Title:
PACKAGE WITH STRAP HANDLE
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A package, and method of manufacturing the same, the package having an attached strap handle for ease in carrying and pouring of the contents. In one embodiment, the package includes a pair of panels separated by a gusseted panel portion. Each end of the strap handle is attached to the package through slits that are formed at the confluence of the gusset panel portion and a respective one of the panels. Seams or seals may be formed to effectively seal the slits and may bond the handles to the package. The handle may additionally include first and second strap handles, and a strap or member spanning between the first and second strap handles.



Inventors:
Steele, Mark (New Prague, MN, US)
Application Number:
12/432188
Publication Date:
11/12/2009
Filing Date:
04/29/2009
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D25/28
View Patent Images:
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20100038369BOX FOR TRANSPORTING SAMPLESFebruary, 2010Rivas Cañas et al.
20080110894VIAL HAVING A SEALMay, 2008Tissington et al.
20080128441Hideable toolbox handleJune, 2008Chen
20090057315Container End-Closure InterlocksMarch, 2009Stringfield et al.
20090152270ORIENTATION SYSTEM FOR A CLOSUREJune, 2009Crowe et al.
20080135566Method and apparatus for containing and removing construction debrisJune, 2008Johnson
20040007578Paintbrush draining containerJanuary, 2004Richards



Primary Examiner:
ALLEN, JEFFREY R
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Skaar Ulbrich Macari, P.A. (Minneapolis, MN, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A package having a strap handle, comprising: a first panel portion having a longitudinal edge; a second panel portion having a longitudinal edge, the longitudinal edges of the first and second panel portions being generally parallel to each other; a gusseted panel portion including a first longitudinal edge and a second longitudinal edge, the gusset panel portion extending from the longitudinal edge of the first panel portion to the longitudinal edge of the second panel portion; a handle including an exterior portion having a length dimension, the length dimension extending from the longitudinal edge of the first panel portion to the longitudinal edge of the second panel portion exterior to the gusset panel portion; a first seal portion including the edge of the first panel portion, the first edge of the gusset panel portion and a first portion of the handle; and a second seal portion including the edge of the second panel portion, the second edge of the gusset panel portion and a second portion of the handle.

2. The package of claim 1, wherein the first seal portion and the second seal portion are continuous seal portions without breaches therealong.

3. The package of claim 1, further including a second handle.

4. The package of claim 3, further including a member spanning between the handle and the second handle.

5. The package of claim 4, wherein the member spanning between the handle and the second handle is at least partially rigid.

6. The package of claim 1, further including an access seal such that at least a portion of the access seal is removable to provide access into the package.

7. The package of claim 1, further including a supplemental handle aperture.

8. The package of claim 1, wherein the gusseted panel portion is a side gusseted panel portion.

9. The package of claim 1, wherein the gusseted panel portion is a bottom gusseted panel portion.

10. A package having a strap handle, comprising: a first panel portion having a longitudinal edge; a second panel portion having a longitudinal edge, the longitudinal edges of the first and second panel portions being generally parallel to each other; a gusseted panel portion including a first longitudinal edge and a second longitudinal edge, the gusset panel portion extending from the longitudinal edge of the first panel portion to the longitudinal edge of the second panel portion; a strap handle including an exterior portion, a first end portion and a second end portion; a first continuous seal portion including the longitudinal edge of the first panel portion, the first edge of the gusset panel portion and the first end portion of the handle; and a second continuous seal portion including the longitudinal edge of the second panel portion, the second edge of the gusset panel portion and second end portion of the handle.

11. The package of claim 10, further including a second strap handle.

12. The package of claim 11, further including a member spanning between the strap handle and the second strap handle.

13. The package of claim 12, wherein the member spanning between the strap handle and the second strap handle is at least partially rigid.

14. The package of claim 10, further including an access seal such that at least a portion of the access seal is removable to provide access into the package.

15. The package of claim 10, further including a supplemental handle aperture.

16. The package of claim 10, wherein the gusseted panel portion is a side gusseted panel portion.

17. The package of claim 10, wherein the gusseted panel portion is a bottom gusseted panel portion.

18. A package having a strap handle, comprising: a first panel portion having a longitudinal edge; a second panel portion having a longitudinal edge, the longitudinal edges of the first and second panel portions being generally parallel to each other; a gusseted panel portion including a first longitudinal edge and a second longitudinal edge, the gusset panel portion extending from the longitudinal edge of the first panel portion to the longitudinal edge of the second panel portion; a first longitudinal seal portion; a second longitudinal seal portion; and means for handling the package adapted such that portions of the means for handling are joined along respective portions of the first and second seal portions.

19. The package of claim 18, wherein the gusseted panel portion is a side gusseted panel portion.

20. The package of claim 18, wherein the gusseted panel portion is a bottom gusseted panel portion.

21. The package of claim 18, further including means for providing multi-strap handling.

22. The package of claim 18, further including a second means for handling the package, provided adjacent to the means for handling.

23. The package of claim 22, further including a means for spanning between the means for handling and the second means for handling.

Description:

PRIORITY APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of and priority to U.S. Provisional Application No. 61/050,816, filed May 6, 2008, which is hereby incorporated by reference herein in its entirety.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to flexible packaging and, more particularly, to flexible packaging having at least one strap handle.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Flexible and/or disposable packaging including handles for ease of handling and transport are known. For heavier packages, certain handle designs cause discomfort to the user because the handles are too narrow, thus causing the lifting and handling forces to be concentrated over a small area on the palm of the user's hand.

U.S. Patent Publication No. 2008/0080794 discloses a strap style handle. The strap handle is disposed within an elongated hole cut out of the center of a gusset panel. The strap is comprised of a heat sealable film. The ends of the strap are adhered to the inside of the package adjacent the elongated hole, with excess length of strap extending through the hold to the exterior to define a loop that can gripped by the user. A patch is then placed over the entire area of the elongated hole and strap from the inside to protect the contents from leaking out or from infestation (e.g., moisture and oxygen) from breaching the package. The strap is usually applied in the machine direction (longitudinally or parallel with the side gussets length).

The above-mentioned process requires many steps, each posing not only added expense in production but also a probability of loss of integrity of the package. Also, the orientation of the handle is not conducive to pouring out the contents of the package, particularly for a heavily loaded package.

A handle system that may be provided using fewer manufacturing steps and which provides a handle having a more favorable positioning and orientation would be welcomed.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Various embodiments of the invention include a strap handle having sufficient width to spread the pressure of the lifting force over a large area of the user's hand for reduced local pressures, thus enhancing comfort to the user during lifting and transport. Certain embodiments utilize substantially less material and process than existing handle systems, as no patch is required. The present invention also offers less potential for leakage or infestation into the package than existing handle systems because the process generates substantially less perimeter to be sealed than the elongated hole of existing handle systems. Furthermore, in some embodiments, the strap handle is placed generally transverse to the side gusset seals, enabling the consumer to easily pour the product from the package. An end of the strap handle is sandwiched between panel portions of the package at edge seals to further increase stability and reduce manufacturing steps and costs.

In another aspect of the invention, the process of applying the handle can be done during the manufacturing of a pre-made pouch, on a form-fill and seal machine, or the strap can be pre-applied to the material used to make the package in subsequent manufacturing steps.

Structurally, one embodiment may include a first panel having a longitudinal edge portion and a second panel having a longitudinal edge portion, the longitudinal edges of the first and second panels being substantially parallel to each other. A gusseted panel including a first longitudinal edge portion and a second longitudinal edge portion may extend from the longitudinal edge portion of the first panel to the longitudinal edge portion of the second panel. The assembly may include a handle including an exterior portion having a length dimension and a maximum width dimension. The length dimension may extend from the longitudinal edge of the first panel to the longitudinal edge of the second panel, exterior to the gusset, the exterior portion of the handle having a length dimension that extends from the first longitudinal edge to the second longitudinal edge of the gusset portion and a width dimension that extends parallel to the first and second longitudinal edges. The package may further include a first seal or seam comprising the edge of the first panel, the first longitudinal edge of the gusset panel and the handle, and a second seal or seam comprising the edge of the second panel, the second longitudinal edge of the gusset panel and the handle. As such, ends of the handle are sealed at the respective seals or seams.

In other embodiments, the package can include two or more strap handles. In those employing a dual handle configuration, a first and second strap handle can be positioned along a panel portion of the package, generally adjacent or proximate one another. Alternatively, a spanning strap can be provided to span between the first and second strap handles to provide another stable and pressure-distributing means of carrying and handling the package. Such dual handle embodiments can provide easier handling, manipulation, pouring and other use of the package by end users. Any of the handles can be constructed wholly, or in part, of flexible, semi-rigid, rigid, shape molded, curved, and like materials, configurations and designs.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIGS. 1 and 2 are perspective views of a strap handled package in accordance with an embodiment of the invention;

FIGS. 3 and 4 are partial sectional views of the strap handled package of FIG. 2;

FIG. 4A is a partial sectional view of a strap handled package having a loop handle in accordance with an embodiment of the invention;

FIGS. 5 and 6 are perspective views of a strap handled package in accordance with an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of a bottom strap handled package in accordance with an embodiment of the invention;

FIGS. 8 and 9 are perspective views of possible configurations for the bottom strap handled package of FIG. 7, with the FIG. 9 configuration having a longer external portion of the handle than the FIG. 8 configuration;

FIG. 10 is a perspective view of a strap handled package with dual handles in accordance with an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 11 is a perspective view of a strap handled package with dual handles and a spanning member in accordance with an embodiment of the invention; and

FIG. 12 is a perspective view of a spanning handle portion, at least partially rigid, in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

While the invention is amenable to various modifications and alternative forms, specifics thereof have been shown by way of example in the drawings and will be described in detail. It should be understood, however, that the intention is not to limit the invention to the particular embodiments described. On the contrary, the invention is to cover all modifications, equivalents, and alternatives falling within the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims. For illustrative purposes, hatching or shading in the figures is generally provided to demonstrate sealed portions and/or integrated devices for the package.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Referring to FIGS. 1 through 4, a strap handled package 30 is depicted in an embodiment of the invention. The strap handled package 30 may include a first panel portion 32 and a second panel portion 34 with a gusset panel portion 36 disposed therebetween. Various embodiments can further include additional panels, such as sides, bottom, top, etc., gusseted or non-gusseted. The package panel portions can be formed of a single web material and folded or formed to define the distinct panel portions, or one or more film materials or webs can be separately joined to define the various structures of the package. The cross-hatching in the figures is used generally to denote sealing and/or panel edges or seams.

In one embodiment, a portion of a handle 38 extends between the first and second panels 32 and 34 external to the gusset portion 36. The first and second panels 32 and 34 may be further characterized as having end edges 42 and longitudinal edges 46. In one embodiment, the end edges 42 are sealed together to form end seam or seal 48, and the longitudinal edges 46 may be pressed or fused together at the boundary of the gusset portion 36 to form edge seam or seal 50. Edge seam or seal 50 can be continuous along its longitudinal length, without breaks, breaches, gaps or other discontinuities. In other embodiments, the edge seam or seal 50 can include cut out or punched out regions to create gaps or other discontinuities along its length to insert ends of the handle 38. Similarly, the seal can be provided in a region isolated proximate or around the handle, or the sealed ends of the handle 38, rather than along the entire length of the respective package fold or seam (e.g., seam 50). Any of the handles, or handle portions, can be constructed wholly, or in part, of flexible, semi-rigid, rigid, shape molded, curved, radiused, and like materials, configurations and designs.

The package panel portions are generally constructed of flexible sheet material such as polyethylene, polyester, metal foil, polypropylene, or polyethylenes and/or polyethylene laminated with other materials such as nylon, polyester, and like films. To provide for higher barriers, embodiments can use combination layers of said materials and materials of the like. Package panels are joined or otherwise formed to define distinct or distinguishable panel portions and an internal compartment or cavity 31 for the package. For instance, the package panels can be formed from one or more film or web materials.

In one embodiment, end portions 39 of the handle 38 are sandwiched between the gusset portion 36 and a respective one of the first and second panels 32 and 34 along a portion of respective first and second edge seams 50a, 50b. As such, the first edge seam 50a, e.g., a “quad seal,” bondably includes a portion of an end portion 39, a portion of the gusset portion 36 (e.g., edge portion) and a portion of the first panel 34 (e.g., edge portion). Likewise, the second edge seam 50b bondably includes a portion of an end portion 39, a portion of the gusset portion 36 (e.g., edge portion) and a portion of the second panel 32 (e.g., edge portion). Each of the edge seams 50a and 50b can be continuous along their respective longitudinal lengths, without breaks, breaches, gaps or other discontinuities.

The handle 38 may be further characterized as having an external portion 52 having an external length 54 and a width 56. The external length 54 may be defined as the length of strap that extends from the first edge seam 50a to the second edge seam 50b, and extends generally in the direction of an axis 58 that may be generally transverse to the edge seams 50. The width 56 is dimensioned generally parallel to the edge seams 50, and may be substantially uniform in dimension (as depicted) or have a varying width (not depicted). The handle 38 may be comprised of a material selected and dimensioned to be both strong enough to carry the contents of the package, and also to be heat sealable on both sides of the material to effect a positive seal. Further, the handle 38 can take on varying shapes and sizes.

It is noted that while the depictions of FIGS. 1 through 4 present only a single handle 38, the invention may include multiple handles adjacent one or more gusset portions 36, e.g., a second handle 38 provided along a second gusset panel portion. Further, the spatial gaps between the sandwiched or bondable materials, such as 39, 50a, 50b, 32, and 34, in FIG. 4 are provided for illustrative purposes. Bonding or other joinder techniques will bring the materials into sealing contact.

Assembly of the strap handled package 30 may be accomplished by various methods. In one method, the material of the strap handled package 30 is unwound from a first roll into a machine that can take the film through a dancer system of rollers to convert the film or web from continuous motion to intermittent motion. At the intermittent motion section of the machine, two slits 60, cut-outs, or material plugs, may be cut into or out of the web, one each at the boundary between what may eventually become the gusset portion 36 and the first and second panels 32 and 34. Each slit 60 is long enough to thread the handle 38, or the end portions 39, therethrough. The slits 60 can be dimensioned apart from each other the distance of the opened dimension of the gusset portion 36. The slits 60 can be placed in alignment with each other on each impression or section of film that may eventually become an individual strap handled package 30. Where multiple handled packages are to be formed, additional slits 60 or cut out slugs (one pair per handle) may be formed along determined panel portions.

A second roll of film may be used for the handle 38. The second roll may be fed transverse to the direction of the web of the first roll and the slits 60. A length of the material that forms the handle 38 may be cut and removed from the roll for subsequent threading or feeding through the slits 60. Typically, the length of the handle 38 may be a few inches longer than the distance between the two slits 60.

The material for the handle 38 may be centered over the two slits 60 and a plunger mechanism used to push both ends 39 of the handle 38 material through the slits 60 to the back, interior or sealant side of the package material. The two end portions 39 of the handle 38 that have been pushed through the slits 60 may be laid flat across the web, each end extending toward each outer edge of the main web or inward, where a seal (e.g., 50a, 50b) can be made to fasten, either permanently or temporarily, the ends of the handle 38 to the web material.

The first roll, now including the handle 38 affixed thereto, can be rolled up for further processing using normal pouch formation process techniques, or sent immediately through the pouch making process, such as a form-fill-seal or pre-made pouch machine.

The process may further include application of a zipper attached for later processing, thus providing the strap handled package 30 with both a handle and a re-closable feature as desired. Further, other known one-time or limited-use access devices can be employed. For instance, fixed zippers, slider zippers, adhesives/tapes, snap or screw cap devices, snap fasteners, hook and latch fastening, spouts, fitments, and other like techniques and devices known to one skilled in the art can be employed for use as the access devices.

The roll of material will go through a normal pouch making process for a package typically with a gusset, such as a side gusseted panel, where the handle strap can be sealed at the location of slits 60, as depicted in FIG. 4. The seal can be provided in a region isolated proximate or around the handle 38, or along the length, or a portion of the length, of the respective package fold or seam. The sealing process may be performed with the seal bars normally used to make the corner or quad seals on gusset folds. The handle 38 material is thereby fused and sealed where it comes out of the package in the normal seals or seams of a package, thus protecting the contents in the package from leaking out and/or protecting the contents from contaminants or oxygen from getting in. In addition, providing sealing of the handle 38 at the normal seals or seams of a package reduces the costs and labor that would be required to alter the package seals or add connectivity material or structure for the handle. It is noted that the ends of the handle 38 material can be sealed to the outside of the package; for instance, when slits 60 are not utilized. In such an embodiment, the handle 38 can be provided along at least a portion of a seam or seal 50 of the package, while the ends 39 are sealed, laid out, or otherwise disposed along an external panel surface (e.g., rather than within the package through a slit 60).

In operation, a user inserts his or her hand between the handle 38 and the gusset portion 36 with the palm facing the handle 38, then grips the handle 38 and exerts an upward force to lift the strap handled package 30. The width 56 of the handle 38 may be sufficiently wide to spread the lifting force over an area of the palm so as not to cause discomfort. That is, the pressure generated locally on the palm of the hand may be sufficiently low so as not to cause discomfort.

Referring to FIG. 4A, an alternative arrangement for attaching the handle 38 to the strap handled package 30 is depicted. In this embodiment, only a single slit 60a is formed in the web at the confluence of the gusset portion 36 and one of the panels 32 or 34. Both ends 39 of the handle 38 are inserted in the slit 60a for fusion thereto upon formation of the edge seam 50. By this configuration and process, the strap handled package 30 can have a loop handle 38a attached to one of the edge seams 50.

In operation, the loop handle 38a may find utility not only for transporting the strap handled package 30, but also for hanging the strap handled package 30 at an elevation for easier access, storage, filling, and the like.

Referring to FIGS. 5 and 6, a strap handled package 64 having a supplemental end handle 66 is depicted in another embodiment of the invention. Like the strap handled package 30, the package 64 may be characterized by first and second panels 32 and 34, a gusset portion 36, edge seals or seams 50 and the handle 38. In this embodiment, the strap handled package 64 can further include a first end 68 having a removable seal 70, and a second end 72 having a permanent seal 74 with the supplemental end handle 66 formed therein. The handle 66 can be located along or with other panel portions of the package without deviating from the spirit and scope of the present invention.

In operation, one positions the package 64 in an upright position (e.g., with the removable seal 70 substantially uppermost) and removes the removable seal 70 to provide an open end 71 of the strap handled package 64. The user may grip the handle 38 as well as the supplemental end handle 66 to control the orientation of the package 64. The user then orients or tips the package 64 at an angle relative to vertical to release a product 76 from the open end 71 of the strap handled package 64. The seal 70 can run completely along the package, or just a portion of the package. In addition, the seal 70 can include notching, laser scoring, or other tear/notch features to enable tearing or cutting away of all or a portion of the seal 70.

Referring to FIGS. 7 through 9, a bottom strap handled package 80 having a top end 81, bottom gusset panel 82 and a bottom handle 84 is depicted in an embodiment of the invention. The bottom strap handled package 80 may include edge seams 88 and bottom seams 90. The handle 84 may have the same characteristics as the handle 38 of the previous embodiments (e.g., length, width and relationship with a gusseted portion). In addition, the package 80 can be configured and used in other orientations, such as a shaker pouch, whereby a portion of the package is perforated and the package can be manipulated or shook by the user to dispense product from the perforations, fitment or other access device.

Operationally, a use of the handle 84 may be to transport the bottom strap handled package 80 to a destination in the “upside down” configuration of FIGS. 8 and 9, then put to rest in the upright position of FIG. 7. The bottom strap handled package 80 may then be opened on the top end 81 for access. For example, the bottom strap handled package 80 may contain a large quantity of dry pet food that the user transports to a location near a feeding area. The user can then draw product from the bag as he or she normally would, the primary utility of the handle 84 being in the transport of the bottom strap handled package 80. Like other embodiments of the present invention, various access devices, re-closeable or limited-use, and various tear/notch features can be employed in the strap handled package 80.

Referring to FIGS. 10 through 12, strap handled packages 90, 100 having two or more handles 38 is depicted in another embodiment of the invention. Like the strap handled package 30, the packages 90, 100 may be characterized by first and second panels 32 and 34, a gusset panel portion 36, edge seals or seams 50 and the handle 38. In these embodiments, the strap handled package can further include at least a first handle 38a and a second handle 38b. The additional or second handle 38b can be included adjacent or proximate the first handle 38a. In addition, a member, spanning strap or handle portion 102 can be connected, attached or otherwise provided to span between the handles 38a and 38b, as shown in FIG. 11.

The handle 102 can run generally parallel with the gusseted panel 36. The strap handled packages 90, 100 provide additional stability and ease of use for a consumer or other end user. Namely, gripping, carrying and handling are made easier because the weight of the package is distributed across a user gripping the two straps with one or more hands. This can be particularly useful for packages designed to hold and carry heavy products or contents. The handle 102 provides yet another means of handling and carrying the package while simultaneously distributing pressure and stress on the end user's hands. The handle 102 also allows the end user flexibility in maneuvering, manipulating and orienting the package for handling and use. As detailed herein, any of the handles, or handle portions, can be constructed wholly, or in part, of flexible, semi-rigid, rigid, shape molded, curved, radiused, and like materials, configurations and designs. For example, handle 102 can be integral or separately attachable (e.g., by the end user or at the place of package formation) to the strap handles 38a, 38b with hook portions at the ends of the handle 102. In one embodiment, the handle 102 can be rigid, or at least partially rigid, to provide additional structural security and handling performance, as shown in FIG. 12. In addition, such a handle 102 can include molded shape features, radiused edges or lengths, and other configuration or designs to enhance handling, pouring, and overall manipulation of the package via the handles.

In one embodiment of a rigid spanning handle, as depicted in FIG. 12, the spanning strap or handle portion 102 can include a rounded or radiused grip 103 and one or more end connectors 104. The one or more end connectors 104 can further include an engagement channel 106 and lips or tabs 108. In operation, the end connectors 104 are adapted for engagement with one or more of the strap handles 38a, 38b such that each of the straps is capable of insertion within the engagement channel 106 of a respective connector 104. The lips or tabs 108 can serve to assist in retaining the straps 38a, 38b in the channels 106. Once attached in this manner, the handle 102 spans between the straps 38a, 38b to provide a primary or supplemental means of handling, pouring and manipulation of the package via use of the grip 103. In addition, the handle 102 is selectively removable from the straps 38a, 38b if desired. Again, the shape, size and structure of the handle portion 102 and the one or more corresponding straps 38 can vary greatly depending on the particular aesthetic or functional packaging needs.

Various handles, graphics, closeable and re-closeable access devices, gusseted portions, and like features known to one skilled in the art are also envisioned for use with this invention and can be implemented without deviating from the spirit and scope of the present invention. All references to front, back, top, bottom, and the like are merely for demonstrative purposes and are not intended to limit the variations and positional references and orientations of the panels in the present invention.

The present invention may be embodied in other specific forms without departing from the spirit or essential attributes thereof, and it is, therefore, desired that the present embodiment be considered in all respects as illustrative and not restrictive. Similarly, the above-described methods and techniques for manufacturing the present invention are illustrative sequential processes and are not intended to limit the methods of manufacturing the present invention to those specifically defined herein. It is envisioned that various depicted steps can be performed in differing substantive and sequential order. In addition, various unspecified steps and procedures can be performed in between those steps described herein without deviating from the spirit and scope of the present invention and the method of manufacturing the same.