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Title:
SHELF READY PACKAGING
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2016/046566
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
The packaging comprises a length of elastic tape (10) secured at or towards its ends to foldable sheet material (12), in which at the time that the length of elastic tape is so secured: i) the length of elastic tape is bent and twisted and ii) the foldable sheet material is not in its fully erected configuration, so that as the foldable sheet material is folded towards its fully erected configuration the length of elastic tape is untwisted and deployed to a position in which it can be stretched to extend behind contents loaded into the packaging so as to bias the contents in a predetermined direction, e.g. to a zone for display to or removal by a customer. Corresponding methods and apparatus for manufacturing such packaging are also disclosed.

Inventors:
GEE, Steven (Smurfit Kappa South West, Woodward Avenue, Yate Bristol BS37 5AP, BS37 5AP, GB)
MURFITT, Alan (Smurfit Kappa South West, Woodward Avenue, Yate Bristol BS37 5AP, BS37 5AP, GB)
WEEKS, Matthew (Smurfit Kappa Machine Systems, Woodward Avenue, Yate Bristol BS37 5AP, BS37 5AP, GB)
FRANCIS, Mark (Smurfit Kappa Machine Systems, Woodward Avenue, Yate Bristol BS37 5AP, BS37 5AP, GB)
STUART, Christopher (Smurfit Kappa South West, Woodward Avenue, Yate Bristol BS37 5AP, BS37 5AP, GB)
Application Number:
GB2015/052786
Publication Date:
March 31, 2016
Filing Date:
September 25, 2015
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
SMURFIT KAPPA UK LTD (Cunard Buildings, Water Street Pier Head, Liverpool Merseyside L3 1SF, L3 1SF, GB)
International Classes:
B65D83/08; B31B50/04
Domestic Patent References:
WO2015071327A12015-05-21
Foreign References:
GB2503677A2014-01-08
CN2858292Y2007-01-17
US2774467A1956-12-18
US7481313B12009-01-27
US2937742A1960-05-24
DE102004015576A12005-11-03
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
PHILLIPS & LEIGH (5 Pemberton Row, London, EC4A 3BA, EC4A 3BA, GB)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS

1. Packaging or an insert for use in packaging, comprising a blank formed from foldable sheet material and a length of elastic tape having ends attached to the blank;

the blank prior to filling with contents to be packaged having a first configuration in which the attached length of elastic tape is bent and twisted;

the blank being foldable to a second configuration in which it is erected for filling with the contents to be packaged and in which the length of elastic tape is not twisted and is arranged for biasing the contents towards one side of the packaging or insert in use.

2. The packaging or insert of claim 1, in which the ends of the length of elastic tape attached to the blank run generally parallel to each other when the blank is in the first configuration. 3. The packaging or insert of claim 1 or 2, in which the ends of the length of elastic tape attached to the blank are substantially co-planar when the blank is in the first configuration.

4. The packaging or insert of claim 1, 2 or 3, in which the elastic tape comprises knitted or woven elastic.

5. The packaging or insert of any preceding claim in which the foldable sheet material is at least partly erectable to form at least a part of a container having an opening through which contents may be loaded into the container, the opening being spanned by the length of elastic tape.

6. The packaging or insert of claim 4 in which the opening is closable to retain the contents when the foldable sheet material has been fully erected. 7. The packaging or insert of any preceding claim in which folding the blank from the first configuration to the second configuration eliminates slack or increases tension in the length of elastic tape.

8. The packaging or insert of any preceding claim in which in the first configuration the length of elastic tape is at least partly under tension.

9. The packaging or insert of claim 8 in which the length of elastic tape biases at least a part of the blank towards the second configuration.

10. The packaging or insert of any preceding claim in which the foldable sheet material comprises a base panel at opposite edges of which a pair of side panels are hingedly attached; a front panel hingedly attached along a third edge of the base panel; a front securing flap hingedly attached to a front edge of each side panel and securable to form a part of the front panel and thereby hold the front and side panels erect; a respective end of the length of elastic tape being secured to a respective one of the front securing flaps, each end extending in a direction transversely of and across the corresponding side panel front edge.

11. The packaging or insert of claim 10 in which in the first configuration of the blank the front securing flaps lie substantially in a common plane.

12. The packaging or insert of claim 10 in which in the first configuration of the blank the front securing flaps, side and base panels are all co-planar.

13. The packaging or insert of claim 10, 11 or 12, in which the length of elastic tape comprises a strip or tape and when the side panels are folded to the second configuration of the blank the strip or tape untwists and deploys to a position spanning the opening between the side panels.

14. The packaging or insert of claim 10, 11 or 12, in which a portion of each front securing flap is doubled over and secured to a remaining portion of the front securing flap so as to sandwich the corresponding end of the length of elastic tape.

15. The packaging or insert of any of claims 10-14 in which the front securing flaps may be folded inwardly and the front panel folded and secured to the front securing flaps.

16. The packaging or insert of any of claims 10-15 in which at least a portion of the length of elastic tape is held under tension when the blank is in the first configuration.

17. The packaging or insert of any of claims 1-9 in which the foldable sheet material comprises a base panel at opposite side edges of which a pair of side panels are hingedly attached; a front panel hingedly attached along a third edge of the base panel; front securing flaps being hingedly attached to side edges of the front panel and the side panels comprising respective fold lines extending from front to rear of the packaging or insert. 18. The packaging or insert of claim 17 in which in the first configuration of the blank the side panels are folded inwardly about the base panel side edges and their outer ends are folded outwardly about the front to rear extending fold lines.

19. The packaging or insert of claim 18 in which the ends of the length of elastic tape are secured to the outer ends of the side panels at or near the side panel front ends and in the first configuration of the blank the length of elastic tape is bent and twisted into a generally U- shape.

20. The packaging or insert of any of claims 17-19 in which the front panel may be folded erect, and the front securing flaps folded so that they may be secured to the outside of the side panels.

21. The packaging or insert of any of claims 17-19 comprising a return flap foldably attached to a font edge of a said side panel, and to which a said end of the elastic tape is attached.

22. The packaging or insert of any of claims 10-15 in which the base panel has a fold line allowing opposing portions of the base panel to be folded so as to lie near to each other. 23. The packaging or insert of claim 22 in which the side panels may be folded to lie in a common plane when the blank is in the first configuration.

24. The packaging or insert of claim 22 or 23 in which the base panel is unfolded about the base panel fold line to move the front securing flaps apart and change the blank from the first configuration to the second configuration, thereby reducing slackness of the elastic tape. 25. The packaging or insert of any of claims 1-9 in which the foldable sheet material comprises a base panel at opposite side edges of which a pair of side panels are hingedly attached, and a front panel hingedly attached along a third edge of the base panel; front securing flaps being hingedly attached to side edges of the front panel, the side panels being folded inwardly about the base side edges so as to lie close to the base panel in the first configuration of the blank.

26. The packaging or insert of claim 25 in which the length of elastic tape is bent and twisted into a generally U-shape when the blank is in the first configuration. 27. The packaging or insert of claim 26 in which the ends of the length of elastic tape are attached to the blank near the front edges of respective ones of the side panels.

28. The packaging or insert of claim 26 or 27 in which the ends extend in the front-rear direction of the blank.

29. The packaging or insert of claims 26 to 28 in which the end of the length of elastic tape points towards a middle region of the side panel to which it is attached.

30. The packaging or insert of any of claims 25-29 in which the front securing flaps are securable to or over ends of the length of elastic tape which are attached to the side panels.

31. An insert according to any of claims 1-9, the insert having a base panel at opposite side edges of which a pair of side panels are hingedly attached; the side panels being folded inwardly about the base panel side edges so as to lie close to the base panel in the first configuration of the blank.

32. The insert of claim 31 wherein contents are loadable into the insert before it is inserted into the container.

33. The insert of claim 31 wherein contents are loadable into the insert with the insert in place in the container.

34. A method of forming packaging or of forming an insert for use in packaging, comprising the steps of:

forming a blank of foldable sheet material;

bending and twisting a length of elastic tape;

securing the bent and twisted elastic tape to the blank when the blank is in a first configuration,

whereby the blank can be folded to a second configuration for filling with contents to be packaged; the length of elastic tape not being twisted when the blank is in the second configuration.

35. The method of claim 34 in which the length of elastic tape spans an opening in the packaging or in the insert in the second configuration and the method comprises inserting into the opening contents to be packaged.

36. The method of claim 35 in which the opening is at least partly closed to retain the contents which are biased towards the opening by the length of elastic tape.

37. The method of any of claims 34-36 in which the length of elastic tape is attached to the blank in a slack or non-tensioned state.

38. The method of claim 37 in which changing the blank from the first configuration to the second configuration after attachment of the elastic tape stretches or eliminates slack from the length of elastic tape.

39. The method of any of claims 34-36 in which the length of elastic tape is attached to the blank at least partly in a tensioned state.

40. The method of claim 39 in which the attached length of elastic tape assists in pulling the blank towards the second configuration.

41. Automated apparatus for applying lengths of elastic tape to foldable sheet material used for packaging, the apparatus comprising a pair of holding heads which engage and hold respective ends of a length of elastic tape, the holding heads being relatively movable to bend and twist a portion of the length of elastic tape extending between them; the holding heads then applying the length of elastic tape to the foldable sheet material.

42. The automated apparatus of claim 41 in which the holding heads comprise grippers or hold the length of elastic tape by suction.

43. The automated apparatus of claim 41 or 42 in which the holding heads engage the length of elastic tape in a common plane and are relatively rotatable in that plane to bend and twist the length of elastic tape.

44. The automated apparatus of claim 43 in which the holding heads are movable towards and/or away from each other between engagement of the length of elastic tape and applying it to the foldable sheet material.

45. The automated apparatus of any of claims 41-44 in which the holding heads transfer the length of elastic tape from a dispensing station to an application station in a processing line for forming the packaging.

46. The automated apparatus of any of claims 41-45 in which at least one of the holding heads is carried by a rotatable arm.

47. The automated apparatus of claim 46 in which the rotatable arm is rotatable about an axis normal to a plane in which the holding head holds the length of elastic tape.

48. The automated apparatus claim 45 or 46 in which each holding head is carried by such a rotatable arm.

49. A merchandise pusher for incorporation into packaging and comprising a length of elastic material having opposed ends attached to respective anchors of foldable sheet material formed separately from the packaging, each anchor comprising a first panel to which the respective end is attached and a second panel foldable transversely to the first, and past which the elastic runs in use of the pusher.

50. The merchandise pusher of claim 49 in which the second panel comprises inner and outer leaves of the foldable sheet material between which the length of elastic material runs. 51. The merchandise pusher of claim 49 or 50 in which the first panel comprises inner and outer leaves of the foldable sheet material between which the end is attached.

52. The merchandise pusher of claim 51 in which the end of the length of elastic material is attached to one or both leaves of the first panel.

53. The merchandise pusher of any of claims 49-52 in which the anchors are separable from each other for securement within the packaging.

54. The merchandise pusher of any of claims 49-52, in which the anchors and a merchandise pusher pad are formed from a unitary blank; the blank comprising lines of weakness which can be ruptured to separate the anchors from the foldable sheet material of the merchandise pusher pad.

55. The merchandise pusher of claim 54 in which the pusher pad enfolds the length of elastic.

56. The merchandise pusher of claim 54 in which the unitary blank is folded to enfold the length of elastic. 57. Packaging formed from foldable sheet material, the packaging comprising:

an opposed pair of side panels between which an end closure is formed by securing a plurality of flaps and/or panels together; and a length of elastic material having two opposed end portions respectively secured one each to surfaces of:

(i) the opposed side panels, or

(ii) a pair of flaps or panels forming the end closure and each foldably attached to a different one of the opposed side panels;

the surfaces to which the ends of the length of elastic are secured comprising an interior surface bounding the space within the packaging when the end closure has been formed.

58. The packaging of claim 57 in which, in case (i) the free ends of the secured end portions point towards the end closure.

59. The packaging of claim 57 in which, in case (ii) the free ends of the secured end portions point towards each other when the end closure has been formed. 60. Automated apparatus for attaching a length of elastic material to a panel of foldable sheet material, the apparatus comprising at least one holding head for holding the elastic material to form a freely projecting end portion;

the panel and holding head being relatively movable so that the holding head and panel approach one another with a component of motion along the plane of the panel;

so that the projecting end portion and panel contact one another and the projecting end portion is bent to lie between the face of the panel and the holding head.

61. The automated apparatus of claim 60, in which the panel presents an edge or corner which faces towards the holding head as they approach each other;

the projecting end portion lying in the path of approachment so that the projecting end portion and edge or corner contact one another so as to bend the projecting end portion to lie between the face of the panel and the holding head.

62. The automated apparatus of claim 60 or 61, in which the holding head is movable towards the bent projecting end portion of the elastic so as to press it against the panel.

63. The automated apparatus of claim 62, comprising a support disposed opposite to the holding head so that the panel and bent projecting end portion of the elastic are clamped between the support and the holding head when the bent projecting end portion of the elastic is pressed against the panel.

64. The automated apparatus of any of claims 60-63, comprising a cutter for separating the length of elastic material from a feedstock.

65. The automated apparatus of any of claims 60-64, in which the length of the separated elastic material is selectively adjustable.

66. The automated apparatus of any of claims 60-65, comprising a dispenser for dispensing fasteners or fastening material in the region of contact between the bent projecting end portion of the elastic and the panel.

67. The automated apparatus of claim 66, wherein the fasteners or fastening material comprises an adhesive, adhesive tape, stitching or staples.

68. The automated apparatus of any of claims 60 to 67 in which the holding head comprises grippers or holds the length of elastic material by suction.

69. The automated apparatus of any of claims 60 to 68, wherein the panel is held non- horizontally during attachment of the length of elastic material. 70. The automated apparatus of any of claims 60 to 69 comprising a pair of said holding heads.

71. The automated apparatus of claim 70 in which the distance between the holding heads when they initially take hold of the length of elastic material is selectively adjustable.

72. The automated apparatus of claim 70 or claim 71 in which the holding heads hold the elastic material in a predetermined position at which each projecting end portion lies in a path of approachment so that the projecting end portions and respective edges or corners of respective said panels contact one another and each projecting end portion is bent to lie between the face of its respective panel and its respective holding head. 73. The automated apparatus of claim 72 in which the distance between the holding heads in the predetermined position is selectively adjustable.

74. The automated apparatus of any of claims 70-73 as dependent directly or indirectly on claim 62, in which the spacing between the pair of holding heads when they are pressed against their respective panels is selectively adjustable.

75. An automated process for attaching a length of elastic material to a panel of foldable sheet material, comprising the steps of:

(i) holding the length of elastic material with at least one holding head to form a freely projecting end portion, and

(ii) moving the holding head and the panel of foldable sheet material relatively closer to each other with a component of motion along the plane of the panel; so that the projecting end portion bends on contact with the panel. 76. The automated process of claim 75, in which the panel presents an edge or corner which faces towards the holding head as they approach each other;

the projecting end portion lying in the path of approachment so that the projecting end portion and edge or corner contact one another so as to bend the projecting end portion to lie between the face of the panel and the holding head.

77. The automated process of claim 75 or 76 comprising moving the holding head and the panel relatively closer to each other so as to press the bent projecting end portion of the elastic against the panel. 78. The automated process of claim 77, further comprising the step of disposing a support opposite to the holding head so that the panel and bent projecting end portion of the elastic are clamped between the support and the holding head when the bent projecting end portion of the elastic is pressed against the panel.

79. The automated process of any of claims 75-78, comprising the step of dispensing fasteners or fastening material in the region of contact between the bent projecting end portion of the elastic and the panel.

80. The automated process of claim 79, wherein the fasteners or fastening material comprise an adhesive, adhesive tape, stitching or staples.

81. The automated process of any of claims 75 to 80, comprising the step of separating the length of elastic material from a feedstock with a cutter.

82. The automated process of claim 81, wherein the separated length of the elastic material is selectively adjustable.

83. The automated process of any of claims 75 to 83, in which a pair of said holding heads are used so that projecting end portions at both ends of the length of elastic material are bent on contact with respective panels.

84. The automated process of claim 83, wherein the distance between the pair holding heads when they initially take hold of the length of elastic material is selectively adjustable.

85. The automated process of claim 83 or 84, in which the holding heads hold of the length of elastic material in a predetermined position at which each projecting end portion of the elastic material lies in a path of approachment so that the projecting end portions and respective edges or corners of respective said panels contact one another and each projecting end portion is bent to lie between the face of its respective panel and its respective holding head.

86. The automated process of any of claims 83-85 as dependent directly or indirectly on claim 77, in which the spacing between the pair of holding heads when they are pressed against their respective panels is selectively adjustable. 87. The automated process of any of claims 75 to 86, wherein the panel is held non- horizontally during the attachment of the length of elastic material.

Description:
SHELF READY PACKAGING

This invention relates to packaging and parts and fitments for incorporation into packaging; in each case being formed primarily from foldable sheet material, such as corrugated paperboard. For brevity such packaging, parts and fitments are referred to in the following simply as "packaging". More particularly the invention concerns packaging used for displaying merchandise to retail customers, allowing them to select individual items for purchase. Packaging is known, which is filled with a group of merchandise items, and which includes a length of elastic material arranged push the group towards one side of the package (typically a front side) allowing individual items to be removed from there by the customer. As items are removed, fresh items are pushed into the removal zone so that the merchandise always remains highly visible to the customer e.g. when the packaging is placed on a shelf or display stand. The merchandise is thus "self-facing". This arrangement significantly increases sales (6% has been reported). It also reduces in-store labour requirements, since all that is necessary is to open the packaging for customer access to the merchandise and then place it on the shelf. There is no need to intervene to continually move the merchandise to the optimum display position at the front of the shelf or display stand, since this is done automatically and instantaneously by the elastic material. When the package is completely empty, it can be readily replaced by a full one and recycled. The packaging, e.g. when closed, can be used for bulk delivery of the merchandise from the manufacturer or supplier through the supply chain to the final point of sale. Display boxes, trays or racks of this kind are shown for example in US2937742 and US 6454107. However the packaging described there has not gained widespread commercial acceptance, because it is designed to be erected from the blank by hand so as to form the finished container. Similarly the disclosed containers are only suitable for filling by hand. Thus while they may reduce in-store labour requirements, they are labour intensive for the merchandise supplier or manufacturer. Attempts have been made to provide similar packaging which is more suited to automated (machine) filling and erection, for example as disclosed in DE 10 2004 015576 Al and WO2014/006398. However there remains a need for further alternatives to and improvements in such packaging.

Accordingly the present invention provides packaging comprising a blank formed from foldable sheet material and a length of elastic tape, as defined in claim 1. For example, as the foldable sheet material is folded towards its fully erected configuration, the length of elastic tape can be deployed to a position in which it can be stretched to extend behind contents within the packaging so as to bias the contents in a predetermined direction. Because the elastic tape is in a bent and twisted state at the time of its attachment, this gives rise to greater design freedom for the packaging concerned, and the possibility of simplified automated assembly. Packaging of this kind can also be designed to have less "dead space" than existing self-facing designs, increasing shelf and pallet efficiency.

The elastic tape may be of knitted or woven elastic, and the ends attached to the blank may be substantially co-planar, when the blank is in the first configuration. The foldable sheet material and the tape ends may therefore be supported by a flat surface, for example on a horizontal support surface, as they are being fastened together. The surface may be at a station in an automated assembly line, through which the foldable sheet material is conveyed. The ends may run generally parallel to each other. Because the tape is generally flat and has a width dimension which is greater than its thickness dimension, it is naturally more resistant to bending (stiffer) in the width-wise direction than in the thickness-wise direction. When the length of elastic is bent, it will readily tend to twist or buckle so that stretching and/or compression of the elastic tape naturally remain more uniform. For example, with its ends constrained to remain co-planar, the remainder of the elastic between the constrained ends will naturally tend to twist out of the co-planar configuration. Additionally or alternatively, the ends of the tape may not only be bent but also twisted relative to one another so as to bend and twist the length of elastic tape.

The foldable sheet material may be at least partly erectable to form a container having an open side through which contents may be loaded into the packaging, the open side being spanned by the elastic tape. The open side provides for easy filling of the packaging by machine. Advantageously the open side is closable to retain the contents when the foldable sheet material has been fully erected.

Folding the blank from the first configuration, e.g. from a flattened or more flattened condition in which it is supplied to the user, to the second configuration, may eliminate slack or increase tension in the length of elastic; e.g. from a slack condition to a neutral condition (substantially no slack or tension) or to a slightly tensioned condition. In a slack condition the length of elastic is easier to handle (e.g. by machine) for bending, twisting and applying to the foldable sheet material for securement thereto. In the neutral or slightly tensioned condition, the elastic tape may be optimised for reception of the contents to be packaged and for biasing them in the predetermined direction (e.g. towards the open side or towards the side which was open for loading prior to fully erecting the foldable sheet material). However this slack elimination/increasing of tension is not essential. For example, in the first configuration, e.g. at the time that the length of elastic tape is secured to the foldable sheet material, it may be at least partly under tension; this tension decreasing as the foldable sheet material is folded from a flattened or more flattened condition to an erect or more erect condition.

The foldable sheet material may comprise a base panel at opposite edges of which a pair of side panels are hingedly attached; a front panel hingedly attached along a third edge of the base panel; a front securing flap hingedly attached to a front edge of each side panel and securable to form a part of the front panel and thereby hold the front and side panels erect; a respective end of the length of elastic tape being secured to a respective one of the front securing flaps each end extending in a direction transversely of and across the corresponding side panel front edge. In the first configuration, the front securing flaps, and preferably also the side and base panels, lie substantially in a common plane. The two ends of the length of elastic tape may then be attached to the blank. The ends of the length of elastic tape therefore run generally parallel to each other; it thus being necessary to bend and twist the elastic tape into a generally U- shape.

If the side panels are now folded erect (up through 90 degrees about the base panel side edges) without at this stage folding the front securing flaps or erecting the end panel, the length of elastic tape will untwist and deploy to a position spanning the opening between the side panels which is closable by the front panel. Contents may then be loaded into the packaging through the opening, the elastic tape stretching or being stretched to accommodate them. The ends of the length of elastic tape (strip or ribbon) lie co-planar with and extend in the lengthwise direction of the side panels, so that their connections to the front securing flaps are subjected substantially to shear loading only. These connections are therefore particularly secure and strong during loading of the packaging and stretching of the length of elastic tape. The ends of the length of elastic tape may be so secured by an adhesive, e.g. a hot melt adhesive. For added strength and security, a portion of each front securing flap may be slit (e.g. part-way along the front edge/hinge line otherwise connecting it to its side panel) and creased (e.g. normal to the inner end of the slit) so that it can be doubled over and secured to a remaining portion of the front securing flap so as to sandwich the corresponding end of the length of elastic tape.

At least a portion of the length of elastic tape (e.g. an unbent and non-twisted central portion) may be held under tension when the blank is in the first configuration, e.g. as the ends are attached to the front securing flaps. The elastic tape as a whole may therefore remain under tension between the attachment points, even as the side panels are being folded erect; e.g. reaching a neutral tension or remaining under slight tension when the side panels have reached their ninety degree, fully erect, position relative to the base panel. The length of elastic tape may therefore assist in pulling the side panels erect. Once the container is fully loaded, the front securing flaps may be folded inwardly through ninety degrees. (The tensioned elastic tape will tend to pull the front securing flaps slightly in this direction anyway, and may need to be restrained during loading.) The front panel may then be folded upwardly through ninety degrees and secured to the front securing flaps, e.g. by adhesive such as a hot melt adhesive. In this position the elastic tape tends to compress the packaged contents against the inner face of the doubled over front securing flaps (where present), mitigating any tendency for these to delaminate. The packaged items are held within the packaging, against the bias of the elastic tape extending behind and to the sides of them and anchored in the front corners of the packaging. The container contents can be removed from the packaging e.g. in an upward direction, with individual items being taken from the position adjacent to the front panel. The front panel may be recessed and/or lower than the side and rear panels so that the contents are visible and more accessible for removal.

Alternatively, the front securing flaps may be hingedly attached to side edges of the front panel and the side panels may comprise respective fold lines extending from front to rear of the packaging or insert. In the first configuration of the blank, these side panels may be folded inwardly preferably 180 degrees about the base panel side edges and their outer ends folded outwardly preferably 180 degrees about the front to rear extending fold lines, so as to form a preferably flattened, generally Z-shaped configuration with the base panel. The length of elastic tape (strip or ribbon) is bent and twisted into a generally U-shape in the first configuration, so that its ends can be secured to the outer ends of the side panels at or near the side panel front ends. The elastic tape ends extend generally parallel to the lengthwise fold lines and the cut or free ends of the elastic tape face in the forward direction.

The side panels may be erected by folding them upwardly through (preferably) 90 degrees about the base panel side edges and inwardly through (preferably) 90 degrees about the lengthwise fold lines. This unfolds/untwists the elastic tape so that it is deployed across the front opening between the side panels, ready to receive and be stretched around contents loaded through the front opening. The connections between the elastic tape ends and the side panels are likewise loaded substantially in shear only and are therefore strong and secure.

The front panel may then be folded upwardly through 90 degrees, and the front securing flaps folded inwards through 90 degrees so that they may be secured to the outside of the side panels. This holds the front and side panels erect and closes the front opening to retain the loaded contents. Adhesive such as a hot melt adhesive may again be used to secure the elastic tape to the foldable sheet material, and/or to secure the front securing flaps to the side panels. Yet alternatively, the ends of the length of elastic tape may be secured to front securing flaps as described above, but the base panel has a fold line (e.g. a central fold line), allowing opposing portions of the base panel to be folded e.g. through preferably 180 degrees so as to lie near to each other, e.g. preferably in face-to-face contact. The side panels may then be folded away from each other so as preferably to lie in a common plane when the blank is in the first configuration. This also brings the front securing flaps closer together (preferably adjacent to one another and co-planar). The length of elastic tape can then be bent and twisted so that its ends can be attached to the front securing flaps in the same position and orientation relative to them as previously described. However as the base panel is unfolded (flattened out) again to erect the packaging, the front securing flaps move apart, thereby stretching the elastic tape and reducing its slackness. The side panels can be erected as described above to untwist the elastic tape. In this position, the elastic tape is preferably under neutral slackness/tension, or under slight tension. The length of the elastic in a relaxed state between its secured ends is selected accordingly, relative to the width of the front opening (as may be the case in any packaging including such elastic spanning an opening, including all the illustrative examples described in this specification). The packaging can then be loaded with contents and the front panel erected and secured as described above. Securing means may be as described above. Still yet alternatively, the front securing flaps may be attached to side edges of the front panel as described above, but the side panels are folded inwardly about the base side edges, past their erect position, preferably through 180 degrees, so as to lie close to, preferably in face-to-face contact with, the base panel in the first configuration of the blank The length of elastic tape (strip or ribbon) is bent and twisted into a generally U-shape for attachment of its ends to respective outer surfaces of the side panels with the side panels in this position. For economy of the elastic tape, the ends are preferably secured near the front edges of respective ones of the side panels, extending generally in the front-rear direction of the blank (i.e. generally parallel to the adjacent base panel side edge). The distance between each end and its adjacent base panel side edge is substantially equal in each case. The cut or terminal end of the length of elastic tape faces in towards the middle region of the side panel. Folding the side panels to their erect position again untwists the length of elastic tape, deploying it across the front opening. The elastic tape thus extends across the opening, around the front edges of the side panels, to the attachment points which are on the outside of the side panels. The end connection (which may be a glued connection as described above) is therefore again subjected substantially to shear loading only, making it strong and reliable. Furthermore, as the length of elastic tape is stretched into the product loading area between the erect side panels, it laps around the front edges of the side panels substantially 180 degrees. This produces a "bollard effect", which frictionally reduces the stress imposed on the end connection. The front securing flaps are secured over the outside of the side panels to hold the front and side panels erect. The securing method may be as described above. The front securing flaps may also be secured to or over the ends of the length of elastic tape, sandwiching them between the front securing flaps and the side panels, further strengthening the end connections. In yet another variant of the arrangement described immediately above, the base and side panels may comprise parts of an insert for insertion into a packaging container. The ends of the length of elastic tape are secured to the side panels as described immediately above, but there are no front securing flaps or front panel on the fitment. In the second configuration of the blank, the side panels can lie closely adjacent to sides of the packaging container and the contents can be loaded against the stretched elastic member. The contents can either be loaded into the insert before it is inserted into the container, or they can be loaded with the insert in place in the container, e.g. through a front or other opening in the container which is then closed to retain the contents. The invention correspondingly provides a method of forming packaging or of forming an insert for use in packaging, as defined in claim 34.

The opening may then be closed by further folding the blank, thereby retaining the container contents which are biased towards the closure by the elastic tape. The length of elastic tape may be attached to the blank in a slack or non-tensioned state. Erection or partial erection of the blank after attachment of the elastic tape may stretch or eliminate slack from the length of elastic tape. The attached length of elastic tape may assist in pulling the blank towards an erected condition.

Apparatus for forming U-shaped paper handles for attachment paper bags is known, e.g. as shown in GB915,371, GB 1, 141,744 and GB2,405,373. In such apparatus, a central portion of a paper strip is held in the forming apparatus and end portions of the strip are then creased and bent to form the U-shape. However such apparatus is incapable of bending lengths of elastic tape. The resiliency of the elastic means that it does not adequately retain the creasing or bending. The present invention correspondingly provides automated apparatus for applying lengths of elastic tape to foldable sheet material used for packaging, as defined in claim 41.

The holding heads may comprise grippers or hold the elastic by suction. The holding heads may engage the length of elastic tape in a common plane and be relatively rotatable in a common plane to bend and twist the length of elastic tape. The holding heads may be movable towards and/or away from each other between engagement of the length of elastic tape and applying it to the foldable sheet material. The holding heads may transfer the length of elastic tape from a dispensing station to an application station in an automated processing line for folding blanks of the foldable sheet material to form the packaging. At least one of the holding heads may be carried by a rotatable arm. The rotatable arm may be rotatable about an axis parallel to a direction in which the holding head engages the length of elastic tape. Each holding head may be carried by such a rotatable arm.

In a further independent aspect, the invention provides a merchandise pusher for incorporation into packaging, as defined in claim 49. Preferably the second panel comprises inner and outer leaves of the foldable sheet material between which the length of elastic material runs.

Preferably the first panel comprises inner and outer leaves of the foldable sheet material between which the end is attached.

For example the end of the length of elastic material may be adhered to one or both leaves of the first panel, preferably laminated to both leaves. The anchors may be separable from each other for securement within the packaging.

The anchors and a merchandise pusher pad may be formed from a unitary blank; the blank comprising lines of weakness which can be ruptured to separate the anchors from the merchandise pusher pad.

The pusher pad may enfold the length of elastic. Preferably the unitary blank is folded to enfold the length of elastic.

In another independent aspect, the invention provides an automated apparatus for attaching a length of elastic material to a panel of foldable sheet material, as defined in claim 60. For example in operation the holding head may move towards the panel or vice versa, or alternatively the panel and holding head may move towards each other. The projecting end portion and panel contact one another and the projecting end portion is bent to lie between the face of the panel and the holding head. The panel may present an edge or corner which faces towards the holding head as they approach each other; the projecting end portion lying in the path of approachment so that the projecting end portion and edge or corner contact one another so as to bend the projecting end portion to lie between the face of the panel and the holding head. Advantageously the holding head is movable towards the bent projecting end portion of the elastic so as to press it against the panel. Advantageously the transfer and attachment of the free ends of the length of elastic may be accomplished with a swift movement by the holding heads. Optionally the holding head comprises grippers or holds the length of elastic material by suction. Optionally the panel is held non-horizontally during attachment of the length of elastic material, for example the panel, e.g. a side panel or a flap of the foldable sheet material, is foldable to a partially erected positon perpendicular to another portion of the foldable sheet material. Optionally, the automated apparatus further comprises a support disposed opposite to the holding head so that the panel and bent projecting end portion of the elastic are clamped between the support and the holding head when the bent projecting end portion of the elastic is pressed against the panel. Optionally, the automated apparatus comprises a pair of said holding heads and optionally the distance between the holding heads when they initially take hold of the length of elastic material is selectively adjustable, to accommodate different sizes of the packaging or different tension required. Optionally after the holding heads take hold of the length of elastic material they move apart from one another and into a predetermined position at which each projecting end portion of the elastic material lies in a path of approachment so that the projecting end portions and respective panel edges or corners contact one another and each projecting end portion is bent to lie between the face of its respective panel and its respective holding head. Optionally the distance through which the holding heads move apart and into the predetermined position is selectively adjustable, for example to cater for different packaging sizes and different desired tensions in the attached elastic.

Optionally, a cutter is provided for separating the length of the elastic material from a feedstock, for example a reel of elastic material. The length of the separated elastic material is selectively adjustable to accommodate packaging of different sizes, the amount of tension required, as well as the length of end portion required for providing sufficient adhering surface for attaching the elastic material.

Optionally, a dispenser is provided for dispensing fasteners or fastening material in the region of contact between the bent projecting end portion of the elastic and the panel; wherein the fasteners or fastening material may comprise for example an adhesive, adhesive tape, stitching or staples, and may be applied directly onto the blank or the end portion of the elastic tape prior to attachment. Correspondingly, the invention provides an automated process for attaching a length of elastic material to a panel of foldable sheet material, as defined in claim 75.

The panel may present an edge or corner which faces towards the holding head as they approach each other; the projecting end portion lying in the path of approachment so that the projecting end portion and edge or corner contact one another so as to bend the projecting end portion to lie between the face of the panel and the holding head. The holding head and the panel may be moved towards each other so as to press the bent projecting end portion of the elastic against the panel.

Optionally, the automated process comprises the step of disposing a support opposite to the holding head so that the panel and bent projecting end portion of the elastic are clamped between the support and the holding head when the bent projecting end portion of the elastic is pressed against the panel.

Optionally, the automated process comprises a step of dispensing fasteners or fastening material in the region of contact between the bent projecting end portion of the elastic and the panel; the fasteners or fastening material comprising for example an adhesive, adhesive tape, stitching or staples.

Optionally, the automated process comprises a step of separating the length of elastic material from a feedstock with a cutter; the separated length of the elastic material preferably being selectively adjustable. A pair of such holding heads may be used simultaneously, so as to attach two such projecting end portions of the length of elastic material to respective panels of foldable sheet material. The two projecting end portions may each be bent by contact with an edge or corner of their respective panel. The distance between the pair holding heads when they initially take hold of the length of elastic material, and/or a distance by which the holding heads move apart to press the bent projecting end portions of the elastic into contact with their respective panels, may be selectively adjustable. Thus the process may be adapted to different sizes of packaging, different lengths of the projecting end portions, and/or to achieve a different desired tension in the attached elastic.

The panel may be held non-horizontally during the attachment of the length of elastic material. Therefore the automated process and apparatus may be used with a wide variety of packaging styles in a wide variety of production environments.

Correspondingly, the invention provides packaging formed from foldable sheet material, as defined in claim 57. As such, once the packaging is fully erected and filled with contents, the length of elastic is fully enclosed and serves to bias the contents towards the end closure. In case (i) the free ends of the secured end portions preferably point towards the end closure. In case (ii) the free ends of the secured end portions preferably point towards each other when the end closure has been formed, e.g. carried by respective flaps or panels that fold inwardly perpendicular to the side panels.

These and other details and advantages of the invention are further described below by way of illustrative example, with reference to the drawings, in which:

Figure 1 shows a blank of foldable sheet material and a length of elastic tape prior to assembly to form packaging which provides a first illustrative embodiment of the invention;

Figure 2 shows the blank of Figure 1 with the length of elastic tape attached;

Figure 3 corresponds to Figure 2, but shows front securing flaps doubled over;

Figure 4 corresponds to Figure 3, but shows side panels erected;

Figure 5 corresponds to Figure 4, but shows a rear panel erected;

Figure 6 shows a collated group of merchandise items ready to be loaded into the packaging of Figure 5;

Figure 7 corresponds to Figure 6, but shows the items loaded and the front securing flaps moved into position for securing a front panel;

Figure 8 corresponds to Figure 7, but shows the front panel secured;

Figure 9 corresponds to Figure 8, but shows a lid folded and secured closed;

Figure 10 corresponds to Figure 9, but shows a tear-off portion of the lid removed; Figure 10a corresponds to Figure 10, but shows an alternative front wall and access opening construction;

Figure 11 shows a blank of foldable sheet material and a length of elastic prior to assembly to form packaging which provides a second illustrative embodiment of the invention;

Figure 11a shows a variant of the blank of Figure 11;

Figure 12 shows the blank of Figure 11 with the length of elastic tape attached;

Figure 12a shows the blank of Figure 1 la with the length of elastic tape attached;

Figure 12b shows a further variant of the blank of Figure 11 with the length of elastic tape attached;

Figure 12c shows a blank for a wrap-around pack style and elastic attachment points, forming yet another variant of the present invention;

Figure 13 shows a collated group of merchandise items ready to be loaded into the packaging of Figure 12 with its rear panel erected and secured;

Figure 13a shows the blank of Figure 11a and 12a erected to the second configuration, in which it is ready for reception of items to be packaged;

Figure 14 shows the packaging of Figure 13, with its front panel erected and secured;

Figure 14a shows the packaging of Figure 13a, filled with the items to be packaged, but prior to erecting and securing the front panel;

Figures 14b and 14c show the packaging of Figure 13a after having been fully erected, but with tear-off panels removed and the packaging empty so as to show the attached elastic;

Figure 15 shows a blank of foldable sheet material which may be used to form packaging providing a third illustrative embodiment of the invention;

Figure 16 shows the blank of Figure 15 folded ready for attachment of a length of elastic tape;

Figure 17 shows the blank of Figure 16 as the elastic is being attached;

Figure 18 shows the blank of Figure 17 after the elastic has been attached;

Figure 19 shows the packaging of Figure 18 folded for shipping to a merchandise manufacturer or supplier;

Figure 20a shows the packaging of Figure 19 unfolded and with side panels erected, ready to receive merchandise items;

Figure 20b shows the packaging of Figure 20a with a rear panel erected; Figure 21a shows the packaging of Figure 20b ready for filling with a collated set of merchandise items;

Figure 21b shows the packaging of Figure 21a after filling, its front panel having been erected and secured;

Figure 22 shows a blank of foldable sheet material and a length of elastic prior to assembly to form packaging which provides a fourth illustrative embodiment of the invention;

Figures 23-26 show stages in the erection and filling of the packaging shown in Figure 22, generally corresponding to the stages shown in relation to the preceding embodiments;

Figures 27-30 show stages in the assembly and erection ready for filling, of a fitment forming a fifth embodiment of the invention;

Figure 31 shows a schematic layout of an automated line for erecting and filling packaging as shown in Figures 1-10;

Figure 32 shows details of a gripper for the length of elastic;

Figure 33 shows an alternative schematic layout to that of Figure 31;

Figure 34 shows a schematic layout of an automated line for erecting and filling packaging as shown in Figures 11-14;

Figure 35 shows stages in the assembly and fitment to a container, of an elasticated product pusher embodying the second independent aspect of the invention;

Figures 36 and 37 show different perspective views of an automated apparatus being used for adhering a length of elastic onto front securing flaps of a wrap-around style blank in a partially erected configuration;

Figure 38 shows a front view of the automated apparatus of Figures 36 and 37, and

Figure 39 shows a perspective view of the automated apparatus being used for adhering a length of elastic onto the insides of the side panels of a blank of the general style as shown in Figure 22, while the blank is in a partially erected configuration.

As shown in Figure 1, packaging forming a first illustrative embodiment of the invention is assembled from a length of elastic tape 10 and an initially flat blank of foldable sheet material 12. The elastic tape 10 may be knitted or woven though any other suitable elastic tape may be used. The blank 12 may be die cut from corrugated paperboard, though here again any other suitable foldable sheet material may be used, including solid paperboard or plastics sheets. The blank is cut and scored or creased to define a base panel 14 with side edges 18 along which an opposed pair of side panels 16 are hingedly attached. A front panel 20 with a central cut out 22 is attached along a third edge 24 of the base panel 14. A rear panel 26 is hingedly attached along a fourth edge 28 of the base panel 14. An opposed pair of front securing flaps 30 are hingedly attached to front edges of the side panels 16 and a further opposed pair of rear securing flaps 32 are hingedly attached to side edges of the rear panel 26. A lid assembly 34 is hingedly attached along a top edge 36 of the rear panel 26. The lid assembly 34 includes a line of weakness, such as a line of perforations 38 and a finger hole 40. In Figure 2, the elastic tape 10 has been bent and twisted into a U-shape: the left hand end of the tape is rotated 90 degrees anticlockwise in the plane of the figure and the right hand end rotated 90 degrees clockwise in the plane of the figure, in each case keeping the end flat to the plane of the figure. The part of the tape between the rotated ends is shown twisted or "flipped over". The rotated ends are fastened to the front securing flaps 30 by an adhesive such as a hot melt adhesive; or by any other suitable fastening means. The bent ends of the elastic tape therefore extend from their point of attachment to the front securing flaps 30, parallel to the base side edges, so as loosely to overlie the side panels 16. The flipped over part of the elastic tape 10 between the bent ends loosely overlies the base panel 14 and extends onto the side panels 16 at either end. Because the front securing flaps are co-planar at the time of attachment of the elastic, the ends of the elastic are easy to position and control for attachment, e.g. with both the flaps and the bent ends of the elastic being held against a horizontal support surface (not shown).

The blank 12 is slit and creased to produce side extensions 42 to the front securing flaps 30. As shown by comparing Figures 2 and 3, the side extensions 42 of the front securing flaps 30 are next folded upwardly and then downwardly through 180 degrees. Thus they overlie the front securing flaps 30 and the ends of the elastic tape 10. The securing flap side extensions 42 are fastened in this position e.g. by the same fastening means used to fasten the elastic tape ends to the front securing flaps 30, e.g. by adhesive applied to the flap extensions 42. The tape ends are therefore sandwiched between the front securing flaps 30 and their extensions 42 and thereby securely anchored to the blank 12. Folding and fastening of the securing flap extensions is again facilitated by the front securing flaps 30 and bent ends of the elastic being in a common, preferably horizontal, plane; although this is not essential.

When the side panels 16 are erected by folding them upwardly through 90 degrees as shown in Figure 4, the front securing flaps 30, 42 move with them. This causes the elastic tape 10 to untwist, so as to extend across the opening between the front edges of the side panels 16. This provides a second configuration of the packaging, in which it is ready for reception of the items to be packaged. The front securing flaps remain co-planar with the side panels at this stage and therefore extend forwardly on either side of the opening, without obstructing it. Pushing against the tape in a direction towards the packaging interior (and the reaction forces at these connections as the elastic tape pushes against merchandise items in the packaging) loads the tape end connections substantially in shear only, so that these connections are strong and secure. The width direction of the elastic tape 10 is aligned substantially vertically. The tape may be fixed to the blank in tension, so that when the side panels 16 are erected, it remains under slight tension or attains neutral slackness and tension. If the tape is fixed while not in tension, then erecting the side panels increases its slackness (not shown in Figure 4).

Figure 5 shows the rear panel 26 likewise erected by folding it upwardly through 90 degrees. This brings the rear securing flaps 32 and lid assembly 34 with it. Figure 6 shows a collated set 44 of merchandise items (such as a group of chocolate bars stood on their long edges) aligned with the open front side of the packaging. The merchandise items are ready to be pushed between the forwardly extending front securing flaps 30, 42; over the still un-erected front panel 20 and into the merchandise receiving space 46 defined between the side panels 16, the rear panel 26 and the base panel 14. The set of merchandise items may be pressed against the elastic tape 10 causing it to stretch around the back and to the sides of the items. Alternatively a stretcher plate (not shown), a set of mechanical fingers or the like may first be used to stretch the length of elastic tape 10 so that it is held closely adjacent to the inner surfaces of the side and rear panels 16, 26. This opens up the receiving space 46 to receive the set of items 44 with only minimal frictional resistance. The stretcher plate etc. may be withdrawn to place the length of elastic into biasing contact with the set of items, e.g. once the front of the packaging has been secured closed as further described below. A pusher pad 48 e.g. made of corrugated paperboard optionally is positioned at the front of the set of merchandise items so as to spread the load imposed on them by the length of elastic tape 10, and space the side runs of this material away from the merchandise items. Referring to Figure 7, the set of merchandise items is shown pushed into the receiving space 46. The front securing flaps 30, 42 are shown folded inwardly through 90 degrees, ready for reception of the front panel 20. The set of items 44 is pressed against the front securing flap extensions 42 by the length of elastic 10, reducing any tendency for the front securing flaps 30 and their extensions 42 to delaminate from the elastic tape ends. In Figure 8, the front panel 20 is shown erected by folding upwardly through 90 degrees. It is secured to the front securing flaps by hot melt adhesive or other suitable fastening means. In Figure 9, the lid assembly is shown fastened closed over the items 44 in the receiving space 46. A lid front panel 50 is shown secured over the front panel 20 and the central cut out 22. The merchandise is therefore substantially fully enclosed, e.g. for transport from the supplier or manufacturer to the retailer. Erection and closure of the packaging is completed by folding the rear securing flaps 32 inwardly through 90 degrees and securing them to the outside of the side panels 16. Then the lid assembly is folded downwardly through 90 degrees. In this position, lid side panels 52 and the lid front panel 50 are folded downwardly through 90 degrees and secured to the side panels 16 and front panel 22 respectively. Figure 10 shows the lid front panel 50 torn away along the line of perforations 38, to expose a removal zone for the merchandise 44 at the front of the packaging 12. The low front panel 20 and central cut out 22 ensures that the merchandise is highly visible and easily accessible for removal by the customer. The length of elastic tape 10 pulls the next merchandise item into the removal zone as the preceding one is removed.

A second illustrative embodiment of the invention is shown in Figures 11-14. The blank 12 and the length of elastic tape 10 shown in these Figures are generally similar to those shown in the preceding Figures. However, instead of being attached to front edges of the side panels 16, the front securing flaps 30 are hingedly attached along the side edges of the front panel 20. Also, the side panels 16 contain fold lines 54 formed e.g. by scoring or creasing. These fold lines 54 run the length of the panels 16, parallel to the base panel side edges 18 so as to subdivide each side panel into two parts 16a and 16b. For attachment of the elastic tape 10, the side panels 16 are folded 180 degrees, first upwardly, passing through the erect position and then downwardly, until they lie in face-to- face contact with the base panel 14. The side panel distal parts 16b are next folded upwardly and then downwardly through 180 degrees about the fold lines 54 so as to lie in face-to-face contact with the side panel proximal parts 16a. This configuration is shown in Figure 12, in which the side panel parts 16a are thus hidden from view by the overlying side panel parts 16b. Each lengthwise folded side panel and the underlying base panel 14 thereby has a generally Z- shaped configuration.

The length of elastic tape 10 is bent and twisted as described with reference to Figures 1-10, and attached to the blank in the same orientation as described there. However, rather than being attached to the front securing flaps 30, the bent ends of the elastic tape are attached to the exposed faces of the side panel distal parts 16b. These become inner faces of upper parts of the side panels when the side panels 16 are erected. Hence as shown in Figure 12, the elastic tape ends extend generally parallel to the lengthwise fold lines 54 and the cut or free ends of the elastic tape face in the forward direction. The bent ends of the elastic tape 10 are attached close to the front edges of the side panel distal parts 16b. Any suitable means of attachment may be used, as in the preceding embodiment, including but not limited to hot melt and other adhesives.

The side panels 16 are erected by unfolding them through 90 degrees about the base panel edges 18 and simultaneously unfolding their distal parts through 90 degrees about the fold lines 54. This action untwists the length of elastic tape 10, such that its central part spans the side walls 16 near to the open front of the packaging. Where a tape or strip is used as the length of elastic tape 10, the width direction of the central part is aligned substantially vertically, as in the preceding embodiment. The distance between the fold lines 18 and 34, the length of the elastic tape 10, and the distance between the end attachment points at the time that the elastic tape is attached to the panel parts 16b, may all be chosen so that the tension in the elastic tape does not decrease, or slackness in the elastic tape does not increase, as the side panels are erected. For example, if the outer edges 56 of the bent tape ends are made to coincide with the base panel side edges when the blank is folded as shown in Figure 12 and the tape is attached in a "neutral" condition (i.e. neither under tension nor slack), to a first approximation it will retain this neutral condition when the side panels are fully erect. Moving the attachment points closer together allows the tape to be attached in a slack condition. If at the same time the length of the tape is decreased by less than the change in spacing of the attachment points, this still allows the tape to be attached in a slack condition and allows the tape to be placed under tension a result of erection of the side panels 16. Being able to maintain the tape in a neutral or slack condition during attachment decreases handling and attachment difficulties, particularly when using automated manufacturing equipment and adhesive as a means of attachment. A tape which is neutral or under slight tension when there are no merchandise items in the packaging will usually perform well in moving the merchandise items to the display/removal zone. Varying the distance between the attachment points when the blank is folded as shown in Figure 12 also varies the height at which the tape is positioned above the base panel in the erected case and hence the position (height) that it applies a pushing force to the rearmost merchandise item. Increasing the distance between the fold lines 18, 54 increases the rise in tension or the fall in slackness of the length of elastic tape 10 on erection of the side panels 16.

Loading of the packaging with a collated group 44 of merchandise items can proceed as previously described and as shown in Figures 13 and 14. Figure 13 thus shows the second configuration of the packaging, in which it is ready for reception of the items to be packaged. In contrast to Figures 6 and 7, Figures 13 and 14 show the rear securing flaps 32 secured to the side panels 16 prior to loading the set of merchandise items 44. However the order of loading/securing is unimportant in any of the illustrated embodiments, and likewise the front securing flaps may be secured before or after the rear securing flaps in any of the illustrated embodiments. The items 44 are pushed through the open front side of the packaging over the un-erected front panel 20, between the erected side panels 16 and into the receiving space 46. A withdrawable stretcher plate, mechanical fingers or the like (not shown) again may or may not be used to stretch the elastic out of the way during loading. If (in any embodiments) the rear securing flaps are secured after withdrawal of the stretcher plate etc., this may allow access for further retention fingers, hooks or the like in the gaps between the rear and side panels. These keep the stretched length of elastic from being dragged upwards by withdrawal of the stretcher plate etc. and are themselves withdrawn after withdrawal of the stretcher plate etc.

Likewise a pusher pad 48 may optionally be used. Figure 14 shows the front panel 20 erected and secured by the front securing flaps 30, which are fixed to the outside of the side panels 16. Closure of the lid assembly 34 and removal of the lid front flap 50 may then proceed substantially as shown in Figures 9 and 10.

In the variant shown in Figures 1 la, 12a, 13a and 14a-c, the side panels 16 are each provided with a front return flap 16c, delineated from the material of the front securing flap 30 by a cut line 70 and attached to the side panels 16 along fold lines 66 (see Figure 11a in particular). The fold lines 66 are extensions of the fold line 68 along which the front panel 20 is attached to the base panel 14. The side panel fold lines 54 continue forwardly in the flat blank across the front return flaps 16c. This enables the return flaps 16c to be folded along with the side panels as the latter are folded into the Z- shaped configuration in which they partly overlying the base panel 14 (see Figure 12a). In this configuration, the return flaps provide space forward of the fold lines 66, 68, for attachment of the elastic 10, e.g. by gluing, so that the adjoining unattached part 72 of the elastic begins as close as possible to the front edge of the side panels 16 (delineated by the fold lines 66). As is apparent from Figures 13a, 14b and 14c, the central, unattached portion of the elastic between the attached ends can therefore lie very close to the plane of the (or the eventual) front side of the erected packaging when the packaging is empty. (See Figures 13a, 14b and 14c in particular). This increases the effectiveness of the elastic in being able to bias the last packaged item(s) (i.e. that/those immediately next to the elastic) towards the front of the packaging, for removal.

In the variant shown in Figure 12b, no front return flaps are provided. The elastic is bent into a generally U- shape, as in the embodiments shown in Figures 12 and 12a; with its ends extending generally parallel to each other and the portion of the elastic between these ends twisted or flipped over. However in Figure 12b, the bent and twisted elastic is attached to the blank with these ends 57 pointing towards the rear side (i.e. lid assembly end) of the blank 12, rather than pointing towards the front side of the blank as is the case in Figures 12 and 12a. This reversed configuration again brings the unattached parts 72 of the elastic immediately adjoining the attached end parts, into close alignment with the fold line 68 by which the front panel 20 is connected to the base panel 14. This again ensures that the central, unattached portion of the elastic between the attached ends, can lie very close to the plane of the (or the eventual) front side of the erected, empty packaging. The unattached elastic portion is thereby more effective in biasing the immediately adjacent packaged items towards the front of the packaging. With this arrangement, when the package is filled, the elastic is doubled back on itself in the region 72. This exposes the adjacent glued region to high shear and peeling forces; but appropriate adhesives and board grades can be used, so as to ensure that a piece of elastic of selected dimensions, maximum strain and Young's modulus, does not delaminate from the blank in use.

In the variant shown in Figure 12c, a blank is provided for a wrap-around pack style, in which the part of the blank forming the lid 34 is attached to one of the side panel portions 16b. A lid securing flap 34a is attached to the opposite side panel portion 16b to secure the lid closed with the blank wrapped around a group of inserted merchandise items (not shown). With the side panel portions 16a, 16b folded into a Z- shaped configuration about the fold lines 18, 54, the elastic strip is bent and twisted into a U-shape and its ends are secured to areas 59 on the front securing flaps 30. The secured ends point forwardly of the blank. The front securing flaps 30 are attached to the side panels 16a 16b, with the fold lines 54 running through them. When the side panels 16a, 16b are erected, the unattached portion of the elastic is again brought into close alignment with the fold line 68 along which the front panel 20 is attached to the base panel 14. When the pack has been filled from the front, stretching the elastic behind the merchandise items, the front securing flaps 30 can be folded inwardly through 90 degrees. The lid 34 can be secured (e.g. glued) to the securing flap 34a. The front flap 20 can be folded upwardly 90 degrees about the fold line 68, with a filler flap 20b carried by the lid 34 tucked behind the front flap to close the access opening 22 formed in the front flap 20.

The rear wall of the pack can be formed e.g. in the standard way, from inner securing flaps 32 attached to the side walls 16a, 16b and outer flaps 26a and 26b attached to the base panel 14 and lid respectively. The inner securing flaps 32 are first folded inward by 90 degrees (e.g. after the lid 34 has been secured to the securing flap 34a) and then the outer flaps 26a, 26b can be folded inwardly through 90 degrees and secured to the inner securing flaps 32. Thus, it is possible to use the elastic configuration of the present invention with many different otherwise conventional pack styles. In other examples, the pack lid may be made as a completely separate component to the pack tray or base; e.g. as a FEFCO 0300 style box and lid or a FEFCO 0306 telescope style box and lid. Where appropriate, side panels of the blanks (and where necessary also the front securing flaps) used to form such packaging may be provided with fold lines corresponding to the above-described fold lines 54.

In the blanks shown in Figures 1 la, 12a 12b and 12c, the front panel 20 on either side of the central cut-out 22 extends to the full height of the side walls 16 and therefore to the full height of the closed packaging. On removal of the tear-off portion of the lid 34, the full height front panel parts provide full height shoulders 20a (see Figure 10a). Some elastic materials recover towards their unstretched length quite slowly after removal of the foremost item 44 from the opened packaging. This can give the next item time to fall forward and jam at an angle, projecting partly over a low-height front wall of the packaging. The jammed item and the remaining items can resist movement into proper position towards the front of the packaging by the elastic. The full height shoulders 20a shown in Figures 10a, 11a, 12a, 12b, 12c, 13a and 14a help to prevent the next item from falling forward and jamming in this way after removal of the foremost item. The relatively large central cut-out 22 remaining between the shoulders 20a still provides sufficient access to grab the foremost packaged item 44 (e.g. by its top edge) for removal.

Figure 15 shows a blank similar to that shown in Figure 1. The main difference is that the blank 12 of Figure 15 is provided with a central fold line 58 which runs from front to back of the base panel to divide it into two halves 14a, 14b. The fold line continues across the back panel from bottom to top, dividing it into two halves 26a, 26b; and also continues through the lid assembly 34. Therefore the blank 12 may be folded 180 degrees about the fold line 58 and the side panels 16 (and optionally the rear securing flaps 32 and lid side flaps 52) folded outwardly through 90 degrees, so as to lie next to each other and in the same plane (see Figure 16). The front securing flaps 30, being attached to the front edges of the side panels 16, are likewise brought next to each other in the same plane. The front securing flap extensions 42 also lie generally in this plane. The length of elastic tape (ribbon or strip) may be bent, twisted and attached to the front securing flaps 30 in the same position and orientation relative to each of these flaps as is the case with Figure 2 (see Figure 17). However, a degree of slack is preferably provided in the part of the elastic tape between the bent ends, so as to allow it to loop over or around the back-to-back front panel parts 20, e.g. through the central cut-out 22. This is readily possible, because the front securing flaps 30 have been brought next to each other when the blank was folded along the line 58. Doubling over and securing the front securing flap extensions 42 can now proceed as shown in Figure 18, similar to Figure 3, so as to fully secure the tape ends to the blank; again using any suitable securing means as previously described.

Figure 19 shows the blank 12 further folded into a compact, flattened form, e.g. for storage, or for delivery from a packaging manufacturer or supplier to a merchandise manufacturer or supplier prior to erection and filling. The side panels 16 are folded inwards to lie against the (still folded) base panel parts 14a, 14b. This folds the front securing flaps 30, 42 against the front panel parts 20 in the process. This also causes the central part of the elastic 10 to untwist and double back against its attached ends. The central part of the elastic 10 thereby projects forwardly of the blank in a loop. Optionally (although not shown in Figure 19) the rear securing flaps 32 may be folded inward to lie against the folded back panel parts 26a, 26b and the lid side flaps 52 may be similarly folded inward, so that the folded blank has a generally W-shaped transverse cross-section. Alternatively, e.g. in the case where the rear securing flaps 32 and lid side panels 52 were left unfolded (i.e. left in the same plane as the respective rear panel parts 26a and 26b), they may remain still unfolded, as shown. Yet alternatively, (not shown) the blank may be folded in half in the other direction along the fold line 58 (i.e. folded through 360 degrees) and the panels and flaps 16, 32, 52, 30, 42 folded to lie co-planar with their adjacent panels 14a, 26a; 14b, 26b etc. In this state, the looped elastic may be folded to project either outwardly or inwardly of the folded blank.

Figure 20a shows the blank unfolded (flattened out) about the fold line 58 and the side panels 16 erected. The front securing flaps 30, 42 remain co-planar with the side panels 16 at this stage. The length of elastic is untwisted and spans the opening between the front edges of the side panels 16, similarly to Figure 4. However, despite being attached in a relaxed state, the elastic is now stretched out towards or into a neutral or tensioned condition, as the distance between the opposed front securing flaps 30, 42 increases as the blank is unfolded and the side panels 16 erected. For example the length of the relaxed elastic outside the laminated front securing flaps 30, 42 may be made equal to the spacing of the erected side panels 16, so that the elastic is in the neutral condition when the blank base panel 14a, 14b is unfolded flat and the side panels 16 are erected. Shortening this length will place the elastic in tension upon erection. The back panel 26a, 26b and attached lid assembly 34 can now be erected (Figure 20b).

As shown in Figure 21a the rear securing flaps 32 are secured to the outside of the side panels 16. The front panel remains un-erected, so that merchandise 44 may be loaded into the open front of the packaging, with the length of elastic 10 looped around it in the receiving space 46, as previously described. Figure 21b shows the front securing flaps 30, 42 folded inward and secured to the erected front panel parts 20, similarly to Figures 7 and 8. Lid closure and lid front panel removal for merchandise display/access, may also be similar to what is shown in Figures 8, 9, 10 and 13.

Referring now to Figures 22-26, the blank 12 shown is similar to that shown in Figures 11- 14. That is, the front securing flaps 30 are attached to the side edges of the front panel 20. However, the side panel fold lines 54 are omitted and the fastening locations 60 for the bent ends of the length of elastic 10 are provided on the outside (underside as shown in Fig. 22) of the side panels 16. The cut-out part of the front panel 20 is formed by a break out piece 62 which may be folded about a fold line 64 to form a pusher pad.

As shown in Figure 23, for attachment of the length of elastic tape 10, the side panels are folded inwardly 180 degrees, passing through the erect position, to lie face-to-face with the base panel 14. This exposes their outer surfaces and the attachment points 60. The length of elastic is again folded and twisted into a general U-shape by bending its ends through 90 degrees in the plane of the page, so that the two bent ends extend parallel to one another and the central portion between the ends twists or flips over. However in comparison to Figure 12, the bent and twisted elastic is attached to the side panels in a different orientation, rotated 180 degrees in the plane of the page, such that in Figure 23 each bent end extends lengthwise of the corresponding side panel, but the cut or terminal ends of the length of elastic tape face in towards the middle regions of their respective side panels 16. The elastic tape is still symmetrically placed and centred on the blank centreline, so that the distance between each bent end and its adjacent base panel side edge 18 is substantially equal. Figure 24 shows the side panels 16 erected by folding them upwardly away from the base panel through 90 degrees. This untwists and stretches out the elastic 10 so that the fastened ends of the elastic are on the outer faces of the side panels 16. The portion of the elastic between these ends passes around the front edges of the side panels 16 so as to span the gap left by the non-erected front panel 20. If the length of the elastic between the attachment points in the relaxed state is made equal to the sum of the distance between each attachment point and the respective side panel front edge, plus the distance between the erected side panels, then when the side panels are erected the elastic will be in the neutral condition. Making the relaxed elastic shorter than this will ensure that it is under tension when the side panels are erected. In each case the twisted and folded length of elastic 10 can be attached to the blank 10 in a relaxed or slack state.

Figure 25 shows a collated set of merchandise 44 ready for loading into the receiving space 46. This proceeds in similar manner to the loading processes described with reference to Figures 6 and 13 above. However, as the length of elastic tape is stretched into the receiving space 46, it is wrapped substantially 180 degrees around the front edges of the side panels 16. This creates friction (like a rope looped around a bollard) which reduces the tension in the parts of the elastic on the outside of the side panels 16 and therefore reduces the stress imposed upon the attachment points 60. The means of attachment may be any of those described above, including any suitable conventional fastening method or means. Back panel 26 erection and securement, front panel erection and securement, lid closure and lid front panel removal may be as described above with reference to Figures 11-14. When secured, the front securing flaps 30 may cover and be secured to the ends of the length of elastic 10 as well as being secured to the side panels 16 (see Figure 26). This further strengthens the connection of the elastic 10 to the blank 12, as well as concealing the otherwise exposed ends of the elastic, for a neater appearance. Figure 27 shows a blank 112 and a length of elastic tape 10 which can be assembled to form a fitment for insertion or incorporation into an otherwise conventional container e.g. of foldable sheet material, so as to bias the container contents towards a removal/display zone. The blank 112 is likewise of foldable sheet material such as corrugated or solid paperboard or the like. It comprises a central bottom panel 114 and a pair of side panels delineated on opposite sides of the bottom panel by a pair of parallel fold lines 118. Each side panel has an attachment point 160 for the length of elastic on its under surface as shown in Figure 27. The length of elastic 10 may be a knitted or woven elastic tape or strip, or a length of any other suitable elastic tape, as is the case for the previously described examples. For application and securement of the elastic to the blank 112, the side panels 116 are folded 180 degrees about the fold lines 118 so as to lie face-to-face over the base panel 112. Figure 28 shows the blank 112 almost folded into this condition. The ends of the length of elastic tape 10 are bent in the plane of the page until they extend parallel to each other to form a U- shape. The ends are kept flat to the plane of the page during such bending, so that the central part between the bent ends twists or flips over as shown in Figure 28. The bent ends are then attached to the outside of the respective side panels 116. They each extend inwardly from a side panel front edge towards their attachment point 60 which lies adjacent to this front edge. The overall configuration and resulting properties are thus similar to the side panels 16, base panel 14 and attached length of elastic 10 shown in Figure 23. Thus Figure 30 shows the side panels 116 erected by raising them through 90 degrees away from the base panel 114. This untwists and stretches the length of elastic tape between the side panels, around their front edges to the attachment points 60 on their outer surfaces. Merchandise (not shown) can be loaded from the front between the side panels so that the length of elastic stretches or is stretched around the back and sides of the merchandise. Optionally a pusher pad (not shown) may be placed to the rear of the merchandise in front of or around the length of elastic. Then the filled fitment can be placed into or secured within the otherwise standard packaging, oriented to bias the merchandise towards the display/removal zone. Alternatively the filling of the fitment can take place with the fitment installed or pre-fixed within the packaging. Automated machinery and production lines for the erection and filling of some of the packaging referred to above will now be described. However it should be noted that assembly, filling and erection of the packaging may also be carried out by hand. Figure 31 is a schematic illustration of an automated production line or machine 200 for attaching the length of elastic tape to blanks as shown in Figures 1-10. In the illustrative process shown, the blanks are partly erected, filled with a set of collated merchandise items, and then closed to form a fully erected, substantially enclosed, transit and display package suitable for onward transmission through the supply chain. The end use primarily envisaged for the packages is for easy stocking of retail shelves and other merchandise displays, allowing prominent and attractive display of the merchandise for ready selection and removal by customers.

Referring to Figure 31 :

· At station 210 a group of flat blanks is held in a machine hopper (not shown), such that the frequency of operator replenishment is satisfactory. The replenishment could also be automated.

• At station 212 an individual flat blank 12 is pulled down from the hopper into a flat position via a mechanically pivoting arm or other mechanical means known to those skilled in the art. The arm or the like (not shown) engages the leading blank in the hopper, pulls it from the hopper, rotates it to the horizontal position as indicated by arrow 214 and then returns to repeat the cycle for the next blank in the hopper.

• The flat blank is then transferred through the next station 216 of the machine e.g. on a horizontal conveyor (not shown). Adhesive is applied to the front securing flaps 30 by a pair of glue applicator heads 218 suitably spaced across the width of the conveyor. The adhesive is applied as the blank passes beneath the applicator heads on its way to the next station of the machine, which is an elastic tape application station 220.

• The lengths of elastic tape may be supplied from a reel 222 or from a layered box or the like (not shown), as is conventional. The tape may be continuous or comprise predetermined lengths daisy-chained together by "weak links" such as lines of perforations rupturable tack stitches, etc. Alternatively the lengths of elastic tape may be mounted on a carrier substrate or bandolier from which they are separable for application to the blank. Yet alternatively already separate lengths of the elastic tape may be held in a magazine.

• The end of the elastic from the reel or other supply is gripped by a transfer arm at a dispensing and cutting station 224. The transfer arm is moved from a pick-up station 226 to a release station 228 by a linear actuator 230, such that the desired length is unwound from the reel or dispenser. A "park" position 232 of the transfer arm is also shown. The reel 222 is driven via an electronically controlled drive to deliver the required length of elastic tape 10 for attachment to the blank 12.

• The transferred portion of the elastic is then engaged and held a multi-pivoting head assembly 234 for transfer to the blank 12. The elastictape is held in a proximal 236 and a distal 238 holding head by suction, or by grippers as further described below with reference to Figure 32, or any by any other suitable releasable holding devices known to those skilled in the art. The required length is separated from the remaining supply by breaking or severing the elastic next to the proximal head 234 on the supply side. The separated length of elastic 10 therefore remains freely held, preferably stretched out, between the holding heads 236, 238. The transfer arm may then release the elastic and return to the pick-up station 226 to repeat the cycle.

• The multi-pivoting head assembly 234 holds secure, bends, twists and manipulates the length of elastic into the desired U shape. The holding heads 236, 238 are carried at the ends of pivotable arms which, when the multi-pivoting device is at the dispensing and cutting station 224, extend upwardly to pivot axes running parallel to the blank conveying direction. The arms therefore lie parallel to each other in a vertical plane which extends transverse to the blank conveying direction.

• Next, the multi-pivoting head assembly 234 is rotated bodily about a horizontal axis extending transverse to the blank conveying direction, as indicated by arrow 240. Hence the arm pivot axes now extend vertically. Before, during or after such bodily rotation, the arms are also swung about their pivot axes as indicated by the arrows 242, to bring the holding heads 236, 238 nearer to one another and to bring the arms into coaxial alignment. This bends and twists the length of elastic 10 into the required U-shape. Alternatively, where it is required to apply the elastic to the blank under tension, the arms may be rotated into alignment so that the holding heads move away from one another. Additionally or alternatively, the elastic may be suitably pre-tensioned before it is broken/severed into lengths at the dispensing and cutting station 224, e.g. by suitably braking the supply reel 222 and/or driving it at a slower linear speed than the linear speed of the actuator 230.

• During or after rotation of the arms, the multi-pivoting head assembly 234 is moved bodily downward as indicated by the arrows 244 until the holding heads 236, 238 press the ends of the tape 10 against the glue bearing front securing flaps 30 at the tape application station 220. Once the multi-pivoting head assembly 234 presents the elastic to the flaps 30 the elastic is then attached, preferably using hot melt, but perhaps using cold melt or other adhesives. Yet alternatively the adhesive heads 218 may be replaced by an automatic adhesive tape dispenser, an automatic stapler, or an automatic stitching device or any other means for automatically fastening the tape ends to the front securing flaps 30.

• The blank with attached elastic tape is then conveyed past a glue station 246 where adhesive applicators are positioned on either side of the conveyor for applying adhesive to the front securing flap extensions 42. Next at a folding station 248 the front securing flap extensions 42 are folded over and compressed against the tape ends and front securing flaps 30 (arrows 249). One, two, three or four sequentially rotating arms may be used for this, or the folding may be performed using a piston system that pushes against or down upon the front securing flap extensions in various sections of the machinery). Additionally or alternatively this procedure may be performed using the conveyor and a guide track or bar system, as per current multi point gluing machines.

· At station 250 the side panels (plus front securing flaps 30, 42 and the ends of the elastic) are folded up through 90 degrees as indicated by arrow 252; the rear panel with attached lid assembly is folded up through 90 degrees (arrow 254), and the rear securing flaps are folded inward through 90 degrees (arrow 256) and secured to make a pack ready for receiving the merchandise. Similar folding means may be employed here as at station 248. A further gluing station (not shown) may be provided between stations 248 and 250 to apply adhesive to the then upper surface of the rear securing flaps. At station 250, the partly erected blank with the length of elastic attached is also transferred to a different conveyor running transversely of the first; although in-line arrangements are also possible, e.g. with corresponding modifications to the various stations as shown in Figure 33.

· At station 258 merchandise is collated into the desired grouping suitable for the pack using any suitable feeding and collation apparatus, e.g. positioned at the end of a production or primary wrapping line for the merchandise. As an example, the collation apparatus may be positioned at the end of a chocolate bar wrapping machine. A pusher pad 48 may or may not be introduced before product is inserted into the pack at station 260, depending on customer or product specifications.

• The collated merchandise is preferably inserted into the case at station 260 by an electrically controlled mechanical transfer device. This allows the length of elastic tape to be tensioned to provide the required resilient bias towards the front or rear or top of the final pack (towards the front as shown in this illustrative example).

• At station 262 the front securing flaps 30, 42 are folded inwards through 90 degrees as shown by arrows 264 and the front panel 20 is folded up and compressed against the front securing flaps 30, 42 (arrow 266). A glue station (not shown) may be provided between stations 260 and 262 to apply adhesive to the then upper face of the front panel, at positions for reception of the front securing flaps 30, 42.

• At station 268 the lid assembly is folded downwardly through 90 degrees (arrow 270) to cover the merchandise. The lid front panel is then folded down through 90 degrees (arrow 272) and secured over the front panel 20 and the lid side panels are folded down through 90 degrees and secured over the side panels and rear securing flaps (arrows 274). Similar folding means may be employed at stations 262 and 268 as at stations 248 and 250. Further glue stations (not shown) may be provided between stations 262 and 268, e.g. for applying adhesive to the inner surfaces of the lid side and front panels. On leaving station 268, the pack is ready for presentation to the supply chain.

Figure 32 schematically shows operational details of a gripper 236 (or 238) suitable for use in the multi-pivoting head assembly 234 of Figure 31. The gripper comprises a combined jaw and pressure pad 276 and a second jaw 278. In panel A, the combined jaw and pressure pad is spaced apart from the second jaw, for reception of an end of the elastic 10 between them. In panel B the second jaw has been moved against a complementary recessed part 280 (see Panel A) of the combined jaw and pressure pad. A free end of the elastic extends over the pressure pad part 282 of the combined jaw and pressure pad. Panel C shows the gripper pressed against the surface of a blank 12, so that the pressure pad presses the end of the tape 10 against for example a glue spot applied to that surface. Figure 33 shows an alternative layout of an automated production line or machine 300 for attaching the length of elastic to blanks as shown in Figures 1-10. The construction and operation is similar to that of Figure 31, except that a single inline conveyor is used. The various stations of Figure 31 are consequently modified as follows:

· The group of blanks is held in the hopper at station 210 long side uppermost, instead of short side uppermost.

• The blanks therefore are conveyed through stations 212, 216, 220, 246 and 248 with their long axis transverse to the direction of movement, rather than in line with it.

• At stations 216 and 246 in each case only a single glue head needs to be provided to apply adhesive to the front securing flaps 30 and flap extensions 42, respectively.

• The dispensing and cutting station 224 and the multi-pivoting head assembly 234 are each shifted 90 degrees about the vertical axis, so that the linear actuator operates parallel to the blank conveying direction and similarly the proximal and distal holding heads are downstream and upstream respectively, rather than transverse to the conveying direction. · There is no transfer to a second conveyor at station 250: movement of the packaging continues on the same conveyor in the same direction.

Figure 34 is a schematic illustration of an automated production line or machine 400 for attaching the length of elastic to blanks as shown in Figures 11-14. The layout and operation is similar to the machine 200 of Figure 31, with the following main differences:

• An additional folding station 410 is provided between stations 212 and 216, for folding the blank side panel parts 16a inwardly through 180 degrees and folding the blank side panel parts 16b outwardly through 180 degrees.

· At station 216, the glue heads are suitably repositioned to apply the adhesive to the upwardly exposed side panel parts 16b, adjacent to the front panel 20.

• At station 220 the bent and twisted elastic tape is applied to the glue spots on the side panel parts 16b, rather than to the front securing flaps 30. The movement of the holding head pivotable arms is adjusted accordingly.

· Glue station 246 and folding station 248 are omitted. • Station 262 and associated glue stations (not shown) are modified to fold and secure the front securing flaps 30 (attached to the front panel 20) to the side panels 16; rather than folding in front securing flaps attached to the side panels, to receive and secure the erected front panel.

The arrangement shown in Figure 34 may be reconfigured similarly to Figure 33 mutatis mutandis, to provide an in-line processing arrangement with only a single conveyor.

The arrangement shown in Figure 34 may be readily modified to handle the blanks shown in Figures 22-26, by simplifying station 410: there are no side panel parts 16b to fold outwardly. Instead the entire side panels are folded inwardly. The dispensing and cutting station 224 and the multi-pivoting head assembly 234 are each shifted 180 degrees about the vertical axis, so that the U-folded tape is applied to the blank with its bent ends facing downstream in the conveying direction, rather than upstream.

Correspondingly, the arrangement shown in Figure 31 may be readily modified to handle the blanks shown in Figures 15-21, by providing an additional station between the station 212 and the glue station 216, at which each blank is folded downwardly 180 degrees about the central fold line 58 and the side panels 16 with attached flaps and flap extensions 30, 32 are simultaneously folded 90 degrees in the opposite sense. The glue heads are then correspondingly repositioned at station 216 and the multi-pivoting head assembly adjusted so that the grippers are brought suitably close together for application of the elastic tape or strips to the folded blanks at station 220. An additional unfolding station may be provided between folding stations 248 and 250 at which the blanks are unfolded about the central fold line 58. At this station the attached elastic tape may cause the side panels 16 to be at least partially erected automatically. A further folding station may be provided after the unfolding station, for folding the blanks flat for storage or transport to a product supplier or manufacturer, as described above. Indeed, in any of the arrangements described with reference to Figures 31-34 (including the described modifications thereof), stations 210-248 (210-220 in the case of Figure 34 and its variants) may be on the premises of a packaging manufacturer, and stations 250 onwards on the premises of a packaging user, such as a merchandise supplier or manufacturer. In that case, the blanks with attached elastic tapes emerging from station 220/248 may be collated and bundled/packaged for shipment to the packaging user. At the user's premises, station 250 would preferably be preceded by a suitable hopper for the blanks with attached elastic, a transfer mechanism and any necessary additional unfolding station that may be required.

Figure 35 shows stages in the manufacture and use of an elasticated merchandise pusher 500 embodying a second independent aspect of the invention. These assembly steps or any of them may be mechanised or carried out by hand.

Panel A shows the components of the pusher 500 prior to assembly. These are a strip of elastic material or length of elastic tape 10 which may be but are not necessarily of similar cross-section to the lengths of elastic tape described earlier, and a blank 510 of foldable sheet material such as corrugated or solid paperboard, plastics or the like. Adhesive as described above is applied to two corner regions 512 on one side of the blank, delineated by transverse fold lines 514 and a longitudinal fold line 516. The elastic 10 is then transferred to the blank 510 so that its ends are stuck to the adhesive regions 512 (see panel B).

Adhesive is then applied to the other corners of the blank delineated by lines 514/516, and to one long side edge of the blank. The blank is then doubled over about the fold line 516 and glued in the folded condition so that the ends of the elastic are secured to the blank (see panel C). In a first option the remainder of the elastic is left unattached. In a second option, the majority of the elastic is left unattached, but the elastic is attached to the interior of the folded blank by a small central glue spot on one or both sides.

Ends of the blank are then pulled apart from the centre section so that they separate along lines of weakness such as perforation lines 520 (panels C and D). The centre section 524 forms a product pusher pad, the two layers of the doubled over foldable sheet material forming respective leaves between which the elastic material is sandwiched.

The ends of the blank are then folded upwardly through 90 degrees about the fold lines 514 (panels D and E). This pinches the elastic in the bend, relieving some of the stress on the glued end connection that arises when the elastic is stretched. The end connection is in any case loaded primarily in shear, making it strong and reliable. The elastic is still freely stretchable through the non-upwardly folded parts of the corner anchors 522 thus formed. Similarly to the product pusher portion, the corner anchors thus have inner and outer leaves that sandwich the ends of the elastic material.

The corner anchors are then folded inwardly by 90 degrees to further bend the elastic into a C-shape. The elastic is then stretched, to move the pusher pad and corner anchors apart. This allows the merchandise pusher 510 to be placed around a collated set of merchandise 44, with the corner anchors 522 fitted around the front corners of the set and the pusher pad 524 to the rear (panels F and G).

The collated merchandise with the pusher 510 and elastic 10 held in place is then placed into an otherwise conventional pack 526 (panel H). For example the pack may be at a semi- erected stage, with a front panel and lid still open. The merchandise and pusher may be pushed into the pack through the open front or top sides. On erecting the front panel, adhesive is also applied to corner regions of the pack corresponding to one or both outer faces of the corner anchors 522. Erecting the front flap and pressing the corner regions of the case against the corner anchors (as braced by the collated merchandise), thereby glues the corner anchors into position. The product pusher is now fixed into position so that it biases the merchandise to a display/removal zone at the front of the pack. The angled sides of the corner anchors do not significantly inhibit stretching and contraction of the elastic but they do serve to stiffen the rear leaf of the front part of the anchor where it is put under greatest stress by the elastic. This strengthens the structure of the corner anchor e.g. against buckling and against delamination of the front and rear leaves of the front part.

Closure of the pack lid may then be completed and the pack put into the supply chain.

Alternatively, lengths of elastic material (e.g. elastic tapes or ribbons, but also lengths of elastic of other cross-sectional configurations, e.g., without limitation, square, round or oval) may be attached to respective blanks at an automated production line with each blank in a partially erected configuration, using an insertion machine 600 as shown in Figures 36 to 39. Using the blank in Figure 1 as an example, before attaching a length of elastic to the front securing flaps 30, the sides of the blank including side panels 16, front securing flaps 30, and optionally rear panel 26 and rear securing flaps 32, may already be folded in the automated production line, along the base panel side edges 18 and 28, to a position perpendicular to the base panel 14. The blank, as shown by Figure 36 to Figure 38, may take a wide variety of other styles, including wraparound (Figures 36 and 37) or as shown in Figure 22, with the ends of the elastic secured to the inside surfaces of the side panels 16. The insertion machine 600 is configured to apply and secure the ends of the elastic to a pair of panels which are already erected to a parallel, opposed configuration; although other panel configurations are also possible. For example, the machine may be reconfigured to secure the elastic extending between a pair of panels at an angle to one another, such as adjoining panels forming a corner. The panels to which the ends of the elastic are secured may form side panels in the fully erected packaging, or they may be securing flaps or tabs, such as flaps forming part of an end closure in the fully erected packaging. The latter arrangement has the advantage that the free part of the elastic between the secured ends may be doubled back over the secured ends to lie closely adjacent to the finished end closure when the packaging is empty. This configuration of the elastic is shown in Figures 14b and 14c. The elastic is therefore able to bias the final item of contents towards the end closure as the packaging is being emptied.

The end of the elastic projecting from the holding head may be moved at an angle towards the panel to which it is to be attached. This end therefore has a component of motion pressing it against the panel and a component of motion across the plane of the panel. Frictional drag against the panel therefore bends the projecting end so that it extends rearwardly into the diminishing gap between the panel and the approaching side surface of the holding head. The bent projecting end is thereby eventually trapped and pressed against the panel by the holding head side surface. A patch of adhesive (e.g. hot melt or other fast acting adhesive) may be applied to the region of contact shortly beforehand, or other securing means such as staples, stitching or adhesive tape may be applied to secure the bent end of the elastic to the face of the panel. Alternatively the holding head and panel may be relatively movable so as to approach one another in a direction parallel to the face of the panel, with the projecting end and a corner or edge portion of the panel meeting one another so as to bend the projecting elastic end whereby it lies in a gap between the holding head and the panel. The holding head may then be moved towards the surface of the panel to press the bent end into position, e.g. against pre-applied adhesive as described above, or likewise for the application of other securing means such as staples, stitching or adhesive tape. This movement towards the surface may also take place while the holding head is still travelling with a component of motion parallel to the face of the panel.

The blank 12, when put into the partially erected configuration, exhibits a U-shaped profile with two upstanding side panels 16, as shown in most clearly in Figure 38. This provides two opposing internal surfaces for attaching the elastic tape. Any flaps or panels which are eventually used to form an end closure between the side panels 16 (e.g. front panel 20 and front panel securing flaps 30, Figs. 37 and 39) are left unfolded at this stage, allowing access by the holding heads and length of elastic carried by them. The front edges of the flaps 16 or the front edges of any flaps or panels attached to these edges (such as front panel securing flaps 30, Fig. 37) form the edges or corners against which the projecting ends of the elastic may be bent, as described above. Any rear panel 26 and rear panel securing flaps 32 or other rear end closure may be folded to a partially erected configuration as shown in Figure 39. In operation, the ends of the elastic are applied to the internal surfaces of the erected front securing flaps 30 (where present, e.g. when attached to front edges of the side panels 16), or the internal surfaces of the erected side panels 16, using various holding heads 636a, 636b, 638a, 638b of the insertion machine, as described in further detail below.

The front opening in the partially erected blank, through and across which the length of elastic is inserted and secured, may also be used, e.g. in an immediately succeeding station in the filling line (not shown), to load product into the partially erected packaging, thereby stretching the elastic so as to run beside and behind the loaded product. The open side of the partially erected packaging into and across which the elastic is inserted and secured may lie in any suitable orientation, e.g. to match the product loading station; e.g. an open side as shown in Figures 36-39, for side loading; or an open top (not shown), for top loading. Once the product has been loaded into the packaging, the open side may be closed, e.g. by a closure panel and securing flaps, or by a plurality of closure flaps. Optionally, the ends of the length of elastic may be secured to inner surfaces of the closure flaps. The loading and closing may be performed automatically by apparatus at the filling line.

The elastic material 10 may be supplied from a reel and cut to length at a dispensing station 624 comprising an elastic feed gripper 626 for drawing the elastic material through an elastic dispenser guide 628, which serves to support and align the elastic material with a pair of lower holding heads or grippers 638a, 638b. Furthermore, a knife and anvil assembly (not shown) may be provided for cutting or separating the elastic material from the feedstock. Alternatively, the dispensing station 624 may feed a supply of ready cut elastic lengths 10 to the lower grippers 638a, 638b, or it may be omitted altogether so that the lower grippers 638a, 638b pick up the cut elastic pieces 10 from another supply arrangement, such as a bandolier or magazine, or directly from a stockpile.

The insertion machine 600 further comprises a pair of upper grippers 636a, 636b for transferring the severed lengths of elastic from the dispensing station 624 and applying them to the partly erected packaging blank 12. Lower gripper 638b is a datum gripper fixed with respect to the machine frame. Lower gripper 638a is movable laterally across the width of the packaging by a lower gripper actuator 648a. Each upper gripper 636a, 636b is movable across the width of the packaging by respective actuators 646a, 646b. In addition the upper grippers 636a 636b, along with their actuators 646a, 646b, are movable depth-wise towards and away from the packaging using upper gripper assembly actuator 650. As such the upper grippers 636a, 636b may traverse two dimensionally with respect to the blank 12. Furthermore, an upper gripper assembly centring actuator 652 (see Figs. 38 and 39) may be provided for aligning and centring the upper gripper assembly with the centre of the packaging so that in operation the upper grippers 646b and 646a may travel equal distances laterally for attaching the elastic to the two sides of the packaging; this improves process efficiency. The lateral position of the lower gripper actuator 648a (and hence the "home" position of the lower gripper 638a) is adjustable by a lower gripper adjustment actuator 648b. The machine 600 further comprises a dispenser 618 (e.g. a hot melt glue gun) for dispensing adhesive or other fastening materials or fasteners onto opposed internal surfaces of the blank 12. The adhesive dispenser has a pair of oppositely directed, right angled dispensing heads for this purpose. The operation of the machine 600 comprises the following steps.

1) Elastic is in the first instance fed through the elastic dispenser guide 628 and through the elastic feed gripper 626 which is in an opened state, i.e. opposed fingers on the gripper are in an opened state so that they do not grip onto the elastic.

2) The elastic feed gripper 626 then closes to grip the portion of the elastic approximately 6mm down from the top, leaving the lower part of the elastic free for guidance through the guide 628 and through the opened and abutted lower grippers 638b, 638a, as further described below.

3) The elastic feed gripper 626 then indexes above the lower grippers 638a and 638b to a set position. At this time the lower grippers 638a and 638b are in an opened state (i.e. the fingers of both the lower datum gripper 636b and lower adjustable gripper 636a are opened and not gripping the elastic). In the set position, the leading end of the elastic is positioned so that it will project the required distance beyond the edge of the upper gripper 636a, when the elastic is gripped by it, as described later below. The lower adjustable gripper 638a at this time is in a position flush to the lower datum gripper 638b. Hence the gripper 638b has an offset, projecting end, engageble in a cutaway part of gripper 638a; these features being shown most clearly in Figure 38, but the grippers 638a, 638b being shown separated in that Figure.

4) The lower adjustable gripper 638a then actuates to grip the elastic. The elastic feed gripper 626 then opens and releases its grip on the elastic before returning to its starting position.

5) The lower adjustable gripper 638a then indexes away from the lower datum gripper 638b by means of the lower adjustable gripper actuator 648a, to the required length as set by the size of packaging, the desired length of elastic projecting beyond the upper gripper 636a when this eventually grips the elastic as described later below, and any predetermined tension required in the elastic when fixed to the packaging. At this point, the lower datum gripper 638a engages the other end of the length of elastic material.

6) The elastic is then cut from the feedstock by means of a knife and anvil assembly (not shown), situated between the elastic dispenser guide 628 and the lower datum gripper 638b.

7) In steps 1-6 above, the upper grippers 636a and 636b are not at the receive position as shown in Figure 36-39; they are instead disposed in an elastic application position within the packaging. By activating the upper gripper assembly actuator 650, the upper grippers 636a, 636b may be indexed to the elastic receive position in an opened state.

8) The upper grippers 636a, 636b then actuate to close and grip the elastic between them. They grip the elastic at a position so that the correct "free" length projects beyond each upper gripper, and the gripped portion in and between the two upper grippers is of the correct length to be stretched between the packaging side walls 16 or front flaps 30 to the desired tension. ("Free" being in inverted commas, because these ends are still held by the lower grippers 638a, 638b at this time).

9) The lower grippers 638a, 638b then open to release the elastic to the upper grippers 636a, 636b, thus leaving the end portions of the elastic free.

10) The upper grippers 636a, 636b then are transferred toward the packaging by means of the upper gripper assembly actuator 650. 11) During indexing into the packaging, the dispenser 618 applies adhesive to the inside of the side flaps 16 in the required position for securing the elastic. This may be done in a continuous move or there may be an instantaneous pause in travel of the dispenser at the correct location. The dispenser 618 is positioned slightly in front of the upper grippers 636a, 636b in the direction of travel, so that the upper grippers 636a, 636b may then continue into the packaging to the correct position to apply the elastic to the upright side panels 16 or front securing flaps 30. In the process, the free ends of the elastic catch on the packaging, i.e. encounter the front edges of the side panels 16 (or of any front securing flaps 30 attached to those front edges), and bend to rest against the internal surfaces of the panels 16 (or front securing flaps 30, where applicable).

12) The upper grippers 636a and 636b are then moved by their respective actuators 646a, 646b to compress the free ends of elastic to the packaging, such that the respective free ends of the elastic are sandwiched between the upper grippers 636a, 636b and adjacent internal surfaces of the blank upstanding side panels 16 (or front securing flaps 30).

13) As the elastic is being compressed to the case, two external cylinders or other suitable removable supports (not shown) are provided to support the side panels 16 (or front securing flaps 30) from the outside and counter the compression force from the upper grippers 636a, 636b.

14) After the elastic has been compressed and fixed to the packaging, the upper grippers 636a, 636b may then open and retract to release the elastic. The grippers 636a, 636b can then return to the receive position to collect the next piece of elastic from the lower grippers 638a, 638b, which have been through the above steps 1-6 again. The whole process may then be repeated. The fingers of the upper grippers 636a, 636b may hinge open through approximately 90 degrees each, so as to clear the fixed elastic, and so as to clear newly dispensed elastic held in the lower grippers 648a, 648b as described in steps 5, 6 and 7 above.

The lower gripper adjustment actuator 648b, the stroke of the upper gripper actuators 646a, 646b and upper gripper assembly centring actuator 652 are adjustable to vary the length of the severed length of the elastic and the length of its projecting ends when picked up by the upper grippers 636a, 636b; according to the requirements of each style of packaging that is to be run. For example, all the actuators may each have a stroke length of approximately 50mm (or another suitable stroke length) so that when working together they are able to cater for all the different pack designs envisaged.

The process may optionally omit the lower grippers 638a, 638b and comprise only the upper grippers 636a, 636b for drawing the elastic material from the dispenser guide 628, and then holding, transferring and applying the elastic material 10 onto the blank 12. For example, the upper adjustable gripper 636a may engage the elastic material to form a free projecting end portion before it draws the required length of elastic material from the dispensing and cutting station 624, while the upper gripper 636b may engage the length of elastic material to form yet another freely projecting end portion at the other end when the elastic has been severed from the supply; as such providing the required free ends for attaching the elastic material to the blank. However the arrangement described and illustrated ensures that the entire width of the elastic is consistently gripped in the upper grippers, so that the elastic is accurately positioned and uniformly pre-tensioned (where pre-tensioning is required). The illustrated apparatus is therefore particularly suited (although is not limited) to the handling and application of elastic tapes. Also, the elastic dispensing and application processes may be carried out at least partially simultaneously by use of upper and lower grippers as described above, thereby giving shorter cycle times. Once the elastic material is adhered to the side panels 16 or the front securing flaps 30, the partially erected blank may be fed to other stations as described earlier, for filling and closing. For example the erected blanks may be sent to stations similar to 250, 260, 262 and 268 to carry out the remaining steps of the packaging process. The various blanks and pack designs described above may be changed within the scope of the invention as defined by the claims. For example, lids may be omitted or formed from separate blanks.