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Title:
INSULATED SHIPPING BAGS
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2008/130426
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A collapsible insulated bag designed to allow items retained within an inner pouch thereof to remain within predetermined temperature ranges for predetermined periods of time and wherein the bag is designed to be easily compressed or compacted for storage or shipment to end users. The bag includes at least an outer reflective layer, an intermediate open foam layer and the inner pouch layer.

Inventors:
DE LESSEUX, Lionel De Bazelaire (6707B Highway 19 South, Thomasville, Georgia, 31792, US)
STAMPFLI, Robert Gary (8063 Evening Star Lane, Tallahassee, Florida, 32312, US)
FLOWERS, Langdon Strong (5978 Highway 319 South, Thomasville, Georgia, 31792, US)
Application Number:
US2007/075971
Publication Date:
October 30, 2008
Filing Date:
August 15, 2007
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
COLDKEEPERS, LLC (1100 Smith Ave, Thomasville, Georgia, 31792, US)
DE LESSEUX, Lionel De Bazelaire (6707B Highway 19 South, Thomasville, Georgia, 31792, US)
STAMPFLI, Robert Gary (8063 Evening Star Lane, Tallahassee, Florida, 32312, US)
FLOWERS, Langdon Strong (5978 Highway 319 South, Thomasville, Georgia, 31792, US)
International Classes:
B65B25/00; B65B47/00
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
DOWELL & DOWELL, P.C. (Suite 406, 2111 Eisenhower AvenueAlexandria, Virginia, 22314, US)
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Claims:

We Claim:

1. An insulated shipping and/or storage bag including an outer radiant energy reflecting layer, an intermediate foam material layer and an inner plastic layer that is configured to form an article receiving pouch, an opening into the bag and means for sealing the opening into the bag.

2. The insulated shipping and/or storage bag of claim 1 wherein said inner plastic layer includes a cuff in which upper portions of the intermediate foam material layer are received to thereby retain said intermediate foam material layer secured to said inner plastic layer.

3. The insulated shipping and/or storage bag of claim 1 including means to vent air from between said inner plastic layer and said outer reflective layer in order to permit the shipping and/or storage bag to be compactly configured for shipment to an end user.

4. The insulated shipping and/or storage bag of claim 3 including means for covering said means to vent.

5. The insulated shipping and/or storage bag of claim 1 wherein said intermediate layer is between approximately one half inch to one and one half inches in thickness .

6. The insulated shipping and/or storage bag of claim 1 wherein said intermediate layer is formed of a sheet of material having cut outs at each of the four corners thereof and opposing cut outs generally centrally along opposite side edges of the sheet of material, said cut outs facilitating a free standing configuration of

the bag.

7. The insulated shipping and/or storage bag of claim 6 including slits extending inwardly of the sheet material from each of the cut outs.

8. The insulated shipping and/or storage bag of claim 1 including securing said inner layer to an inner surface of said outer layer adjacent the opening into the bag.

9. The insulated shipping and/or storage bag of claim 1 in which the means for sealing includes a handle means .

10. A method for shipping a plurality of the insulated shipping and/or storage bags of claim 1 including the steps of:

A. At least partially removing air from within the intermediate layer of each of the bags to collapse the bags to compact structures; and

B. Placing the compact structures within a shipping container to ship to an end user.

11. The method for shipping a plurality of the insulated shipping and/or storage bags of claim 10 including the additional step of:

C. At least partially evacuating air from the shipping container.

Description:

INSULATED SHIPPING BAGS

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention is directed to the field of thermal containers primarily used in the shipping or storage of goods, foodstuffs, samples and the like items that must be maintained within predetermined temperature ranges for predetermined periods of time in order to ensure the safety and quality of such items . More particularly, the invention is directed to collapsible insulated bags that are designed to allow items held therein to be maintain within predetermined temperatures, either hot or cold, for extended periods of time. The collapsible bags are ideal for long distance shipment of perishable items such as foods, samples and medical items, and may also be used for catering, take-out as well as for traditional cooler functions .

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE PRIOR ART

There are numerous industries wherein the safe transportation or shipment and storage of temperature sensitive products or samples is critical to the preservation of the products or samples. Medical supplies, samples, transplants and the like must often be maintained within controlled temperatures during periods of shipment from suppliers to users, providers to patients, and between operating facilities. With the popularity of online grocery shopping growing, there is also a need to improve upon insulated packaging for transporting goods such as frozen foods from temperature controlled environments to the end-consumers .

Frequently, delivered packages may have to be left for extended periods in less than optimal ambient conditions before a consumer actually takes possession of the goods being shipped.

Currently, to maintain shipped items at optimal temperatures, options have been tried which include foam coolers, dry ice packs or boxes and insulated storage bags. Each of these options comes with drawbacks, including limited lengths of time for maintaining goods or items at optimal temperatures, environmental impact or safety concerns and increased shipping co.st to cover container weight and/or size or express deliveries.

Foam coolers combined with dry ice packs can, in some instances, effectively maintain items at optimal temperatures, However, their use is costly in both supply costs and excess shipping costs. In addition, foam coolers have a negative impact on the environment and the handling of dry ice packs can raise safety concerns. Dry ice packs have been used alone to ship and deliver perishable items. However, their ability to maintain optimal temperatures for extended periods of time while in a standard cardboard container is extremely poor.

Other bags have been used for short term transportation of perishable items. However, their use is limited to only conveyance of the item and not for maintaining the item in an optimal temperature range for any significant period of time, such as more than one to three hours or more.

In view of the foregoing, there is a need to provide insulated shipping containers that can provide greater

insulating properties to ensure that goods, foodstuffs, medical supplies and samples and other items that are temperature sensitive may be safely shipped and maintained within necessary temperatures for greater periods of time than is possible using conventional shipping containers .

There is a further need to provide insulated shipping and transportation containers that can also be compactly configured to reduce shipping and transportation costs without reducing the insulating properties thereof.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention includes flexible or collapsible hot/cold storage or shipping bags that are preferably self configuring and/or supporting but easily manipulated to a reduced size to be placed in an outer container or box for shipment. In the preferred embodiments, the bags are formed of at least three layers of insulating materials including an outer metallic or radiate energy reflecting layer, an intermediate open cell foam insulating layer and an inner low thermal convection and food grade plastic layer.

In some embodiments, the fully flexible insulated bags are designed to be used as stand-alone containers capable of maintaining a supporting shape when placed on a support surface. However, the bags may also be placed into, or folded and subsequently placed into, an outer protective structure such as a cardboard container or box, a plastic bag or bin or any other shipping container. Due to the flexible insulating materials of the bags, they may be shaped to conform to, or reduce the

spaced occupied within, outer containers, thereby maximizing shipping efficiencies and reducing shipping costs .

In a preferred embodiment of the invention, the inner plastic layer is formed as a bag with an outwardly folded cuff at an opening therein such that the cuff frictionally receives and retains upper free end portions of opposing side walls of the intermediate insulation material therein. In this manner, the intermediate insulation material is mechanically secured to the inner plastic layer such that both layers may be simultaneously inserted within the outer reflective or metallic foil layer. This frictional retention of the intermediate layer within the cuff of the inner plastic layer will also function to retain the intermediate insulating layer in place within the outer layer when the composite insulating bags of the invention are in use. In some embodiments, the upper end of the inner plastic bag layer is welded to the inner surface of the outer layer, at or spaced slightly below the upper edges of the outer layer. The outer reflective or foil layer, is also formed into a bag-like configuration by folding a length of foil on itself, from end-to-end, and thereafter welding the opposite side edges together.

The composite or multi-layer insulated bags of the invention may also include different closure and handle structures. In some embodiments, the inner plastic bag- like structures may be heat sealed at their upper open ends after articles or items are placed with the insulated bags. In other embodiments, mechanical zip- like closures or double sided tapes may be used to seal the upper open ends of the inner plastic bags after articles or items are placed therein. In yet other

embodiments, the inner plastic bags may not be sealed. Preferably, the upper ends of the outer reflective or foil bag-like layers are provided with either heat seals or mechanical zip-like or friction lock seals. In some embodiments, the seals may be created using friction lock engaging handle members that are initially sealed to the upper edges of the opposing sides of the outer reflective or foil layer and which include components that interlock with one another as the handle members are locked together.

In some embodiments of the invention, to facilitate the compact handling and/or folding of the multi-layered insulated shipping and storage bags of the invention for shipment to wholesalers or end users for subsequent use, the interior of the bags, and especially the intermediate open cell foam layers are designed to be evacuated by the application of a partial vacuum. Such a vacuum may be applied to the bags through an opening between the outer reflective layer and the intermediate open cell foam material thereof by use of a vacuum tube or by placing the bags within an enclosure under a reduced atmosphere or by physical compression of the bags. When the vacuum tube is withdrawn or the predetermined reduced pressure is obtained within the bags, the outer openings therein are closed by removable adhesive patches or covers to prevent ambient air from entering the bags . When the bags have been at least partially evacuated so that air is removed from the open cell foam and from between the outer reflective layer and the foam, they are easily folded into compact configurations for storage or for shipment. When the bags are to be used by an end user, the patches or covers are removed and the bags will automatically expand as ambient air enters the vacuum openings therein. After the bags are inflated, the

adhesive patches or covers may be reapplied to prevent contaminants from entering the openings therein. In this regard, when the insulated shipping and storage bags are to be used to ship or store items that must remain sterile, the vacuum processes and inflating processes may take place within sterile enclosures.

The compact handling of the multi-layered insulated shipping and storage bags of the invention for storage or shipment to wholesalers or end users for subseguent use may also be accomplished by placing one or more insulate bags within an outer plastic bag have one end with a sealable opening. Thereafter, the outer bag is mechanically collapsed to force most air out of the enclosed insulated shipping bags and the outer bag and the outer bag subsequently sealed. In some embodiments, a partial vacuum may be applied within the outer bag to reduce the pressure therein and to reduce the volume of the overall package .

Further, in the embodiments wherein the intermediate foam layers are seated or sealed with their upper edge portions within the cuffs of the inner plastic layers and the cuffs sealed to the outer reflective layer or wherein the upper edges of the inner plastic layer are sealed to the outer reflective layer to isolate the foam layer there between from the ambient environment, any reduction in pressure within the space between the foam layers and the outer reflective layer will not affect the sterility of the inner surface of the inner plastic layer.

In addition to the use of the collapsible hot/cold thermal insulated shipping and storage bags for foodstuffs, such as frozen foods or hot prepared food dishes, the bags are also ideal for other uses including

transporting of medical items including medicine, blood, samples and organs, and other products that must be retained within tightly controlled temperatures.

The collapsible hot/cold thermal insulated shipping and storage bags are capable of maintaining perishable items at their optimal temperatures for extended periods of time. By way of example, the process of keeping items cold while moving them from one area to another is known as cold chain. A cold chain is further defined as an uninterrupted series of storage and distribution activities that are used to maintain the temperature of an item in a given range. The collapsible hot/cold insulated shipping and storage bags of the invention allow items to be left with the end-consumers where the items can be safely maintained at their optimal temperatures, either hot or cold, for three or more hours .

In addition, the insulated shipping and storage bags of the invention are designed to be both light-weight and flexible thereby allowing the bags to be compressed, folded and compactly placed in shipping containers without consuming space that may be used for shipping other items and thereby aiding in reduction of both shipping and storage costs.

A further advantage of the insulated shipping and storage bags of the invention is that the open celled foam intermediate layer also function to cushion the contents of the bags, especially during transit and thus damage to the contents of the bags is less likely than with other prior art shipping containers.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

A better understanding of the invention will be had with reference to the accompanying drawings wherein:

Fig. 1 is a top front perspective view of one embodiment of the present invention shown in an open position to receive an article or item therein;

Fig. 2 is a cross section taken along line 2-2 of Fig. 1 showing the insulation layers of the thermal insulated shipping and storage bag;

Fig. 3 is a top front perspective view of the embodiment of the invention shown in Fig. 1 with an article placed therein and showing how the insulated shipping and storage bag is self-standing on a support surface;

Fig. 4 is a top plan view of the intermediate foam layer showing cut outs with slits therein to facilitate the free standing nature of the insulated bag when is use .

Fig. 5 is a perspective view of the inner plastic layer of Fig. 1 formed into a pouch-like structure and showing a cuff thereof frictionally engaging the upper ends of the intermediate foam insulating material therein;

Fig. 6 is a view similar to Fig. 1 showing one of the insulated bags of the invention with an opening and related closure for use in evacuating and subsequently inflating the bag to permit compact storage and shipment to an end user;

Fig. 7 is a cross section taken along line 7-7 of Fig. 6 showing a tube placed through the opening for reducing the pressure within bag and the open cell foam therein;

Fig. 8 is a perspective view of a plurality of insulated bags in accordance with the invention being placed within an outer plastic sealable enclosure for shipment to an end user while compactly retained or folded under internal reduced pressure; and

Fig. 9 is a cross sectional view similar to Fig. 2 showing an alternate embodiment of the invention.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS With continued reference to the drawings, the invention will be described with respect to several embodiments for insulated and flexible or pliable hot/cold storage and shipping bags. A first embodiment of insulated bag 10 in accordance with the invention is shown in Figs. 1-4. The insulated bag 10 is a multi ¬ layer structure for storing and shipping temperature sensitive items that is made of at least three layers of thermal insulating materials. An outer layer 11 is made of materials known for reflecting radiant heat, are tear resistant, non-porous, leak proof, that can be heat sealed or otherwise welded or sealed with a sterile poly pouch material and that is compatible with conventional printing techniques. Such materials include, but are not limited to, thermoplastic polymers, such as metallic polyethylene terephthalate (METPET) , and various metallic foils. As noted, the outer layer 11 can be printed with advertising information or any other indicia as desired.

The outer layer is formed of the above identified materials and is generally rectangular in shape when laid out in a one piece film. The outer layer is preformed into a pouch or bag shape by folding the one piece film along a midline thereof to create a bottom portion 12 with the side edges thereof being welded, heat sealed or otherwise sealed to form opposite side seams 13 thereby creating an opening 14 into the outer layer.

An intermediate insulating layer 20, see Fig. 2, is constructed of materials known for having low thermal transfers. Such materials include but are not limited to low density collapsible open cell poiyurethane foams, including those foams that exhibit memory to reshape themselves after being deformed. Thus, the insulating layer is made of a collapsible or compressible, memory foam with thermal and cushioning properties. The foam can be die-cast (molded) or cut and shaped to prevent any thermal bridges.

Thermal bridges are created when poorly insulated materials are used and allow heat transfer to occur through the material. To prevent thermal bridges, the insulated foam materials must be properly designed and placed to properly insulate the area of concern in which an item to be contained within the insulated bag is to be received. In view of this, the insulating foam layer 20 is made from a poiyurethane or polyurethane-like foam to prevent thermal bridges and to effectively maintain the low thermal transfer needed to assure that any perishable product is maintained at optimal temperatures. In addition to the low thermal properties of the foam, the foam is able to conform to any item enclosed and to thereby become the frame and/or structure of the item. The self-forming foam creates a base or floor, lid and

walls for a product when the product is placed therein. The foam also provides a protective cushion for any articles placed within the bags and thus protects against article damage.

With reference to Fig. 4, the foam insulating layer 20 may be between approximately one half inch to one and one half inches in thickness and may be of varying densities. The foam layer is form of a sheet that is generally rectangular in shape with two ends 21 and 22 being substantially parallel to each other and two long sides 23 and 24 being substantially parallel to each other. The insulating layer has, in each corner, generally rectangular cutout regions 25. Each cutout is defined by two intersecting wall portions 26 and 27 that intersect generally perpendicularly with one another. The cutout regions 25 may include an additional slit 25' extending into the width of the material to facilitate bending. The size of the cut outs 25 may vary depending upon the size of the insulated bag with the function of the cut outs to permit the top of the completed bag to fold at the corners thereof when the layer 20 is folded centrally thereof at A-A to create opposing side walls 28 and 29, see Fig. 5. In addition to the corner cut outs, opposing cut outs 30 are provided centrally of the sides of the intermediate foam layer. The cut outs 30 are rectilinear and their size may also vary, it being the function of these cut outs to facilitate the folding of the bottom 12 of a complete insulated bag to form a generally flat support base for the bag when an item is placed therein and the bag is placed on a support surface "S", as is shown in Fig. 3. As with the other cutout regions 25 the cutout regions 30 may include additional slits 30 ' extending into the width of the material to facilitate bending.

The insulated bag 10 also includes an innermost plastic layer 32 that is made of one or more materials known for lower thermal convection. Such materials include polyurethanes, polypropylenes, elastomeric compounds and like materials that are leak-proof, non- porous and food grade and that can be heat sealed or otherwise secured or welded to the outer reflective layer 11.

In the preferred embodiment of the invention shown in Fig. 1, the inner plastic layer 32 is formed as a bag or pouch that is only open at a top opening 34 thereof, as is shown in Fig. 2. The pouch is provided with an annular outwardly folded cuff 35 at the opening therein such that the cuff is of a size to frictionally receive and retain upper free end portions 36 and 37 of the opposing side walls 28 and 29 of the intermediate insulated foam. In this manner, the intermediate insulation material is mechanically secured to the inner plastic layer 32 such that both layers may be simultaneously inserted within the outer reflective or metallic foil layer. This frictional retention of the intermediate layer within the cuff of the inner plastic layer will also function to retain the intermediate insulating layer in place within the outer layer when the composite insulating bags of the invention are in use and will also substantially seal the inner volume 40 of the insulated bag 10 from the volume or area 38 between the inner layer 32 and the outer layer 11 to thereby prevent contamination of the inner volume 40. In some instances an adhesive or other agent may be used to completely or hermetically seal the upper portions 36 and 37 of the intermediate foam material within the cuff 35 of the inner layer 32.

In some embodiments and as shown in Fig. 2, the upper end of the inner plastic pouch layer 32 is welded at 41 to the inner surface 42 of the outer layer, at or spaced slightly below the upper edges of the outer layer to hermetically enclose the insulated bag 10 between the inner layer 32 and the outer layer 11.

Although not shown in the drawings, in some embodiments, the inner plastic pouch-like structures of the inner layers 32 may be heat sealed at their upper open ends 44 after articles or items are placed with the insulated bags 10. In other embodiments, mechanical zip-like closures or double sided tapes may be used to seal the upper ends 44 of the inner plastic bags after articles or items are placed therein. In yet other embodiments, the inner plastic bags may not be sealed at the opening 34.

Preferably, the upper ends of the outer reflective or foil bag-like layers 11 are provided with either heat seals or mechanical zip-like locks or friction lock seals. In some embodiments, the seals may be created using friction lock members 50 and 51 that are initially sealed at 52 to the upper edges of the opposing sides of the outer foil or reflective layers. Friction lock member 50 includes a handle 53 that is insertable through an opening 55 in the lock member 51. Lock member 51 is generally u-shaped in cross section, see Fig. 2, with a width of the cross section being such that lock member 50 is frictionally seated therein to seal the members together when the handle 53 is inserted through the opening 55 to thereby seal the bag 10, see Fig. 3.

The insulated bag 10 can be closed using other known conventional methods such as pressure closures, taping

closures, flaps with re-sealable taping means, flaps with peel-off taping means, plastic zip-lock fasteners and the like .

Although not shown in the drawing figures, in some embodiments one or more addition foam layers may be inserted between the inner pouch or layer 32 and the outer layer 11 to increase the insulating properties of the insulated bags to increase the length of time products will remain at optimal temperatures.

As previously described, one of the advantages of the present invention is that the insulated bags may be compactly arranged and retained either for storage or shipment to wholesalers or end users to thereby reduce shipping package volumes and thus reducing costs associated with shipping and storage of the bags. With reference to Fig. 8, a first embodiment for reducing the volume of a package of the insulated bags 10 of the invention is shown in detail. As shown, one or more insulated bags 10 may be placed within an outer plastic bag 60 have one end with a sealable opening 62. Thereafter, the outer bag is mechanically collapsed, as reflected by the arrow 65, to force most air out of the enclosed insulated shipping bags 10 and the outer bag 60. Thereafter, the outer bag is sealed. In some embodiments, a partial vacuum may be applied within the outer bag to reduce the pressure therein and to reduce the volume of the overall package and the outer bag 60 subsequently sealed.

In another embodiment of the invention and with reference to Figs. 6 and 7, to facilitate the compact handling and/or folding of the multi-layered insulated shipping and storage bags of the invention for storage or

shipment to wholesalers or end users for subsequent use, the interior of the bags 10, and especially the intermediate open cell foam layers 20 are designed to be evacuated by the application of a partial vacuum. Such a vacuum may be applied to the bags through openings 70 between the outer reflective layer 11 and the intermediate open cell foam material 20 thereof by use of a vacuum tube 72 or by placing the bags 10 within an enclosure under a reduced atmosphere. When the vacuum tube is withdrawn, or the predetermined reduced pressure is obtained within the bags, the outer openings 70 therein are closed by removable adhesive patches or covers 74 to prevent ambient air from entering the bags. The covers or patches include a self stick adhesive 75 on the inner face thereof for use in sealing the openings to prevent inadvertent inflation of the spaces within the bags. When the bags have been at least partially evacuated so that air is removed from the open cell foam and from between the outer reflective layer and the inner plastic layer or pouch 32, they are easily stacked or folded into compact configurations for storage or for shipment. When the bags are to be used by an end user, the patches or covers are removed and the bags will automatically expand as ambient air enters the vacuum openings therein. After the bags are inflated, the adhesive patches or covers may be reapplied to prevent contaminants from entering the openings therein. In this regard, when the insulated shipping and storage bags 10 are to be used to ship or store items that must remain sterile, the vacuum processes and inflating processes may take place within sterile enclosures .

With reference to Fig. 9, another embodiment or insulated bag 10' of the invention is disclosed wherein the cuff of the inner layer or pouch 32 associated with

the embodiment shown in Figs. 1 and 2 is not used. In this embodiment, the inner layer or pouch 32' includes an upper free edge 76 that is directly sealed or welded at 78 to the inner surface of the outer reflective layer 11' below the opening into the bag 10 ' . The bag of this embodiment may be used with the vacuum opening and seals associated therewith as previously described and the materials and the manner of compact shipment or storage including the use of an outer packaging container or pouch may also be the same.