Patent application title: Packing Band and Packaging for Bottles and the Like, and Process for Manufacturing Thereof
Mauro Vincenzo Bonelli (Milano, IT)
Enrico Danovaro (Milano, IT)
IPC8 Class: AB65D7500FI
Class name: Special receptacle or package portable segregating carrier for plural cylindrical beverage-type receptacles (e.g., beer cans, pop bottles)
Publication date: 2012-06-28
Patent application number: 20120160713
A coupling band (3) for containers (2) comprises a substantially tubular
strip (4) disposed around at least two containers (2) so as to keep them
mutually coupled; the strip (4) comprises at least one first portion (5)
to be steadily coupled to the outer surf ace (2a) of a respective
container (2), and at least one second portion (b) to be removably
interposed between said containers (2).
1. A coupling band for containers, comprising a substantially tubular
strip disposed around at least two containers for maintaining said
containers mutually coupled, said containers having outer surfaces,
wherein said strip comprises at least one first portion steadily coupled
to the outer surface of a respective container, and at least one second
portion removably interposed between said at least two containers.
2. The band according to claim 1, wherein said strip comprises a first portion associable with each container, and each second portion being interposed between two first portions and dissociable from said first portions for defining an uncoupled condition of the containers.
3. The band according to claim 2, wherein said band further comprises a series of separation lines interposed between respective first and second portions.
4. The band according to claim 3, wherein each separation line comprises a series of consecutive holes to enable manual tearing along said line and removal of the second portions.
5. The band according to claim 1, wherein each first portion comprises an inner wall extending over a portion of the outer surface of the respective container, and wherein each inner wall comprises at least one glueing region to be irremovably associated with said respective container.
6. The band according to claim 5, wherein each first portion further comprises an outer wall in sight, opposite to the inner wall and having a graphic design defining a label of the container.
7. The band according to claim 6, wherein said tubular strip comprises plastic material.
8. The band according to claim 7, wherein the inner wall of the first portion of the strip comprises a glue which can be activated thermally at a temperature substantially equal to the heat-shrinking temperature of the plastic material of the tubular strip.
9. A multiple package comprising a plurality of mutually adjacent containers maintained relative to each other utilizing a band according to claim 1.
10. The multiple package according to claim 9, wherein the containers comprise bottles having irregularly profiled bodies.
11. A process for forming a multiple package of containers, comprising the steps of: arranging a plurality of containers close to each other so as to define an assembly; providing a coupling band defined by a tubular strip; and winding the tubular strip around said assembly so as to maintain the containers mutually coupled; wherein said step of providing the band comprises the sub-step of defining first portions that can be irremovably coupled to the containers so as to constitute respective labels for the containers.
12. The process according to claim 11, wherein said sub-step of defining first portions that can be irremovably coupled to the containers is carried out by printing a graphic design on an outer wall in sight of the first portions, which graphic design is representative of the contents and trademark of the containers.
13. The process according to claim 11, wherein said sub-step of defining first portions that can be irremovably coupled to the containers is carried out by distributing an adhesive material on an inner wall of each first portion, and said inner wall of each first portion being in abutment against an outer surface of a respective container for being glued thereto.
14. The process according to claim 13, wherein the tubular strip comprises a film made of heat-shrinkable plastic material, and wherein the adhesive material applied to the inner wall of each first portion can be activated thermally at a temperature within the temperature range where heat shrinking of the tubular strip occurs.
15. The process according to claim 13, wherein the adhesive material is applied to the inner wall of the portions like an ink printed on the strip.
16. The process according to claim 15, wherein at least one ink layer is printed on the inner wall of the first portions, and wherein the adhesive material is applied to said at least one ink layer.
17. The process according to claim 11, wherein the tubular strip is created by using a film made of a heat-shrinkable plastic material chosen from the group consisting of: PET, PVC, PP, OPS, PLA, and PE.
18. The process according to claim 13, wherein the adhesive material applied to the inner wall of the first portions of the strip comprises dispersions of elements chosen from the group consisting of polyester, vinyl acrylics, EVA, and ionomers.
19. The process according to claim 11, wherein said step of providing the band further comprises the sub-step of defining second portions adjacent to and alternated with the first portions, which can be separated from said first portions for defining an uncoupled condition of the containers.
20. The process according to claim 19, wherein said step of defining the second portions is carried out by forming a plurality of separation lines extending from opposite edges of the tubular strip, and each separation line being interposed between the first and second portions.
21. The process according to claim 20, wherein said separation lines are made of a series of consecutive holes disposed along a predetermined path defining said lines, and said holes enabling transverse tearing of the strip for separating the first portions from the second portions, so as to define the uncoupled condition of the containers.
22. The process according to claim 21, wherein the holes are made by using hot needles.
 The present invention relates to a coupling band for containers
(such as, for example, bottles or the like), to a package of such
containers, and to a process for forming said package. In particular, in
the following description reference will be made (by way of non-limiting
example) to packages of bottles, generally glass, metal or plastic
bottles, kept associated with each other by a plastic film band.
 As known, in various fields (like the so-called "large distribution"), several "single" containers of product are kept grouped together by a band made of polymeric material wound around the assembly of containers.
 Said band has a tubular shape and is wound around a certain portion of the containers, so as to bring them near to each other and keep them grouped together: in other words, the single containers (whether bottles or any other containers) stay associated together and can be transported and/or handled as a single object. Identification labels having various shapes and graphic-literal contents are also known to be applied to bottles or the like.
 For example, a single bottle is often covered with a plastic film printed with the trademark of the liquid food product and the chemical composition thereof, in compliance with food product regulations.
 As a consequence, the bottles are subjected to a first winding step wherein a respective label is wound around each bottle; subsequently, the labelled bottles, after having been mutually brought near to form an assembly, undergo a second winding step wherein a coupling band (or a suitably shaped cardboard element) is wound around an assembly of bottles, so as to define a single package.
 The above-described packaging process is rather time-consuming, since the bottles must first be wound with the label and then with the coupling band.
 Consequently, the packaging process is particularly expensive in terms of production costs and times, as well as in terms of material costs.
 In such a situation, the technical object of the present invention is to conceive a bottle coupling band and a bottle packaging process which can solve the above-mentioned problems.
 In particular, it is an object of the present invention to provide a coupling band for containers, such as bottles and the like, as well as a process for packaging or bundling or, more in general, for making a "multiple package" of bottles or containers, which are simple, fast, and capable of reducing the quantity of bottle packaging material.
 It is a further object of the present invention to provide a method for bundling containers (whether bottles or the like) which allows the single containers to be labelled quickly and efficiently while at the same time keeping them adequately packed.
 The technical objects stated above are substantially achieved through a coupling band for containers, such as bottles and the like, through a package of containers, such as bottles and the like, and through a process for forming such a package characterised by comprising one or more of the technical solutions claimed below.
 By way of explanatory, non-limiting example, the following will describe a preferred but non-exclusive embodiment of a coupling band and a package of containers (in this case, bottles) according to the invention, with reference to the annexed drawings, wherein:
 FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a bottle package provided with a coupling band according to the invention in a respective closed configuration;
 FIG. 1a shows the bottle package of FIG. 1 in a respective decoupling configuration;
 FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a bottle package according to a second embodiment, wherein the package consists of three bottles;
 FIG. 2a shows the bottle package of FIG. 2 in a respective decoupling configuration;
 FIG. 3 is a perspective view of a bottle package according to a third embodiment, wherein the package consists of four bottles;
 FIG. 3a shows the bottle package of FIG. 3 in a respective decoupling configuration;
 FIGS. 4, 4a show respective steps of the process for forming a further package in accordance with the invention; and
 FIGS. 5, 5a show respective steps of the process for forming yet another package in accordance with the invention.
 Referring to the above figures, a bottle package is designated as a whole by numeral 1.
 As can be seen, the package 1 contains an assembly 7 of bottles 2: in the annexed drawings, three different embodiments of a package 1 having a different number of bottles are shown only by way of explanatory, and therefore non-limiting, example.
 In particular, FIGS. 1 and 1a show an assembly 7 consisting of two bottles 2, FIGS. 2 and 2a show an assembly 7 consisting of three bottles, and FIGS. 3 and 3a show an assembly 7 consisting of four bottles 2.
 It must be pointed out that the bottles 2 may be of any kind and may have any shape suitable for containing a respective product. For simplicity and clarity, the drawings show bottles 2 of the type made of plastic for food use, having a substantially cylindrical shape.
 The assembly 7 of bottles 2 is defined by a plurality of bottles 2 adjacent and close to each other, with the respective cylindrical external surfaces mutually touching.
 The package 1 also comprises a coupling band 3 wound around the bottle assembly 7 and adapted to keep the bottles adherent and coupled to each other.
 More in detail, the coupling band 3 comprises a substantially tubular strip 4 disposed around the bottles, in contact with the outer surface 2a of the bottles 2. The strip 4 is configured in accordance with the different embodiments shown in the annexed drawings.
 For example, in FIGS. 1 and 1a, which show two bottles 2, the strip extends transversally along a substantially oval path. In the solution comprising three bottles 2 (FIGS. 2 and 2a), the cross-section of the strip 4 has a substantially triangular shape. In FIGS. 3 and 3a, in which the assembly 7 consists of four bottles 2, the cross-section of the strip 4 has a substantially square shape.
 The strip 4 is preferably made of plastic material (more preferably a heat-shrinkable plastic material which, once wrapped around median portions of the bottles 2, can be subjected to a heating step, so as to shrink and hold the bottles mutually coupled). Structurally, the strip 4 comprises first portions 5 adjacent to and alternated with second portions 6: the number of portions 5 and 6 that make up the strip 4 equals the number of bottles 2 that define the assembly 7 (for example, FIGS. 1 and 1a show two bottles 2, hence there are two first portions 5 alternated with two second portions 6).
 The first portions 5 are steadily coupled to the outer surface 2a of a respective bottle 2: in particular, each first portion 5 comprises an inner wall 5b extending over a portion of the outer surface 2a of the respective bottle 2.
 The inner wall 5b of the first portion 5 has at least one glueing region (not shown in the annexed drawings) to be irremovably associated with the respective bottle 2.
 Each first portion 5 also has an outer wall 5a in sight, opposite to the inner wall 5b, printed with a graphic design relating to the product contained in the bottle 2 (or, more in general, for bundles/packages of different products and/or containers, whatever information is to be perceived by the consumers/users).
 The second portions 6, interposed between the first portions 5, can be removed for defining an uncoupled condition of the bottles (FIGS. 1a, 2a, 3a).
 In particular, between the first and second portions 5, 6 there is a series of separation lines 8, each of which extends from an upper edge 4a to a lower edge 4b of the tubular strip 4.
 The separation lines 8 (e.g. obtained by pre-perforation) may have any distribution or pattern, depending on the number and/or shape of the containers that define the package (which may be called multiple package or "pack/bundle"): for example, the separation lines 8 may be parallel to each other, equidistant, and parallel to the longitudinal extension axis of the bottles.
 The separation lines 8 advantageously consist of a series of consecutive holes made in the strip 4 along a straight path. Thus, the strip 4 can be torn manually along the separation lines 8 in order to separate the second portions 6 from the first portions 5.
 As shown in FIGS. 1a, 2a and 3a, when the bottles 2 must be removed from the package 1, the second portions 6 are torn away from the strip 4 along the separation lines 8. The torn strip 4 thus allows the single bottles to be dissociated and removed from the respective assembly 7.
 It must be stressed that the first portions 5 stay glued to the respective bottles 2 even after the latter have been removed from the package 1. As a result, once the strip 4 has been torn, the bottles are removed with the first portions 5 acting as labels.
 Depending on specific requirements, it is also possible to implement the present invention with containers and/or bottles having a different shape and/or cross-section, such as, for example, bottles/containers having a quadrangular, rectangular or oval shape/cross-section (and so on): for example, with prismatic bottles having a square cross-section it will be possible to create a multiple package including six or more containers: in such a case, in fact, the broad lateral surface of the single containers provides a large adherence area onto which the first portions 5 can be attached, thus ensuring adequate structural coherence of the whole multiple package or bundle.
 Advantageously, the bottles 2 only undergo a single winding step wherein the coupling band 3 is applied. In fact, by using the first portion 5 glued to the respective bottle 2 as an advertising and information label, the bottles 2 do not need to be subjected to a previous step of application of said labels.
 As a result, the production cycle of the packages 1 of bottles 2 turns out to be particularly fast, simple and economical.
 It should also be pointed out that this solution provides considerable savings on the plastic film used for wrapping the bottles 2.
 As a matter of fact, the tubular strip 4 wound around the assembly 7 of bottles 2 performs a dual function of maintaining the bottles 2 associated together and of providing them, through the first glued portion 5, with a label that illustrates the food product contained therein.
 As a consequence, no other covering material is applied to the single bottles 2.
 Variations from the above description are also possible in the process for forming the package according to the invention; in fact, in order to apply the tubular strip 4 to bottles having a cylindrical body like those shown in the previous examples, the glue may be applied directly to the bottles themselves, which will then be wrapped with the strip.
 If the latter has an open initial configuration, it may be wound around the bottles as a band adhering to the areas where the glue was applied.
 If, on the other hand, the initial configuration of the strip 4 is a closed one (i.e. tubular or ring-like), it is conceivable to use a strip made of heat-shrinkable plastic material and having an initial annular extension slightly bigger than would be required for packaging the bottles, so that the strip can be applied by lowering it onto the bottle and attaching it to the glue previously applied thereto by exploiting the heat-shrinking capability of the strip, which will shrink and adhere closely to the bottle.
 Both of these solutions cannot however be used for bottles with a body having an irregular shape or multiple diameters, or anyway not being as uniform as the cylindrical body of the bottles shown in FIGS. 1-3a.
 Some examples of irregular bottles are shown in FIGS. 4, 4a; 5, 5a, which illustrate respective steps of the packaging process, and wherein the same reference numerals are used for designating elements which are homologous to those already taken into consideration.
 In this variant of the invention, the strip 4 consists of a film made of heat-shrinkable plastic material, such as PET, PVC, PP, OPS, PLA, PE and the like, subdivided into the aforementioned portions 5 and 6 and separated by separation lines 8 which allow the bottles to be removed from the package as previously explained.
 The portions 5 are intended for adhering to the bottles 2, which, as can be seen, have an uneven convex outer profile; to this end, a glue is applied to the inner wall 5b' of the portions 5, which glue is thermally activated at a temperature within the range where the heat-shrinkable film of the strip 4 shrinks.
 According to the invention, the glue is preferably applied through the same ink printing process used for making label writings or graphics.
 In this manner, in fact, its application does not slow down the production cycle and can be carried out on the same machine used for printing the labels: for this purpose, it is advantageously possible to use flexographic or rotogravure printing machines like those industrially employed for label printing.
 In accordance with this teaching, the adhesive is applied onto the ink layers printed on the inner wall 5b of the portions 5, which for this reason are (at least partly) transparent.
 The glue must then be dried at a temperature lower than its activation temperature, so that the tubular strip to which it has been applied can be handled in the following steps of the production process.
 For these reasons, according to a preferred embodiment of the invention the usable glues are based on dispersions of polyester, vinyl acrylics, EVA, ionomers; other thermoadhesives may possibly be used as well, so long as they can be applied to the plastic film during the production cycle as explained above and then be activated within the heat-shrinking temperature range of the plastic film.
 Said range is comprised between 35° C. and 85° C., depending on the type of plastic film used for the strip 4, its thickness, the hot-chamber permanence time and other factors.
 As can be understood, when the strip 4 is cold it has a larger annular extension than necessary for wrapping the bottles 2, so that it can be lowered onto the latter as shown in FIG. 4; in this condition, the glue applied internally to the portions 5 of the strip 4 is not active, and therefore there are no problems of interference with the bottles 2.
 When the latter go through the hot chamber of the packaging plant (per se known, and therefore not shown in the drawings) to shrink the strip 4 wound around them, the thermally active glue present on the inner wall 5b' of the portions 5 of the strip 4 becomes adhesive as well, so as to attach said portions to the bottles 2 following the shrinking process.
 It can thus be said that in the process according to the invention the glueing step and the heat-shrinking step of the tubular strip 4 take place contemporarily, so that the process can be advantageously carried out also on irregular diameter bottles like those shown in the drawings.
 In fact, the application of the glue to such bottles may be problematical (unlike those having a circular body as described in the previous examples) due to the variability of the diameter along the bottle body.
 It can however be easily understood that an uneven distribution of the adhesive on the bottle may cause air bubbles to be trapped between the bottle and the strip film, with adverse effects on connection stability and package appearance.
 These adverse effects increase as the number of bottles grows larger, in that in this case the breadth of the strip portions 5 decreases, as can be seen in FIGS. 5, 5a, which refer to a four-bottle package.
 The winding angle of the strip around the bottles is smaller, covering approximately one fourth of the outer surface of the bottles: it is apparent that in this situation it is necessary to avoid any glueing defects, since otherwise the stability of the package and of the single bottles might be impaired.
 Finally, it must be pointed out that, in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the invention, when using irregular bottles like those shown in FIGS. 4, 4a, 5, 5a the separation lines 8 between the first and second portions 5 and 6 of the strip 4 are obtained by perforating the strip by means of hot needles.
 In this way, the tensions generated in the heat-shrunk strip will not tear the film, since hot-perforation makes the material stronger locally near the holes.
 All of these variants will still fall within the scope of the following claims.
Patent applications in class PORTABLE SEGREGATING CARRIER FOR PLURAL CYLINDRICAL BEVERAGE-TYPE RECEPTACLES (E.G., BEER CANS, POP BOTTLES)
Patent applications in all subclasses PORTABLE SEGREGATING CARRIER FOR PLURAL CYLINDRICAL BEVERAGE-TYPE RECEPTACLES (E.G., BEER CANS, POP BOTTLES)