Title:
Portable sealing system
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An improved sealing assembly for sealing flowable materials within containers for transport on commercial passenger flights includes at least one selectively sealable container having a volume of approximately three fluid ounces. A hand-held, portable sealing mechanism is adapted and constructed to hermetically seal flowable materials within the at least one sealable container. The sealing mechanism is of sufficient compactness and lightness to render it capable of being carried on the person of a user. The sealing mechanism is used to seal flowable materials in to the at least one container in sufficient quantity to permit transportation of the sealed, filled pouch in carry-on baggage of a passenger of the commercial passenger flight.



Inventors:
Opdycke, Nicola D. (Whitefish, MT, US)
Application Number:
11/825472
Publication Date:
01/08/2009
Filing Date:
07/06/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65B51/10
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
HUYNH, LOUIS K
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Nicola D. Opdycke (Whitefish, MT, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An improved sealing assembly for sealing flowable materials within containers for transport on commercial passenger flights, the assembly comprising the following: at least one selectively sealable container having a volume of approximately three fluid ounces; and a hand-held, portable sealing mechanism adapted and constructed to hermetically seal flowable materials within the at least one sealable container, the sealing mechanism being of sufficient compactness and lightness to render it capable of being carried on the person of a user; whereby the sealing mechanism is used to seal flowable materials in to the at least one container in sufficient quantity to permit transportation of the sealed, filled container in carry-on baggage of a passenger of the commercial passenger flight.

2. An improved sealing assembly in accordance with claim 1, wherein the at least one selectively sealable container comprises a heat-sealable container.

3. An improved sealing assembly in accordance with claim 2, wherein the at least one selectively sealable container comprises a heat-sealable flexible pouch.

4. An improved sealing assembly in accordance with claim 3, wherein the at least one selectively sealable container comprises a transparent heat-sealable flexible pouch.

5. An improved sealing assembly in accordance with claim 4, wherein the heat-sealable flexible pouch comprises a surface coated with TEFLON.

6. An improved sealing assembly in accordance with claim 1, wherein the at least one selectively sealable container comprises a plurality of interconnected sachets.

7. An improved sealing assembly in accordance with claim 6, wherein the plurality of interconnected sachets comprises a roll of interconnected sachets.

8. An improved sealing assembly in accordance with claim 1, wherein the hand-held, portable sealing mechanism comprises a heat sealing mechanism.

9. An improved sealing assembly in accordance with claim 8, wherein the heat sealing mechanism comprises a plastic heat sealer having at least one recessed heating element.

10. An improved sealing assembly in accordance with claim 9, wherein the heat sealing mechanism comprises a narrow insertion aperture adjacent to the recessed heating element, the insertion aperture being adapted and constructed to receive an unsealed opening of a sealed container.

11. An improved sealing assembly in accordance with claim 10, wherein the heat sealing mechanism comprises an anvil portion positioned across the insertion aperture from the at least one recessed heating element.

12. An improved sealing assembly in accordance with claim 11, wherein the heat sealing mechanism comprises an actuation mechanism to facilitate movement of the anvil portion and recessed heating element to close the insertion aperture to seal a filled container.

13. An improved kit for sealing flowable materials within containers for transport on commercial passenger flights, the kit comprising the following: at least one selectively sealable container having a volume of approximately three fluid ounces; a hand-held, portable sealing mechanism adapted and constructed to hermetically seal flowable materials within the at least one sealable container, the sealing mechanism being of sufficient compactness and lightness to render it capable of being carried on the person of a user; and a carrying case holding the at least one selectively sealable container and the hand-held, portable sealing mechanism; whereby the hand-held, portable sealing mechanism and the at least one selectively sealable container can be removed from the carrying case, whereafter the sealing mechanism is used to seal flowable materials in to the at least one container in sufficient quantity to permit transportation of the sealed, filled container in carry-on baggage of a passenger of the commercial passenger flight.

14. A method for sealing flowable materials within containers for transport on commercial passenger flights, the ethod comprising the following steps: providing at least one selectively sealable container having a volume of approximately three fluid ounces; providing a hand-held, portable sealing mechanism adapted and constructed to hermetically seal flowable materials within the at least one sealable container, the sealing mechanism being of sufficient compactness and lightness to render it capable of being carried on the person of a user; filling the at least one selectively sealable container with a flowable material to be transported; and sealing the filled container using the sealing mechanism.

15. A method in accordance with claim 14, wherein the step of sealing the filled container comprises heat-sealing the filled container.

16. A method in accordance with claim 14, wherein the step of sealing the filled container comprises ultrasonically sealing the filled container.

17. An improved sealing assembly for sealing flowable materials within containers, the assembly comprising the following: at least one selectively sealable container having a volume of approximately three fluid ounces; and a hand-held, portable sealing mechanism adapted and constructed to hermetically seal flowable materials within the at least one sealable container, the sealing mechanism being of sufficient compactness and lightness to render it capable of being carried on the person of a user; whereby the sealing mechanism is used to seal flowable materials in to the at least one container in sufficient quantity to permit transportation of the sealed, filled container.

18. An improved sealing assembly in accordance with claim 17, wherein the at least one selectively sealable container comprises a heat-sealable container.

19. An improved sealing assembly in accordance with claim 17, wherein the at least one selectively sealable container has a fluid capacity of approximately three ounces.

20. An improved sealing assembly in accordance with claim 17, wherein the at least one selectively sealable container comprises a transparent heat-sealable flexible pouch.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

None

STATEMENT AS TO RIGHTS TO INVENTIONS MADE UNDER FEDERALLY-SPONSORED RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT

None

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The invention relates generally to sealing individual containers, and specifically to various mechanisms and methods for sealing flowable substances into relatively small individual containers.

DESCRIPTION OF RELATED ART

Security threats to commercial air travelers have led many countries to adopt comparatively restrictive rules regarding carry-on luggage. In the United States, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is responsible for promulgating and enforcing such restrictions as they relate to passengers on regularly scheduled commercial flights. The TSA uses multiple layers of security to ensure the security of the traveling public and the Nation's transportation system. These layers include intelligence gathering and analysis, checking passenger manifests against watch lists, random canine team searches at airports, federal air marshals, federal flight deck officers and more security measures both visible and invisible to the public.

Because of their visibility to the public, the TSA is most commonly associated with the airport checkpoints, where passengers present themselves and any carry-on baggage for inspection. Any restricted or forbidden items found on a passenger's person or in his carry-on baggage is confiscated.

The TSA has developed a rather lengthy list of restricted and forbidden items. One of the regulated categories most commonly encountered is the transportation of liquids in carry-on baggage. After extensive research and understanding of current threats, the TSA developed regulations intended to help air travelers bring essential toiletries and other liquids, gels and aerosols for short trips. In accordance with these regulations, passengers may take liquid or gel like items such as toiletries with them through security if they are placed in a quart-size, clear plastic zip top bag. Only one zip top bag per passenger will be allowed. The liquid or gel in the containers can only be 3 ounces or less which is the common size for travel sized shampoos, toothpastes, etc. The plastic bags must be taken out of carry-on luggage and x-rayed separately.

The containers may not be capable of holding more than 3 ounces, even if there are only 3 ounces of liquid or gel in them. For example, if a passenger is in possession of a 16-ounce sized bottle of shampoo, but only 3 ounces of shampoo are left in the bottle, the bottle cannot be brought through the security checkpoint. If a passenger has a partially filled container of a larger capacity, or a passenger uses a product that is not available in a container having a capacity of 3 ounces or less, the passenger must put the product container into a checked bag. If the passenger is not checking any baggage, the container must be discarded or left behind. It can thus be seen that it is useful for a traveler to have some means for placing liquid or gel toiletries into sealed containers suitable for traveling.

In general, sealing mechanisms of various construction are known, and are well represented in the patent literature. One example is U.S. Pat. No. 6,835,273 to Vargas, in which heating tongs (6) are used to cut a sleeve (4) fixed around an opening (1) of a chamber (2) after the objects to be taken out of the chamber have been introduced. Another pair of tongs (9) is placed on the side of the opening (1) to tighten the sleeve (4) and to keep it flat to avoid pleats, to allow ventilation during the preparation and to avoid tension in the sleeve; the latter would compromise the sealing taking place.

In another example, U.S. Pat. No. 6,881,287 to Yasuhira is directed to Packaging bag sealing method and a filled and sealed packaging bag wherein an area where a liquid substance, for instance, is present inside a bag, that is, the area where the liquid substance adheres to the inner surface of the bag, is ultrasonically sealed (thus forming an ultrasonically sealed area), and then an area that is separated from the ultrasonically sealed area by a predetermined distance toward the edge of the mouth of the bag is heat-sealed (thus forming a heat-sealed area), so that the a portion of the liquid substance, that is separated and is present above the ultrasonically sealed area, is sealed inside the space between the two sealed areas.

U.S. Patent Publication No. US 2006/0137299 to Huang shows a Pocket sealing machine in which an opening of a plastic bag with an article stored therein is placed between a cover and a vacuum assembly of a pocket sealing machine, moving a rib to a second slot will extend the suction head into the opening. Pressing the cover will enable an electric heater to start heat sealing the opening, and moving the machine across the opening until the suction head is wrapped. In a suction releasing the cover will disable the electric heater, pressing a switch will activate a motor for disabling the heat sealing and enabling the suction head to make a vacuum in the bag, and releasing the switch will deactivate the motor. In a final sealing moving the rib back to a first slot will retract the suction head, moving the machine to cover the opening, and pressing the cover toward the vacuum assembly will enable the electric heater to seal the opening.

In U.S. Pat. No. 6,088,996 to Maruyama, a heat-seal apparatus having an improved structure for easily replacing a heater therein. The heat-seal apparatus includes a crimping lever, a base portion for grasping and crimping the sealed portion of a sealed substance with the crimping lever to heat and seal the sealed portion, a heater mounted to the base portion for heating and sealing the sealed portion, a slackness preventing means for preventing slackness caused by thermal expansion of the heating portion, and a means for easily removing and mounting the heating portion which achieves easy removal and mounting the heating portion by pressing back and correcting displacement of the heating portion by the slackness preventing means when the crimping lever portion is separated and held open from the base portion.

U.S. Pat. No. 6,145,273 to Baker is directed to an apparatus for filling and sealing flexible poly bags which are provided on a continuous roll. The apparatus has means for heat sealing filled bags. A drive mechanism conveys the bag into position for filling and sealing thereof. A clamp mechanism draws the bags into contact with the heat sealing means during the sealing process. A reverse actuation mechanism is provided for reversing the drive mechanism while the bag remains clamped so as to detach the bag at a perforation thereof. An interrupt means is also provided for disengaging the clamp mechanism when the clamp mechanism is interfered with by a foreign object. The interrupt means consists of an electrical circuit established through the clamp mechanism frame which circuit is broken when the clamp mechanism contacts a foreign object. Also provided is a guide mechanism for guiding the bags into engagement with the drive mechanism. The guide mechanism includes a pair of rollers which are in frictional contact with a table member, and a pair of belts are drivingly connected between the rollers and the drive means.

Although these known sealing mechanisms provide some advantages, they present significant drawbacks as well. For example, some of the known mechanisms are associated with large and cumbersome filling apparatus. Further, none of the sealing mechanisms is suited in size and functioning to be suitable for use by a traveler in a hotel room, or airport, or otherwise preparing for a journey. It can be seen the foregoing that the need exists for a simple and inexpensive sealing mechanism well adapted to being carried on the person, and easily transportable and usable in commonly-encountered traveling environments.

SUMMARY

In accordance with the principles of the present invention, an improved sealing assembly for sealing flowable materials within containers for transport on commercial passenger flights includes at least one selectively sealable container having a volume of approximately three fluid ounces. A hand-held, portable sealing mechanism is adapted and constructed to hermetically seal flowable materials within the at least one sealable container. The sealing mechanism is of sufficient compactness and lightness to render it capable of being carried on the person of a user. The sealing mechanism is used to seal flowable materials in to the at least one container in sufficient quantity to permit transportation of the sealed, filled pouch in carry-on baggage of a passenger of the commercial passenger flight.

The invention itself, however, both as to organization and method of operation, together with further objects and advantages thereof, may be best understood by reference to the following description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 illustrates a perspective view of a sealable container in accordance with the principles of the present invention.

FIG. 2 illustrates a perspective view of a sealing mechanism in accordance with the principles of the present invention.

FIG. 3 illustrates a detailed section of the sealing mechanism of FIG. 2.

FIG. 4 illustrates a carrying case in accordance with the principles of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

While this invention is susceptible of embodiment in many different forms, there is shown in the drawings, and will herein be described in detail, exemplary embodiments, with the understanding that the present disclosure is to be considered as illustrative of the principles of the invention and not intended to limit the invention to the exemplary embodiments shown and described.

FIG. 1 illustrates a selectively sealable container 10. The container 10 includes a sealed edges 12, 14, and 16, and a sealable opening 18. The edges 12, 14, and 16 define a central fillable pocket 20 having a capacity of 3 ounces or less. It is contemplated that the specific volume of the central fillable pocket 20 can be of other volumes in accordance with the localized regulation for transporting flowable materials such as liquids and gels. For example, the agencies responsible for airport security in Europe have a limit which corresponds to a volume of approximately 3.4 fluid ounces. The container 10 can be fabricated from any suitable liquid proof sealable material. It has been found that thermoplastic materials are particularly well-suited to the present invention. Furthermore, coatings such as TEFLON can be provided to enhance the performance capabilities of the container 10. One example of a suitable container is a sachet, made from laminated material and provided in roll form, manufactured by and available from Napco Composite Packaging Technology, LTD.

FIG. 2 illustrates a hand-held, portable sealing mechanism 22. The sealing mechanism 22 is of sufficient compactness and lightness to render it capable of being carried on the person of, and being held and operated by one hand of, a user U. The sealing mechanism 22 includes a base portion 24 enclosing a heating mechanism H and a power and control electronics module M. The details of the power and control electronics are of known configuration. The heating element H can be provided as a heating element, an ultrasonic wave generator, or any suitable source of sealing energy compatible with the material chosen for the containers 10. As shown in FIG. 3, the sealing mechanism 22 can be configured with a plastic base portion 24 having a recessed heating element 34.

Turning again to FIG. 2, a jaw 26 is pivotably connected to the base portion 24 of the sealing mechanism 22 via a pivot pin P. The jaw 26 includes an anvil 28 adjacent to and opposite from the heating element H. A narrow insertion aperture 30 is defined between the anvil 28 and the heating element H, the insertion aperture being adapted and constructed to receive an unsealed opening of a sealed container for sealing. The sealing mechanism 22 can also be provided with an indicator light 30 to alert a user when the sealer is on, and actuation switch 32 to turn the sealing mechanism on and off.

In operation, a container 10 is filed with approximately 3 ounces or less of a flowable material. With the sealing mechanism 22 turned on, the open end 18 of the container 10 is placed into the aperture 29, between the heating element H and the anvil 28. the user then urges the anvil 28 toward the heating element H, closing the aperture 29 and sealing the container 20. The container 10 is then able to be placed into carry-on baggage accompanying a passenger on a commercial flight.

As shown in FIG. 4, the sealing mechanism 22 can be placed into a carrying case 36, along with a plurality of containers provided as sachets in a roll form 38. The combination of these items forms a kit that can be easily carried by a traveler, and used in any convenient location, such as a hotel room or airport, to render liquids suitable for transportation.

It can be seen from the foregoing that the present invention provides advantages in a wide range of applications. While details of the invention are discussed herein with reference to some specific examples to which the principles of the present invention can be applied, the applicability of the invention to other devices and equivalent components thereof will become readily apparent to those of skill in the art. Accordingly, it is intended that all such alternatives, modifications, permutations, and variations to the exemplary embodiments can be made without departing from the scope and spirit of the present invention.