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Title:
PACKAGING UNIT, METHODS AND APPARATUSES FOR PACKAGING PRODUCTS
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2009/024830
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A method for packaging a product (2), comprising introducing said product {2) in a wrapping element (21), associating a cup-shaped element (34) to said wrapping element (21) in such a way that said cup-shaped element (34) contains at least partly said wrapping element (21), said associating comprising welding said cup-shaped element (34) and said wrapping element (21) along a portion of said wrapping element (21) delimiting an opening (11) through which said product (2) can be inserted in said wrapping element (21); an apparatus for packaging a product (2), comprising a forming station (3, 4; 48, 69) suitable for forming a cavity from a portion of sheet of material (5; 91), a filling station (G) suitable for filling said cavity with said product (2), a welding station (26; 86) suitable for closing said cavity with a further portion of sheet of material (23; 92), and a thermoforming station (26; 48, 86) arranged downline of said filling station (G) suitable for thermoforming said sheet of material.

Inventors:
BARTOLI, Andrea (Via Dumas 3, Reggio Emilia, I-42100, IT)
BARTOLI, Alberto (Via Monte Gaio 3, Quattro Castella, I-42020, IT)
Application Number:
IB2007/002399
Publication Date:
February 26, 2009
Filing Date:
August 21, 2007
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
INOVAPAK SRL (Via Ferravilla 19/C, Reggio Emilia, I-42100, IT)
BARTOLI, Andrea (Via Dumas 3, Reggio Emilia, I-42100, IT)
BARTOLI, Alberto (Via Monte Gaio 3, Quattro Castella, I-42020, IT)
International Classes:
B65B11/50; B65B11/54; B65B25/00; B65B61/24; B65D75/32; B65D85/60
Domestic Patent References:
2008-02-14
Foreign References:
EP1046579A12000-10-25
EP0790184A11997-08-20
EP0591742A11994-04-13
EP0082952A11983-07-06
US5167974A1992-12-01
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
CRUGNOLA, Pietro (Luppi & Associati S.R.L, Via Camperio 11, Milano, I-20123, IT)
Download PDF:
Claims:

CLAIMS

1. Method for packaging a product (2), comprising introducing said product (2) in a wrapping element (21) , associating a cup-shaped element (34) with said wrapping element (21) in such a way that said cup- shaped element (34) contains, at least partially, said wrapping element (21) , characterized in that said associating comprises welding said cup- shaped element (34) to said wrapping element (21) along a portion of said wrapping element (21) delimiting an opening (11) through which said product (2) can be inserted in said wrapping element (21) .

2. Method according to claim 1, wherein said associating comprises arranging said portion in such a way as to substantially cover a corrugated portion (38) of said cup-shaped element (34) .

3. Method according to claim 2 , wherein said welding comprises joining said portion with said corrugated portion (38) to create a substantially truncated- conical welding area (30) arranged to surround, at least partly, said wrapping element (21) .

4. Method according to claim 2 or 3, further comprising making a cut portion (25) on said portion and on said . corrugated portion (38) suitable for promoting the opening of said wrapping element (21) to remove said, product (2) .

5. Method according to claim 1, wherein said associating comprises arranging said portion in such a way as to cover a ring-shaped area of a bottom of said cup- shaped element ' (34) .

6. Method according to claim 5, wherein said welding comprises joining said portion to said ring-shaped area (28) in such a way as to create a peelable opening.

7. Method according to one of previous claims, further comprising forming said wrapping element (21) from a portion of sheet of material (5) and further forming

said cup-shaped element (34) from a further portion of sheet of material (23) .

8. Method according to claim 7, as appended to any of claims 2 to 4, wherein said further forming comprises folding said further portion of sheet of material (23) to obtain said corrugated portion (38) .

9. Method according to claim 8, wherein said forming comprises further folding said portion of sheet of material (5) to create a corrugated surface on said portion.

10. Method according to claim 9, wherein said further forming is provided after said introducing.

11. Method according to any of the previous claims, wherein, after said welding, there will be cooling of an area of said portion of sheet of material (5) and a further area of said further portion of sheet of material (23) to stabilize the shape of said corrugated portion (38) and of said portion.

12. Method according to any of the previous claims, further comprising separating said portion from said portion of sheet of material (5)

13. Method according to any of the previous claims, further comprising further separating said corrugated portion (38) from said further portion of sheet of material (23)

14. Method according to claim 13 as appended to claim 12 , wherein said separating and said further separating take place substantially simultaneously.

15. Method according to claim 13 as appended to claim 12, wherein said separating is provided before said further separating.

16. Method according to claim 15, wherein said separating is provided before said welding.

17. Method according to any of claims 12 to 16, wherein after said further separating, said corrugated portion

(38) is so arranged as to at least partly surround said wrapping element (21) .

18. Packaging unit, comprising a wrapping element (21) suitable for wrapping a product (2) and provided with a portion which delimits an opening (11) for inserting said product (2) in said wrapping element (21) , a cup- shaped element (34) arranged for containing at least partially said wrapping element (21) , characterized in that said cup-shaped element (34) and said wrapping element (21) are welded along said portion to close a cavity suitable for containing said product (2) .

19. Packaging unit according to claim 18, wherein said cup- shaped element (34) and said wrapping element are welded in such a way as to prevent air from entering said cavity.

20. Packaging unit according to claim 18 or 19, wherein said cup- shaped element (34) comprises a corrugated portion (38) which surrounds at least part of said wrapping (21) . 21. Packaging unit according to claim 20, wherein an end portion of said wrapping element (21) overlaps said corrugated portion (38) .

22. Packaging unit according to claim 21, wherein said end portion has an extension substantially equal to said corrugated portion (38) .

23. Packaging unit according to claim 21 or 22, wherein said end portion and said corrugated portion (38) are welded along an area having an extension substantially equal to said end portion and/or to said corrugated portion (38) .

24. Packaging unit according to any of claims 21 to 23, further comprising a cut portion (25) made on said corrugated portion (38) and on said end portion, suitable for acting as opening promoter element. 25. Packaging unit according to claim 24, wherein said cut portion (25) extends from one free edge of said

corrugated portion (38) and of said end portion towards an area near a bottom of said cup-shaped element (34) .

26. Packaging unit according to any of claims 18 to 20, wherein said wrapping element (21) comprises a ring- shaped portion (28) which surrounds said opening (11) .

27. Packaging unit according to claim 26, wherein said ring-shaped portion (28) is surrounded by said corrugated portion (38) .

28. Packaging unit according to claim 27, wherein said ring-shaped portion (28) is substantially parallel to a bottom of said cup-shaped element (34) .

29. Packaging unit according to any of claims 26 to 28, wherein said cup-shaped element (34) and said wrapping element (21) are sealed along said ring-shaped portion (28) so as to define a peelable opening.

30. Method comprising forming a wrapping element (21) from a sheet material (5) , introducing a product (2) in said wrapping element (21) , associating a further sheet material (23) with said wrapping element (21) , characterized in that it further comprises folding said further sheet material (23) to obtain a corrugated portion (38) .

31. Method according to claim 30, comprising still further folding a portion, of said wrapping element (21) which. delimits an opening (11) of said wrapping element. (21).

32. Method according to claim 31, wherein said folding and said further folding is provided after said introducing.

33. Method according to any of claims 30 to 32 and further comprising welding said portion and said corrugated portion (38) to each other.

34. Method according to claim 33, and further comprising cooling for stabilizing the shape of said portion and said corrugated portion (38) . 35. Method according to claim 34, wherein said further cooling is provided after said welding.

36. Method according to any of claims 30 to 35, further comprising separating said portion from said portion of sheet of material (5)

37. Method according to any of claims 30 to 36, further comprising further separating said corrugated portion

(38) from said further sheet of material (23)

38. Method according to claim 37 as appended to claim 36, wherein said separating and said further separating take place substantially simultaneously. 39. Method according to claim 37 as appended to claim 36, wherein said separating is provided before said further separating.

40. Method according to claim 36, or according to claim 37 as appended to claim 36, or according to claim 38 or 39, wherein said separating is provided before said welding .

41. Method according to any of claims 37 to 40, wherein after said further separating, said corrugated portion (38) is so arranged as to at least partly surround said wrapping element (21) .

42. Apparatus for packaging a product (2), comprising a forming station- (3,4; 48, 69; 103, 104; 203, 204) suitable for forming a cavity from a portion of a sheet

. material (5; 91), a filling station. .(G) suitable for: filling said cavity with said product. (2), a welding station (26, 86) suitable for closing said cavity with a further portion of sheet material (23; 92), and a thermoforming station (26; 48, 86) arranged downstream of said filling station (G) suitable for thermoforming said sheet material .

43. Apparatus according to claim 42, wherein said thermoforming station comprises a first thermoforming member (31; 86) and a second thermoforming member (3; 48) reciprocally movable for thermoforming said sheet material .

44. Apparatus according to claim 43, wherein said first thermoforming member (31; 86) comprises a first operating surface (32; 95) on which first projecting portions and first recessed portions are made. 45. Apparatus according to claim 44, wherein said first projecting portions and said first recessed portions extend radially in such a way as to define a circle.

46. Apparatus according to claim 44 or 45, wherein each first projecting portion is adjacent to and placed between two first recessed portions.

47. Apparatus according to any of claims 44 to 46, wherein each first recessed portion is adjacent to and placed between two first projecting portions.

48. Apparatus according to any of claims 44 to 47, wherein said second thermoforming member (3; 48) comprises a second operating surface arranged for interacting with said first operating surface (32; 95) to create a corrugated surface on said sheet of material .

49. Apparatus according to claim 48, wherein said second operating surface comprises second projecting portions

(12; 57) and second recessed portions (13; 58).

50. Apparatus according to claim 49, wherein said second projecting portions (12, 57) and said second recessed portions (13, 58). extend radially in such a way as to. define a circle. . _.

51. Apparatus according to claim 49 or 50, wherein each second projecting portion (12, 57) is adjacent to and placed between two second recessed portions (13, 58) .

52. Apparatus according to any of claims 49 to 51, wherein each second recessed portion is adjacent to and placed between two second projecting portions.

53. Apparatus according to any of claims 49 to 52, wherein said second recessed portions (13; 58) and said second projecting portions (12; 57) are offset to a certain angular extent in relation to said first recessed portions and to said first projecting portions.

54. Apparatus according to claim 53 wherein each second recessed portion is so arranged as to receive internally a corresponding first projecting portion.

55. Apparatus according to claim 53 or. 54, wherein each first recessed portion is so arranged as to receive internally a corresponding second projecting portion.

56. Apparatus according to any of claims 43 to 55, wherein said first thermoforming member (86) comprises a ring- shaped element (87) suitable for shaping and sealing a peripheral area of said further portion of sheet of material (92) on said portion of sheet of material (91) .

57. Apparatus according to claim 56, wherein said ring- shaped element (87) is provided internally with a substantially truncated-conical first truncated-conical surface (88) provided with third projecting portions (89) and with third recessed portions (90) .

58. Apparatus according to claim 57, wherein said third projecting portions (89) and said third recessed portions (90) extend radially in such a way as to define a circle.

59. Apparatus according to claim 57 or 58, wherein each third projecting portion (89) is adjacent to and placed between two third recessed portions (90) .. . .60. Apparatus according to any of claims 57 to 59, wherein each third recessed portion (90) is adjacent to and placed between two third projecting portions (89) .

61. Apparatus according to any of claims 56 to 60, wherein said second thermoforming element (48) comprises a hollow portion (49) surrounded by a truncated-conical portion (50) .

62. Apparatus according to claim 61, wherein said truncated-conical portion (50) is laterally delimited by a second truncated-conical surface (51) converging towards said ring-shaped element (87) and arranged for

interacting with said first truncated-conical surface

(88) .

63. Apparatus according to claim 62, wherein said second truncated-conical surface (51) is provided with fourth projecting portions (52) and fourth recessed portions (53) .

64. Apparatus according to claim 63 , wherein said fourth projecting portions (52) and said fourth recessed portions (53) extend radially in such a way as to define a circle.

65. Apparatus according to claim 63 or 64, wherein each fourth projecting portion (52) is adjacent to and placed between two fourth recessed portions (53) .

66. Apparatus according to any of claims 63 to 65, wherein each fourth recessed portion (53) is adjacent to and placed between two fourth projecting portions (52) .

67. Apparatus according to any of claims 63 to 66, wherein said fourth recessed portions (53) and said fourth projecting portions (52) are offset to a certain angular extent in relation to said third recessed portions (90) and to said third projecting portions

(89) .

68. Apparatus according to any of claims 63 to 67, wherein . each fourth recessed .portion (53) is so arranged as to receive internally, a corresponding, third projecting portion (89) .

69. Apparatus according to any of claims 63 to 68, wherein each third recessed portion (90) is so arranged as to receive internally a corresponding fourth projecting portion (52) .

70. Apparatus according to any of claims 62 to 69, wherein suction ducts openings (59) are made for air on said second truncated-conical surface (51) .

71. Apparatus according to any of claims 61 to 70, and further comprising a first ring-shaped cavity (54) which surrounds said truncated-conical portion (50) and

arranged for receiving internally said ring-shaped element (87) .

72. Apparatus according to claim 71, wherein said second thermoforming member (48) comprises supporting elements (62) movable along said first ring-shaped cavity (54) .

73. Apparatus according to claim 71 or 72, wherein a seat

(64) is made on said second thermoforming member (48) which surrounds said first ring-shaped cavity (54) and is arranged for receiving in support said portion of sheet material (91) .

74. Apparatus according to claim 73, and further comprising suction duct means (65) for air made on said seat (64) .

75. Apparatus according to claim 73 or 74, and further comprising fifth projecting portions (67) and fifth recessed portions (68) made on an area of said seat (64) close to said first ring-shaped cavity (54) .

76. Apparatus according to claim 75, wherein said fifth projecting portions (67) and said fifth recessed portions (68) extend radially in such a way as to define a circle.

77. Apparatus according to claim 75 or 76, wherein each fifth projecting portion (67) is adjacent to and placed between two fifth recessed portions (68) .

78. Apparatus according to any of claims 75 to .7.7, wherein. . :- each fifth recessed portion (68)- .is adjacent to and placed between two fifth projecting portions (67) .

79. Apparatus according to any of claims 49 to 78, wherein said forming station (48, 69) comprises an operating unit (69) arranged for co-operating with said second thermoforming member (48) .

80. Apparatus according to claim 79, wherein said operating unit (69) comprises presser means (70) arranged for pressing said portion of sheet of material (91) against said second thermoforming member (48) . 81. Apparatus according to any of claims 49 to 55, or according to any of claims 56 to 80, when claim 56 is

appended to any of claims 49 to 55, wherein said presser means (70) comprises a first cylindrical portion (73) provided below with a third operating surface (74) arranged for interacting with said second operating surface (56) .

82. Apparatus according to claim 81, wherein said third operating surface (74) comprises sixth projecting portions (75) and sixth recessed portions (76) arranged radially. 83. Apparatus according to claim 82, wherein said sixth projecting portions (75) are shaped to be received in said second recessed portions (58) .

84. Apparatus according to claim 82 or 83, wherein said sixth recessed portions (76) are shaped to receive said second projecting portions (57) .

85. Apparatus according to any of claims 81 to 84, wherein said presser means (70) comprises a second ring-shaped cavity (77) which surrounds said first cylindrical portion (73) . 86. Apparatus according to claim 85, wherein said operating unit (69) comprises a further ring-shaped element (78) , movable in said second ring-shaped cavity (77) .

87. Apparatus according to claim 86, wherein said further ring-shaped element (78) comprises a third truncated- conical surface ' (79) -.shaped to interact with sadd second truncated-conical surface (51) .

88. Apparatus according to any of claims 63 to 70, or according to any of claims 71 to 87 when appended to any of claims 63 to 70, wherein said third truncated- conical surface (79) comprises seventh projecting portions (80) and seventh recessed portions (81) .

89. Apparatus according to claim 88, wherein said seventh projecting portions (80) are shaped to be received in said fourth recessed portions (53) .

90. Apparatus according to claim 88 or 89, wherein said seventh, recessed portions (81) are shaped to receive said fourth projecting portions (52) .

91. Apparatus according to claims 86 to 90, wherein said presser means (70) comprises a second cylindrical portion (82) which surrounds said further ring-shaped element (78) .

92. Apparatus according to claim 91, wherein said second cylindrical portion (82) is provided with eighth projecting portions (84) and eighth recessed portions (85) distributed radially.

93. Apparatus according to claim 92, when claim 81 is appended to claim 75, wherein said eighth projecting portions (84) are shaped to be received in said fifth recessed portions (68) .

94. Apparatus according to claim 93 , wherein said eighth recessed portions (85) are shaped to receive said fifth projecting portions (67) .

95. Apparatus according to any of claims 42 to 55, wherein said welding station (26) comprises a first welding member and a second welding member reciprocally movable to lock between them areas of said portions of sheet material (5) and of said further portion of sheet material (23) . . . . . ... . ■ 96: 'Apparatus according to claim 95 ,.. wherein, said, first welding member and said second welding member- comprise welding surfaces to generate a non-planar welding between said portion of sheet material (5) and said further portion of sheet material (23) . 97. Apparatus according to claim 96, wherein said welding surfaces are such as to generate a corrugated welding. 98. Apparatus according to claim 96 or 97, when claim 95 is appended to any of claims 48 to 55, wherein said welding surfaces are made on said first operating surface (32) and on said second operating surface.

99. Apparatus according to any of claims 95 to 98, and comprising shape stabilizing means (35) arranged downline of said thermoforming station to generate a non-planar surface on said sheet material .

5 100. Apparatus according to claim 99, wherein said stabilizer means (35) comprises a first shape stabilizing member and a second shape stabilizing member reciprocally movable to lock and cool a region of said sheet of material.

10 101. Apparatus according to claim 100, wherein said first shape stabilizing member (36) comprises a first shape stabilizing surface (37) on which ninth projecting portions and ninth recessed portions are made.

102.Apparatus according to claim 101, wherein said ninth 15 projecting portions and said ninth recessed portions extend radially in such a way as to define a circle.

103.Apparatus according to claim 101 or 102, wherein each of said ninth projecting portions is adjacent to and placed between two ninth recessed portions .

20 104.Apparatus according to any of claims 101 to 103, wherein each of said ninth recessed portions is adjacent to and placed between two ninth projecting portions.

105. Apparatus according to any of claims .101 to 104, when :.25. . .claim 95 is appended to any .of claims 49 to 55, wherein-' said stabilizing surface (37) is shaped to interact with said second operating surface.

106. Apparatus according to claim 105, wherein each of said second projecting portions is shaped to be received in 30 a corresponding ninth recessed portion.

107.Apparatus according to claim 105 or 106, wherein each of said second recessed portions is shaped to receive a corresponding ninth projecting portion.

108.Apparatus according to any of claims 95 to 107, wherein 35 said forming station (3, 4; 103, 104; 103', 104') comprises cavity means (9; 109; 109') provided with a

forming surface suitable for forming said sheet material (5) and a supporting surface suitable for supporting said undeformed sheet material.

109.Apparatus according to claim 108, comprising sliding

5 promoting means (10; 110) shaped for guiding a portion of said sheet material from a first configuration wherein said sheet material faces said supporting surface to a second configuration wherein said sheet material faces said forming surface during forming.

10 110.Apparatus according to claim 109, wherein said sliding promoting means (10; 110) are so arranged as to surround an opening of said cavity means (9; 109;

109' ) .

111.Apparatus according to claim 110, wherein said sliding 15 promoting means (10; 110; 210) comprises a sliding surface (130; 112; 212) suitable for interacting with said sheet material.

112.Apparatus according to claim 111, wherein further projecting portions (12) and further recessed portions 20 (13) are made on said sliding surface (130) .

113.Apparatus according to claim 112, wherein said further projecting portions (12) and said further recessed portions (13) extend radially to define a circle.

114.Apparatus according to claim 112 or 113, wherein each 25. . . of- said .further projecting portions (12) is. adjacent to and placed between two further recessed portions.

115.Apparatus according to any of claims 112 to 114, wherein each of said further recessed portions (13) is adjacent to and placed between two further projecting 30 portions (12) .

116. Apparatus according to any of claims 111 to 115, wherein said sliding promoting means (110; 210) comprises further side wall means (114; 214) provided with sliding portions (115a, 115b, 115c, 115d; 215a, 35 215b, 215c, 215d) arranged for facilitating the sliding

of said sheet material (5) inside said cavity means

(109; 209, 219) . 117.Apparatus according to claim 116, wherein said sliding portions comprise four main faces (115a, 115b, 115c, 115d; 215a, 215b, 215c, 215d) , arranged in twos, parallel and opposite, and inclined in relation to said feed direction (A) by such an angle as to promote sliding of the sheet material (5) inside cavity means

(109; 209, 219) . 118. Apparatus according to claim 117, wherein said side wall means (114; 214) comprises further four secondary faces (116a, 116b, 116c, 116d; 216a, 216b, 216c, 216d) , arranged in twos, parallel and opposite, and relatively almost at right angles and parallel to said feed direction (A) , each secondary face (116a, 116b, 116c,

116d; 216a, 216b, 216c, 216d) being placed between two consecutive main faces (115a, 115b, 115c, 115d; 215a,

215b, 215c, 215d) .

119. Apparatus according to any of claims 109 to 118, further comprising a presser element (14) arranged near said sliding promoter means (10) to guide said sheet material . 120. Apparatus according to claim 119, as appended to any of claims 110 to 118, wherein said presser element (14) is provided with a central ■ opening (15) having a further extension of said opening. 121.Apparatus according to claim 120, as appended to any of claims 112 to 119, wherein said central opening (15) extends in such a way that said further projecting portions (12) and said further recessed portions (13) are not covered by said presser element (14) . 122.Apparatus according to any of claims 95 to 121, and further comprising shearing means (40, 41) for shearing said sheet material . 123.Apparatus according to claim 122, wherein said shearing means comprises a first shearing member (40) and a

second shearing member (41) reciprocally movable for acting on said sheet material .

124.Apparatus according to claim 123, wherein said first shearing member (40) comprises a surface (42) arranged for receiving in support area (34, 38) of said sheet material which surrounds said cavity. 125.Apparatus according to claim 124, wherein said surface

(42) is delimited by a lateral surface (46) .

126.Apparatus according to claim 125, wherein said second shearing member (41) comprises a shearing portion (43) arranged for acting against said surface (42) to separate said area (34, 38) from said sheet material near said lateral surface (46) .

127.Apparatus according to any of claims 124 to 126, and comprising further folding means (44, 45) arranged for folding said area (34, 38) in such a way that said area (34, 38) surrounds said cavity at least partly. 128.Apparatus according to claim 127, wherein said folding means comprises a passage duct (45) made on said first shearing member (41) .

129.Apparatus according to claim 128, when claim 127 is appended to claim 126, wherein said passage duct (45) is surrounded by an end of said shearing portion (43) . 130. Apparatus according to claim 128 or 129, wherein, said .passage duct (45) has a transverse section having an extension less than further extension of said surface (42) .

131. Apparatus according to any of claims 127 to 130, wherein said folding means comprises a pusher element (44) arranged for pushing said area (34, 38) along said passage duct (45) .

132. Apparatus according to any of claims 95 to 131, further comprising a comb device (16) suitable for accumulating . a certain amount of said sheet of material near a forming area (C) in which said cavity is formed.

133.Apparatus according to claim 132, wherein said comb device (16) comprises a bar element (17) and a further bar element (18) arranged transversely to a feed direction (A) of said sheet material and transversely

5 to a forming direction (B) of said sheet material.

134.Apparatus according to claim 133, wherein said bar element (17) and said further bar element (18) are movable from a disengagement position (E) , in which they are spaced way from said sheet of material to an

10 operating position (F) , in which they arrange said sheet material in such a way as to define a first fold portion (19) and a second fold portion (20) of the sheet material for feeding said forming station (3, 4) .

135.Apparatus according to any of claims 108 to 134, when

15 claim 122 is appended to any of claims 108 to 121 and claim 132 is appended to any of claims 108 to 131, wherein said forming station (103', 104') comprises rod means (160) movable inside said cavity means (109') and co-operating with punch means (104') of said forming

20 station to mould said cavity of said portion of sheet material inside said forming surface.

136.Apparatus according to claim 135, wherein said rod means (160) are substantially aligned to said punch : .. . .. means (104') and movable with. , the latter, during 25.- : . forming of said cavity, along a forming direction (B) . 137. Apparatus according to claim 135 or 136, wherein said rod means (160) show an upper end suitable for abutting said sheet of material (5) .

138. Apparatus comprising welding means (26; 86) comprising

30 a first welding member (31; 86) and a second welding member (3; 50) reciprocally movable to lock therebetween areas of a first sheet material (5) and a second sheet material (23) , characterized in that said first welding member (31; 95; 88) and said second

35 welding member (3, 51; 56) have such welding surfaces as to generate a non-planar welding.

139.Apparatus according to claim 138, wherein said welding surfaces are shaped to generate a corrugated welding. 140. Apparatus according to claim 138 or 139, wherein said welding surfaces comprise an operating surface (32; 95, 88) provided on said welding member (31; 86) and a further operating surface provided on said second welding member (3; 50) . 141.Apparatus according to claim 140, wherein first projecting portions and first recessed portions are made on said operating surfaces (32; 95; 88) .

142.Apparatus according to claim 141, wherein said first projecting portions and said first recessed portions extend radially in such a way as to define a circle.

143.Apparatus according to claim 141 or 142, wherein each first projecting portion is adjacent to and placed between two first recessed portions.

144.Apparatus according to any of claims 141 to 143, wherein each first recessed portion is adjacent to and placed between two first projecting portions. 145. Apparatus according to any of claims 140 to 144, wherein further first projecting portions and further first recessed portions are made on said further operating surface.

146. Apparatus according, to claim 145, wherein said further projecting portions and said further recessed portions extend radially in such a way as to define a circle. 147.Apparatus according to claim 145 or 146, wherein each first projecting portion is adjacent to and placed between two further first recessed portions. 148.Apparatus according to any of claims 145 to 147, wherein each further first recessed portion is adjacent to and placed between two further first projecting portions .

149. Apparatus according to any of claims 145 to 148, wherein said further first recessed portions and said ■further first projecting portions are offset to a

certain angular extent in relation to said first recessed portions and to said first projecting portions.

150.Apparatus according to any of claims 145 to 149, 5 wherein each further first recessed portion is so arranged as to receive internally a corresponding first projecting portion. 151. Apparatus according to any of claims 145 to 150, wherein each first recessed portion is so arranged as 10 to receive internally a corresponding further first projecting portion.

152.Apparatus according to any of claims 138 to 151, comprising a thermoforming station suitable for thermoforming said first sheet of material (5) and/or 15 said second sheet of material (23) .

153.Apparatus according to any of claims 138 to 152, comprising shape stabilizer means (35) arranged downline of said thermoforming station to generate a non-planar surface on said first sheet of material (5) 20 and/or said second sheet of material (23) .

154.Apparatus according to claim 153, wherein said stabilizer means (35) comprises a first shape stabilizer member (36) and a second shape stabilizer

.. .. member reciprocally movable to lock, and cool, a region ■■• :- 25- :.. ,' of said first sheet of material (5) and/or said second sheet of material (23) .

155.Apparatus according to claim 154, wherein said first shape stabilizer member (36) comprises a shape stabilizer surface (37) on which second projecting 30 portions and second recessed portions are made.

156. Apparatus according to claim 155, wherein said second projecting portions and said second recessed portions extend radially in such a way as to define a circle.

157.Apparatus according to claim 155 or 156, wherein each 35 of said second projecting portions is adjacent to and placed between two second recessed portions.

158.Apparatus according to any of claims 155 to 157, wherein each of said second recessed portions is adjacent to and placed between two second projecting portions . 159. Apparatus according to any of claims 155 to 158, when claim 153 is appended to any of claims 140 to 151 or according to claim 152 when appended to any of claims

140 to 151, wherein said stabilizer surface (37) is shaped to interact with said further operating surface. 160. Apparatus according to any of claims 155 to 159, when claim 153 is appended to any of claims 141 to 151 or according to claim 152 when appended to any of claims

141 to 151, wherein each of said second projecting portions is shaped to be received in a corresponding further first recessed portion.

161.Apparatus according to any of claims 155 to 160, when claim 153 is appended to any of claims 141 to 151 or according to claim 152 when appended to any of claims

141 to 151, wherein each of said second recessed portions is shaped to receive a corresponding further first projecting portion.

162. Apparatus according to any of claims 155 to 161, wherein said second shape stabilizer member comprises a further stabilizer surface arranged to co-operate with said stabilizer surface (37) .

163.Apparatus according to claim 162, wherein further second projecting portions and further second recessed portions are made on said further stabilizer surface. 164.Apparatus according to claim 163, wherein said further second projecting portions and said further second recessed portions extend radially in such a way as to define a circle.

165.Apparatus according to claim 163 or 164, wherein each further second projecting portion is adjacent to and placed between two further second recessed portions.

166. Apparatus according to any of claims 163 to 165, wherein each further second recessed portion is adjacent to and placed between two further second projecting portions. 167.Apparatus according to any of claims 163 to 166, wherein said further second recessed portions and said further second projecting portions are offset to a certain angular extent in relation to said second recessed portions and to said second projecting portions .

168.Apparatus according to any of claims 183 to 167, wherein each further second recessed portion is so arranged as to receive internally a corresponding second projecting portion. 169. Apparatus according to any of claims 163 to 168, wherein each further second recessed portion is so arranged as to receive internally a corresponding further second projecting portion. 170.Apparatus according to any of claims 138 to 169, comprising a moulding station (3, 4; 103, 104) suitable for moulding said first sheet of material (5) . 171. Apparatus according to claim 170, wherein said moulding station (3, 4; 103, 104; 103', 104') comprises cavity means (9; 109; 109') provided with a .moulding surface suitable for shaping said first sheet of material (5) and a supporting surface suitable for supporting said undeformed sheet of material .

172.Apparatus according to claim 171, comprising sliding promoter means (10; 110) shaped for guiding a portion of said first sheet of material (5) from a first configuration wherein said first sheet of material (5) faces said supporting surface to a second configuration wherein said first sheet of material (5) faces said moulding surface during the moulding.

173.Apparatus according to claim 172, wherein said sliding promoter means (10; 110) are so arranged as to surround an opening of said cavity means (9/ 109; 109' ) .

174.Apparatus according to claim 172 or 173, wherein said sliding promoter means (10; 110) comprises a sliding surface (130; 112) suitable for interacting with said first sheet of material.

175.Apparatus according to claim 174, wherein third projecting portions (12) and third recessed portions (13) are made on said sliding surface (130) .

176. Apparatus according to claim 175, wherein said third projecting portions (12) and said third recessed portions (13) extend radially in such a way as to define a circle. 177. Apparatus according to claim 175 or 176, wherein each of said third projecting portions (12) is adjacent to and placed between two third recessed portions.

178.Apparatus according to any of claims 175 to 177, wherein each of said third recessed portions (13) is adjacent to and placed between two third projecting portions (12) .

179.Apparatus according to any of claims 174 to 178, wherein said sliding promoter means (110; 210) , comprises further, side, wall means (114; 214) provided . with sliding . portions (115a,. 115b, 115c, 115&;*: 215a,..

215b, 215c, 215d) arranged for facilitating the sliding of said sheet of material (5) inside said cavity means

(109; 209, 219) .

180.Apparatus according to claim 179, wherein said sliding portions comprise four, main faces (115a, 115b, 115c, 115d; 215a, 215b, 215c, 215d) , arranged in twos, parallel and opposite, and inclined in relation to said feed direction (A) by such an angle as to promote sliding of the sheet of material (5) inside cavity means (109; 209, 219) .

181. Apparatus according to claim 180, wherein said side wall means (114; 214) comprises further four secondary faces (116a, 116b, 116c, 116d; 216a, 216b, 216c, 216d) , arranged in twos, parallel and opposite, and relatively almost at right angles and parallel to said feed direction (A) , each secondary face (116a, 116b, 116c, 116d; 216a, 216b, 216c, 216d) being placed between two consecutive main faces (115a, 115b, 115c, 115d; 215a, 215b, 215c, 215d) . 182.Apparatus according to any of claims 172 to 181, further comprising a presser element (14) arranged near said sliding promoter means (10) to guide said sheet of material (5) . 183.Apparatus according to claim 182, as appended to claim 173 or any of claims 174 to 181, when claim 174 is appended to claim 173, wherein said presser element

(14) is provided with a central opening (15) having an extension greater than said opening.

184.Apparatus according to claim 183, when claim 183 is appended to any of claims 175 to 181, wherein said central opening (15) extends in such a way that said third projecting portions (12) and said third recessed portions (13) are not covered by said presser element

.,.(14) . -., ; 185. Apparatus according to any ..of claims 138 to 184, comprising further cutting means (40, 41) suitable for cutting said first sheet of material (5) and/or said second sheet of material (23) . 186. Apparatus according to claim 185, wherein said cutting means comprises a first cutting member (40) and a second cutting member (41) reciprocally movable to peripherally cut an area (34, 38) of sheet of material which surrounds a containment cavity made from said first sheet of material (5) .

187. Apparatus according to claim 186, wherein said first cutting member (40) comprises a surface (42) suitable for receiving in support said area (34, 38) .

188.Apparatus according to claim 187, wherein said surface (42) is delimited by a lateral surface (46) .

189. Apparatus according to claim 188, wherein said second cutting member (41) comprises a cutting portion (43) arranged for acting against said surface (42) for cutting said area (34, 38) near said lateral surface (46) .

190.Apparatus according to any of claims 186 to 189, and comprising further folding means (44, 45) arranged for folding said area (34, 38) in such a way that said area

(34, 38) surrounds said containment cavity at least partly.

191. Apparatus according to claim 190, wherein said folding means comprises a passage duct (45) made on said first cutting member (41) .

192.Apparatus according to claim 191, when claim 190 is appended to claim 189, wherein said passage duct (45) is surrounded by an end of said cutting portion (43) .

193.Apparatus according to claim 191 or 192, when claim 190 is appended to any of claims 187 to 189, wherein said passage duct (45) has a transverse section having an extension less- than. a further extension of said surface

(42) .

194.Apparatus according to any of claims 190 to 193, wherein said folding means comprises a pusher element (44) arranged for pushing said area (34, 38) along said passage duct (45) .

195. Apparatus according to any of claims 138 to 194, further comprising a comb device (16) suitable for accumulating a certain amount of said sheet of material

(5) near a moulding area (C) in which said containment cavity is formed.

196.Apparatus according to claim 195, wherein said comb device (16) comprises a bar element (17) and a further bar element (18) arranged transversely to a feed direction (A) of said first sheet of material (5) and transversely to a direction of moulding (B) of said first sheet of material (5) .

197. Apparatus according to claim 196, when claim 195 is appended to any of claims 170 to 184 or to any of claims 185 to 194 as appended to any of claims 170 to 184, wherein said bar element (17) and said further bar element (18) are movable from a disengagement position (E) , in which they are spaced way from said first sheet of material (5) in such a way as to define a first fold portion (19) and a second fold portion (20) of the sheet of material for feeding said moulding station (3,

4) .

198.Apparatus according to any of claims 171 to 197, when claim 185 is appended to any of claims 171 to 184 and claim 195 is appended to any of claims 171 to 194, wherein said moulding station (103', 104') comprises rod means (160) movable inside said cavity means (109') and co-operating with punch means (104') of said moulding station to form said cavity of said portion of sheet of material inside said moulding surface. - 1'99.Apparatus according to claim 198., wherein said rod means (160) are substantially aligned to said punch means (104') and movable with the latter, during the moulding of said cavity, along a moulding direction

(B) . 200.Apparatus according to claim 198 or 199, wherein said rod means (160) show an upper end suitable for abutting said sheet of material (5) .

201. Apparatus comprising a heat-welding station (26) suitable for heat-welding a portion of sheet material and a further portion of sheet material, shape stabilizing means (35) comprising a first shape

stabilizing member (36) and a second shape stabilizing member reciprocally movable for locking and cooling areas of said sheet materials, said first shape stabilizing member (36) and said second shape stabilizing member being provided with such shape stabilizing surfaces as to generate a non-planar surface on said sheet material.

202.Apparatus according to claim 201, wherein said first shape stabilizer member (36) comprises a shape stabilizing surface (37) on which first projecting portions and first recessed portions are made. 203.Apparatus according to claim 202, wherein said first projecting portions and said first recessed portions extend radially in such a way as to define a circle. 204.Apparatus according to claim 202 or 203, wherein each of said first projecting portions is adjacent to and placed between two first recessed portions.

205.Apparatus according to any of claims 202 to 204, wherein each of said first recessed portions is adjacent to and placed between two first projecting portions .

206. Apparatus according to any of claims 202 to 205, wherein said second shape stabilizing member comprises . a further stabilizing . surface arranged to co-operate with said stabilizing, surface (37) . . . ' .'-.

207. Apparatus according to claim 206, wherein further first projecting portions and further first recessed portions are made on said further stabilizing surface. 208.Apparatus according to claim 207, wherein said further projecting portions and said further recessed portions extend radially in such a way as to define a circle. 209.Apparatus according to claim 207 or 208, wherein each further first projecting portion is adjacent to and placed between two further first recessed portions . 210.Apparatus according to any of claims 207 to ' 209, wherein each further first recessed portion is adjacent

to and placed between two further first projecting portions .

211. Apparatus according to any of claims 207 to 210, wherein said further first recessed portions and said further first projecting portions are offset to a certain angular extent in relation to said first recessed portions and to said first projecting portions.

212.Apparatus according to any of claims 207 to 211, wherein each further first recessed portion is so arranged as to receive internally a corresponding first projecting portion.

213.Apparatus according to any of claims 207 to 212, wherein each first recessed portion is so arranged as to receive internally a corresponding further first projecting portion.

214.Apparatus according to any of claims 201 to 213, further comprising a moulding station (3, 4; 103, 104) suitable for moulding said portion of sheet of material (5) .

215.Apparatus according to claim 214, wherein said moulding station (3, 4; 103, 104; 103', 104') comprises cavity means (9; . 109; 109') provided with a moulding surface suitable for shaping said portion of ■ sheet . of material :"(5) and a supporting surface suitable for : supporting said portion of undeformed sheet of material . 216.Apparatus according to claim 215, further comprising sliding promoter means (10; 110) shaped for guiding said portion of sheet of material (5) from a first configuration wherein said portion of sheet of material

(5) • faces said supporting surface to a second configuration wherein said portion of sheet of material

(5) faces said moulding surface during the moulding.

217.Apparatus according to claim 216, wherein said sliding promoter means (10; 110) is so arranged as to surround an opening of said cavity means (9; 109; 109') .

218.Apparatus according to claim 216 or 217, wherein said sliding promoter means (10; 110) comprises a sliding surface (130; 112) suitable for interacting with said portion of sheet of material. 219. Apparatus according to claim 218, wherein third projecting portions (12) and third recessed portions

(13) are made on said sliding surface (130) .

220.Apparatus according to claim 219, wherein said third projecting portions (12) and said third recessed portions (13) extend radially in such a way as to define a circle.

221. Apparatus according to claim 219 or 220, wherein each of said third projecting portions (12) is adjacent to and placed between two third recessed portions. 222. Apparatus according to any of claims 219 to 221, wherein each of said third recessed portions (13) is adjacent to and placed between two third projecting portions (12) ,

223.Apparatus according to any of claims 218 to 222, wherein said sliding promoter, means (110; 210) further comprises side wall means (114; 214) provided with sliding portions (115a, 115b, 115c, 115d; 215a, 215b, 215c, 215d) arranged for facilitating the sliding of said sheet of material .(5.). inside said cavity means . (109; 209, 219) . .- . .,

224.Apparatus according to claim 223, wherein said sliding portions comprise four main faces (115a, 115b, 115c, 115d; 215a, 215b, 215c, 215d) , arranged in twos, parallel and opposite, and inclined in relation to said feed direction (A) by such an angle as to promote sliding of the sheet of material (5) inside cavity means (109; 209, 219) .

225. Apparatus according to claim 224, wherein said side wall means (114; 214) comprises further four secondary faces (116a, 116b, 116c, 116d; 216a, 216b, 216c, 216d) , arranged in twos, parallel and opposite, and relatively

almost at right angles and parallel to said feed direction (A) , each secondary face (116a, 116b, 116c, 116d; 216a, 216b, 216c, 216d) being placed between two consecutive main faces (115a, 115b, 115c, 115d; 215a, 215b, 215c, 215d) .

226. Apparatus according to any of claims 216 to 225, further comprising a presser element (14) arranged near said sliding promoter means (10) for guiding said portion of sheet of material (5) . 227.Apparatus according to claim 226, as appended to claim 217 or any of claims 218 to 225, when appended to claim 217, wherein said presser element (14) is provided with a central opening (15) having an extension greater than said opening. 228.Apparatus according to claim 227, when claim 226 is appended to any of claims 219 to 225, wherein said central opening (15) extends in such a way that said third projecting portions (12) and said third recessed portions (13) are not covered by said presser element (14) .

229.Apparatus according to any of claims 201 to 228, further comprising cutting means (40, 41) suitable for cutting said portion of sheet of material (5) and/or . said further .portion of sheet of material (23)..... 230. Apparatus according to claim 229, wherein said cutting means comprises a first cutting member (40) and a second cutting member (41) reciprocally movable to peripherally cut an area (34, 38) of sheet of material which surrounds a containment cavity made from said portion of sheet of material (5) .

231.Apparatus according to claim 230, wherein said first cutting member (40) comprises a surface (42) suitable for receiving in support said area (34, 38) . 232.Apparatus according to claim 231, wherein said surface (42) is delimited by a lateral surface (46) .

233.Apparatus according to claim 232, wherein said second cutting member (41) comprises a cutting portion (43) arranged for acting against said surface (42) for cutting said area (34, 38) near said lateral surface 5 (46) .

234.Apparatus according to any of claims 230 to 233, and further comprising folding means (44, 45) arranged for folding said area (34, 38) in such a way that said area

(34, 38) surrounds said containment cavity at -least

10 partly.

235.Apparatus according to claim 234, wherein said folding means comprises a passage duct (45) made on said first cutting member (41) .

236. Apparatus according to claim 235, when claim 234 is 15 appended to claim 233, wherein said passage duct (45) is surrounded by an end of said cutting portion (43) .

237.Apparatus according to claim 235 or 236, when claim 234 is appended to any of claims 232 to 233, wherein said passage duct (45) has a transverse section having an

20 extension less than a further extension of said surface

(42) .

238.Apparatus according to any of claims 235 to 237, wherein said folding means comprises a pusher element. , .. . . (44) arranged for pushing said area (34, 38) along said -»25 . passage duct (45) .. . /

239. Apparatus according to any of claims 230 to 238, further comprising a comb device (16) suitable for accumulating a certain amount of said portion of sheet of material (5) near a moulding area (C) in which said 30 containment cavity is formed.

240.Apparatus according to claim 239, wherein said comb device (16) comprises a bar element (17) and a further bar element (18) arranged transversely to a feed direction (A) of said portion of sheet of material (5) 35 and transversely to a direction of moulding (B) of said portion of sheet of material (5) .

241. Apparatus according to claim 240, when claim 229 is appended to any of claims 214 to 228, wherein said bar element (17) and said further bar element (18) are movable from a disengagement position (E) , in which they are spaced way from said portion of sheet of material (5) to an operating position (F) in which they arrange said portion of sheet of material (5) in such a way as to define a first fold portion (19) and a second fold portion (20) of the sheet of material for feeding said moulding station (3, 4) .

242.Apparatus according to any of claims 215 to 241, when claim 229 is appended to any of claims 215 to 228 and claim 239 is appended to any of claims 215 to 238, wherein said moulding station (103', 104') comprises rod means (160) movable inside said cavity means (109' ) and co-operating with punch means (104') of said moulding station to form said cavity of said portion of sheet of material inside said moulding surface. 243.Apparatus according to claim 244, wherein said rod means (160) are substantially aligned to said punch means (104') and movable with the latter, during the moulding of said cavity, along a moulding direction

(B) .

244.Apparatus . according to claim 243 or 244., wherein said rod means (160) show an upper end suitable for abutting said sheet of material (5) .

245.Apparatus comprising cavity means (9; 109; 109') provided with a forming surface suitable for forming a sheet material (5) , of a supporting surface suitable for supporting said undeformed sheet material, and an inlet portion which surrounds an opening of said cavity means (9/ 109; 109' ) , characterized in that said inlet portion comprises sliding promoting means (10; 110) shaped for guiding a portion of said sheet material (5) from a first configuration in which said sheet material (5) faces said supporting surface to a second

configuration in which said sheet material faces said forming surface during forming. 246. Apparatus according to claim 245, wherein said sliding promoting means (10; 110) is arranged to surround said opening .

247. Apparatus according to claim 245 or 246, wherein said sliding promoting means (10; 110) comprises a sliding surface (130; 112) suitable for interacting with said portion. 248.Apparatus according to claim 247, wherein projecting portions (12) and recessed portions (13) are made on said sliding surface (130) . 249. Apparatus according to claim 248, wherein said projecting portions (12) and said recessed portions (13) extend radially in such a way as to define a circle . 250.Apparatus according to claim 248 or 249, wherein each of said projecting portions (12) is adjacent to and placed between two recessed portions. 251.Apparatus according to any of claims 248 to 250, wherein each of said recessed portions (13) is adjacent to and placed between two projecting portions (12) . 252.Apparatus according to any of claims 247 to 251, wherein said sliding promoting means. (110.; 109) further . . comprises side wall, means (114;- 214) provided with sliding portions (115a, 115b, 115c, 115d; 215a, 215b,

215c, 215d) arranged for facilitating the sliding of said sheet material (5) inside said cavity means (109;

109' ) . 253.Apparatus according to claim 252, wherein said sliding portions comprise four main faces (115a, 115b, 115c,

115d; 215a, 215b, 215c, 215d) , arranged in twos, parallel to and opposite, and inclined in relation to a feed direction (A) of said sheet material (5) by such an angle as to promote sliding of the sheet material

(5) inside cavity means (109; 109') .

254.Apparatus according to claim 253, wherein said side wall means (114) further comprises four secondary faces (116a, 116b, 116c, 116d) , arranged in twos, parallel to and opposite, and relatively almost at right angles and parallel to said feed direction (A) , each secondary face (116a, 116b, 116c, 116d; 216a, 216b, 216c, 216d) being placed between two consecutive main faces (115a, 115b, 115c, 115d) .

255.Apparatus according to any of claims 245 to 254, further comprising a presser element (14) arranged near said sliding promoting means (10) for guiding said portion.

256.Apparatus according to claim 255, wherein said presser element (14) is provided with a central opening (15) having an extension greater than said opening.

257. Apparatus according to claim 256, when claim 255 is appended to any of claims 248 to 254, wherein said central opening (15) extends in such a way that said projecting portions (12) and said recessed portions (13) are not covered by said presser element (14) .

258. Apparatus according to any of claims 245 to 257, further comprising shearing means (40, 41) suitable for shearing said sheet of material .

259. Apparatus according to claim 258, wherein said shearing means -comprises, a reciprocally movable first shearing member (40) and a second shearing member (41) .

260.Apparatus according to claim 259, wherein said first shearing member (40) and said second shearing member

(41) are shaped to peripherally cut an area (34, 38) of sheet material which surrounds a containing cavity which is obtained from said sheet material (5) . 261. Apparatus according to claim 260, wherein said first cutting member (40) comprises a surface (42) suitable for receiving in support said area (34, 38) . 262.Apparatus according to claim 261, wherein said surface

(42) is delimited by a lateral surface (46) .

263. Apparatus according to claim 262, wherein said second shearing member (41) comprises a shearing portion (43) arranged for acting against said surface (42) for shearing said area (34, 38) near said lateral surface (46) .

264.Apparatus according to any of claims 260 to 263, further comprising folding means (44, 45) arranged for folding said area (34, 38) in such a way that said area

(34, 38) surrounds said containing cavity at least partly.

265. Apparatus according to claim 264, wherein said folding means comprises a passage duct (45) made on said first shearing member (41) .

266. Apparatus according to claim 265, when claim 264 is appended to claim 263, wherein said passage duct (45) is surrounded by an end of said shearing portion (43) .

267. Apparatus according to claim 265 or 266, when claim 264 is appended to any of claims 261 to 263, wherein said passage duct (45) has a transverse section having an extension less than a further extension of said surface

(42) .

268.Apparatus according to any of claims 265 to 267, wherein said folding means comprises a pusher element (44) arranged for pushing said area (34, 38) along said passage duct (45) .

269.Apparatus according to any of claims 260 to 268, further comprising a comb device (16) suitable for accumulating a certain amount of said sheet of material

(5) near a forming area (C) in which said containment cavity is formed.

270. Apparatus according to claim 269, wherein said comb device (16) comprises a bar element (17) and a further bar element (18) arranged transversely to a feed direction (A) of said sheet of material (5) and transversely to a forming direction (B) of said sheet material (5) .

271. Apparatus according to claim 270, wherein said bar element (17) and said further bar element (18) are movable from a disengagement position (E) , in which they are spaced way from said sheet material, to an operating position (F) , in which they arrange said sheet of material in such a way as to define a first fold portion (19) and a second fold portion (20) of the sheet material for feeding said cavity means (9) .

272.Apparatus according to any of claims 245 to 271, further comprising rod means (160) movable inside said cavity means (109') and co-operating with punch means

(104') for forming said sheet of material (5) in said forming surface .

273.Apparatus according to claim 272, wherein said rod means (160) are substantially aligned to said punch means (104' ) and movable with the latter, during forming of said sheet material (5) , along a forming direction (B) .

274.Apparatus according to claim 272 or 273, wherein said rod means (160) have an upper end suitable for abutting said sheet material (5) .

275.Apparatus comprising shearing means for shearing a sheet of material, comprising a first shearing member (40) and a second shearing member (41) reciprocally movable for separating a portion (34, :38) of sheet material from said sheet material, characterized in that said shearing means further comprises folding means (44, 45) shaped for folding said portion (34, 38) of sheet material . 276. Apparatus according to claim 275, wherein said folding means (44, 45) act for folding said area (34, 38) in such a way that said area (34, 38) at least partly surrounds a containing cavity obtained from said sheet material . 277.Apparatus according to claim 276 or 275, wherein said first shearing member (40) comprises a surface (42)

suitable for receiving in support said portion (34, 38) . 278.Apparatus according to claim 277, wherein said surface

(42) is delimited by a lateral surface (46) .

5 279.Apparatus according to claim 278, wherein said second shearing member (41) comprises a shearing portion (43) arranged for acting against said surface (42) for shearing said portion (34, 38) near said lateral surface (46) .

10 280. Apparatus according to claim 279, wherein said folding means comprises a passage duct (45) made on said first cutting member (41) .

281. Apparatus according to claim 280, wherein said passage duct (45) is surrounded by an end of said shearing

15 portion (43) .

282.Apparatus according to claim 280 or 281, wherein said passage duct (45) has a transverse section having an extension less than a further extension of said surface ■ (42) .

20 283.Apparatus according to any of claims 280 to 282, wherein said folding means comprises a pusher element (44) arranged for pushing said area (34, 38) along said passage duct (45) . 28.4 >Apparatus according to claim 276, or..according to any

25. -.:. of claims 277. to 283, when appended to claim ' 276, further comprising a comb device (16) suitable for accumulating a certain amount of said sheet material (5) near a forming station (3, 4; 103, 104; 103', 104') in which said containing cavity is formed.

30 285.Apparatus according to claim 284, wherein said comb device (16) comprises a bar element (17) and a further bar element (18) arranged transversely to a feed direction (A) of said sheet material (5) and transversely to a forming direction (B) of said sheet

35 material (5) .

286.Apparatus according to claim 285, wherein said bar element (17) and said further bar element (18) are movable from a disengagement position (E) , in which they are spaced from said sheet material (5) to an operating position (F) , in which they arrange said sheet of material (5) in such a way as to define a first fold portion (19) and a second fold portion (20) of the sheet material for feeding said forming station (3, 4) . 287.Apparatus for packaging a product (2) comprising a forming station (3, 4; 103, 104; 103', 104'; 203, 204) provided with cavity means (9; 109; 109'; 209) provided with a forming surface arranged for forming a cavity

(5a) on a portion of sheet material (5) suitable for receiving said product (2) in a subsequent filling station (G) , characterized in that said forming station (203, 204) comprises stop means (219, 230) arranged for receiving and blocking an adjacent cavity (5b) already formed on said sheet material (5) , when said portion of sheet material (5) is formed in said cavity means

(209) .

288. Apparatus according to claim 287, wherein said stop means (219, 230) comprises further cavity means (219) ., . . aligned to . and placed, downline of said cavity means.. . (209) in relation to. a feed direction (A) of said sheet material (5) , said further cavity means (219) being arranged for housing said adjacent cavity (5b) already formed.

289.Apparatus according to claim 288, wherein said stop means (219, 230) further comprises an abutting element (230) arranged for blocking said adjacent cavity (5b) already formed inside said further cavity means (219) . 290. Apparatus according to claim 288 or 289, wherein said forming station (203, 204) comprises punch means (204) and mould means (203) , the latter provided with said

cavity means (209) and with said further cavity means (219) .

291. Apparatus according to claim 290, wherein said mould means (203) and said punch means (204) are movable in a S forming direction (B) , transverse to feed direction (A) , between an opening condition (V) , wherein they are spaced from one another to allow said sheet material (5) to move forwards, and a closure condition (W) , wherein they abut substantially to form a cavity (5a)0 on said portion of sheet material (5) in said cavity means (209) and to block an adjacent cavity (5b) already formed in said further cavity means (219) . 292.Apparatus according to any of claims 287 to 291, wherein said cavity means (9; 109; 109'; 209; 219)) are5 further provided with a supporting surface suitable for supporting said undeformed sheet material (5) , and an inlet portion which surrounds an opening (11; 111; 211; 221) of said cavity means (9; 109; 109'; 209; 219), said inlet portion comprising sliding promoter means0 (10; 110; 210)) shaped for guiding a portion of said sheet of material (5) from a first configuration in which said sheet of material (5) faces said supporting surface, to a second configuration in which said sheet •of material faces said forming surface during forming.5 -. 293.Apparatus according to claim 292, wherein said sliding promoter means (10; 110) is arranged to surround said opening (11; 111; 211, 221) .

294.Apparatus according to claim 292 or 293, wherein said sliding promoter means (10; 110; 210)) comprises a0 sliding surface (130; 112; 212) suitable for interacting with said portion.

295.Apparatus according to claim 294, wherein projecting portions (12) and recessed portions (13) are made on said sliding surface (130) . 5 296.Apparatus according to claim 295 , wherein said projecting portions (12) and said recessed portions

(13) extend radially in such a way as to define a circle.

297. Apparatus according to claim 295 or 296, wherein each of said projecting portions (12) is adjacent to and placed between two recessed portions .

298.Apparatus according to any of claims 295 to 297, wherein each of said recessed portions (13) is adjacent to and placed between two projecting portions (12) .

299.Apparatus according to any of claims 292 to 298, wherein said sliding promoter means (110; 210) further comprises side wall means (114; 214) provided with sliding portions (115a, 115b, 115c, 115d; 215a, 215b, 215c, 215d) arranged for facilitating the sliding of said sheet of material (5) inside said cavity means (109; 209, 219) .

300.Apparatus according to claim 299, wherein said sliding portions comprise four main faces (115a, 115b, 115c, 115d; 215a, 215b, 215c, 215d) , arranged in twos, parallel and opposite, and inclined in relation to said feed direction (A) .

301. Apparatus according to claim 300, wherein said sliding main faces (115a, 115b, 115c, 115d; 215a, 215b, 215c, 215d) , are inclined in relation to said feed direction (A) by such an angle as ..to promote sliding of the sheet, of material ■ (5)- inside cavity means (109 ; .209 , ,.219jr. - . : 302. Apparatus according to claim 300 or 301, wherein said side wall means (114; 214) comprises further four secondary faces (116a, 116b, 116c, llβd; 216a, 216b, 216c, 216d) , arranged in twos, parallel and opposite, and relatively almost at right angles and parallel to said feed direction (A)-, each secondary face (116a, 116b, 116c, 116d; 216a, 216b, 216c, 216d) being placed between two consecutive main faces (115a, 115b, 115c, 115d; 215a, 215b, 215c, 215d) . 303.Apparatus according to any of claims 292 to 302, further comprising a presser element (14) arranged near

said sliding promoter means (10) for guiding said portion of said sheet of material (5) , 304.Apparatus according to claim 303, wherein said presser element (14) is provided with a central opening (15) having an extension greater than said opening (11) .

305.Apparatus according to any of claims 287 to 304, further comprising cutting means (40, 41) suitable for cutting said sheet of material (5) .

306.Apparatus according to claim 305, wherein said cutting means comprises a reciprocally movable first cutting member (40) and a second cutting member (41) . 307.Apparatus according to claim 306, wherein said first cutting member (40) and said second cutting member (41) are shaped to peripherally cut an area (34, 3S) of sheet of material which surrounds a containment cavity which is obtained from said sheet of material (5) . 308.Apparatus according to claim 307, wherein said first cutting member (40) comprises a surface (42) suitable for receiving in support said area (34, 38). 309. Apparatus according to claim 308, wherein said surface

(42) iø delimited by a lateral surface (46) . 310.Apparatus according to claim 309, wherein said second cutting member (41) comprises a cutting portion (43) arranged for acting against said surface (42) for '• cutting said area (34, 38) near' said .lateral surface

(46) . 311.Apparatus according to any of claims 307 to 309, and further comprising folding means (44, 45) arranged for folding said area (34, 33) in such a way that said area (34, 38) surrounds said containment cavity at least partly. 312. Apparatus according to claim 311, wherein said folding means comprises a passage duct (45) made on said first cutting member (4X) .

313.Apparatus according to claim 312, when claim 311 is appended to claim 310, wherein said passage duct {45) is surrounded by an end of said cutting portion (43) .

314.Apparatus according to claim 312 or 313, when claim 311 is appended to any of claims 3OS to 310, wherein said passage . duct (45) has a transverse section having an extension less than a further extension of said surface

(42) .

315. Apparatus according to any of claims 312 to 314, wherein said folding means comprises a pusher element

(44) arranged for pushing said area (34, 38) along said passage duct (45) .

316.Apparatus according to any of claims 307 to 315, further comprising a comb device (16) suitable for accumulating a certain amount o£ said sheet of material (5) near a forming area (C) in which said containment cavity is formed.

317.Apparatus according to claim 316, wherein said comb device (16) comprises a bar element (17) and a further bar element (18) arranged transversely to a feed direction (A) of said sheet of material (5) and transversely to a forming direction (B) of said sheet material (S) .

318.Apparatus according to claim 317, wherein said bar element (17) and said further bar element (18) are movable from a disengagement position (E) , in which they are spaced way from said sheet of material, to an operating position (F) , in which they arrange said sheet of material in such a. way as to define a first fold portion (19) and a second fold portion (20) of the sheet of material for feeding said cavity means (9) . 319.Apparatus according to any of claims 287 to 318, wherein said forming station (iO3, 104) comprises rod means (160) movable inside said cavity means (109') and co-operating with punch means (104') of said forming

station to mould said cavity of said portion of sheet of material in said forming surface.

320.Apparatus according to claim 319, wherein said rod means (160) are substantially aligned to said punch means (104') and movable with the latter, during forming of said cavity, along a forming direction (B) , 321. Apparatus according to claim 318 or 319, wherein said rod means (160) show an upper end suitable for abutting said sheet of material (5) .

Description:

Packaging unit, methods and apparatuses for packaging products.

The invention concerns a packaging unit, methods and apparatuses for packaging products. Packaging units are known, comprising a wrapping sheet of material such as aluminium, which is wrapped around a product, for example a chocolate. The wrapping comprises an edge area twisted around itself to define a closure area, in such a way as to cover an entire outer surface of the chocolate .

A cup-shaped element (the so-called "pleated cup") is provided, for example, made of paper, comprising a base from which a wavy wall projects out peripherally and transversely to surround the wrapping area. The wrapping and the cup- shaped element are held together by means of a certain amount of glue.

A drawback of known packaging units is that they do not make it possible to effectively preserve the product contained inside. Specifically, the wrapping is not able to prevent air from penetrating inside and this can, therefore, affect the quality of the product.

Another drawback of known packaging units is that, it may so happen, that the glue penetrates into the wrapping, contaminating the product it contains . ■ One object of the invention is ' to: improve the known packaging units .

An object of the invention is to provide a packaging unit capable of preserving the product and protecting it from the outside air. A further object of the invention is to provide an apparatus and a method which make it possible to package products in a simple, effective manner.

In a first aspect of the invention, there is provided a method for packaging a product, comprising introducing said product in a wrapping element, associating a cup-shaped element to said wrapping element in such a way that said

cup-shaped element contains, at least partially, said wrapping element, characterized in that said associating comprises welding said cup-shaped element and said wrapping element along a portion of said wrapping element delimiting an opening through which said product can be inserted in said wrapping element.

In a second aspect of the invention, a packaging unit is provided, comprising a wrapping element suitable for wrapping a product and provided with a portion which delimits an opening for inserting said product in said wrapping element, a cup-shaped element arranged for containing, at least partially, said wrapping element, characterized in that said cup-shaped element and said wrapping element are welded along said portion to close a cavity suitable for containing said product.

Owing to the first and second aspect of the invention, it is possible to obtain a packaging unit which allows better preservation of the product. Specifically, owing to welding between the wrapping element and the cup- shaped element, air is prevented from penetrating into the cavity. The product quality is thus preserved.

In a third aspect of the invention, there is provided a method comprising forming a wrapping element from a sheet material, introducing a product in said wrapping element, associating a further sheet .material with said wrapping element, characterized in that it further comprises folding said further sheet material to obtain a corrugated portion. In a fourth aspect of the invention, there is provided an apparatus for packaging a product, comprising a forming station suitable for forming a cavity from a portion of sheet material, a filling station suitable for filling said cavity with said product, a welding station suitable for closing said cavity with a further portion of sheet material, and a thermoforming station arranged downstream of said filling station suitable for thermoforming said sheet material .

In a fifth aspect of the invention, there is provided an apparatus, comprising welding means comprising a first welding member and a second welding member reciprocally movable to lock therebetween areas of a first sheet material and of a second sheet material, characterized in that said first welding member and said second welding member have such welding surfaces as to generate a non-planar welding. In a sixth aspect of the invention, there is provided an apparatus comprising a heat-welding station suitable for- heat-welding a portion of sheet material and a further portion of sheet material, shape stabilizing means comprising a first shape stabilizing member and a second shape stabilizing member reciprocally movable for locking and cooling areas of said sheet material, said first shape stabilizing member and said second shape stabilizing member being provided with such shape stabilizing surfaces as to generate a non-planar surface on said sheet material. Owing to the invention, it is possible to obtain geometrically complex packaging units which, in addition to having an aesthetically pleasing appearance are able to effectively preserve the quality of a product contained in them. Specifically, it is possible to generate a cup-shaped element, arranged ■ for containing, at least partly, the wrapping element during the packaging of the product, . with consequent ..reduction of production times -and cos_ts..

In a seventh aspect of the invention, there is provided an apparatus, comprising cavity means provided with a forming surface suitable for forming a sheet material, with a supporting surface suitable for supporting said undeformed sheet of material, and with an inlet portion which surrounds an opening of said cavity means, characterized in that said inlet portion comprises sliding promoting means shaped for guiding a portion of said sheet material from a first configuration in which said sheet material faces said supporting surface, to a second configuration in which said

sheet material faces said forming surface during the forming .

Owing to this aspect of the invention, it is possible to bring the sheet of material from a flat configuration to a concave configuration in order to obtain a wrapping element more precisely.

In an eighth aspect of the invention, there is provided an apparatus, comprising shearing means for shearing a sheet material, comprising a first shearing member and a second shearing member reciprocally movable for separating a portion of sheet material from said sheet material, characterized in that said shearing means further comprises folding means shaped for folding said portion of sheet material . In a ninth aspect of the invention, there is provided an apparatus for packaging a product comprising a forming station provided with cavity means provided with a forming surface arranged for forming on a portion of sheet material a cavity suitable for receiving said product in a subsequent filling station, characterized in that said forming station comprises stop means arranged for receiving and blocking an adjacent cavity already formed on said sheet material, when said portion of sheet material is formed in said cavity means.. Owing to this aspect .of- the invention, it is possible to mould in sequence on the sheet of material which is unwound from a reel and fed along a forward direction, a plurality of cavities suitable for receiving respective products, aligned and regularly spaced from one another by a required pitch. During the working of the apparatus, an adjacent cavity already formed and located downline is inserted in a reference cavity of stop means and housed therein and blocked by an abutting element . The stop means thus blocks the sheet material arranged downstream in such a way that the cavity formed by the forming surface is spaced by the required pitch from the adjacent cavity already formed.

The invention will be better understood and carried into effect with reference to the attached drawings, in which some embodiments are shown by way of non- limiting example, in which: Figure 1 is a lateral schematic and partially sectioned view of an apparatus for packaging a product ;

Figure 2 shows a portion of the apparatus of Figure 1;

Figure 3 is a schematic top view of a portion of the apparatus of Figure 1; Figures 4 to 7 show schematic operating configurations of the apparatus of Figure 1;

Figure 8 is a schematic section of a first embodiment of the packaging unit;

Figure 9 is a schematic section of a second embodiment of the packaging unit;

Figure 10 is a schematic section of another embodiment of the apparatus for packaging products, in a first operating configuration;

Figure 11 is a schematic plan view of a portion of the apparatus of Figure 10;

Figure 12 is a schematic section of the apparatus of Figure

10 in a second operating configuration;

Figure 13 is a schematic section of the apparatus of Figure

10 in a third operating .configuration; . , . Figure '14 is a schematic section of a moulding station of a further embodiment of the apparatus for packaging products, in an operating configuration;

Figure 15 is a plan view of the moulding station of Figure

14, in which some parts have been removed to better highlight the others;

Figure 16 is a perspective view of the moulding station of

Figure 14, in which some parts have been removed and others have been spaced from one another for better understanding;

Figure 17 is a schematic section of a moulding station of a further embodiment of the apparatus for packaging products, in an operating configuration;

Figures 18 and 19 are sections of a moulding station of a further embodiment of the apparatus for packaging, products, in an opening condition and a closing condition, respectively;

5 Figure 20 is a plan view of the moulding station of Figure 18, in which some parts have been removed to better highlight the others;

Figure 21 is a lateral view of the moulding station of Figure 18, in the opening condition;

10 Figure 22 is a perspective view of the moulding station of Figure 21, in which some parts have been removed to better highlight the others;

Figures 1 to 7 show an apparatus 1 for packaging a product 2, using a sheet of material 5 which is unwound from a roll

15 6 and is made to move along feed. A.

Apparatus 1 comprises a plurality of mould elements 3 which are made to move by steps in feed direction A. The mould elements 3 move along a closed path H, so that, at the end of each operating cycle, they can again be arranged near a

20 moulding region C.

Apparatus 1 comprises a punch element 4 , movable in moulding direction B transverse to feed direction A, which cooperates with one mould element 3 at a time for processing the sheet

. .of material 5 in moulding region C and obtaining a wrapping

25 .: 21 of a packaging unit 2.2..,'."Bunch ielement 4 is provided with, an irregular surface 7 (better shown in Figure 2) which serves to obtain irregular shaped areas on the sheet of material 5 to generate an aesthetically pleasing effect. The punch element 4 may be provided with ducts 33 by means

30 of which air can be sucked in to make the sheet of material 5 adhere perfectly to the irregular surface.

Each mould element 3 comprises a moulding cavity 9, shaped to receive inside it part of the sheet of material 5 and punch element 4 in a moulding configuration S . Mould element

35 3 is provided with suction ducts 8 by means of which air is sucked into moulding cavity 9 in such a way that the sheet

of material 5 can be retained inside the latter while punch element 4 moves away from mould element 3 after the moulding .

In an embodiment of apparatus 1, punch element 4 has a 5 . substantially smooth surface, while moulding cavity 9 is provided with a further irregular surface . During the moulding, the air sucked in through suction ducts 8 forces the sheet of material 5 to stick to the further irregular surface in such a way as to create irregular shaped areas on0 it.

Each mould element 3 is provided on top with a sliding promoter element 10 suitable for interacting with the sheet of material 5 in such a way that the latter can penetrate correctly into moulding cavity 9. The sliding promoter5 element 10 is crown shaped and surrounds an inlet section 11 of moulding cavity 9. The sliding promoter element 10 comprises a sliding wall or surface 130 and is provided on top with a plurality of projecting portions 12 and a plurality of recessed portions 13 extending radially in such0 a way as to define a circle and arranged for interacting with the sheet of material 5. Each projecting portion 12 is adjacent to and placed between two recessed portions 13. Similarly, each recessed portion 13 is adjacent to and placed between two projecting portions 12. . .. • < .5 When the sheet of material 5 slides along ..sliding promoter element 10 to enter moulding cavity 9, the projecting portions 12 and the recessed portions 13 act on the sheet of material 5 in such a way that it can be deformed suitably to pass from a flat configuration to a substantially concave0 configuration.

A presser element 14 is provided, arranged near sliding promoter element 10 which serves to guide the sheet of material 5. When the punch element 4 acts to introduce a portion of the5 sheet of material inside moulding cavity 9, the sheet of material 5 can slide correctly between sliding promoter

element 10 and presser element 14. Presser element 14 is provided with a central opening 15 (shown in Figure 2) through which punch element 4 can pass to reach moulding cavity 9. The central opening 15 extends in such a way that 5 the projecting portions 12 and the recessed portions 13 are free and not covered by presser element 14. Presser element 14 thus does not interfere with a portion of the sheet of material 5 near the inlet section 11, allowing it to deform suitably during interaction between the projecting portions

10 12 and the recessed portions 13.

Apparatus 1 comprises a comb device 16 which serves to accumulate a certain quantity of sheet of material 5 in accumulation areas D near moulding area C. Comb device 16 comprises a bar element 17 and a further bar element 18

15 arranged transverse to feed direction A and moulding direction B. Bar element 17 and further bar element 18 are movable parallel to moulding direction B from a disengagement position E, in which they are separated from the sheet of material 5 and arranged on the opposite side of

20 mould element 3 in relation to the sheet of material 5, to an operating position F, in which they are arranged alongside mould element 3 and are farther away from presser element 14 in relation to sliding promoter element 10. By passing from the. disengagement position E to operating

25 ...position F, bar element 17 and further, bar element 18 move the sheet of material 15 in such a way that a first fold portion 19 and a second fold position 20 are defined in it. Thus, during the moulding, mould element 3 which is in moulding region C is fed with a portion of sheet of material

30 5 which concerns the first fold portion 19 and the second fold portion 20.

A filling station G is provided downline of moulding station C, for introducing product 2 inside wrapping 21. Downline of filling station G operating means are provided

35 which associate with wrapping 21 a further sheet of material 23, having, for example, the same width as the sheet of

material 5, which is unwound from a further roll 24 and is overlapped on inlet section 11.

In one embodiment of apparatus 1, a cutting station is provided upline of the operating means which serves to cut the sheet of material 5 creating an edge area 21 of. wrapping 21. A substantially flat ring-shaped portion 28, surrounding inlet section 11, is further obtained, on wrapping 21, which is thus separated from sheet of material 5. This makes it possible to subsequently obtain a packaging unit 22 provided with a peelable opening 29, as better shown in Figure 9.

Downline of the operating means, a sealing station 26 is provided, which serves to seal wrapping 21 and further sheet of material 23 reciprocally. Sealing station 26 comprises a sealing punch 31 provided with an operating surface 32 which is heated and which interacts with sliding promoter element 10. Operating surface 32 is shaped similar to sliding promoter element 10, i.e. it is provided with further projecting portions and further recessed portions arranged radially alternately. The further projecting portions and the further recessed portions are offset by a certain angular extent with respect to projecting portions 12 and recessed portions 13 so that, during the sealing, each further projecting portion of sealing punch 31 can be received in a corresponding recessed portion 13 of sliding promoter element .10..: Similarly, each projecting- 'portion 12 of sliding promoter element 10 can be received in a corresponding further recessed portion of sealing punch 31. This makes it possible to seal wrapping 21 and further sheet of material 23 along a perimeter area which surrounds inlet section 11 so as to obtain a continuous sealing area 30 which prevents air from penetrating and reaching product 2. The continuous sealing area 30 may have a more limited extension, if a peelable opening 29 shown in Figure 9 is to be obtained, or it may have such an extension as to involve a wider area of the sheet of material 5 and of further sheet

of material 23, to obtain the packaging unit 22 shown in Figure 8.

Operating surface 32 interacts with sliding promoter element 10 to shape further sheet of material 23, generating a 5 crown-shaped portion having a wavy surface. This crown- shaped portion is a precursor of cup- shaped element 34 intended to contain wrapping 21 at least partly. It is- possible to envisage that operating surface 32 will cooperate with sliding promoter element 10 to shape the

10 sheet of material 5 as well as the further sheet of material 23. In this case, the precursor of cup-shaped element 34 obtained comprises a double layer portion of sheet of material . Downline of sealing station 26 a shape stabilization station

15 35 is provided, which serves to cool and stabilize the continuous sealing area 30 and an area which concerns the precursor of cup-shaped element 34. Shape stabilization station 35 comprises a shape stabilizer element 36, provided with a shape stabilizer surface 37 which is cooled and

20 shaped in a manner similar to sliding promoter element 10, i.e., it is provided with still further projecting portions and still further recessed portions arranged radially alternately. The still further projecting portions and the still ■ further recessed portions are offset by a certain

25. ' angular extent with respect to projection portions 12 and recessed portions 13 so that, during the stabilization, each still further projecting portion of shape stabilizer element 36 can be received in a corresponding recessed portion 13 of sliding promoter element 10. Similarly, each projecting

30 portion 12 of sliding promoter element 10 can be received in a corresponding still further recessed portion of shape stabilizer element 36. This makes it possible to cool continuous sealing area 30 and the precursor of cup- shaped element 24, in such a way that a corrugated surface 38 is

35 defined on the latter.

Downline of shape stabilizer station 35, a cutting- folding station 39 is provided, which serves to cut the sheet of material 5 and the further sheet of material 23, if the packaging unit of Figure 8 is produced, or only the further sheet of material 23, if the packaging unit of Figure 9 is produced.

The cutting-folding station 39 comprises a first cutting member 40 and a second cutting member 41 reciprocally movable parallel to moulding direction B. The first cutting member 40 comprises a crown-shaped operating surface 42, cooperating with a cutting portion 43 of second cutting member 41. The operating surface 42 and the cutting portion 43 cut a portion of a sheet of material which is surrounded by a cylindrical surface 46 of the first cutting member 40 in such a way as to obtain the precursor of cup- shaped element 34. In one embodiment, if the packaging unit 22 shown in Figure 8 is produced, the cutting-folding station 39 generates a cut 25 which serves to facilitate the opening of packaging unit 22. A pusher 44 is provided for pushing packaging unit 22 through a passage duct 45 made in second cutting member 41. Specifically, during operation, the first cutting member 40 and the second cutting member 41 are spaced from one another after the cutting to -such an extent as to release the. precursor of .cup- shaped element 34. At this .point ,..pusher.--44" acts in such a way that the precursor of cup-shaped element 34 is removed from an area placed between cutting portion 43 and operating surface 42, and acts with cylindrical surface 46. The precursor of cup-shaped element 34 having an extension greater than the transverse section of passage duct 45 folds in such a way as to surround part of wrapping 21, as shown in Figures 8 and 9.

During the working, the sheet of material 5 moves forward by one step in the feed direction A and subsequently the comb device 16 is activated which further unwinds the sheet of material 5 from roll 6 in such a way that the first fold

portion 19 and the second fold portion 20 are generated, as shown in Figure 5. Punch element 4 pushes part of the sheet of material 5 into moulding cavity 9, so that the latter is fed with sheet of material taken from accumulation areas D. Thus , a remaining part of the sheet of material 5 further downline of moulding area C is not moved.

While punch element 4 advances in moulding cavity 9, air is sucked in through ducts 33. When the end-of-travel is reached, air suction through ducts 33 is stopped and air is sucked in through suction ducts 8 to retain the shaped sheet of material . Mould element 3 is moved forward by the same step towards filling station G where product 2 is introduced inside wrapping 21. Subsequently, mould element 3 moves forward near operator means which associate further sheet of material 23 with wrapping 21. The further sheet of material 23 and sheet of material 5 supporting wrapping 21 are moved forwards towards sealing station 26 to create the continuous sealing area 30 and fold the precursor of cup-shaped element 34. Subsequently, wrapping 21 and further sheet of material 23 are brought to shape stabilization station 35 which acts to stabilize the shape of the cup-shaped element precursor 34. Wrapping 21 and further sheet of material 23 are separated from mould element 3 and are arranged in cutting- folding station 39 to be processed as described earlier. Ther , packaging unit 22 thus- obtained"?:is., then moved away from apparatus 1 by means of a conveyor 47.

Figures 10 to 13 show another embodiment of apparatus 1 for packaging products 2 comprising a plurality of further mould elements 48 arranged for processing disk- shaped portions of sheet of material. The further mould elements 48 can be arranged peripherally and angularly equidistant from one another on a rotating carousel which is rotated in steps. Alternatively, the further mould elements 48 can be moved, for example, by means of conveyor belts or other moving means, along a substantially rectilinear closed path, similarly to that described with reference to Figure 1.

Each further mould element 48, comprises a further moulding cavity 49, suitable for moulding wrapping 21, and ducts for sucking in air from further moulding cavity 49 during the working . A bar element 60 is provided, movable in a direction L inside a longitudinal cavity made in further mould element 48 and which is connected to further moulding cavity 48. An upper end of bar element 60 comprises a suction opening 61 of a duct that serves to take in air during the working. The further moulding cavity 49 is surrounded laterally by a truncated-conical portion 50 provided with a truncated- conical surface 51, converging upwards, corrugated and arranged outside further moulding cavity 49. The truncated-conical surface 51 is provided with first projecting portions 52 and first recessed portions 53 distributed alternately.

First suction ducts 59 are provided, which serve to take in air through the truncated-conical surface 51 during the working, as described below. The truncated-conical portion 50 is delimited at the top by a first ring-shaped surface 56 provided with second projecting portions 57 and second recessed portions 58 distributed radially alternately. The further mould element 48 comprises a first ring-shaped. cavity 54 which, surrounds the truncated- conical portion 50_. and which is delimited at the top by a circular supporting surface 55 suitable for receiving the sheet of material to support it. The circular supporting surface 55 is delimited peripherally by a cylindrical surface 63 so that a disk- shaped seat 64 is defined.

Second suction ducts 65 are provided, arranged below the disk-shaped seat 64, which, during the working, suck out air through circular supporting surface 55. A second ring-shaped surface 66 is provided on an area of the circular supporting surface 55 nearer the first ring-

1

shaped cavity 54, having third projecting portions 61 and third recessed portions 68, arranged radially alternately. Supporting elements 62 are provided, movable in direction L, from a position in which they are arranged below first ring- shaped cavity 54 to another position in which they project through the first ring-shaped cavity 54 to project at least partly in relation to truncated-conical portion 50. Apparatus 1 comprises a first operating unit 69 positioned in an operating area M and arranged for interacting with one further mould element 48 at a time to shape a first disk- shaped portion 91 of the sheet of material and obtain wrapping 21.

The first operating unit 69 comprises a further presser element 70, movable in direction L, and arranged for pressing the sheet of material against the further mould element 48 and for shaping it .

Further presser element 70 is provided with a central cavity 72 inside which a punch 71 is provided, movable in direction L. Punch 71 co-operates with bar element 60 and with further moulding cavity 49 for shaping the sheet of material.

The central cavity 72 is delimited laterally by a first cylindrical portion 73 provided below with a third ring- shaped surface 74 arranged for co-operating with the first .ringrshaped surface 56. - ■ '.."The third ring-shaped surface 74 compxises^fo.urth projecting portions 75 and fourth recessed portions 76 arranged radially, alternately. The fourth projecting portions 75 and the fourth recessed portions 76 and angularly out-of-phase to a certain extent in relation to second projecting portions 57 and to second recessed portions 58. Each second recessed portion 58 can receive inside it a corresponding fourth projecting portion 75, and each fourth recessed portion 76 can receive inside it a corresponding second projecting portion 57. Inside further presser element 70 a second ring-shaped cavity 77 is provided, which surrounds the first cylindrical

portion 73. Inside the second ring-shaped cavity 77 a ring- shaped moulding element 78 is housed, movable in relation to the latter in direction L.

The ring-shaped moulding element 78 comprises inside it a 5 further truncated-conical surface 79, converging upwards and arranged for co-operating with truncated-conical surface 51. The further truncated-conical surface 19 comprises fifth projecting portions 80 and fifth recessed portions 81 arranged radially, alternately. The fifth projecting

10 portions 80 and the fifth recessed portions 81 . are angularly offset to a certain extent in relation to the first projecting portions 52 and to the first recessed portions 53. Each first recessed portion 53 can thus receive inside it a corresponding fifth projecting portion 80, and each

15 fifth recessed portion 81 can receive inside it a corresponding first projecting portion 52.

The further presser element 70 comprises more peripherally a second cylindrical portion 82 which delimits the second ring-shaped cavity 77.

20 The second cylindrical portion 82 is provided below with a fourth ring-shaped surface 83, arranged for co-operating with the second ring-shaped surface 66 ' .

The fourth ring-shaped surface 83 comprises sixth projecting portions 84 and sixth recessed portions 85 arranged

25 radially, alternately. The sixth projecting portions.; 84 --and the sixth recessed portions 85 are angularly offset to a certain extent in relation to the third projecting portions 67 and to the third recessed portions 68. Each third recessed portion 68 can thus receive inside it a

30 corresponding sixth projecting portion 84, and each sixth recessed portion 85 can receive inside it a corresponding third projecting portion 67.

Apparatus 1, with reference to Figure 13, comprises a second operating unit 86 positioned in a further operating area N

35 and arranged for interacting with one further mould element 48 at a time to process a second disk- shaped portion 92 of

the sheet of material. The second operating unit 86 comprises a further ring-shaped moulding element 87, movable closer to and farther away from further mould element 48. The further ring-shaped moulding element 87 co-operates with the truncated-conical portion 50 to shape an area of the second disk-shaped portion 92 to obtain a corrugated surface. The further ring-shaped moulding element 87 can, further, seal a peripheral area of the second disk-shaped portion 92 on wrapping 21 obtained from the first disk- shaped portion to obtain the packaging unit of Figure 8.

The further ring-shaped moulding element 87 comprises inside it a still further truncated-conical surface 88, converging upwards and arranged for co-operating with truncated-conical surface 51. The still further truncated-conical surface 88 comprises seventh projecting portions 89 and seventh recessed portions 90 arranged radially, alternately. The seventh projecting portions 89 and the seventh recessed portions 90 are angularly offset to a certain degree in relation to the first projecting portions 52 and to the first recessed portions 53. In this manner, each first recessed portion 53 can receive inside it a corresponding seventh projecting portion 89, and each seventh recessed portion 90 can receive inside it a corresponding first projecting portion 52. The second operating unit 86 comprises a moulder-sealer element 93 which serves to shape an area of the second disk- shaped portion 92 and to seal the latter to wrapping 21. The moulder-sealer element 93 is arranged coaxially to further ring-shaped moulder element 87, and is movable closer to and farther away from further mould element 48. The moulder- sealer element 93 has a ring-shaped projection 94 below comprising a fifth ring-shaped surface 95 suitable for interacting with the first ring-shaped surface 56. The fifth ring-shaped surface 95 is provided with eighth projecting portions 96 and eighth recessed portions 97 arranged radially and alternately. The eighth projecting

portions 96 and the eighth recessed portions 91 are angularly offset to a certain extent in relation to the second projecting portions 57 and to the second recessed portions 58. Each second recessed portion 58 can thus receive inside it a corresponding eighth projecting portion 96, and each eighth recessed portion 97 can receive inside it a corresponding second projecting portion 57. During the working, a first disk-shaped portion 91 of the sheet of material is lodged in disk-shaped seat 64 of a further mould element 48 and the latter is positioned in operating area M to interact with the first operating unit 69. The further presser element 70 moves close to further mould element in such a way that the first disk-shaped portion 91 is locked between first ring-shaped surface 56 and third ring-shaped surface 74, and between second ring- shaped surface 66 and fourth ring-shaped surface 83. Punch 71 is moved forwards to push the first disk- shaped portion 91 into further moulding cavity 49 to shape it. Bar element 60, initially positioned closer to further presser element 70, co-operates with punch 71 pushing the first disk-shaped portion 91 against the latter. During the forming, bar element 60 and punch 71 move forwards together, dragging the first disk-shaped portion 91 into further moulding cavity 49. - .. . .. . Further presser element'.70 presses with a force which -"±s. sufficient to shape ring-shaped areas of first disk-shaped portion 91, but which makes it possible for the latter to slide because of the effect of the action of punch 71, between first ring-shaped surface 56 and third ring-shaped surface 74, and between second ring-shaped surface 66 and fourth ring-shaped surface 83. In this manner, during the movement of punch 71 in further moulding cavity 49, ring- shaped areas arranged progressively in the more peripheral regions of the first disk-shaped region 91 are induced to move forwards radially in such a way as to create corrugated surface 38.

The first ring-shaped surface 56 and the third ring-shaped surface 74 act as sliding promoter means suitable for interacting with the first disk- shaped portion 91 in such a way that the latter can penetrate correctly into moulding cavity 49.

The intake opening 61 and the ducts for sucking in air act in such a way as to make the sheet of material adhere to the surface of further moulding cavity 49 and retain it in the latter until the end of the moulding, i.e. when the punch is moved away from further mould element 48. The second suction ducts act in such a way as to keep the sheet of material adhering to the circular supporting surface 55. Ring-shaped moulding element 78 is moved forwards towards the first ring-shaped cavity 54 in such a way that the outer most areas of the first disk-shaped portion 91 are folded to adhere to truncated-conical surface 51. A first corrugated surface 98 is thus obtained on the first disk- shaped portion 91. Subsequently, the further mould element 48, once disengaged from first operating unit 69, is moved towards a filling station in such a way that a product 2 is introduced into wrapping 21 just formed. The supporting elements 62, once projected at least partly outside the first ring-shaped cavity 54, receive in. support a second disk-shaped portion 92 of the sheet of material which must be processed to obtain a. cup-shaped 1 element 34 to. . -be: associated with" wrapping 21.

The further mould element 48 is positioned in further operating area N to interact with the second operating unit 86. The moulder- sealer element 93 and the further ring- shaped moulding element 87 move forwards towards further mould element 48. The fifth ring-shaped surface 95 presses the second disk- shaped portion against the first ring-shaped surface 56 in such a way as to shape it and can generate a ring-shaped sealing between the second disk-shaped portion and wrapping element 21 which make it possible to obtain a peelable opening of the packaging unit.

The further ring-shaped moulding element 87 is gradually- introduced in the first ring-shaped cavity 54, and the supporting elements 62 are retracted downwards. The still further truncated-conical surface 88 folds a peripheral portion of the second disk- shaped portion 92 towards the first corrugated surface 98 in such a way that a second corrugated surface is created on the second disk-shaped portion 92. The second corrugated surface and the first corrugated surface 98 can, thus, be sealed reciprocally to obtain the packaging unit shown in Figure 8. A cutting device may be provided, arranged, for example, upline of operating area M, which acts on the first disk- shaped portion and the second disk- shaped portion 92 in such a way as to obtain cut 25 at the end of the packaging. With reference to Figures 14 to 16, another embodiment of apparatus 1 is shown, in which each mould element 103 is provided on top with a sliding promoter element 110 suitable for interacting with the sheet of material 5 in such a way that the latter can correctly penetrate moulding cavity 109 of said mould element 103.

The sliding promoter element 110 has a substantially parallelepiped shape and has an opening 113 at an inlet section 111 for moulding cavity 109. The sliding promoter element 110 is provided with . an upper substantially flat. sliding surface or wall. 1 ."112 and .a lateral wall 114 provided with a plurality of sliding portions 115a, 115b, 115c, 115d arranged and shaped to facilitate sliding of said sheet of material inside moulding cavity 109. The sliding portions comprise, for example, four main faces 115a, 115b, 115c, 115d arranged in twos, parallel and opposite, and inclined in relation to feed direction A. The side wall 114 further comprises four secondary faces 116a, 116b, 116c, 116d arranged in twos, parallel and opposite, and respectively almost at right angles and parallel to said feed direction (A) . Each secondary face

116a, 116b, 116c, 116d is placed between two main consecutive and adjacent faces 115a, 115b, 115c, 115d. At par with the upper sliding wall 112, the main faces 115a, 115b, 115c, 115d of lateral wall 114 interact with the sheet of material 5, and specifically, with a first fold portion 119 and a second fold portion 120 formed by said sheet of material 5 in accumulation areas, by bar element 17 and further bar element 18 of comb device 16, described earlier, respectively. The inclination of the main faces 115a, 115b, 115c, 115d in relation to feed direction A is such as to allow better sliding of the sheet of material 5 inside moulding cavity 109. Specifically, the main faces 115a, 115b, 115c, 115d inclined, for example by 45°, act on the sheet of material 5 in such a way that it can be deformed to pass from a flat configuration to a substantially concave configuration and form a cavity 5a, 5b suitable for subsequently receiving a product 2 to be packaged. With reference to Figure 17, a still further embodiment of apparatus 1 is shown, in which a rod element 160 is provided, movable inside a longitudinal cavity made in mould element 103' and which is connected to moulding cavity 109' . Rod element 160 is substantially aligned to punch element 104' and movable -.with, the latter along moulding direction B, during.-'the moulding of said sheet of material. 5.- :. .. .

An upper end of rod element 160 is arranged for engaging in moulding said sheet of material 5 and may comprise a suction opening of a duct for suction of air during the working. The rod element 160 acts as a counter-punch and co-operates with punch element 104' and with moulding cavity 109' to shape the sheet of material 5. Specifically, the upper end of the counter-punch element 160 is so shaped as to abut an opposite portion of punch element 104' and block a portion of the sheet of material 5 during the moulding of the latter and prevent its shifting in a direction transverse to feed direction A.

With reference to Figures 18 to 22, a further embodiment of apparatus 1 is shown, in which a mould element 203 is provided with a moulding cavity 209 and a further reference cavity 219, the latter being aligned to and placed downline of said moulding cavity 209 in relation to feed direction A of sheet of material 5.

Cavities 209, 219 are substantially identical and are placed at a distance equal to a pitch which divides two cavities 5a, 5b formed and adjacent on sheet of material 5. Mould element 203 is provided on top with respective sliding promoter elements 210 suitable for interacting with the sheet of material 5 so that the latter can correctly penetrate into moulding cavity 209 and in reference cavity 219, respectively. The sliding promoter elements 210 are substantially similar to sliding promoter element 110 of the embodiment of the apparatus of Figures 14 to 16, described earlier. Specifically, each sliding promoter element 210 has an opening 213 at an inlet section 211 of moulding cavity 209 and an inlet section 221 of reference cavity 219, respectively. Each sliding promoter element 210 is further provided with an upper, substantially flat sliding wall 212 and a lateral wall 214 formed by the four main faces 215a, 215b, 215c, 215d, inclined in relation to feed direction A and four secondary faces.216a, 216b, 216c, 216d.

During the working of this embodiment of apparatus 1, while a portion of the sheet of material 5 is deformed by punch element 204 in moulding cavity 209 to form a cavity 5a suitable for receiving said product 2, an adjacent cavity 5b, already formed and located downline, is inserted in reference cavity 219 and lodged and blocked therein between the respective sliding promoter element 210 r and an upper abutting element 230, on a lower wall of which the sheet of material 5 slides. The reference cavity 219 and abutting element 230 thus act as stop means capable of blocking the sheet of material 5 downline in such a way that cavity 5a

formed by punch element 204 in moulding cavity 209 is spaced, by the required pitch, from adjacent cavity 5b, already formed and located downline.

The embodiment of apparatus 1 of Figures 18 to 22 differs from the previous apparatus described in that mould element 203, at the moulding station, also moves in moulding direction B opposite to that of punch element 204. Specifically, mould element 203 and punch element 204 are movable in moulding direction B, between an opening condition V (Figure 18) , where they are spaced from each other to allow said sheet of material 5 to move forwards, and a closure condition W (Figure 19) , in which they substantially abut mutually to form a cavity 5a on said portion of sheet of material 5 in said moulding cavity 209, in co-operation with punch element 204, and to block an adjacent cavity 5b already formed inside reference cavity 219, in cooperation with abutting element 230. The latter is fixed and has openings for the passage of punch element 204 and bar elements 17, 18 of comb device 16, described earlier.