Webster, Daniel R.
Green, Brian C.
|1.||A disposable container for sterile packaging and dispensing of liquids, comprising: a pouch body having opposing panels^that are sealed to each other along opposing side seals and along an end seal, the pouch body having an open bifurcated end portion; a semirigid access end plug having an external, side periphery that is shaped and sized complementarily to said bifurcated end portion of the pouch body such that said access end plug fills and closes the bifurcated end portion of the pouch body; a bifurcated end seal hermetically joining the bifurcated end portion of the pouch body and .the external, side periphery of the semirigid access end plug; an access assembly securely attached to said access end plug, said access assembly overlying and closing an opening through said semirigid access end plug; and a liquid hermetically sealed within the disposable container by said pouch body, said access end plug, and said access assembly.|
|2.||The disposable container according to claim 1, wherein said access assembly is a nipple assembly including a nipple member having an orifice therethrough and means for closing and opening said orifice.|
|3.||The disposable container according to claim 1, wherein said access assembly is a nipple assembly including a nipple member, an orifice through the nipple member, and a generally spherical stopper wedged within the nipple member in blocking relationship between said orifice and the liquid within the disposable container.|
|4.||The disposable container according to claim 1, wherein said access assembly is retractable through said opening in the end plug and into a stored condition, said access assembly further being extensible to a condition protruding out of said opening.|
|5.||The disposable container according to claim 1, wherein said access assembly is a port assembly.|
|6.||The disposable container according to claim 1, wherein said liquid is a food formula.|
|7.||The disposable container according to claim 1, wherein said side periphery of the access end plug has gradually tapering opposing ends.|
|8.||The disposable container according to claim 1, wherein said access end plug is recessed with respect to the outside surface of the container, and wherein said access assembly is mounted within the recess.|
|9.||The disposable container according to claim 1, further including a semirigid hollow holder member generally overlying the disposable container and mechanically affixed to said semirigid access end plug.|
|10.||The disposable container according to claim 1, wherein said pouch body is constructed of two substantially equally sized sheets of energy sealable polymeric material.|
|11.||The disposable container according to claLm 1, wherein said semirigid access end plug has an external skirt defining a recessed plate, and wherein said access assembly is mounted onto said recessed plate.|
|12.||The disposable container according to claim 1, wherein said access assembly is securely attached to said access end plug by an annular ring that is integral with said access end plug.|
|13.||The disposable container according to claim.1,.. wherein said.access assembly includes a flexible nipple having an upstanding protuberance, an orifice through said upstanding protuberance, and a closure member within said upstanding protuberance and in overlying relationship with respect to said orifice.|
|14.||The disposable container according to claim 13, wherein said closure member is a generally spherical ball.|
|15.||The disposable container according to claim 1, wherein said semirigid access end plug has an external skirt defining a recessed plate having said opening through the access end plug, wherein said access assembly includes a flexible member mounted onto said recessed plate, said flexible member being flexibly movable between a stored condition by which said flexible member is recessed within said opening and does not extend beyond said external skirt and an extended condition by which said flexible member projects beyond said external skirt, and wherein a covering membrane is affixed to the outside edge of said external skirt when said flexible,, member is in its stored condition. _ .|
|16.||The disposable container according to claim 1, wherein said pouch body is substantially selfsupporting.|
Disposable Container Having Serai-Rigid Access End Plug
This invention generally relates to improved disposable containers for sterile packaging and dispensing of liquids. More particularly, this invention relates to disposable containers that have a semi-rigid, molded access end plug within which a nipple assembly or port assembly is located, the access end plug being sealed to the inside surface of the mouth of a pouch within which a liquid is sealed. In an important aspect of the invention, the access assembly is positioned within a recess of the access end plug and a membrane is sealed thereover to provide a removable protective cover. When the access assembly includes a nipple structure, the nipple structure is advantageously one including a ball that seals an orifice through the nipple tip until such time as the ball is squeezably removed f om such nipple tip.
Numerous and various solution bags and nursers have been in use or have been proposed for the purpose of packaging, storing and dispensing liquids such as liquid infant food formulas, juices, water, therpeutic solutions, medicaments and the like. In such structures, a liquid is sealed within a container and is removable therefrom through a suitable access assembly. Prior attempts have been made to provide an assembly that is inexpensive and that can be readily manufactured on a mass scale. Other important considerations for these types of structures include having an assembly that, is readily sterilizable, such as by autoclave procedures, prior to and during
filling of the assembly with the liquid, while also being able to withstand heating procedures carried out by the end user, such as heating the container within a water bath. Other important considerations include providing access to the liquid sealed within the interior of the container in a manner such that the liquid remains securely and hermetically sealed within the container during sterilization, storage, heating and handling, while still providing easy access to the liquid when it is desired to dispense same. It is especially important that these structures resist unintentional access to the liquid and that they be able to withstand rather stringent conditions such as those encountered during autoclave procedures.
The present invention responds to these needs by providing the food formula or other liquid within a sealed container that is autoclavable and that is inexpensively and easily manufactured from a barrier film which provides a water vapor barrier without the need of an overpouch. The container includes an access end plug that has a periphery having gradually tapering opposing ends, such periphery being oversealed by a mouth portion of a barrier pouch. The access end plug is semi-rigid and includes an access assembly which may be recessed and overcovered with a membrane sealed to the access end plug. In an especially important aspect of this invention, the access assembly is a nipple-type structure that includes a squeezably removable generally spherical stopper plugging an orifice through the tip portion of the nipple. When desired, a holder may be included by mechanical attachment to the outside periphery of the semi-rigid access- end ug in order to provide supplemental support for the pouch in conjunction with dispensing of the liquid therefrom.
It is accordingly a general object of this invention to provide an improved disposable container.
Another object of the present invention is to provide an improved disposable container that is autoclavable and that provides a relatively simple, inexpensive barrier container for liquids sealed therewithin.
Another object of this invention is to provide an improved disposable nurser having a generally recessed nipple assembly which includes a squeezably removable ball valve.
Another object of this invention is to provide an improved liquid container having an access assembly that is sealed from the atmosphere. These and other objects of the invention will be apparent from the following detailed description, including the drawings, wherein: Figure 1 is a perspective view of a disposable nurser according to this invention, also illustrating in exploded fashion a partially broken away holder therefor;
Figure 2 is a longitudinal cross-section of Figure 1, shown with the holder fully assembled onto the container? Figure 3 is a lateral sectional view, partially broken away, of the container illustrated in Figure 1, showing the preferred nipple assembly in its stored orientation;
Figure 4 is a lateral sectional view, partially broken away, of the containers as shown in Figure 3, with the nipple assembly shown in its extended position during dislodgment of the ball valve;
Figure 5 is a perspective view of the device generally shown in Figures 3 and 4 in its dispensing orientation and in combination with a holder; and
Figure 6 is a perspective view of a container having a port assembly in the " access end plug.
Included in the sealed pouch according to this invention, generally designated as 21 ace a pouch body 22 and a semi-rigid access end plug 23, within which is mounted an access assembly such as the nipple assembly 24. Liquid 25, such as an infant nursing formula, generally fills the sealed pouch 21. A holder 26 may be included when desired, and holder 26 would typically snap fit over the access end plug 23 as illustrated. Pouch body 22 typically is constructed of two sheets of heat sealable film, which sheets are sealed together in generally opposing fashion to form side panels 27, 28, sealed together by side seals 29, 31, end seal 32, and a bifurcated end seal 33 that provides a hermetic seal between the pouch body 22 and the semi-rigid access end plug 23. In view of the simplicity of the bifurcated seal 33 and the shaped characteristic of the semi-rigid access end plug 23, the pouch body 22 may be made of a relatively inexpensive polymer that exhibits high barrier efficiency, including water vapor barrier properties, whereby adequate shelf stability can be achieved without the need for a separate barrier overpouch. For example, polyolefins are suitable, whether they are extruded into a polyolefin sheet or coextruded or laminated with other polymers. Olefin copolymers are also acceptable. Materials such as polyvinyl chloride need not be used, and low-cost, inert polymers are suitable, including barrier film laminates of polypropylene and saran. The pouch body 22 should be made of a material that is compatible with and readily sealable to the semi-rigid access end plug 23, typical sealing in this regard utilizing thermal, impulse or ultrasonic techniques.
Often, it is desirable to be able to use form, fill and seal packaging machines in making the pouch 21.
Semi-rigid access end plug 23 is sized and shaped with an outside surface that is complementary to the inside surface of the bifurcated end -seal 33. Such is most readily accomplished by providing the semi-rigid access end plug with opposing tapered side edges 34, 35. With this structure, the side seals 29, 31 pinch the tapered side edges 34, 35, respectively, between the side panels 27, 28 and combine with the bifurcated end seal 33 to hermetically close the pouch body 22 and seal same onto the semi-rigid access end plug 23. The semi-rigid access end plug 23 is a low cost, inert barrier material that can be efficiently made by injection molding as a unitary piece from a polymer that is compatible with and sealable to the material of the pouch body 22. Typically, the semi-rigid access end plug will be injection molded from a polyolefin material. In the preferred embodiment that is illustrated, the semi-rigid access end plug 23 includes an external skirt 36 defining a recessed plate 37. An internal skirt 38 may also be included to enhance the overall strength and rigidity of-the -- access end plug 23 while minimizing the volume taken up by the access end plug 23 with respect to the internal volume of the sealed pouch 21.
Recessed plate 37 of the semi-rigid access end plug 23 preferably includes an integral annular ring 39 between the exterior skirt 36 and an opening 41 through the recessed plate 37. Annular ring 39 securely mounts the nipple assembly 24 onto the recessed plate 37 in a manner by which the nipple assembly 24 overlies and closes the opening 41, such assembly being adequate to withstand autoclave conditions and to permit shelf-stable storage for
εeveral months without significantly compromising the integrity of the seal formed between the nipple assembly 24 and the semi-rigid access end plug 23. Nipple assembly 24 includes a flexible nipple 42 having a tip-end orifice 43. The nipple assembly 24 further includes a ball 44 that functions as a valve-like closure of the tip end orifice 43 when the flexible nipple 42 is in its stored orientation illustrated in Figure 3 or in its extended orientation illustrated in Figure 2. When it is desired to place the nipple assembly 24 into a dispensing condition, the ball 44 is removed from its plugging position overlying the top end orifice 43 in the flexible nipple 42 by depressing or squeezing the outside surface of the flexible nipple 42 as generally illustrated in Figure 4, after which the ball 44 drops through the liquid 25 within the pouch body 22.
Flexible nipple 42 can, in association with or as an alternative to the integral annular ring 39, be swaged or energy sealed to the semi-rigid access end plug 23. Preferably, the flexible nipple 42 is made of a thermoplastic elastomer in order that it will have enhanced abilities to be energy sealed to a - surface such as that of the access end plug 23, while also being flexible enough to provide infant comfort and to permit ready movement of the flexible nipple 42 between its stored condition and its extended condition. The integrity of the stored condition is enhanced by including a covering membrane 45 sealed onto the peripheral edge of the exterior skirt 36. Covering membrane 45 is either severable or readily removable from the peripheral end of the exterior skirt 36 by pulling on an end tab 46 or the like. Pouch body 22 may, depending upon the polymer out of which it is made, exhibit adequate stiffness so that it is substantially self-supporting.
In some instances, it may be preferred to include the holder 26 in order to enhance the support of the pouch body 22 and/or in order to facilitate holding of the sealed pouch 21 by an infant or the like. Holder 26 may be readily made by injection molding of relatively inexpensive materials such as polyolefins, or by other known techniques for providing semi-rigid generally tubular structures.
With particular reference to Figure 6, this illustrates a sealed pouch 21a including the pouch body 22 within which is sealed a semi-rigid access end plug 23a that includes a port assembly 51. The semi-rigid access end plug 23a may include structural and mounting features substantially the same as those by which the nipple assembly 24 is affixed to the access end plug 23. Alternatively, the port assembly 51 may be integrally molded with the semi-rigid access end plug 23a. Typically, a port cap 52 will be included to seal off the port assembly 51. While various particular embodiments of the invention have been described herein, it will be apparent to those skilled in the art that various modifications thereof may be made without departing from the true spirit and scope of the invention. Accordingly, it is intended by the appended claims to cover all such modifications and equivalents which embody inventive features as defined in the claims.