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Title:
CONTAINER
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2017/207960
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A container (1), such as a mailing bag, is provided. The container (1) comprises a sheet (10), the sheet having opposed first (11) and second (12) surfaces. A first part (110) of the sheet (10) comprises a handle (200). The first part (110) of the sheet (10) is releasably coupled to a second part (120) of the sheet (10). In this way, a size and/or shape of the container (1) may be reduced for transportation and/or storage, for example, facilitating automated handling and/or reducing costs. The first part (110) of the sheet (10) comprising the handle (200) may be uncoupled from the second part (120) of the sheet (10) by a user, facilitating manual handling and/or reducing costs.

Inventors:
BRIMELOW, Anthony Michael (Vickers StreetMiles Platting, Manchester Greater Manchester M40 8PU, M40 8PU, GB)
BRIMELOW, Dale Barrington (Vickers StreetMiles Platting, Manchester Greater Manchester M40 8PU, M40 8PU, GB)
BRIMELOW, Anthony (Vickers StreetMiles Platting, Manchester Greater Manchester M40 8PU, M40 8PU, GB)
RUEMENS, Graham Clive (Vickers StreetMiles Platting, Manchester Greater Manchester M40 8PU, M40 8PU, GB)
Application Number:
GB2017/051388
Publication Date:
December 07, 2017
Filing Date:
May 18, 2017
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
DUO PLASTICS LIMITED (Vickers Street, Miles Platting, Manchester Greater Manchester M40 8PU, M40 8PU, GB)
International Classes:
B65D27/00; B31B70/86; B65D33/06; B65D33/10; B65D33/20
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
APPLEYARD LEES IP LLP (15 Clare Road, Halifax Yorkshire HX1 2HY, HX1 2HY, GB)
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Claims:
CLAIMS

1 . A container comprising a sheet, wherein the sheet comprises opposed first and second surfaces;

wherein a first part of the sheet comprises a handle;

wherein the first part of the sheet is releasably coupled to a second part of the sheet;

wherein the sheet comprises a polymeric composition comprising a thermoplastic polymer; and wherein the first surface of the first part of the sheet is releasably coupled to the first surface of the second part of the sheet by providing a barrier layer therebetween and melting the thermoplastic.

2. A container according to claim 1 , wherein the first surface of the first part of the sheet is releasably coupled to the first surface of the second part of the sheet. 3. A container according to any previous claim, wherein the barrier layer comprises a barrier composition.

4. A container according to any previous claim, wherein the handle is formed in the first part of the sheet.

5. A method of manufacturing a container, the method comprising:

providing a sheet, wherein the sheet comprises opposed first and second surfaces;

forming a handle in a first part of the sheet;

releasably coupling the first part of the sheet to a second part of the sheet;

wherein the sheet comprises a polymeric composition comprising a thermoplastic polymer, and wherein the method comprises:

providing a barrier layer between confronting surfaces of the first part of the sheet and the second part of the sheet; and

melting the thermoplastic polymer, thereby releasably coupling the first part of the sheet and the second part of the sheet.

6. A method according to claim 5, wherein the method comprises providing a releasable coupling, arranged to releasably couple the first part of the sheet to the second part of the sheet.

7. A method according to any of claims 5 to 6, wherein the method comprises releasably coupling the first surface of the first part of the sheet to the first surface of the second part of the sheet.

8. A method according to any of claims 5 to 7, wherein the barrier layer comprises a barrier composition.

9. A method according to claim 8, wherein the barrier composition comprises tributyl acetylcitrate.

10. An apparatus for manufacturing a container, the apparatus comprising:

means for providing a sheet, wherein the sheet comprises opposed first and second surfaces; means for forming a handle in a first part of the sheet;

means for releasably coupling the first part of the sheet to a second part of the sheet;

means for providing a barrier layer on the first or the second surface of the sheet;

means for confronting the first surface of the first part of the sheet and the first surface of the second part of the sheet, wherein the barrier layer is provided therebetween; and

means for melting a thermoplastic polymer, wherein the sheet comprises a polymeric composition comprising the thermoplastic polymer.

1 1 . A container according to any of claims 1 to 4, a method of manufacturing a container according to any of claims 5 to 9 or an apparatus for manufacturing a container according to claim 10, wherein the container is a mailing bag.

12. A method of releasably coupling a first part and a second part;

wherein the first part comprises a first polymeric composition comprising a first thermoplastic polymer; and

wherein the second part comprises a second polymeric composition comprising a second thermoplastic polymer;

wherein the method comprises:

providing a barrier layer between confronting surfaces of the first part and the second part; and melting the first thermoplastic polymer or the second thermoplastic polymer, thereby releasably coupling the first part and the second part.

13. A method according to claim 12, wherein the barrier layer comprises a barrier composition.

14. A method according to claim 13, wherein the barrier composition comprises an organic compound.

15. A method according to any of claims 13 to 14, wherein the barrier composition comprises tributyl acetylcitrate.

Description:
Container

Field The present invention relates to containers and to methods and apparatuses for manufacturing containers. In particular, the present invention relates to containers having releasably coupled parts.

Background to the Invention

Typically, containers such as bags may be provided for transportation and/or storage of contents. For example, containers such as mailing bags may be provided for distribution by mailing, couriering or shipping of contents, including transportation and/or storage of the contents. These containers may be arranged to provide protection to the contents, so as to reduce damage to the contents from the environment such as water, heat, dust or light, for example. These containers may be arranged to provide security to the contents, so as to reduce a likelihood of theft or malicious damage, for example. These containers may be arranged to facilitate handling during distribution, for example, while containing different sizes and/or shapes of contents. For example, standardized sizes and/or shapes of containers may be provided for automated handling.

Typically, such a container is formed from a sheet and has an open side and three closed sides. The open side is arranged to receive contents therethrough and to be closable, typically using an adhesive. In this way, the container is arranged to receive and contain the contents therein, for transportation and/or storage, as described above.

The UK inland parcel annual market volume has been estimated at circa 1 .7 billion parcels in 2012 and is forecast to increase to 2.3 billion parcels in 2023. Containers such as mailing bags may be provided for a proportion of these parcels, for example, for items ordered online and delivered directly to customers. In addition, containers may be provided for contents ordered online and delivered in store or at a collection point, for collection by customers, for example.

However, typically such containers may be intended for single use (e.g. disposed of following distribution of contents). In addition, distribution costs of contents may depend on a size and/or a volume of the containers. Furthermore, additional containers may be provided for onward transportation following distribution. For example, a customer may be provided with another container, such as a carrier bag, to contain an online order delivered in store, for onward transportation home. Typically, prior art containers are transported and/or sorted by means of automated conveyor systems, comprising a plurality of cells, with each cell being intended to receive a single container. If the container is dimensioned such that a portion of it intrudes into a neighbouring cell, this can hamper the operation of the system and can significantly reduce throughput which, at very busy times, can be very detrimental to the business.

Hence, there is a need to reduce costs of containers, including direct, distribution and environmental costs, for example, while meeting requirements of containers. Summary of the Invention

It is one aim of the present invention, amongst others, to provide a container which at least partially obviates or mitigates at least some of the disadvantages of the prior art, whether identified herein or elsewhere. For instance, it is an aim of embodiments of the invention to provide a container that reduces a cost of transportation and/or storage while facilitating automated and/or manual handling. It is a further aim of embodiments of the invention to provide a container that avoids a requirement for another container, particularly for manual handling, for example carrying. In particular, it is an aim of the invention to provide a container that reduces costs associated with the container, including direct, distribution and environmental costs, while facilitating automated and/or manual handling, for example carrying.

A first aspect of the invention provides a container comprising a sheet, wherein the sheet comprises opposed first and second surfaces;

wherein a first part of the sheet comprises a handle;

wherein the first part of the sheet is releasably coupled to a second part of the sheet;

wherein the sheet comprises a polymeric composition comprising a thermoplastic polymer; and wherein the first surface of the first part of the sheet is releasably coupled to the first surface of the second part of the sheet by providing a barrier layer therebetween and melting the thermoplastic.

A second aspect of the invention provides a method of manufacturing a container, the method comprising:

providing a sheet, wherein the sheet comprises opposed first and second surfaces;

forming a handle in a first part of the sheet;

releasably coupling the first part of the sheet to a second part of the sheet;

wherein the sheet comprises a polymeric composition comprising a thermoplastic polymer, and wherein the method comprises: providing a barrier layer between confronting surfaces of the first part of the sheet and the second part of the sheet; and

melting the thermoplastic polymer, thereby releasably coupling the first part of the sheet and the second part of the sheet.

A third aspect of the invention provides an apparatus for manufacturing a container as described above, the apparatus comprising:

means for providing a sheet, wherein the sheet comprises opposed first and second surfaces; means for forming a handle in a first part of the sheet;

means for releasably coupling the first part of the sheet to a second part of the sheet;

means for providing a barrier layer on the first or the second surface of the sheet;

means for confronting the first surface of the first part of the sheet and the first surface of the second part of the sheet, wherein the barrier layer is provided therebetween; and

means for melting a thermoplastic polymer, wherein the sheet comprises a polymeric composition comprising the thermoplastic polymer.

A fourth aspect of the invention provides a method of releasably coupling a first part and a second part;

wherein the first part comprises a first polymeric composition comprising a first thermoplastic polymer; and

wherein the second part comprises a second polymeric composition comprising a second thermoplastic polymer;

wherein the method comprises:

providing a barrier layer between confronting surfaces of the first part and the second part; and melting the first thermoplastic polymer or the second thermoplastic polymer, thereby releasably coupling the first part and the second part.

Detailed Description of the Invention According to the present invention there is provided a container as set forth in the appended claims. Also disclosed is the method of manufacture of the container. Further disclosed is an arranged to manufacture the container. Also disclosed is a method of releasably coupling parts comprising thermoplastic polymers. Other features of the invention will be apparent from the dependent claims, and the description that follows.

Throughout this specification, the term "comprising" or "comprises" means including the component(s) specified but not to the exclusion of the presence of other components. The term "consisting essentially of or "consists essentially of" means including the components specified but excluding other components except for materials present as impurities, unavoidable materials present as a result of processes used to provide the components, and components added for a purpose other than achieving the technical effect of the invention, such as colourants, and the like. The term "consisting of" or "consists of means including the components specified but excluding other components.

Whenever appropriate, depending upon the context, the use of the term "comprises" or "comprising" may also be taken to include the meaning "consists essentially of" or "consisting essentially of, and also may also be taken to include the meaning "consists of or "consisting of.

The optional features set out herein may be used either individually or in combination with each other where appropriate and particularly in the combinations as set out in the accompanying claims. The optional features for each aspect or exemplary embodiment of the invention, as set out herein are also applicable to all other aspects or exemplary embodiments of the invention, where appropriate. In other words, the skilled person reading this specification should consider the optional features for each aspect or exemplary embodiment of the invention as interchangeable and combinable between different aspects and exemplary embodiments.

The first aspect of the invention provides a container comprising a sheet, wherein the sheet comprises opposed first and second surfaces;

wherein a first part of the sheet comprises a handle;

wherein the first part of the sheet is releasably coupled to a second part of the sheet;

wherein the sheet comprises a polymeric composition comprising a thermoplastic polymer; and wherein the first surface of the first part of the sheet is releasably coupled to the first surface of the second part of the sheet by providing a barrier layer therebetween and melting the thermoplastic.

That is, the container is arrangeable in two configurations:

a first configuration, wherein the first part of the sheet comprising the handle is releasably coupled to the second part of the sheet; and

a second configuration, wherein the first part of the sheet comprising the handle is uncoupled from the second part of the sheet.

It should be understood that the container may be a bag, for example, a mailing bag. In an example embodiment, the container is a bag. In an example embodiment, the container is a mailing bag. It should be understood that the handle may be defined or formed in the sheet, for example, by cutting the sheet so as to define or form the handle. For example, the handle may comprise an incision, a perforation, a plurality of perforations or a tear line through the sheet, extending between the first surface and the second surface i.e. through the sheet. For example, the handle may comprise or provide an aperture or passageway through the sheet, extending between the first surface and the second surface.

That is, the handle may be provided for a user, in use.

In this way, the first part of the sheet comprising the handle may be releasably coupled to the second part of the sheet during, for example, transportation and/or storage, so as to modify, for example reduce, a size and/or volume and/or shape of the container containing contents therein. In this way, a distribution cost of such a container may be reduced and/or a storage requirement of the container may be reduced since a size and/or volume and/or shape of the container associated with the first part of the sheet comprising the handle may be reduced and/or minimized. Additionally and/or alternatively, automated handling of the container may be facilitated, since by releasably coupling the first part of the sheet comprising the handle to the second part of the sheet, a risk of entrapment of the handle during automated handling may be reduced, for example.

Furthermore, the first part of the sheet comprising the handle may be uncoupled from the second part of the sheet, for example, by the user, thereby providing the handle to the user. In this way, handling of the container by the user may be facilitated since the user may carry the container by the handle, for example. In addition, another container, such as a carrier bag, may not be required to contain the container for onward transportation by the user since the container is provided with the handle. In this way, costs including direct, distribution and environmental costs associated with the container may be reduced. For example, an item ordered online by a customer may be picked in a warehouse and may be received in the container. Since the handle is provided in the first part of the sheet comprising the container and since the first part of the sheet may be releasably coupled to the exterior surface of the second part of the container, the size and/or volume and/or shape may be reduced. In this way, automated handling of the container may be facilitated and/or costs associated with distribution, for example transportation and/or storage, may be reduced. The container may be delivered to a store, where storage of the container may also be facilitated. The customer may collect the item in the container and uncouple the first part of the sheet comprising the handle from the second part of the sheet. The customer may carry the container by the provided handle. Thus, an additional carrier bag may not be required, thereby reducing direct costs and environmental costs associated with the additional carrier bag. Since an adhesive is not provided for releasably coupling the first part of the sheet comprising the handle to the second part of the sheet, there is no adhesive residue on the sheet that may, for example, adhere to and/or damage the customer's clothing.

The container may comprise an open side and a closed side. The container may comprise a plurality of open sides and/or a plurality of closed sides. For example, the container may comprise one open side and three closed sides. Alternatively, for example, the container may comprise two open sides and two closed sides. The open side may be arranged to be closable, for example, for transportation and/or storage. For example, the container may comprise an adhesive strip whereby the open side may be closed by adhesively coupling the first surface of the sheet to the second surface of the sheet. Alternatively, the open side may be closed by sealing the open side, for example, by welding. The first part of the sheet that is releasably coupled to the second part of the sheet may be relatively more proximal a closed side than an open side. For example, the first part of the sheet that is releasably coupled to the second part of the sheet may be proximal a closed side that is opposed to an open side.

The sheet may be a flexible sheet. In this way, the container may be arrangeable to receive contents of different shapes and/or sizes.

The sheet may comprise a natural and/or synthetic material. The sheet may comprise a fibrous and/or a non-fibrous material. For example, the sheet may comprise paper. Paper may reduce an environmental cost of container, for example. Additionally and/or alternatively, the sheet may comprise a polymeric composition, as described below.

It should be understood, that the first part of the sheet is coupled to the second part of the sheet and that the first part of the sheet may be uncoupled from the second part of the sheet, for example, by a user. However, the first part of the sheet is not arranged to be re-coupled to the second part sheet by the user. That is, the first part of the sheet is releasably coupled to the second part of the sheet.

In this way, the first part of the sheet may be releasably coupled to the second part of the sheet during manufacture and/or prior to transportation and/or storage, so as to modify, for example reduce, a size and/or volume and/or shape of the container containing contents therein. In this way, a distribution cost of contents contained in such a container may be reduced and/or a storage requirement of the container may be reduced. Additionally and/or alternatively, automated handling of the container may be facilitated, since the container may be, for example, relatively more compact. Furthermore, the first part of the sheet may be uncoupled from the second part of the sheet by, for example, the user, thereby facilitating manual handling of the container by the user, for example, for onward transportation home. The container may comprise a releasable coupling, arranged to releasably couple the first part of the sheet to the second part of the sheet. The releasable coupling may be temporary, for example, non-permanent. The releasable coupling may be provided in the sheet, for example, by an incision, a perforation, a plurality of perforations or a tear line provided in the first part of the sheet and/or the second part of the sheet. In this way, the releasable coupling may be readily provided during manufacturing and may be conveniently released by the user. Furthermore, a cost of the releasable coupling may be relatively inexpensive since no further components are required for the container.

In contrast, the releasable coupling may not be provided by an adhesive on the sheet, for example, a temporary adhesive. Temporary adhesives may remain, for example, as residues on the first part of the sheet and/or the second part of the sheet after uncoupling the releasable coupling. Such residues may remain exposed and may contact, for example, the user and/or the contents. Furthermore, adhesives may result in an increased cost of the container. In an example embodiment, the first surface of the first part of the sheet is releasably coupled to the first surface of the second part of the sheet.

That is, the container may not comprise a releasable coupling. Rather the first surface of the first part of the sheet may be directly and releasably coupled to the first surface of the second part of the sheet. In this way, a releasable coupling may not be provided, thereby reducing a cost and/or complexity of the container. In this way, the first part of the sheet may be uncoupled from the second part of the sheet without, for example, a part of the first part of the sheet remaining coupled to the second part of the sheet as, for example, may result if perforations or a tear line is provided in the sheet, as described above. Furthermore, the first part of the sheet may be uncoupled from the second part of the sheet without, for example, damage to the container. In this way, the integrity of the container may be maintained after uncoupling the first part of the sheet from the second part of the sheet. For example, the sheet may not be perforated by and/or during uncoupling the first part of the sheet from the second part of the sheet.

The first surface may be an outer or exterior surface of the container, in use. Conversely, the second surface may be an inner or interior surface of the container, in use.

The sheet comprises the polymeric composition comprising the thermoplastic polymer. Polymeric compositions comprising thermoplastics may be readily provided as sheets suitable for the described containers. Such polymeric compositions may have appropriate mechanical properties suitable for transportation and/or storage of contents. Such polymeric compositions may have appropriate chemical properties suitable for reducing damage to the contents from the environment. For example, such sheets may be resistant to chemicals. Further, such sheets may be impermeable to water and/or dust for example. In addition, such sheets may be stabilised for resistance to UV light, for example. The thermoplastic polymer may be selected from a group consisting of poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA), acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), aliphatic or semi-aromatic polyamides, polylactic acid (polylactide) (PLA), polybenzimidazole (PBI), polycarbonate (PC), polyether sulfone (PES), polyetherimide, polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polymethylpentene (PMP) and polybutene-1 (PB-1), polystyrene (PS) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). A preferred thermoplastic polymer is polyethylene (PE).

The thermoplastic polymer may be a thermoplastic polyolefin. The thermoplastic polyolefin may be selected from a group consisting of: polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polymethylpentene (PMP) and polybutene-1 (PB-1). A preferred thermoplastic polyolefin is polyethylene (PE).

In an example embodiment, the thermoplastic polymer is polyethylene.

The polyethylene may have a density range of 0.880-0.940 g/cm 3 .

The polyethylene may be selected from a group consisting of medium-density polyethylene (MDPE), linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE), low-density polyethylene (LDPE) and very- low-density polyethylene (VLDPE). The polyethylene may have a crystallinity of more than 30%, more than 35%, more than 40%, more than 45%, more than 50%, more than 55%.

The PE may be copolymerised with, for example, but-1-ene or hex-1 -ene. The polymeric composition may comprise additives, such as fillers and/or colourants.

The sheet, also known as a film, may have a thickness in a range 10 to 250 microns. A preferred range is 17 to 150 microns. In a preferred embodiment, the polyethylene is manufactured and supplied by Braskem and is selected from Linear Low Density Polyethylebe SLL1 18 and Low Density Polyethylene SBF0323HC. The first surface of the first part of the sheet is releasably coupled to the first surface of the second part of the sheet by providing the barrier layer therebetween and melting the thermoplastic.

While thermoplastics may be coupled using adhesives, surface treatment such as flame treatment or corona treatment may be required. Suitable adhesives for thermoplastics include dispersion of solvent-type pressure-sensitive adhesives (PSAs), polyurethane contact adhesives, two-part polyurethane or epoxy adhesives and vinyl acetate copolymer hot melt adhesives. However, as described above, an adhesive is not provided to releasably couple the first part of the sheet to the second part of the sheet.

Thermoplastics may be conventionally coupled or joined by melting. For example, thermoplastics may be coupled by hot gas welding, infrared welding, laser welding, ultrasonic welding, heat sealing or heat fusion. The barrier layer may tend to reduce or inhibit coupling between the first surface of the first part of the sheet and the first surface of the second part of the sheet. In this way, mechanical properties of the coupling may be relatively reduced, when compared with melting of the thermoplastic in an absence of the barrier layer. For example, a strength or a peel strength of the coupling between the first surface of the first part of the sheet and the first surface of the second part of the sheet the first surface may be relatively reduced. That is, the first surface of the first part of the sheet is releasably coupled to the first surface of the second part of the sheet. In this way, the user may uncouple the first part of the sheet from the second part of the sheet. In contrast, if the thermoplastic were conventionally coupled by melting in the absence of the barrier layer, a strength of the coupling would be such as to tend to prevent uncoupling by the user. Rather, the thermoplastic sheet would tend to deform or stretch during attempted uncoupling.

The barrier layer may be provided on the first surface of the sheet. The barrier layer may be provided on the first surface of the first part of the sheet and/or the first surface of the second part of the sheet.

The barrier layer may be provided on a part of the first surface of the sheet. That is, a coverage of the first surface of the sheet by the barrier layer may be controlled or varied. The barrier layer may be distributed over the whole of the first surface of the sheet or over a part of the first surface of the sheet. The barrier layer may be provided as a continuous layer, for example, a uniform layer having a uniform thickness and/or uniform coverage of the first surface. The barrier layer may be provided as a discontinuous layer, for example, a nonuniform layer. The barrier layer may be provided as discrete or isolated parts, which may be distributed uniformly or non-uniformly on the first surface, for example, as dots or stripes. The barrier layer may be provided as interconnected parts, which may be distributed uniformly or non-uniformly on the first surface, for example, as a web. For example, the barrier layer may reduce or prevent coupling during melting of the thermoplastic where the barrier layer is present between the surfaces of the first part of the sheet and the second part of the sheet. In contrast, the first part of the sheet and the second part of the sheet may couple conventionally during melting where the barrier layer is absent between the surfaces of the first part of the sheet and the second part of the sheet. In this way, coupling of the first part of the sheet to the second part of the sheet may be controlled, for example, reduced. In this way, coupling of the first part of the sheet to the second part of the sheet may be sufficiently strong so as to tend to resist uncoupling during distribution, for example, while still allowing the user to uncouple the first part of the sheet from the second part of the sheet, as desired.

The barrier layer may comprise a solid such as a sheet, perforated sheet, a tape, a fibre, a granule or a powder. The barrier layer may comprise a liquid such as a solution, a dispersion or a gel. In this way, the barrier layer may be readily provided on the first surface of the sheet, for example, and coverage of the first surface of the sheet by the barrier layer may be controlled or varied.

In an example embodiment, the barrier layer comprises a barrier composition, such as an organic compound or an inorganic compound. The barrier composition may be a solute.

In an example embodiment, the barrier composition comprises an organic compound, wherein the organic compound is one selected from a group consisting of: a plasticiser and an ester. In an example embodiment, the organic compound is tributyl acetylcitrate (also known as acetyltributylcitrate), having the formula C 2 oH3 4 0 8 , the lUPAC Standard InChlKey QZCLKYGREBVARF-UHFFFAOYSA-N and the CAS Registry Number: 77-90-7.

While tributyl acetylcitrate typically behaves as a plasticizer in polyvinyl chloride (PVC), for example, tributyl acetylcitrate appears to inhibit coupling of polyethylene during melting. Thus, by providing the barrier layer comprising tributyl acetylcitrate on the first surface of the sheet, coupling between the first surface of the first part of the sheet and the first surface of the second part of the sheet may be controlled so as to releaseably couple the first part of the sheet to the second part of the sheet. In an example embodiment, the barrier composition comprises solvent, for example, an organic solvent. In an example embodiment, the barrier composition comprises a solution, wherein the solution comprises a solute and a solvent, for example an organic solute and an organic solvent. In this way, the solution may be provided on the first surface of the sheet and the solute may remain on the first surface of the sheet following evaporation of the solvent, for example. In an example embodiment, the organic solvent is one selected from a group consisting of: ethanol and ethyl acetate.

For example, tributyl acetylcitrate may be provided in the solution in a mixture of ethanol and ethyl acetate.

In an example embodiment, the closed side of the container is formed by melting the thermoplastic.

In an example embodiment, the closed side of the container separates the container from an adjacent container.

The second aspect of the invention provides a method of manufacturing a container, the method comprising:

providing a sheet, wherein the sheet comprises opposed first and second surfaces;

forming a handle in a first part of the sheet;

releasably coupling the first part of the sheet to a second part of the sheet

wherein the sheet comprises a polymeric composition comprising a thermoplastic polymer, and wherein the method comprises:

providing a barrier layer between confronting surfaces of the first part of the sheet and the second part of the sheet; and

melting the thermoplastic polymer, thereby releasably coupling the first part of the sheet and the second part of the sheet.

In this way, the container as described above may be manufactured.

In an example embodiment, the method comprises providing a releasable coupling, arranged to releasably couple the first part of the sheet to the second part of the sheet, as described above. In an example embodiment, the method comprises releasably coupling the first surface of the first part of the sheet to the first surface of the second part of the sheet.

The sheet comprises the polymeric composition comprising a thermoplastic polymer, as described above.

Conventionally, containers manufactured from sheets comprising polymeric compositions comprising thermoplastics may be classified as side-weld containers or bottom-weld (also known as end-seal) containers. The side-weld containers may be manufactured using a hot knife that simultaneously cuts and seals a tubular or folded continuous sheet, providing two opposed, sealed, closed sides. A third closed side, opposed to an open side, is provided a fold in the sheet. The bottom-weld containers may be manufactured using a hot wire to seal a tubular sheet transversely, providing a sealed, closed side, and a knife to cut the tubular sheet transversely, providing an open side, opposed to the sealed, closed side. The other two closed sides are provided by folds in the tubular sheet.

The method comprises:

providing the barrier layer between confronting surfaces of the first part of the sheet and the second part of the sheet; and

melting the thermoplastic polymer, thereby releasably coupling the first part of the sheet and the second part of the sheet.

The barrier layer may comprise a solution, comprising a solute and a solvent, as described above. The solution may be provided on the first surface of the sheet by applying, depositing, spraying or printing the solution on the first surface of the sheet, for example, using an applicator, a roller, a spray gun or a print press, as known to the person skilled in the art. The method may comprise drying the solution, such that the solvent evaporates. In this way, the solute may be provided on the first surface of the sheet. The method may comprise arranging the first surface of the first part of the sheet in opposition to the first surface of the second part of the sheet by, for example, folding the sheet. In this way, the first surface of the first part of the sheet may be arranged to confront the first surface of the second part of the sheet.

The step of melting the thermoplastic polymer may comprise welding the thermoplastic polymer, for example, by hot gas welding, infrared welding, laser welding, ultrasonic welding, heat sealing or heat fusion. For example, the step of melting the thermoplastic polymer may comprise heat sealing the thermoplastic polymer using a heated knife, as known to the person skilled in the art, in a temperature range 300°C to 400°C. A preferred temperature range is 325°C to 375°C. A preferred temperature is about 350°C. In an example embodiment, the method comprises:

arranging the second surface of the first part of the sheet in opposition to the second surface of a third part of the sheet; and

wherein melting the thermoplastic polymer couples the first part of the sheet and the third part of the sheet.

That is, during the step of melting the thermoplastic polymer, the first part of the sheet may be releaseably coupled to the second part of the sheet, as described above, and the first part of the sheet may be coupled to the third part of the sheet. In this way, conventional opposed, sealed, closed sides, as described above for conventional side-weld containers, may be provided by coupling the first part of the sheet to the third part of the sheet. Simultaneously, the first part of the sheet may be releaseably coupled to the third part of the sheet. Since the coupling and the releasable coupling, as described above, are provided in the same, conventional manufacturing step, manufacturability of the containers is facilitated since a number and/or complexity of additional manufacturing steps may be minimized and/or additional manufacturing costs may be minimized.

In an example embodiment, the method comprises:

arranging the second surface of the second part of the sheet in opposition to the second surface of a fourth part of the sheet; and

wherein melting the thermoplastic polymer couples the second part of the sheet and the fourth part of the sheet.

In an example embodiment, the method comprises:

separating the container from an adjacent container.

In an example embodiment, the step of melting comprises the step of separating the container from the adjacent container. A third aspect of the invention provides an apparatus for manufacturing a container as described above, the apparatus comprising:

means for providing a sheet, wherein the sheet comprises opposed first and second surfaces; means for forming a handle in a first part of the sheet;

means for releasably coupling the first part of the sheet to a second part of the sheet;

means for providing a barrier layer on the first or the second surface of the sheet;

means for confronting the first surface of the first part of the sheet and the first surface of the second part of the sheet, wherein the barrier layer is provided therebetween; and

means for melting a thermoplastic polymer, wherein the sheet comprises a polymeric composition comprising the thermoplastic polymer. For example, the means for forming a handle may comprise a punch unit.

For example, the means for releasably coupling the first part of the sheet to a second part of the sheet may comprise a punch unit or a means for providing a barrier layer on the first or the second surface of the sheet.

The apparatus comprises:

means for providing the barrier layer on the first or the second surface of the sheet.

For example, the means for providing the barrier layer may comprise an applicator, a roller, a spray gun or a print press.

The apparatus comprises:

means for confronting the first surface of the first part of the sheet and the first surface of the second part of the sheet, wherein the barrier layer is provided therebetween.

For example, the means for confronting the first surface of the first part of the sheet and the first surface of the second part of the sheet may comprise an arrangement of rollers and a forming plate, arranged to fold the first surface of the first part of the sheet over the first surface of the second part of the sheet.

The apparatus comprises:

means for melting the thermoplastic polymer, wherein the sheet comprises the polymeric composition comprising the thermoplastic polymer.

For example, the means for melting the thermoplastic polymer may comprise a hot gas welder, an infrared welder, a laser welder, an ultrasonic welder, a heat sealer or heat fuser. The means for melting the thermoplastic polymer may be a heated knife.

The fourth aspect of the invention provides a method of releasably coupling a first part and a second part;

wherein the first part comprises a first polymeric composition comprising a first thermoplastic polymer; and

wherein the second part comprises a second polymeric composition comprising a second thermoplastic polymer;

wherein the method comprises:

providing a barrier layer between confronting surfaces of the first part and the second part; and melting the first thermoplastic polymer or the second thermoplastic polymer, thereby releasably coupling the first part and the second part.

In an example embodiment, the barrier layer comprises a barrier composition comprising an organic compound, wherein the organic compound is one selected from a group consisting of: a plasticiser and an ester.

In an example embodiment, the organic compound is tributyl acetylcitrate. In an example embodiment, the barrier composition comprises an organic solvent.

In an example embodiment, the organic solvent is one selected from a group consisting of: ethanol and ethyl acetate. In an example embodiment, the first thermoplastic polymer or the second thermoplastic polymer is polyethylene.

Brief description of the drawings For a better understanding of the invention, and to show how exemplary embodiments of the same may be brought into effect, reference will be made, by way of example only, to the accompanying diagrammatic Figures, in which:

Figure 1 schematically depicts a top elevation view of a container according to an exemplary embodiment of the invention.

Figure 2 schematically depicts a top elevation view of the container of Figure 1 , in use;

Figure 3 schematically depicts a top elevation view of the container of Figure 1 , in use;

Figure 4 schematically depicts a top elevation view of a container according to another exemplary embodiment of the invention;

Figure 5 schematically depicts a top elevation view of the container of Figure 3, in use;

Figure 6 schematically depicts a top elevation view of the container of Figure 3, in use; and Figure 7A - 7H depicts a method of manufacture of a container according to an exemplary embodiment of the invention, using an apparatus according to an exemplary embodiment of the invention. Detailed Description of the Drawings

Figure 1 schematically depicts a top elevation view of a container 1 according to an exemplary embodiment of the invention. The container 1 is a mailing bag and comprises a flexible LDPE sheet 10 (also known as a film) of thickness 55 microns, typically, but which may be in the range 15-250 microns. The sheet 10 has a first, outer surface 1 1 opposed to a second, inner surface 12. A first part 1 10 of the sheet 10 is releasably coupled to a second part 120 of the sheet 10. The container 1 is thus arranged in a first configuration, wherein the first part 1 10 of the sheet 10 is releasably coupled to the second part 120 of the sheet 10.

The container 1 is generally rectangular, of dimensions 600 mm length x 400 mm width and has a thickness of twice a thickness of the sheet 10. The container 1 has an open side 20 and three closed sides 30a, 30b, 40. The container 1 is a side-weld container, manufactured from the folded sheet 10, providing two opposed, sealed, closed sides 30a, 30b. The third closed side 40 is opposed to the open side 20. Of course, differently sized containers may be provided as required.

The first part 1 10 of the sheet 10 is folded over the second part 120 of the sheet 10 at a fold 50, proximal the third closed side 40. That is, the fold 50 is relatively more proximal the third closed side 40 than the open side 20. The fold 50 is parallel to the third closed side 40. The container 1 comprises a seal 55 at the fold 50, thereby isolating a first region 1 10 of the container 1 from a second region 120 of the container 1 . That is, the seal 55 at the fold 50 effectively defines a closed side.

A handle 200 is defined in the first part 1 10 of the sheet 10. The handle 200 is defined by an arc cut through the sheet 10 and penetrates through two thicknesses of the sheet 10 of the first region 1 10 of the container 1 . Since the first region 1 10 of the container 1 is isolated by the seal 55, contents of the container 1 in the second region 120 of the container 1 are retained in the container 1 by the seal 55.

The container 1 comprises a releasable coupling 100a, 100b, arranged to releasably couple the first part 1 10 of the sheet 10 to the second part 120 of the sheet 10. The releasable coupling 100a, 100b comprises a plurality of perforations provided in the first part 1 10 of the sheet 10, either side of the handle 200. The perforations penetrate through two thicknesses of the sheet 10 of the first region 20 of the container 1 . The perforations define lines parallel to the closed sides 30a, 30b, spaced apart from the closed sides 30a, 30b by 2 mm, and extend from the closed side 40 to the seal 55 of the first region 1 10 of the container 1 . Two opposed, sealed, closed sides 130a, 130b of the first region 1 10 are sealed to the closed sides 30a, 30b of the second region 1 10, respectively. That is, sides of the first part 1 10 of the sheet 10 are coupled (for example, by welding) to sides of the second part 120 of the sheet 10.

The open side 20 is a conventional open side and comprises a first edge 21 of the sheet 10 and a second edge 22 of the sheet 10. The second edge 22 of the sheet 10 is parallel to and spaced apart from the first edge 21 of the sheet 10, such that the second edge 22 may be folded over the first edge 21 , in use. That is, the open side 20 defines a flap. The open side 20 further comprises an adhesive seal 23, covered by a backing tape (not shown), arranged parallel and proximal to the second edge 22, extending between opposed sides of the container 1 , on the second, inner surface 12 of the sheet 10. The open side 20 further comprises a plurality of perforations 24, providing a tear line for opening the container 1 . The perforations penetrate through one thickness of the sheet 10 and extend parallel to the second edge 22 of the sheet 10, between the adhesive strip 23 and the first edge 21 of the sheet 10. Figure 2 schematically depicts a top elevation view of the container 1 according to the exemplary embodiment of the invention of Figure 1 , in use. Particularly, the container 1 is arranged in a third configuration, in which the open side 20 of the container 1 is sealed, for example, to contain contents in the container 1 . The second edge 22 of the sheet 10 is folded over the first edge 21 of the sheet 10. The second, inner surface 12 of the sheet 10 is coupled to the first, outer surface 1 1 of the sheet 10 by the adhesive strip 23. In this way, the open side 20 of the container 1 is sealed. In this arrangement, contents in the container 1 may be transported and/or stored, for example, as described previously.

The releasable coupling 100a, 100b, arranged to releasably couple the first part 1 10 of the sheet 10 to the second part 120 of the sheet 10, is controlled, as described previously, to be sufficiently strong so as to tend to resist uncoupling during distribution, for example. Figure 3 schematically depicts a top elevation view of the container 1 according to an exemplary embodiment of the invention, in use. Particularly, the container 1 is arranged in a second configuration, wherein the first part 1 10 of the sheet 10 is uncoupled from the second part 120 of the sheet 10. The releasable coupling 100a, 100b, arranged to releasably couple the first part 1 10 of the sheet 10 to the second part 120 of the sheet 10, is controlled, as described previously, to allow the user to uncouple the first part 1 10 of the sheet 10 from the second part 120 of the sheet 10, as desired.

The releasable coupling 100a, 100b is uncoupled, for example by tearing the sheet 10 along the perforations by a user, and the first part 1 10 of the sheet 10 is unfolded. In this way, the handle 200 facilitates manual handling of the container 1 by the user. That is, the user may carry the container 1 using the handle 200. Since adhesives are not used for the releasable coupling 1 10a, 1 10b, there are no adhesive residues on the sheet 10 that could otherwise contact, for example adhere to, the user.

Contents contained in the container 1 may be accessed by opening the sealed side 20 of the container 1 , by tearing the sheet 10 along the perforations 24 conventionally.

Figure 4 schematically depicts a top elevation view of a container 1 according to another exemplary embodiment of the invention. This example embodiment is similar to that described above with reference to Figures 1 to 3. However, this example embodiment does not include the releasable couplings 100a, 100b, as described previously.

In contrast, in this example embodiment, the first surface 1 1 of the first part 1 10 of the sheet 10 is releasably coupled to the first surface 1 1 of the second part 120 of the sheet 10. Particularly, the first surface 1 1 of the first part 1 10 of the sheet 10 is releasably coupled to the first surface 1 1 of the second part 120 of the sheet 10, at the sides 131 a, 131 b, by providing a barrier layer 101 a, 101 b therebetween and melting the sheet 10, as described below. That is, the first surface 1 1 of the first part 1 10 of the sheet 10 is not releasably coupled to the first surface 1 1 of the second part 120 of the sheet 10 using an adhesive, for example. Rather, the first surface 1 1 of the first part 1 10 of the sheet 10 is releasably coupled to the first surface 1 1 of the second part 120 of the sheet 10 by melting the sheet 10 in the presence of the barrier layer 101 a, 101 b that tends to reduce or inhibit coupling between the first surface 1 1 of the first part 1 10 of the sheet 10 is releasably coupled to the first surface 1 1 of the second part 120 of the sheet 10, compared with conventional melting in the absence of such barrier layers. The releasable coupling of the first surface 1 1 of the first part 1 10 of the sheet 10 to the first surface 1 1 of the second part 120 of the sheet 10 is controlled, as described previously, to be sufficiently strong so as to tend to resist uncoupling during distribution, for example, while still allowing the user to uncouple the first part 1 10 of the sheet 10 from the second part 120 of the sheet 10, as desired. Figure 5 schematically depicts a top elevation view of the container 1 according to the exemplary embodiment of the invention of Figure 3, in use. Particularly, the container 1 is arranged in a third configuration, in which the open side 20 of the container 1 is sealed, for example, to contain contents in the container 1 , as described previously with reference to Figure 2.

The releasable coupling of the first surface 1 1 of the first part 1 10 of the sheet 10 to the first surface 1 1 of the second part 120 of the sheet 10 is controlled, as described previously, to be sufficiently strong so as to tend to resist uncoupling during distribution, for example.

Figure 6 schematically depicts a top elevation view of the container 1 according to an exemplary embodiment of the invention, in use. Particularly, the container 1 is arranged in a second configuration, wherein the first part 1 10 of the sheet 10 is uncoupled from the second part 120 of the sheet 10.

The releasable coupling of the first surface 1 1 of the first part 1 10 of the sheet 10 to the first surface 1 1 of the second part 120 of the sheet 10 is controlled, as described previously, to allow the user to uncouple the first part 1 10 of the sheet 10 from the second part 120 of the sheet 10, as desired.

The releasable coupling of the first surface 1 1 of the first part 1 10 of the sheet 10 to the first surface 1 1 of the second part 120 of the sheet 10 is uncoupled, for example, by peeling the first part 1 10 of the sheet 10 away from the second part 120 of the sheet 10. Thus, as described previously, the handle 200 facilitates manual handling of the container 1 by the user. Since adhesives are not used for this releasable coupling, there are no adhesive residues on the sheet 10 that could otherwise contact, for example adhere to, the user. Furthermore, in contrast to the example embodiment described with respect to Figures 1 - 3, it is not necessary for the user to tear the sheet 10 so as to uncouple the first part 1 10 of the sheet 10 from the second part 120 of the sheet 10, thereby better maintaining a structural integrity and/or improving an appearance of the container 1 in this second configuration.

Figure 7A - 7H depicts a method of manufacture of the container 1 according to an exemplary embodiment of the invention, using an apparatus 700 according to an exemplary embodiment of the invention. In particular, the method of manufacturing the container 1 comprises providing the sheet 10, wherein the sheet 10 comprises opposed first 1 1 and second surfaces 12 and releasably coupling the first part 1 10 of the sheet 10 and the second part 120 of the sheet 10.

At Figure 7A, the sheet 10 is provided on a roll as a continuous length of LDPE film. The width of the sheet 10 corresponds to approximately twice a length of the container 1 , for manufacturing the container 1 as a side-weld container 1 . The sheet 10 includes colourants, to, for instance, provide a white colour, and has been treated by corona discharge treatment on the first surface 1 1 before printing the first surface 1 1 , as known to the person skilled in the art. The roll is loaded on to a conversion machine and the barrier layer 101 a, 101 b is provided at 5 mm intervals on the first surface 1 1 and the second surface 12 in 100 mm long stripes as required. Particularly, the barrier layer 101 a, 101 b is provided as a solution comprising 50% - 80 % ethanol, 5% - 10% and 1 .0% - 2.5% tributyl acetylcitrate, that is applied to the first surface 1 1 and the second surface 12 by a flexographic printer 710 (not shown). The solvent base is dried, thereby depositing the solute on the first surface 1 1 and the second surface 12 as the barrier layer 101 a, 101 b.

At Figure 7B, the sheet 10 is unrolled from the roll through a plurality of rollers 720, arranged to tension the sheet 10, as known to the person skilled in the art. At Figure 7C, the sheet 10 is continuously folded longitudinally about a longitudinal axis of the sheet 10, providing the folded side 40, as known to the person skilled in the art. Subsequently, a lateral welder 730 forms the seal 55, isolating the first region 1 10 of the container 10 from the second region 120 of the container 10. At Figure 7D, dimensions of the container 1 are determined using a photo cell 740.

At Figure 7E, the handle 200 is defined in the first part 1 10 of the container 1 using a punch unit 750 that creates the handle 200 by cutting through two thicknesses of the sheet 10. At Figure 7F and 7G, the first part 1 10 of the sheet 10 is folded over the second part 120 of the sheet 10, at the seal 55, thereby forming the fold 50. Particularly, the first part 1 10 of the sheet 10 is folded over a forming plate 760. An adjuster bar 762 is arranged to adjust a position of the forming plate 760 based on a size of the handle 200. Tension in the folded first part 1 10 of the sheet 10 is provided by a tension roller 762, arranged to roll against the folded first part 1 10 of the sheet 10 on the forming plate 760, to keep the folded handle 200 in place. A first stabilizer roller 764, arranged above and transverse to the first stabilizer bar 764. Tension in the second part 120 of the sheet 10 is provided by a second stabilizer roller 766. In this way, the barrier layer 101 a, 101 b is provided between the first surface 1 1 of the first part 1 10 of the sheet 10 and the first surface 1 1 of the second part 120 of the sheet 10.

At Figure 7H, a heated knife 780, heated to about 350°C, welds the sheet 10 transversely, providing the closed sides 30a, 30b. Simultaneously, the first surface 1 1 of the first part 1 10 of the sheet 10 is releasably coupled to the first surface 1 1 of the second part 120 of the sheet 10. As described previously, the barrier layer 101 a, 101 b tends to reduce or inhibit coupling between the first surface 1 1 of the first part 1 10 of the sheet 10 and the first surface 11 of the second part 120 of the sheet 10.

In this way, the container 1 as described above may be manufactured.

Although a preferred embodiment has been shown and described, it will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that various changes and modifications might be made without departing from the scope of the invention, as defined in the appended claims and as described above.

In summary, the invention provides a container that reduces costs associated with the container, including direct, distribution and environmental costs, while facilitating automated and/or manual handling, for example carrying, as described above. Attention is directed to all papers and documents which are filed concurrently with or previous to this specification in connection with this application and which are open to public inspection with this specification, and the contents of all such papers and documents are incorporated herein by reference. All of the features disclosed in this specification (including any accompanying claims and drawings), and/or all of the steps of any method or process so disclosed, may be combined in any combination, except combinations where at least some of such features and/or steps are mutually exclusive. Each feature disclosed in this specification (including any accompanying claims, and drawings) may be replaced by alternative features serving the same, equivalent or similar purpose, unless expressly stated otherwise. Thus, unless expressly stated otherwise, each feature disclosed is one example only of a generic series of equivalent or similar features. The invention is not restricted to the details of the foregoing embodiment(s). The invention extends to any novel one, or any novel combination, of the features disclosed in this specification (including any accompanying claims and drawings), or to any novel one, or any novel combination, of the steps of any method or process so disclosed.