Title:
Temperature Maintaining Shipping Package
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A package and method of use for packaging temperature sensitive payloads during transport through environments having extreme temperatures. The package includes a segmented, flexible panel containing a plurality of phase change material segments. A pair of such panels may be used, with each panel being separately thermally preconditioned as a function of anticipated ambient temperature during transport. The panels may be formed by retaining phase change material segments between a pair of flexible sheets.



Inventors:
Williams, Preston Noel (Richfield, MN, US)
Cousineau III, Henry Adolph (Minneapolis, MN, US)
Hillmann, Arnold Charles (Prior Lake, MN, US)
Lindquist, Eric Robert (Medina, MN, US)
Kramer, Christian Peter (Saint Louis Park, MN, US)
Legas, David Nicholas (Bloomington, MN, US)
Application Number:
12/325871
Publication Date:
09/17/2009
Filing Date:
12/01/2008
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
53/473
International Classes:
B65D81/38; B65B1/04
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20040256389Standard tinned drinks protectorDecember, 2004Tomas
20070175892Basket and basket-frame constructionAugust, 2007Izumi
20050145625Multi cups with secured engagementJuly, 2005Cha
20060049194Free moving system for stable, manual support food and drink itemsMarch, 2006Kuhn
20090188214Method for securely transporting value documents and objects and a box for carrying out said methodJuly, 2009Vohnout-marle et al.
20090241809MATERIALS SAFETY CAGE AND ASSOCIATED METHODSOctober, 2009Head
20070034637Auto glide power top systemFebruary, 2007Carmichael
20070241103Device for washing women's brassiereOctober, 2007Kaylor
20040000556Trash receptacles that use plastic grocery bags as liners and methods of advertisingJanuary, 2004Harris
20100065561Multi-Chamber Package with Tear FeatureMarch, 2010Valley III et al.
20080110901Plate PackMay, 2008Unda et al.



Primary Examiner:
KOAGEL, JONATHAN BRYAN
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP (MINNEAPOLIS, MN, US)
Claims:
1. A transport package for a temperature sensitive payload comprising: an outer container; a panel defined by a plurality of interconnected segments of phase change material; and a payload section adapted to receive the temperature sensitive payload, and with the panel being wrapped around the payload prior to insertion into the outer container.

2. The package of claim 1 wherein the panel includes a pair of intennittently joined film layers defining cavities into which phase change material is contained.

3. The package of claim 2 wherein the panel includes a plurality of voids.

4. The package of claim 3 wherein the voids are generally linearly aligned.

5. The package of claim 1 wherein the panel is provided with enhanced flexibility in a direction beneficial for wrapping the payload.

6. The package of claim 1 wherein the panel includes a plurality of segmented sheets.

7. The package of claim 6 wherein said plurality of segmented sheets includes a pair of sheets, with each of the pair of sheets being thermally preconditioned differently than the other prior to wrapping the pair of panels around the payload.

8. A transport package for a temperature sensitive payload comprising: a plurality of segmented panels containing phase change material within an interior volume, with said interior volume being defined between a pair of fluid impervious layers; and a payload section adapted to receive the temperature sensitive payload, and with the plurality of panels being wrapped around the payload prior to insertion into an outer container.

9. The package of claim 8 wherein the pair of fluid impervious layers are intermittently joined together to define a plurality of volumes containing phase change material.

10. The package of claim 9 wherein the pair of fluid impervious layers are joined together via a thermal bonding process.

11. The package of claim 8 wherein at least some of the plurality of segmented panels are preconditioned differently from each other prior to wrapping the payload.

12. A method of packaging a temperature sensitive product comprising: thermally preconditioning a flexible phase change material-containing panel, said panel including a plurality of segment portions; wrapping the panel around the temperature sensitive product; and inserting the temperature sensitive product wrapped with the panel into an outer container.

13. The method of claim 12 flither comprising: sealing the outer container prior to shipment.

14. The method of claim 12 further comprising: thermally preconditioning a second flexible phase change material-containing panel and wrapping the second flexible phase change material-containing panel around the temperature sensitive product prior to said insertion.

15. A method of packaging a temperature sensitive product comprising: wrapping the payload in a first flexible, segmented panel containing phase change material preconditioned based on an anticipated ambient temperature during transport of the payload; wrapping the payload in a second flexible, segmented panel containing phase change material preconditioned based on another anticipated ambient temperature during said transport; and inserting the payload wrapped with the segmented panels into an outer container.

16. The method of claim 15 further comprising: wrapping the payload with thermal insulation prior to said inserting.

17. The method of claim 15 wherein at least some phase change material has been preconditioned by adding heat energy to phase change material until the phase change material is liquid.

18. The method of claim 15 wherein at least some phase change material has been preconditioned by removing heat energy from phase change material until the phase change material is solid.

19. The method of claim 15 wherein the segmented panels are thermally preconditioned based on anticipated ambient temperatures during payload transportation.

20. The method of claim 15 wherein at least two different thermal preconditioning processes are used to prepare the segmented panels.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATIONS

This applications claims priority from U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/991,658, filed Nov. 30, 2007, and hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.

TECHNICAL FIELD

The present invention is directed to a package, such as used during transport, for a temperature sensitive payload and a method of use. More particularly, the present invention relates to a package and method of use for shipping temperature sensitive materials via common carrier.

BACKGROUND OF THE INWENTION

Packages incorporating phase change materals for transport of temperature sensitive payloads are well known. A phase change material (PCM) is a substance with a high heat of fusion which, upon melting and solidifying at certain temperatures, is capable of storing or releasing large amounts of energy. Initially, solid-liquid PCMs perform somewhat like conventional storage materials: their temperature nrses as they absorb heat. Unlike conventional storage materials, however, when such PCMs reach their phase change temperatures (i.e., melting point temperature) they absorb large amounts of heat without a significant rise in temperature. When the ambient temperature around a lquid material falls, the PCM solidifiesv releasing its stored latent heat. Certain PCMs store 5 to 14 times more heat per unit volume than conventional storage materials such as iron, masonry, or rock.

Transporting temperature sensitive materials through environments having extreme ambient temperatures in a manner that does not require a power source or other mechanical device is desirable. Various methods have been advanced for this purpose. For example, prior known devices have employed phase change materials in liquid form to encase a payload to protect materials from colder ambient temperatures and phase change materials in solid form to encase a payload to protect materals from hotter ambient temperatures.

PCMs can be broadly grouped into two categories: “Organic Compounds” (such as polyethylene glycol) and “Salt-based Products” (such as Glauber's salt). The most commonly used PCMs are salt hydrides, fatty acids and esters, and various paraffins (such as octadecane). Ionic liquids have also been investigated as novel PCMs.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to a package and method of thermally protecting a payload with phase change materals and an outer container, wherein the PCM material is provided in segmented panels. In one embodiment, a payload is surrounded with phase change material contained within segmented PCM panels that are wrapped around a payload. A package in accordance with the present invention may include multiple segmented panels of phase change material.

It is particularly desirable to have a storage or shipping container capable of thermally protecting a payload such as, but not limited to, a bottle or bottles of pills. An embodiment of the present invention relates includes a package defined by an outer container, such as an envelope, which contains one or more flexible, segmented PCM panels surrounding a payload. In one example, the segments are defined by bondings between panel surfaces. Such a bond can be formed via a thermal bonding procedure. One embodiment of the present invention utilizes multiple panels of generally similar form to define a plurality of segmented PCM portions.

The foregoing has outlined rather broadly the features and technical advantages of the present invention in order that the detailed description of the invention that follows may be better understood. Additional features and advantages of the invention will be described hereinafter which form the subject of the claims of the invention. It should be appreciated by those skilled in the art that the conception and specific embodiment disclosed may be readily utilized as a basis for modifying or designing other structures for carrying out the same purposes of the present invention. It should also be realized by those skilled in the art that such equivalent constructions do not depart from the spirit and scope of the invention as set forth in the appended claims. The novel features which are believed to be characteristic of the invention, both as to its organization and method of operation, together with further objects and advantages will be better understood from the following description when considered in connection with the accompanying figures. It is to be expressly understood, however, that each of the figures is provided for the purpose of illustration and description only and is not intended as a definition of the limits of the present invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

For a more complete understanding of the present invention, reference is now made to the following descriptions taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawing, in which:

FIG. 1 is an view of a package assembly in a disassembled state in accordance with the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a view of a portion of the package assembly of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional view of the package assembly taken along lines A-A of FIG. 1.

FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional view of the package assembly taken along lines B-B of FIG. 2.

FIG. 5 is a view of a portion of the package assembly of FIG. 1 during an assembly process.

FIG. 6 is a view of the package assembly of FIG. 5 during the assembly process.

FIG. 7 is a view of the package assembly of FIG. 1 in a ready-to-ship state.

FIGS. 8-11 are views of another embodiment of a package assembly in accordance with the present invention.

FIGS. 12-14 are graphs of test data collected during actual shipments of packages in accordance with the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

With reference to FIG. 1, there is shown one embodiment of a package 10 in a disassembled state. Package 10 includes outer container 11 and a pair of phase change material (PCM) panels 13. A payload is provided, which in this example, is a pair of bottles 16. As disclosed hereinafter, payload 16 is contained within rolled PCM panels 13 and container 11 upon assembly.

In the illustrated embodiment, container 11 is an envelope. Container 11 may be insulated or uninsulated. In other embodiments, container 11 may assume alternative forms, including, but not limited to, nonrectangular forms. Container 11 may be of plastic or polymer material, corrugated paper or corrugated plastic or other suitable material.

PCM panels 13 may assume different shapes or forms in alternative embodiments. Panels 13 contain a plurality of PCM segments 18. In the illustrated embodiments of FIGS. 1-11, a pair of flexible, segmented PCM panels 13 are employed in package 10. In the embodiment of FIGS. 1-7, panels 13 are segmented in two generally orthogonal directions, for simplicity sake referred to herein as “horizontal” and “vertical” directions. In comparison, the embodiment of FIGS. 8-11 utilize panels 13 which are segmented in a single directions, e.g., vertical. As shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, panels 13 of are segmented in both horizontal and vertical directions.

Panels 13 are defined by a plurality of separated PCM-containing segments 18. These segments 18 are separated by linear voids 19. Voids 19 may be defined during a thermal bonding manufacturing process. For example, the voids 19 and cavity forming segments 18 may be formed from a pair of thermoplastic sheet material brought together during a thermal bonding/filling process. Voids 19 may be continuous, that is to say each segment 18 is separated from each other and PCM is prevented from flowing from one segment 18 to an adjacent segment 18. In another embodiment, voids 19 may be non-continuous and PCM is able to flow from one segment into another segment 18 when an external force is supplied. In short, the interior volumes of segments 18 may be either separated or provided in fluid communication with each other.

FIGS. 3 and 4 represent cross-sectional views taken along lines A-A and B-B in FIGS. 1 and 2, respectively. Each segment 18 contains a quantity of PCM held between upper and lower films 20, 21. In one embodiment, segments 18 are defined between pairs of void regions 19 wherein film layers 20, 21 are brought together during a sealing/filling process. PCM is held within volumes contained between film layers 20, 21. The size of segments 18 could depend on a variety considerations including, but not limited to, temperature constraints of payload and/or anticipated ambient temperature during shipping, size of payload, size or weight limitations of shipper, etc. It should be appreciated that alternative segment 18 designs could also be utilized depending, for example, on the geometry of the payload, thermal constraints, etc. As suggested by FIG. 5, slits or perforations may be formed in upper and/or lower segment portions such as indicated by numeral 29. Such slits or perforations 29 may be beneficial during a panel 13 rolling process as further disclosed herein. Slits or perforations 29 are shown in phantom line to indicate that for other embodiments of panel 13, slits or perforations 29 may or may not be present.

FIGS. 2 and 4-6 depict the process of assembling package 10. In FIG. 2, payload 16 has been placed upon upper film surface 20 of segmented panel 13. Prior to assembly, panels 13 have desirably been thermally conditioned. Assuming the same PCM material is used in the pair of panels 13, one the panels may be preconditioned to be solid and the other panel may be preconditioned to be liquid. Panels 13 are preconditioned depending on the temperature constraints of a given package. In other embodiments, more than two PCM panels 13 could be used.

FIG. 4 depicts rolling one of the PCM panels 13 around payload 16. Next the other PCM panel 13 is rolled around the first PCM panel 13. FIG. 5 depicts the combination of PCM panels and payload 16 as inserted into container 11. Flap 30 of container 11 is subsequently folded into adhesive contact with a panel surface. FIG. 7 depicts package 10 as assembled and ready to ship. Package 10 may be adapted to be mailed as-is, or alternatively package 10 or a plurality of packages 10 may be contained in yet another larger package (not shown), such as a box. Container 11 may be adapted to directly receive a label, stamps or other indicia utilized during the shipping process.

Referring to FIGS. 5 and 6, because payload 16 does not extend to edges of panel 13, end portions of panels 13 may be folded over to fully enclose payload 16. In comparison, the panels 13 of a second embodiment as shown in FIGS. 8-11 are not folded over.

FIGS. 8-11 illustrate another embodiment of package 100. FIG. 8 depicts a disassembled package 100 including a pair of flexible, PCM panels 13 and container 110. In comparison to package 10 of the first embodiment, PCM panels 13 are defined by a plurality of vertical voids 190. As shown in FIGS. 9 and 10, payload 160 extends substantially across panel 130. When panels 13 are wrapped around payload 160, ends of payload 160 may be visible as shown in FIG. 11.

The present invention is also directed to a package and method for encasing a payload cavity with flexible, segmented panels 13 containing phase change material. In one example, a water based phase change material is combined with another phase change material to provide thermal protection for the payload. By properly selecting the phase change materials, a package can be configured to provide maximum thermal protection for a temperature sensitive product during delivery. Employing a combination of solid and liquid phase change materials in the container can provide protection from both hotter and colder ambient temperatures during delivery, and a beneficial reduction in the amount of certain phase change materials can result.

Embodiments of the present invention may include two or more different phase change materials. In one embodiment, a water-based phase change material is utilized along with a 2nd, non-water-based phase change material. In one embodiment, a temperature sensitive product is protected against thermal damage from the water-based phase change material by an intermediate phase change material. Depending on the desired temperature range, a variety of different phase change materials may be utilized to keep a temperature sensitive product warm or cold during shipment through an environment having substantially different temperatures than desired. For example, prior to shipment one or both of the phase change materials 13 can be preconditioned so that phase change material is in liquid form or solid form. Depending on the anticipe mate a e eeture profile, the most effective combination of solid and liquid phase change material can be selffecte combination is needed, auxiliary phase change material in solid, liquid, or solid and liquid phase can be added to augment the thermal capabilities of the container.

FIGS. 12-14 illustrate test data associated with three test shipments of a package in accordance with the present invention. Three packages were transported to either Florida or New York from Minneapolis using ordinary available shippers. Temperature of the payload was monitored as well as the ambient temperature as felt by the outer container. Data was measured by two temperature sensing/recording devices contained within container. Temperature and time as collected during the tests are provided in graph form. Each test package maintained the payload within a 5 deg. C. temperature band (25.0-20.0 deg. C.) over at least a two day period while the ambient temperature dipped above or below the temperature band. Test success for a package was defined by the package maintaining the payload within the desired temperature band for at least two days during the transport process.

Selection of the phase change materials may include consideration of multiple factors including, but not limited to, the desired protected temperature range, anticipated ambient temperatures during shipment, thermal properties of the different phase change materials, thermal properties of the container and/or insulation panels, and thermal properties of the temperature sensitive product being shipped. The design and sizing of containers of for the phase change material and the insulation panels could vary depending on these factors as well.

A temperature maintaining packaging system in accordance with the present invention includes an insulated or non-insulated outer container, including but not limited to a box or envelope made of plastic film, metallic foil or other suitable material, a phase change material panel or panels consisting of a sealed cavity or cavities within a plastic film or other suitable material that is/are preconditioned to be solid, liquid, or solid and liquid in varying predetermined combinations covering or mostly covering the interior of the outer container or envelope, and possibly a secondary phase change material sealed within a plastic film or other suitable material having a single cavity or multiple cavities that is/are preconditioned to be solid, liquid, or solid and liquid in varying predetermined combinations covering or mostly covering the interior of the first phase change material panel or panels all to thermally protect a payload within the center of the package.

A temperature maintaining packaging system in accordance with the present invention includes an outer rigid or semi-rigid tube or hollow container made of paper, plastic or other suitable material along with suitable caps for enclosing the package, a suitable insulation such as a plastic foam capable of wrapping around a phase change material panel or panels and a payload container, a phase change material panel or panels consisting of a sealed cavity or cavities within a plastic film or other suitable material that is/are preconditioned to be solid, liquid, or solid and liquid in varying predetermined combinations covering or mostly covering the interior of the outer container, and possibly a secondary phase change material sealed within a plastic film or other suitable material having a single cavity or multiple cavities that is/are preconditioned to be solid, liquid, or solid and liquid in varying predetermined combinations covering or mostly covering the interior of the first phase change material panel or panels all to thermally protect a payload within the center of the package.

The temperature maintaining package system in accordance with the present invention includes PCM panels wherein the phase change materials are preconditioned to be solid, liquid, or both solid and liquid.

The invention is directed to a method of preparing, packaging and shipping a container or envelope to thermally protect a payload of temperature sensitive materials including: wrapping the payload material to be thermally protected in a phase change material panel with one or more segments of phase change material conditioned to be solid or liquid; wrapping the payload and initial phase change material panel in a secondary phase change material panel with one or more segments of phase change material conditioned to be solid or liquid; as needed, wrapping the payload and panels with successive layers of phase change material panels as space and temperature protection demands; placing the payload wrapped with phase change material panels into the outer container or envelope; and sealing the payload and phase change material panels inside the container and performing any necessary operations to complete the package such as but not limited to placing shipping information on the package, placing postage and instructions on the package, or puncturing a vacuum sealed outer envelope to allow expansion of the insulation material.

Another method of preparing, packaging and shipping a container to thermally protect a payload of temperature sensitive materials includes: wrapping the payload material to be thermally protected in a phase change material panel with one or more cavities of phase change material conditioned to be solid or liquid; wrapping the payload and initial phase change material panel in a secondary phase change material panel with one or more cavities of phase change material conditioned to be solid or liquid; as needed, wrapping the package in successive layers of phase change material panels as space and temperature protection demands; wrapping the payload wrapped with phase change material panels inside the with suitable insulation such as foam insulation; and sealing the payload, phase change material panels, and insulation inside the container and performing any necessary operations to complete the package such as but not limited to attaching end caps to the container, placing shipping information on the package, or placing postage and instructions on the package.

The PCM panels may include phase change materials that have been preconditioned separately to be solid and liquid by adding heat energy to phase change material containers until the phase change material is completely liquid and conditioning the liquid phase change material to be at an acceptable temperature for packaging; or removing heat energy from phase change material containers until the phase change material is completely solid and conditioning the solid phase change material to be at an acceptable temperature for packaging.

Although the present invention and its advantages have been described in detail, it should be understood that various changes, substitutions and alterations can be made herein without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims. Moreover, the scope of the present application is not intended to be limited to the particular embodiments of the process, machine, manufacture, composition of matter, means, methods and steps described in the specification. As one of ordinary skill in the art will readily appreciate from the disclosure of the present invention, processes, machines, manufacture, compositions of matter, means, methods, or steps, presently existing or later to be developed that perform substantially the same function or achieve substantially the same result as the corresponding embodiments described herein may be utilized according to the present invention. Accordingly, the appended claims are intended to include within their scope such processes, machines, manufacture, compositions of matter, means, methods, or steps.