Title:
Bag sealing slidable closure mechanism and method
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A closure for a container, such as for luggage or for a bag, has a split rail disposed around the mouth frame and a train of links that rides on and secures the rail halves together, and a tunnel for storage of the train when opening the container.



Inventors:
Cohn, Robert J. (Dallas, PA, US)
Lantz, Paul D. (Kingston, PA, US)
Application Number:
11/762374
Publication Date:
10/02/2008
Filing Date:
06/13/2007
Assignee:
A. Rifkin Co.
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
220/315, 70/63
International Classes:
B65D51/00; B65D55/02
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20070272092Modular cold storage system and methodNovember, 2007Ehrenreich
20090308870Storage Container with Collapsible Lid and UtensilDecember, 2009Chapman et al.
20100059519Closure with Stopping MechanismMarch, 2010Brozell et al.
20100096397Cup Carrier for Inserting in a BagApril, 2010Weinberger
20090272747MULTI-COMPARTMENT FLUID STORAGE DEVICENovember, 2009Kalaouze Jr.
20100019174SHIELDED CONTAINERJanuary, 2010Helle et al.
20090218351RESEALING OVERCAP FOR A CONTAINERSeptember, 2009Antal Sr.
20080121550Making and Using Serving Tray With Sauce ContainerMay, 2008Anderson et al.
20020108959Travel cup or mug, featuring easy opening, automatic closing, airtight valve meansAugust, 2002Pollock
20090321446Interlocking Cookware Vessel and LidsDecember, 2009Cheung
20090152272Removable Breathable Covers for Beverage ContainersJune, 2009Guptil



Primary Examiner:
LAVINDER, JACK W
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BRADLEY N. RUBEN (Bala Cynwyd, PA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A closure, comprising: a split frame, the opposing halves of the frame each comprising a frame wall integrally molded with a half T-shaped rail wherein mating said opposing halves creates a rail having opposing shoulders and a neck portion, the rail defined by a starting terminus; a train of links wherein said links have an internal cavity defined by inwardly projecting shoulders and a relatively wider guide surface, wherein the projecting shoulders of the link mate with the neck portion of the rail and the guide surface mates with the opposing shoulders of the rail; the train of links comprising a joining link adapted to be secured effective to maintain the train on the rail; and a tunnel adjacent the starting terminus adapted to receive at least a portion of the train of links.

2. The closure of claim 1, wherein the frame wall is oriented substantially parallel to the direction of mating of the rail halves.

3. A container with a closure, comprising: a container having opposing walls defining a mouth of the container; each wall attached to one half of a frame wall integrally molded with a half T-shaped rail wherein bringing the opposing walls together closes the container and mates the opposing halves creating a rail having opposing shoulders and a narrower neck portion, the rail defined by a starting terminus; a train of links comprising a plurality of links wherein each of said plurality of links has an internal cavity defined by inwardly projecting shoulders and a relatively wider guide surface, wherein the projecting shoulders of the link mate with the neck portion of the rail and the guide surface mates with the opposing shoulders of the rail; the train comprising a joining link adapted to be secured to another joining link on another train on the rail, to the container, or to both, effective to maintain the train on the rail; and a tunnel adjacent the starting terminus adapted to receive at least a portion of the train of links, the tunnel extending within the container.

4. The container of claim 3, wherein the container has at least two trains of links each with a joining link arranged to abut, wherein a first one of the two joining links has a cantilevered sealing flange and a second one of the two joining links has an opening for receiving said sealing flange, wherein abutment of the two joining links causes the sealing flange to reside in said opening.

5. The container of claim 3, wherein the container has at least two trains of links each with a joining link arranged to abut, wherein each of the two joining links has a padlock opening arranged to accept a common shackle.

6. The container of claim 4, wherein said connecting links further comprise first and second sealing surfaces and abutment of the links creates a continuous sealing surface and said sealing flange covers said second sealing surface.

7. The container of claim 6, further comprising a seal disposed along the continuous sealing surface, the seal having a pawl, and means on the second joining link for catching the pawl to join the joining links together.

8. The container of claim 3, further comprising a storage recess in the container at the starting terminus of the track and adapted to receive the train when the container is open.

9. The container of claim 8, wherein the storage recess comprises an S-shaped tube connected to a straight, L-shaped, or U-shaped tunnel.

10. The container of claim 3, wherein the train of links has three types of links comprising (a) a head connector or joining link, (b) a plurality of intermediate links, and (c) a tail connector or terminator link.

11. The container of claim 10, wherein the train is molded as a unitary set of links.

12. The container of claim 10, wherein two types of links are molded as a unitary set of links.

13. The container of claim 3, wherein the train has a single train of links and the joining link further includes a pull that is adapted to be secured by a lock attached to the container.

14. The container of claim 13, wherein the lock is a keyed lock.

Description:

PRIORITY CLAIM

This application claims priority to U.S. 60/921,411, filed Apr. 2, 2007, the disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to a “zipperless” sliding closure mechanism for a container, such as a bag or luggage, where the closure forms the mouth frame, and to a method for making the same.

Zippers are one of the most prevalent devices for attaching or fastening a mouth-frame together or closing a bag or pouch. A zipper works by the interlocking of opposed surfaces configured to have multiple interlocking elements (teeth, for example). Yet a zipper can be pulled apart or compromised by mechanical means; a missing tooth can provide access for pulling the zipper apart. As an alternative there are various sliding closures that cause mating of opposing, non-interlocking tracks that define a mouth-frame.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In light of the foregoing, this invention provides a sliding sealing closure that is “zipperless,” that can be readily manufactured in a desired length corresponding to a particular container opening, that can be fitted with a single use and/or multiple use security seal, and can accommodate various container opening geometries.

In one embodiment, this invention provides a closure comprising a split frame, the opposing halves of the frame each comprising a frame wall integrally molded with a half T-shaped rail wherein mating said opposing halves creates a rail having opposing shoulders and a neck portion, the rail defined by a starting terminus; a train of links wherein said links have an internal cavity defined by inwardly projecting shoulders and a relatively wider guide surface, wherein the projecting shoulders of the link mate with the neck portion of the rail and the guide surface mates with the opposing shoulders of the rail; the train of links comprising a joining link adapted to be secured effective to maintain the train on the rail; and a tunnel adjacent the starting terminus adapted to receive at least a portion of the train of links.

In another embodiment, this invention provides a container with a closure which comprises a container having opposing walls defining a mouth of the container; each wall attached to one half of a frame wall integrally molded with a half T-shaped rail wherein bringing the opposing walls together closes the container and mates the opposing halves creating a rail having opposing shoulders and a narrower neck portion, the rail defined by a starting terminus; a train of links comprising a plurality of links wherein each of said plurality of links has an internal cavity defined by inwardly projecting shoulders and a relatively wider guide surface, wherein the projecting shoulders of the link mate with the neck portion of the rail and the guide surface mates with the opposing shoulders of the rail; the train comprising a joining link adapted to be secured to another joining link on another train on the rail, to the container, or to both, effective to maintain the train on the rail; and a tunnel adjacent the starting terminus adapted to receive at least a portion of the train of links, the tunnel extending within the container.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 depicts a partial perspective view of the frame (mouth-frame) and train forming the inventive closure device.

FIG. 2 is a cross section taken through line 2-2 in FIG. 1.

FIG. 3A is a partial cross section taken through line 3A-3A in FIG. 1, FIG. 3B is a perspective of the frame and track therein, and FIG. 3C is a is partial perspective view thereof.

FIG. 4A is a perspective view of a train of links; FIG. 4B is a partial side view of the front of a train; FIG. 4C is a perspective view of the front link of a train; FIG. 4D is a rear perspective view of the last link in a train, and FIG. 4E a perspective of one of the intermediate (middle) links in a train. FIGS. 4F and 4G are analogous to FIGS. 4C and 4D but with the pawls and catches oriented for connecting inside the link. FIG. 4H is a perspective of a terminator link.

FIG. 5A is a cross sectional perspective of the locking links and a seal therefor prior to being linked, FIG. 5B is a cross section thereof after linking, and FIG. 5C is a perspective of an alternate embodiment with pull tabs.

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of another embodiment of a locking link.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF SPECIFIC EMBODIMENTS

The present invention generally comprises a train of links, the train being made of one or more chains of links, the links having an internal channel that rides on and acts as a closure for the opposing split rails of a track (mouth-frame). Each split rail forms the edge of a container, such as for luggage, or the opening of a soft-walled or hard-walled bag. The container is closed by advancing the train to bring the split rails together, providing an integral track, and sealing the container. A tunnel is provided at one end of the rail, within the container, for receiving and storing the train when the container is opened. The train has two types of connections between individual links, a living hinge between links of a single section, and a snap-fit connecting different sections to make up a train.

FIG. 1 is a perspective of the entire closure device as it would be removed from a container such as luggage. The closure frame 101 has two halves, 102a and 102b, which each include a portion that functions as a rail for carrying a chain of individual links 105. Chains can be joined together at a connection 107 to produce a longer chain, and the front of the train includes a joining link 109 for joining with an associated link at the front end of another chain. Alternatively, such as for a small bag where only a single train may be needed, a joining link can be affixed to the container surface at the end of the opening, or a staple or shackle can be provided instead (and the two secured together with a padlock).

FIG. 2 is a cross section through line 2-2 in FIG. 1, showing the train end (or caboose) 111 at the end of the track 201 at the entrance to the storage recess 203. As shown in FIG. 3A, the tube entrance 205 accommodates the train as it exits the track at the starting/ending terminus 213 of the rail, and the tunnel is sized to accept a number of links in the train sufficient for easy opening of the container. The extended storage recess in which the train is stored when the container is open can include an S-shaped entrance tube 207 leading into a straight, L-shaped, or U-shaped tunnel 209. Preferably, the entrance tube has an end section sized to slide into the buried tunnel section. The tunnel section is referred to as “buried” because it will be inside the container, not visible from the outside, and for a piece of luggage is preferably hidden by an inner luggage lining so that it is not visible even when the luggage is opened. While it is preferred to have a tunnel structure for protecting the train, the tunnel can be formed from a fabric sock sewn to or formed with the lining of the luggage container to form a cloth tunnel between the lining and the outer housing of the container. Otherwise, the train can be stored in the space between the lining and the outer housing of the container without residing in a physical tunnel. The intent is to protect the train of links inside the container so that the train is not accessible from the inside of the container by a user, and so that the train can easily be slid back onto the track.

FIG. 3B is a perspective view of the frame, rail, and tunnel section. As shown in FIG. 3B, the portion 211 of the rail on which the links ride (the track) is T-shaped, having an upper portion 215 and a lower neck portion 217, formed from two halves, each half with the integral rail and frame molded as a unitary piece. The frame has a main surface 222 with a flange 223 extending below the main surface (away from the upper portion of the rail). The upper portion of the rail can have smooth sides, such as two lobes or partial lobes (for example, mushroom shaped). The mating surfaces need not be flat; for example, one surface can have a groove and the other a corresponding ridge that mates into the groove. Accordingly, the rail structure is meant to refer to all of these geometries wherein the top portion is connected to the frame by a narrower portion.

If desired, a terminator link can be provided to catch on the terminus of the rail and not ride along like the other links, thereby keeping the split rail together up to the tunnel entrance. The abutment end 213 of the track can be used as a stop if an end or terminator link is provided with a sealed channel. For example, the embodiment shown in FIG. 3C depicts the caboose 111 having a catch to which a terminator link 233 with a cooperating pawl (or more than one) is attached. As shown in FIG. 4H, the body 234 of the terminator lacks an opening sufficient to accommodate its travel onto the track. When the terminator link is joined to the caboose a terminator link is produced that keeps the caboose end of the train engaged with the rail, preventing an unscrupulous person from trying to force the end of the train around the container to expose a portion of the rail not kept closed by the links and permit such person to separate the two halves of the rail to gain access to the interior of the container.

Riding on the rail is a train of links, and the train is made of one or more chains of links. The entire chain 401 appropriate for the size of the closure is shown in perspective in FIG. 4A, with a head connector link 403, a tail connector link 405, and a plurality of intermediate links 407. As shown in FIG. 4B, the head connector link body 411 has at least one pawl 413, and preferably more than one, an additional pawl 415a being shown in the side view FIG. 4B. FIG. 4C is a front perspective of the head connector link with additional side pawls 415a and 415b. The internal cavity structure of the link has an opposing pair of shoulders 421 extending from shelf 423 to define an internal guide surface 425. In operation on a rail, the shoulders abut the neck section and the guide surface abuts the upper portion of the rail. The side pawls shown in FIG. 4C are in the less preferred orientation because they would latch on to the outside of a corresponding link. The side pawls shown in FIGS. 4A-4D, which have the pawls facing inwardly for connecting on the outside of the adjoining link, are shown in the non-preferred orientation because they are subject to being pried off. Alternatively, the pawls can be latched internally to a connector link, as shown in FIGS. 4F and 4G. By placing the pawls so they mate internally with the adjoining connecting link, the connection is more cosmetically and aesthetically pleasing, and more secure because the pawls are inaccessible to being pried off.

As shown in FIG. 4A and FIG. 4B, the head and/or tail connector links can be molded together with the intermediate links as a single unitary piece (the caboose having a terminator portion). Within the chain the individual links are connected by living hinges 431 (delineated in FIGS. 4A, 4B, and 4C). Alternatively, the links could be metal, connected by chain links through holes in each link, such as for closing a woman's purse.

The tail connector link at the end of the main chain is shown in perspective view in FIG. 4D. The pawl configuration shown in FIG. 4C engages with corresponding catch portions 433 (for pawl 413) and 435a/b (for pawls 415a/b) to connect the links together (and thereby connecting the two trains). The head connecting link of one chain can be connected to the tail connecting link of another chain, as shown in the connection 107 in FIG. 3A.

A perspective view of an intermediate link is shown in FIG. 4E. An internal shoulder 441 is formed to abut the neck of rail while the upper portion of the rail rides on the guide surface 445 of the internal shoulder. An opening 451 extends transversely (in respect of the direction of travel on the rail) through the link only as an artifact of the actions (or pulls) used in molding the shoulder so that it extends transversely inwardly beyond the opening of the link accommodating the upper portion of the track.

FIG. 5A is a cross section perspective of two trains with cooperating joining links 109 on a rail (the cross section taken where the rail is split). The male joining link 461 has a catch 465 that engages the top pawl 413 of the head connector link of a chain, a first seal insertion surface 467, a first side wall 468, and a first rear wall 469 connected to the first side wall and first seal surface. The opposite half of the cross section is a mirror image of the half shown in the drawing. A first truss 471 extends transversely, above and parallel with the rear wall and preferably includes a first padlock opening 473. A sealing flange 475 is cantilevered from the truss away from the link and along the train in the direction of the corresponding female joining link. The corresponding female joining link 481 attaches to the head connector of an opposing train by the same catch and pawl mechanism, and likewise includes a second seal insertion surface 487, a second side wall 488, a second rear wall 489, a second truss 491 having a second padlock opening 493. Where the first rear wall (469) does not span the width of the link (i.e., perpendicular to the rail), the second rear wall (489) does span the width of the link and is separated from the second truss to form a mouth 495 that functions as a receptacle for the sealing flange on the corresponding male joining link. The front face of a front wall 497 of the female link is where the joining links abut when the closure is arranged to be secured. The front wall of the female link, like the rear wall of the male link, does not span the width of the link, so that when the links abut along the rail the first and second seal insertion surfaces are substantially continuous and thereby form a continuous seal insertion surface. In addition, the opening in the male joining link rear wall and the female joining link front wall together define a passageway along the continuous seal insertion surface, with the front wall adapted to function as a catch for the pawl of a seal (as described below). When the two joining links are brought together, the sealing flange overlies the second seal insertion surface and extends into, if not through, the mouth 495, and the two padlock openings in the trusses are brought close together facilitating the passage of a single shackle (such as on a padlock) to pass through both openings and secure the joining seals together.

Alternatively to the use of a shackle, tie, or similar device passing through both of the padlock openings, or in addition, a seal 501 can be used to secure the two joining links together. The seal has an orientation, with a flat bottom surface having an optional first groove 503 and an optional second groove 505, the second groove being closer to the head portion 507 from which opposing pawls 509 extend. If present, the first groove is triangular with a front wall (i.e., closer to the head) that is orthogonal to the plane of the seal, and an angled rear wall, and interacts with the comparably-shaped projection 477 prominent (upstanding) from the first seal insertion surface to provide a distinct click when the seal is properly inserted. If present, the second groove facilitates breaking off the body 511 of the seal from the head. In use, the two joining links are brought into abutting relationship and a seal is inserted head portion first along the second seal insertion surface until the pawls on the head catch on the front wall 497 as a sort of snap fit; if the first groove and projection are present a second click should also be heard by the user when the seal is seated. The seal thus can act to secure the opposing trains together in addition to providing evidence of tampering. FIG. 5B shows the device secured with a seal. FIG. 5C is an exploded perspective of two cooperating male-female joining links having respective finger holds 521 and 523, without the padlock shackle hole, and a seal for joining the two.

FIG. 6 shows an embodiment of a single joining link 461 suitable for use on a bag requiring only a single chain. The flange 475 in this embodiment includes a wider distal portion 601 and a narrower proximal portion 603 that can cooperate with and be held by the movable retainer plate in a bag lock like those described in U.S. Pat. No. 3,759,073, U.S. Pat. No. 5,013,162, U.S. Pat. No. 5,065,602, or U.S. Pat. No. 6,029,482 (the disclosures of which are incorporated herein by reference). These bag locks secure a closure at the end of a longitudinal opening, such as the end of a zippered opening, and include a lockable plate that can move toward the opening to mechanically secure the zipper pull, or away and thereby free the pull. Some of the locks described in those patents include lugs to prevent removal of the pull held fast by the plate; a flange having a wider distal portion of the flange would be secured similarly by lugs. The finger hold 521 is shown with an opening 605 that can be sized to accommodate the shackle of a padlock, or to which a pull can be attached. Instead of the movable plate locks described, a staple can be substituted, and a padlock used to secure the opening in the finger hold to the staple. If a pull is used, the pull can be secured by a lock, preferably a keyed lock, integrated with the bag, as shown in the above-mentioned U.S. Pat. No. 6,029,482 and U.S. Pat. No. 5,065,602.

The device can be made by molding separate pieces for the frame and snap-fitting them together. The flange 223 attached to the main body 221 can be made with one or more protrusions that cooperate with corresponding snap-fit holes in the flange of an abutting section of the frame. As seen in FIG. 1, each half of the frame can be made from two sections 221 associated with the tunnels, four corners 223, two side portions 225, and a top portion 227. These can be molded as a single part, or multiple parts glued, welded, or snapped together. As mentioned above, each of the chains and any individual link or plurality of links can be made by injection molding. The frame wall 222 (see FIG. 3B) is sufficiently wide (i.e., orthogonal to the direction of the track) so that it can be attached, such as by sewing, riveting, gluing, plastic welding, and the like, to the side wall or outer frame of luggage, whether fabric or plastic, to form the mouth-frame. Preferably, the frame wall is oriented substantially parallel to the direction of mating the two halves of the frame (that is, the direction of mating is parallel to the plane of the frame wall).

While FIGS. 1 and 2 show a configuration suitable, for example, for attaching to the walls of a hard-walled container like a suitcase or to the frame of soft-walled luggage, it should be appreciated that the closure can secure an opening on one side, one connecting two sides, or an opening spanning three sides of a polygonal container, or any circumferential portion of a curved container.

The links and rail/frame can be made of any of various polymer suitable for use and many are well known in similar devices. It is preferred that the links be injection molded from polyethylene, polypropylene, a propylene-copolymer, poly(ethylene terephthalate), a polypropylene-polyethylene blend, an elastomer, or a compatible mixture thereof. The links should be made of a material that can grip but slide along the rails, will not deform and release the rail, but is sufficiently flexible to allow for durable living hinges and movement along the track and around corners (for a track that has corners; a straight track, such as on a bag, can use a more rigid material). As is well known in the design and manufacture of living hinges, twisting of the part immediately upon ejection after injection molding stretches and cold draws the hinge, increasing the degree of molecular orientation of the polymer, and thereby strengthening the hinge. The track (combined rail and frame) is preferably made from polyethylene or extruded vinyl, and can be made in separate parts, such as by injection molding, or in an indefinite length from which parts are stamped (cut) and/or thermoformed into the desired geometry.

The foregoing description is meant to be illustrative and not limiting. Various changes, modifications, and additions may become apparent to the skilled artisan upon a perusal of this specification, and such are meant to be within the scope and spirit of the invention as defined by the claims.