opposing edge/flap (15).

Manufacturing of peel packs, paper or film lidding, laminated packages, blister packs, etc., incorporating the current invention would be accomplished by altering the outline of the stamped or die-cut shape of the lidding, cavity base, or two halves of the formed enclosure to include offset opening tabs along the previously flush edges. Enclosures that are normally fused or adhered together would require leaving the offset opening tabs unattached so that they could be easily separated and pulled apart by the user after grasping one of the offset opening tabs.





 
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