Title:
Process for Good Packaging, Namely Food Stuffs, Packagings, and Kits for Their Realization
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A process for carrying out a packaging for food stuffs, such as hazelnuts, dried fruits, or powdered milk, packaged in bulk, comprises the steps of: —provision of a big bag container (2), —carrying out a filling of the above said product (P), into the big bag container (2), —provision of a seal enclosure (3) susceptible of containing the big bag container (2) with the above said filling of product (P) therein, and—sealing the enclosure (3) containing the big bag container (2), with the above said filling of product (P) therein, a sub atmospheric pressure level. Preferably, a protective inert gas, such as nitrogen, is inserted into the enclosure (3) containing the big bag container (2).



Inventors:
Stelliferi, Carlo (Viterbo, IT)
Esposito, Giuseppe (Viterbo, IT)
Application Number:
11/576468
Publication Date:
12/18/2008
Filing Date:
01/20/2005
Assignee:
STELLIFERI & ITAVEX S.P.A. (Caprarola (VT), IT)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
53/408, 206/223, 383/117, 383/210
International Classes:
B65B1/04; B65B31/04; B65D30/04; B65D33/16; B65D69/00
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
THAKUR, VIREN A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
LUCAS & MERCANTI, LLP (NEW YORK, NY, US)
Claims:
1. Process to make a packaging, comprising the steps of: providing a big bag type container (2), carrying out the filling of product (P) into said big bag container (2), —providing a seal enclosure (3) able to enclose said big bag container (2) with said filling of product (P), and sealing said enclosure (3), enclosing said big bag container (2) with said filling of product (P), forming a sub-atmospheric pressure level in said seal enclosure (3).

2. Process according to claim 1, characterized in that it comprises the step of introducing a protective inert gas into said enclosure, containing said big bag container (2).

3. Process according to claim 2, characterised in that it comprises the step of selecting nitrogen as said protective inert gas.

4. Process according to any preceding claim, characterised in that it comprises the step of forming said sub atmospheric pressure in hard vacuum conditions.

5. Process according to claim 4, characterised by said sub atmospheric pressure corresponding to an mm value of mercury about the same of one tenth of the mm value of mercury of nodal atmospheric pressure.

6. Process according to claim 1, characterised in that said sail enclosure (3) is made of a multi-layer laminar material.

7. Process according to claim 1, characterised in that it provides a layer of heat sealable material layer (3c) on the face of said enclosure (3), intended to be facing the interior of the packaging (I) and seals said enclosure (3) by said layer of heat sealable material (3c).

8. Process according to claim 1, characterised in that it comprises the step of including into said seal enclosure (3) an aluminium layer (3b).

9. Process according to claim 8, characterised in that it comprises the step of interposing said aluminium layer (3b) in a sandwich structure, in which the outer layers (3a) are in form of clothes.

10. Process according to claim 9, characterised in that said outer layers (3a) are made of nylon clothes.

11. Process according to claim 1, characterised in that it comprises the provision of said big bag container (2) with an apertured wall.

12. Process according to claim 11, characterised in that it comprises the provision of said big bag container (2) with a wall of interwoven material.

13. Process according to claim 12, characterised in that it comprises the provision of said big bag container (2) with a wall of synthetic yarn cloth, such as polypropylene.

14. Process according to claim 1, characterised in that it comprises the provision of said big bag container (2) with a wall thickness of around 1 millimetre.

15. Process according to claim 1, characterised in that it comprises the provision of said seal enclosure (3) with a wall thickness of around 250 micron.

16. Process according to claim 1, characterised in that it comprises the carrying out of said filling of product (P) into said big bag container (2) before inserting said big bag container (2) into said seal enclosure (3).

17. Process according to claim 1, characterised in that it comprises the forming of a sub atmospheric pressure level in said seal enclosure (3), by carrying out several steps.

18. Process according to claim 2, characterised in that it comprises the introduction of an inert gas protecting said enclosure (3), containing said big bag container (2), carrying out several steps.

19. Process according to claim 17, characterised in that it comprises alternate steps of applying sub atmospheric pressure to said seal enclosure (3) and insertion steps of said protective inert gas into said seal enclosure (3).

20. Process according to claim 1, characterised in that it comprises the step of disposing said big bag container (2) onto a pallet (4).

21. Process according to claim 19, characterised in that it comprises the step of interposing a separating laminar layer (5) between said big bag container (2) and said pallet (4).

22. Process according to claim 21, characterised in that said separating laminar layer is a cardboard layer (5).

23. Process according to claim 21, characterised by said seal enclosure (3) being placed in a position interposed between said big bag container (2) and said pallet (4), therefore said pallet (4) resulting outer relative to said seal enclosure (3).

24. Packaging comprising: a big bag type container (2), a product (P) filling into said big bag type container (2), a seal enclosure (3) containing said big bag type container (2) with said filling of product (P), said seal enclosure (3) being at a sub atmospheric pressure level.

25. Packaging according to claim 24, characterised in that it comprises an inert gas protecting said enclosure (3), containing said big bag type container (2).

26. Packaging according to claim 25, characterised in that said protective inert gas is nitrogen.

27. Packaging according to claim 24, characterised in that said sub-atmospheric pressure corresponds to hard vacuum conditions.

28. Packaging according to claim 27, characterised in that said sub atmospheric pressure corresponds to a millimetre value of mercury which is about the same of one tenth of the millimetre value of mercury of the normal atmospheric pressure.

29. Packaging according to claim 24, characterised in that said seal enclosure (3) is made of a multi-layer laminar material.

30. Packaging according to claim 24, characterised by a layer of heat sealable material (3c) being present on the face intended to face the interior of packaging (1), which enables to achieve a seal weld of said enclosure (3).

31. Packaging according to claim 24, characterised in that said seal enclosure (3) comprises an aluminium layer (3b).

32. Packaging according to claim 31, characterised in that said aluminium layer (3b) is included in a sandwich structure, whose outer layers (3a) are in form of clothes.

33. Packaging according to claim 32, characterised in that said outer layers (3a) are composed of nylon clothes.

34. Packaging according to claim 24, characterised in that said big bag container (2) has an apertured wall.

35. Packaging according to claim 34, characterised in that said big bag container (2) has an interwoven material wall.

36. Packaging according to claim 35, characterised in that said big bag container (2) has a wall made of synthetic yarn cloth, such as polypropylene.

37. Packaging according to claim 23, characterised in that said big bag container (2) has a wall thickness of around 1 millimetre.

38. Packaging according to claim 23, characterised in that said seal enclosure (3) has a wall thickness of around 250 micron.

39. Packaging according to claim 23, characterised in that said big bag container (2) is placed on a pallet (4).

40. Packaging according to claim 39, characterised by a separating laminar layer (5) being placed between a big bag container (2) and said pallet (4).

41. Packaging according to claim 40, characterised in that said separating laminar layer is a cardboard layer (5).

42. Packaging according to claim 39, characterised in that said seal enclosure (3) is placed in a position interposed between said big bag container (2) and said pallet (4), whereby said pallet (4) being outer relative to said seal enclosure (3).

43. Packaging according to claim 39, characterised in that said filling (P) is a filling of food stuffs.

44. Packaging according to claim 43, characterised in that said food product (P) is composed of hazelnuts.

45. Kit for carrying out the process according to claim 1, said kit comprising: —a big bag type container (2), and—a seal enclosure (3) being able of containing said big bag container (2).

46. Process according to claim 18, characterised in that it comprises alternate steps of applying sub atmospheric pressure to said seal enclosure (3) and insertion steps of said protective inert Las into said seal enclosure (3)

Description:

The present invention generally relates to packaging techniques of food stuffs.

More specifically, the invention relates to packaging techniques making use of currently named “big bag” containers (other current names of this kind of containers being “bulk bag” or FIBC, acronym for Flexible Intermediate Bulk Container).

Such containers (hereafter generally referred to as “big bag containers”) are susceptible of being used for transporting food stuffs such as powdered milk, dried fruit, hazelnuts, etc., e they are disclosed, for example, in EP-A-1316515, FR-A-2802189, WO-A-89/00957, WO-A-01-17069, WO-A-01/27000, WO-A-03106269, and GB-A-2327072.

Big bags are usually filled with bulk goods and are made of flexible laminar material, such as a synthetic yarn cloth (i.e. a polypropylene cloth). In a current embodiment, when the big bag has been unfolded and filled with goods, it takes a rough parallelepiped shape which enables, for example, it to be moved e transported on pallets. For a better understanding, without it to be limiting any how, the currently used big bags may have basic dimensions in the range of 100-120 cm and may be 180 cm in height.

Of course, these dimensions cause the big bag, when filled with goods, to have a significant weight. For this reason, big bags are usually provided with one or more lifting ears on its top, which enable to suspend the big bag to be emptied.

The same considerations about the big bag dimensions cause the big bag, when filled with product, to tend to a certain extent to “widen”, taking a shape, which is far from the ideal parallelepiped shape. This is why it is known to provide inner reinforcing elements, to restrict the widening phenomenon of big bags under the inside product bias (see for instance the above mentioned WO-A-01/27000).

This kind of container spreading causes its own filling/evacuation modes to gradually tend to be more and more standard, even for what concerns the provision on the big bag top and bottom zones with product filling and evacuation apertures, with the related opening/closing modes.

The practice of making big bags of an apertured material, such as a cloth, causes the big bag, per se, to be permeable to the external agents, such as moisture, and to be unable to give the packaged product a suitable protection against these agents. For sake of clarity, it has to be noted that the constituent material of the big bag it self may also be negatively affected by such external agents and may encounter, for instance, tearing. Tearings, and resulting risk of undesired leakage of product, could be produced by hitting against obstacles or in that the product filled big bags are violently dropped on the ground, while, for instance, moved by a straddle truck.

This is the reason why it can be assumed to protect the product contained within a big bag by modifying the big bag, making it become a double wall container. This result is achievable by disposing a product reception container or bag, into the big bag, having a continuous wall, capable to isolate the product form external agents. Carrying out this practice enables, for instance, the making of a controlled atmosphere within the protective bag (for instance under-vacuum, or partially inert, for instance by introducing nitrogen), thereby adopting current modes for containers of smaller dimensions.

“Double wall” containers are broadly known in the art, as witnessed, by way of example, in Patents Nos. U.S. Pat. No. 4,515,692, U.S. Pat. No. 6,312,742, EP-A-0097391, EP-A-1120357 or WO-A-92/16439. Most of these double wall containers are essentially referable to typology that provides for making the container outer wall of a more or less rigid material, while the inner protective “bag” is made of flexible material.

The hypothetical transposition of such a practice to a big bag encounters several difficulties.

First, choosing to dispose a contained product protective bag into the big bag becomes antagonist of some of the clearest advantages related to the use of big bags.

For example, a bag enclosure (substantially similar to a big sack made of flexible material) disposed within the big bag makes the loading of goods into the big bag clearly difficult, since the support somehow of the bag within the big bag is required when filling, moreover when it is being loaded with the product falling inside. More drawbacks will arise during the discharging phase of the big, unless discharging apertures are provided on the lower wall of the bag (which is not easy), which are initially closed and subsequently somehow openable at the positions of the big bag discharging apertures.

Yet, as previously said, big bags are often provided with reinforcing frames therein, provided to cause the big bag to keep a substantial parallelepiped shape, even when full with product. These reinforcing members, such that they do not hinder evidently the direct filling of the big bag with the packaged product, will be an obstacle when a bag is to be inserted into the big bag.

Yet, a bag or sack placed within the big bag would be intended to receive and support, at least in the first instance, the mechanical stress arising from the material weight. This factor would be even more important when filling such a bag with the product and place it inside the big bag subsequently, is desired. Such practice assumes to have a bag capable to bear the product bias and weight by itself. Beside other drawbacks, making a bag enclosure capable of supporting adequately the mechanical stresses of the product would imply the use of flexible materials of a given thickness, susceptible to be expensive. By the way, it should be remembered that, especially when transporting food stuffs, big bags tend to be considered as consumer products, not intended to be re-used. They have to be as low cost as possible, this requirement being necessary for the bag or sack, intended to be placed into the big bag.

Yet, with a bag filled with product and placed within the big bag and then subjected to the making of a vacuum and/or injection of a protective inert gas thereinto, it would usually difficult to realize immediately of such possible holes that could fail the vacuum/controlled atmosphere conditions, resulting in a risk of quick perishment of the product within the package. By the way it should be remembered that in case of product packaging (e.g. hazelnuts) which have annual harvest-times, the big bag is currently employed as product stocking container, in which keeping the products in excellent storage conditions for a substantially equal period between the two subsequent harvests, i.e. one year time, is desired.

The present invention has the aim to fully and satisfactorily solve the above-mentioned problems.

According to the present invention, such purpose is achieved due to a product packaging process having the features claimed in the appended claims and which are part of the teachings of the present Application.

The invention also relates to the package and making kit thereof.

The invention will be now described, only by way of example and not limiting, referring to the accompanying drawings, in which:

FIG. 1 is a general perspective view of a packaging according to the invention, with some parts of the depiction cut away for sake of illustration clarity; and

FIGS. 2 to 6 schematically illustrate the process leading to the making of such packaging.

Generally speaking, the herein described packaging, throughout denoted by 1, comprises two fundamental members, i.e.:

    • a big bag container 2, and
    • a laminar enclosure 3, substantially similar to a large case or large sack, intended to wrap the big bag container 2.

The container 2 may correspond to any big bag currently used. Thus, it may be any kind of big bag actually commercially available at the time of filing the present Application, for example, generally parallelepiped shaped and sized as above noted (only by way of reference and therefore the invention is not intended to be limited). The container 2 may be made for example of polypropylene cloth.

The reference to a parallelepiped shape is not to be intended to limit the invention; this is also valid for the choice to provide lifting ears 2a, at the upper vertexes of the container 2. Conveniently, the big bag container 2 may be provided with reinforcing members (not depicted in the drawings, but of a well known kind). Such reinforcing members are intended to cause the container 2 to substantially keep its shape when being filled with the product and when this filling has been completed, particularly when the packaging 1 with the product therein is moved, transported, stocked and fitted on the discharging apparatus of the container.

To better understand, it will be assumed hereinafter—again by way of example—that such a product, denoted by P in FIG. 1, is composed of hazelnuts (for example shelled hazelnuts and probably subjected to a toasting process).

About the embodiment of the bag enclosure 3, processes well known in the art can be used. The sectional view of FIG. 2 shows a cloth portion (e.g. polypropylene) which is part of the container 2 wall juxtaposed to a portion of the enclosure 3 wall. In the currently preferred embodiment (which is not intended to limit the scope of the invention), the enclosure 3 is composed of a four-layer laminar material, substantially made of a sandwich structure comprising two layers of nylon cloth 3a and an aluminium layer 3b interposed therebetween. The sandwich thus realized is subsequently covered (“coupled”) with a heat sealable material 3c, typically made of polyethylene, on the side intended to face the inside of the packaging, thus toward the big bag 2 wall.

FIG. 2 points out the likelihood, given by the process herein described, of using a laminar material for the enclosure 3, that is enough thin (its thickness being typically around 250 micron) compared to a big bag 2 cloth around 1 millimetre thick. A thin laminar material of the described type is commercially available at a low cost, which enables it to be used as a disposable material.

Again the sectional view of FIG. 2 allows to appreciate an important aspect of the process herein described, i.e. the fact that the enclosure 3 is placed outside the big bag container 2—and not therein.

This aspect is even more appreciable when referring to the packaging sequence showed in FIGS. 3 to 6.

Particularly, FIG. 3 depicts the big bag container 2 unfolded and placed on a pallet 4, preferably with a separating layer (interflap) 5 interposed, made of material such as cardboard.

FIG. 3 shows the big bag 2 hooked at the ears 2a, such that it is positioned at the air outlet of a filling silos S. Material P, intended to be packaged, pours out of this outlet, usually by free fall. The described filling modes and tools needed to practice it are well known in the art and they do not need to be described in more detail herein.

FIG. 4 shows that, when the filling of product P below the silos S has been completed, big bag 2 is wrapped by the enclosure 3, using the general bag or sack shape of the enclosure 3 itself. The practice of placing the big bag 2 into the enclosure 3, when the filling with product P has been completed, is actually preferred, but it is not imperative for carrying out the invention. Big bag 2 may also be inserted into the enclosure 3 before starting the filling step, or, alternatively, also while the filling step is in process. This may be achieved providing means (not explicitly showed) which enable the enclosure 3 to be supported, such that it keeps in the wrapping conditions of big bag 2.

Whatever the adopted practice is, the achievable final result is the one depicted in FIG. 5, with big bag 2 full of product P and closed (also here according to criteria know di per se) at an outlet part 2b (it may be a closing part which is tied with a string, noose or similar member). The big bag 2 filled with product P is disposed within the case enclosure 3, the whole being laid down on pallet 4.

FIG. 6 schematically depicts the conclusive steps of preparing the packaging 1. Such a sequence of steps essentially provides the closure of the enclosure 3, usually carried out by closing the bag forming the enclosure at its outlet side, thereby forming two lips 30 (better seen in the perspective view in FIG. 1) sealingly welded to each other by heat sealing. Such step is carried out by exploiting the presence of the above lips on the opposite faces, the heat sealable material layer 3 (see FIG. 2). The above heat sealing operation is obviously replaceable with equivalent processes (ultrasonic sealing, deposition welding, crimp, etc.).

Before welding the lips 30, using a suitable bell B (using well known criteria, these being the same criteria already used for smaller dimension sack packaging), a cycle will be started, which provides:

    • forming a vacuum level (sub atmospheric pressure) within the enclosure 3 containing the big bag 2 and filling with product P, resulting in the removal of most of the air therefrom,
    • a first injection of protective inert gas (typically nitrogen),
    • a second discharging action by formation of sub atmospheric pressure level within the enclosure 3, and
    • supplying an injection of protective inert gas.

Obviously, the described sequence corresponds only to a preferred example of embodiment of the invention and it is not intended to be limiting di per se of the scope of the embodiment of the invention. Particularly, the injection of protective inert gas (such as nitrogen) is a preferable, but not essential element, of the scope of the embodiment of the invention. Regarding forming a sub atmospheric pressure level (vacuum), obviously, it may be carried out by one or more steps.

Generally, forming a rather “hard” vacuum level within enclosure 3 (where there are the big bag 2 and the product P), for instance to reach sub atmospheric pressure levels ranging from 70 to 80 mm of mercury, has proven to be preferable. A typical value is around 76 mm of mercury, which corresponds to a value equal to one tenth of normal atmospheric pressure, i.e. 760 mm of mercury.

Forming the above said sub atmospheric pressure (i.e. “vacuum” forming) results in the enclosure 3 being biased (very strongly, when high vacuum levels are adopted, as above mentioned) against the walls of big bag 2, with the product P therein. This results in the under vacuum packaging thus made (see FIG. 1) being made rigid, so that the big bag keeps excellently its parallelepidal shape. This notably helps the moving and transport operations of packaging 1.

The description of FIGS. 3 to 6 sequences allows appreciating that the packaging 1 is made without changing appreciably the big bag filling with product P. Which step may be carried out according to basically the same modes of those currently used.

The seal enclosure 3, which is a continuous enclosure, (the above said continuity and seal being ensured principally by the aluminium layer 3b in the shown exemplary embodiment), ensures the full insulation of product P from external agents susceptible of affect negatively the product P.

A similar action of protection is also carried out for the material composing the big bag 2, which is particularly protected (as product P) against moisture seepage or against the risk of incidental penetration of liquid which are likely to occur.

This means that the above described kind of packaging 1 may be kept outside, in an outdoor stocking site or in a position exposed to the external environment while being transported, if necessary.

The experiences carried out by the Applicants have proven that, surprisingly, also a relatively thin and low cost enclosure, such as that previously mentioned, shows—when used within the scope of the just described packaging 1—excellent seal features and, moreover, mechanical stress resistance. This is also true for shock stresses and stress susceptible to arise when packaging 1 is accidentally dropped on the ground while handling.

Without bonding to any specific theory, the Applicants, have reason to assume that this surprising effect is due to the vacuum, formed within the packaging, acting by biasing very strongly the cover 3 against the material of big bag 2 wall. In such conditions, a synergic action is carried out, such that the wall material of big bag 2 ends to serve as reinforcing material of enclosure 3. A further benefit arises in that, as previously said, the vacuum action causes the packaging 1 as a whole to become rigid (becoming substantially a sort of solid block) into which phenomena of deformation, susceptible to lead to a tearing of the enclosure 3, may difficultly arise.

In any case, the possible occurrence of such a tearing (or drilling) is immediately perceivable from outside, in that the enclosure 3 defines precisely the outer surface of packaging. Thus, realizing immediately that a packaging has lost its sealing properties and that, consequently, the product P therein is no longer protected against external agents, may be possible. This allows, for instance, to readily intervening by emptying the packaging of product P therein, before it may perish.

The discharging/emptying steps of packaging 1, just described, are easy. In practice, the emptying step may be carried out simply by tearing and removing only one part of enclosure 3, thereto, for example, uncover the lifting ears 2a, which enables to lift and hang the big bag 2. At this point, the enclosure 3 may be removed (if not completely, at least at the zones where the discharging outlets of big bag 2 are), carrying out, thus, the downloading of product P, based on the same modes of those currently used for usually employed big bags.

Obviously, it being understood that the principle of the invention, the features of the embodiment and the embodiments may be broadly varied based on the above description and illustration, given only by way of example and therefore not limiting, without departing from the scope of the invention, such as defined in the appended claims.