Patent application title: Blister Pack and Method
Gregor N. Neff (Dobbs Ferry, NY, US)
IPC8 Class: AB65B4300FI
Class name: Package making methods opening only
Publication date: 2013-06-27
Patent application number: 20130160408
The blister pack is composed of two sheets bonded together at least one
sheet being made of plastic film and forming receptacles around a
plurality of tablets or other objects to be stored and dispensed. The
objects are arranged in rows and columns. An imperforate tear line is
provided along a linear path traversing each of the objects in each
column so that one or more objects can be freed with one pull along the
tear line. Preferably, the imperforate tear line is formed by orienting
the plastic material and/or forming shallow grooves or score lines in the
film sheet. Both sheets can be made of plastic film, and both can have
imperforate tear lines. The tear lines preferably are positioned so that
only a small portion of the tablet is exposed by the tear [so that the
tablet will tend to be retained in the receptacle until it is
1. A blister package for small objects, said package comprising a. a body
having at least one edge and first and second separate sealed
receptacles, each adapted to contain at least one of said objects, b.
said body comprising first and second sheets, at least said first one is
made of plastic and is shaped to form said receptacles when said sheets
are joined together, said sheets being sealed together in areas around
and between said receptacles, and c. a first tear structure formed in
said first sheet, said tear structure comprising a first imperforate line
of weakness in first said sheet, said first line of weakness being
aligned with and entering said first and second receptacles to open both
of said receptacles with a single pull on said tear structure.
2. A package as in claim 1 in which said first imperforate line of weakness extends from said one edge continuously over said first receptacle and said second receptacle, said second sheet has a second imperforate line of weakness which is aligned with said first line of weakness to cause both of said sheets to tear along its respective imperforate line of weakness in response to a tearing force applied to said sheets at said imperforate lines of weakness.
3. A package as in claim 1 in which said one sheet has a further line of weakness between said objects in an area where said sheets are bonded together, said further line of weakness extending in a direction perpendicular to said imperforate line of weakness, thereby to permit separating said receptacles along said further line of weakness.
4. A package as in claim 1 in which said sheets have at least two opposed edges and are sealed together at their edges, and including edge cut in said sheets along said imperforate line of weakness and extending into said edges of the said sheets.
5. A package as in claim 1 in which said sheets form third and fourth receptacles for at least two additional objects, and a second tear structure in an area of said sheets where they are bonded together, said second tear structure comprising second imperforate line of weakness, said second imperforate lines being aligned with and entering said third and fourth receptacles to permit opening said receptacles with a single pull on said second tear structure.
6. A package as in claim 1 in which said imperforate line of weakness is positioned, relative to said receptacles, so that a portion of each of said objects is uncovered by said pull, said portion extending out of its receptacle where it can be grasped in ones fingers.
7. A package as in claim 1 in which said objects are tablets, and said sheets form a transition zone extending outwardly from the outer edge of each of said tablets to the junction between said sheets, at least one of said sheets forming an angle with the plane of the sheets where they are bonded together.
8. A package as in claim 7 in which said tablets are approximately cylindrical and said imperforate line of weakness extends across a diameter of the circles describing the ends of each tablet at a point between approximately 0.1 D and 0.9 D preferably 0.5 D to 0.9 D and most preferably, 0.75 D from one edge of said tablet, D being the diameter of said circles.
9. A package as in claim 1, said objects each comprising bismuth subsalicylate tablets, and said sheets are made of materials giving said receptacles characteristics selected from the group consisting of hermetic, moisture-proof and a combination of hermetic and moisture-proof characteristics.
10. A package as in claim 1 in which said imperforate line of weakness is formed by means selected from the group consisting of orientation of said plastic materials in the direction followed by said line, and a linear, non-perforating groove in each of said plastic sheets, and a combination of said orientation and said groove.
11. A package as in claim 1 in which one of said sheets is relatively stiff and has an upper surface to which said plastic film can be releasably adhered and peeled off, and said film has cavities forming the covers of said receptacles.
12. A package as in claim 11 in which said film has at least one horizontal transverse line of weakness between said receptacles, and lifted corner areas at the junction between said lines to provide lift corners to start secondary tears along said imperforate lines of weakness.
13. A medicinal tablet package comprising, a. a pair of plastic sheets bonded together face-to-face and forming a receptacle for said tablet, b. an imperforate line of weakness in at least one of said sheets crossing each of the walls of said receptacle at a location near one edge of said tablet when it is located in said receptacle, whereby tearing said sheet along said imperforate line of weakness will expose only a minor portion of said tablet near said one edge so as to tend to hold said tablet in said receptacle until it is grasped and withdrawn.
14. A package as in claim 13 in which said tablet is susceptible to deterioration or contamination due to contact with air or moisture-laden air, and said imperforate line of weakness is formed by means selected from the group consisting of orientation of said plastic materials in the direction followed by said line, a linear indentation of said plastic sheets, and a combination of said orientation and indentation, there being another imperforate line of weakness located in the other of said sheets and aligned with the first-named line of weakness to tear simultaneously therewith.
15. A package as in claim 13, said tablets each comprising bismuth subsalicylate, and the material of said sheets being cellophane.
16. A method of storing and dispensing medicinal tablets comprising a. providing a blister package for tablets, said package comprising i. a body having a plurality of separate receptacles, each containing at least one of said tablets, ii. said body comprising first and second sheets, at least the first of which is made of plastic film and extends around said tablets to form said receptacles, said sheets being sealed together in areas around and between said receptacles, iii. a tear structure formed in said first sheet, said tear structure having a first imperforate line of weakness aligned with and crossing both of said receptacles to permit at least a portion of each of said tablets to be uncovered by a single pull on said tear structure, b. selecting whether to dispense one of said tablets or more than one, c. tearing said package along said imperforate line of weakness for a length corresponding to the number of tablets to be dispensed to open a number of said receptacles corresponding to the number of tablets to be dispersed, and d. removing each tablet released from said package by said tearing step.
17. A method as in claim 16 in which said second sheet has a surface to which said first sheet is adhered and from which it can be peeled off, and in which said tearing step comprises peeling a portion of said first sheet off of said surface and said tablet or tablets are substantially fully uncovered by said tearing step.
18. A method as in claim 16 in which said second sheet also is made of plastic film and has a second imperforate line of weakness which is parallel to and aligned with said first imperforate line of weakness to tear said second sheet along said second line when said tear structure is pulled, and the tablet or tablets uncovered by pulling said tear structure are only partially uncovered thereby.
19. A method as in claim 16 in which said one sheet has a further line of weakness between said tablets in an area where said sheets are bonded together, said further line of weakness extending perpendicular to said first imperforate line of weakness, and separating said tablet receptacles along said further line of weakness.
 This invention relates to packaging and packaging methods, and
particularly to blister packaging and methods. More particularly, the
invention relates to blister packaging and methods for storing and
distributing small objects such as medicinal tablets and the like.
 Blister packaging is used as relatively low-cost packaging for a variety of products. Such packaging often is used to package and store medicinal tablets at a relatively low cost and with long shelf-life and convenience to the user.
 A particular example of such products is bismuth subsalicylate tablets, sold over-the-counter under trademarks such as "Pepto Bismol" or "Kaopectate," and generically under store brands. Those products are sold in drugstores, grocery stores, mass marketing outlets, etc. Such tablets are used as an anti-diarrheal treatment and an upset stomach reliever, often as an easy-to-use substitute for the liquid and other versions of the product. Such tablets usually are sold in boxes containing 30 or more tablets, sealed in five or more blister packs containing six tablets each.
 Blister packs used as packaging for such tablets are often made of two sheets of cellophane or other plastic film bonded face-to-face with one another and forming receptacles surrounding six tablets spaced from one another vertically and horizontally.
 The cellophane or other plastic material used is believed to be moisture-proof and capable of hermetically sealing each tablet into its receptacle. This protects the tablets from deterioration due to exposure to the air and the moisture in the air. By packaging the tablets in such blister packs, shelf lives of several years or more are attained for the products. This insures that the tablets will retain their effectiveness for relatively long periods of time, both on the store shelves, and in the home medicine cabinet, or the pocket, purse or briefcase of the user, or in the medicine kit or pockets of outdoors clothing of hikers, skiers, etc.
 One of the problems with such prior packaging is that it is relatively difficult to remove the tablets from the packages. Often, one must use a pair of scissors or other cutting means to start a cut in the material of the packages, and then cut or tear the material around a part of the circumference of each of the tablets to loosen it. Then, often it is necessary to wiggle and push the tablet sideways until one edge is exposed and can be grasped and pulled out of the remaining portion of the package. This procedure is relatively slow and cumbersome, and tends to reduce the facility of removing the tablets and dispensing them. This may discourage use of the product.
 Therefore, one object of the invention is to provide packaging for small objects, particularly for medicinal tablets, which is relatively easy and quick to use, and yet is relatively inexpensive. "Tablets," as used herein includes lozenges, pills, and other small objects, as well as flat-surfaced disks.
 A more specific object is to provide such packaging in the form of blister packs of barium subsalicylate tablets.
 A further object is to provide methods of using such packaging and packaged objects which are flexible as well as quick, in that they permit one to choose to dispense only one or several objects with a single tearing motion.
 Another object is to provide such a method which permits easy removal of the objects with minimum spillage or loss.
 In accordance with the present invention, the foregoing objects are met by the provision of a blister pack and method of use in which an imperforate line of weakness or tear line is provided in at least one of the walls of the packaging. This tear line intersects and traverses each of the receptacles containing one or more objects. Optionally, a small edge slit or notch is provided to enable the user to start a tear along the imperforate tear line to expose one or more objects in one or more receptacles quickly and easily, and partially or fully expose the tablet or objects. The objects then can be grasped easily with the fingers and be removed from the package for use, or they can be removed by gravity, as desired.
 The imperforate tear lines are provided, rather than perforated lines, in order to prevent unwanted contamination of the packaged objects and to protect the hermetic and moisture-proof character of the receptacles and therefore maintain the shelf life capabilities of the product, in cases in which those properties are needed.
 The invention can be used to free either one or a plurality of the objects with a single pull along an imperforate tear line.
 In one embodiment, in which both sheets forming the package have imperforate tear lines, only a relatively small portion of each tablet is exposed at one edge thereof and the remainder of the tablet is held loosely in the receptacle until it is grasped by the user and the pulled out of the package. This has the advantage that the tablets are held loosely in place until the user is ready to grasp them, thus tending to keep the tablets from falling and scattering and becoming lost or soiled and unsanitary, especially when a plurality of tablet is freed with a single pull of a tear-strip.
 In other embodiments, such as ones in which one wall is flat and stiff and is not torn, most or all of each stored object is exposed, where doing so facilitates easy removal of the object.
 Horizontal perforation lines between the objects in vertical arrays can be used to separate individual objects from others in the vertical array. Later, the imperforate tear line can be used to remove the remaining tablets, either one by one or in a group. The perforations are made in the areas in which the two sheets are bonded together so as to avoid disturbing the seals making the receptacles air-tight.
 The invention is believed to add convenience and value to the product for which the user will not only be grateful, but also will become a loyal customer.
 Cellophane is one of the preferred materials of which the blister pack is made, because of low cost, proven reliability in packaging such products, transparency, moisture-proof capabilities and other valuable features. However, other known plastic films can be used, as long as they have the characteristics required.
 The imperforate tear lines can be made using orientation lines already present in the plastic material. In addition, or instead, a small, shallow groove or score line can be made in the film to enhance the reliable tearing of the material along the line. The grooves are shallow enough so as not to compromise the air and moisture-tight characteristics of the material. Preferably, the grooves are formed by using properly placed, very small projections in the die used in extruding the material to make the film. Other techniques of weakening the materials without piercing them will be apparent to those skilled in the art.
 In one embodiment, both the top and bottom walls of the package are plastic film and have imperforate lines of weakness aligned with one another to tear simultaneously. Either both film sheets or only one has recesses to form parts of the receptacles.
 In another embodiment, one sheet can be relatively stiff, as cardstock or the like, and only the film has recesses and imperforate lines of weakness. The film is releasably secured to the stiff sheet and can be peeled off.
 The foregoing and other objects and advantages of the invention will be set forth in or apparent from the following description and drawings.
IN THE DRAWINGS
 FIG. 1 is a front perspective view of a blister package of the invention showing a first easy object removal process;
 FIG. 2 is a view like that of FIG. 1 showing a second easy object removal process;
 FIG. 3 is a top plan view of the blister package shown in FIGS. 1 and 2;
 FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional view taken along line 4-4 of FIG. 3;
 FIG. 5 is a broken-away, partially schematic cross-sectional view of a portion of the package shown in FIGS. 1 through 5, before the package has been torn along imperforate lines of weakness;
 FIG. 6 is a view like that of FIG. 5 after the package has been torn along an imperforate tear line to expose one edge of a tablet to enable it to be grasped and removed from the package completely,
 FIG. 7 is a schematic, broken-away, cross-sectional view of dies which can be used to fond the film sheets with small grooves to improve the functioning of the imperforate tear lines;
 FIG. 8 is a perspective view of another embodiment of the invention; and
 FIGS. 9 and 10 are enlarged, partially schematic and partially cross-sectional views taken along lines 9-9 and 10-10, respectively, of FIG. 8.
 Referring first to FIG. 1, the package 10 encloses six individual tablets 12, each of which is sealed in a receptacle formed between two thin sheets 16 and 18 of cellophane film or other suitable plastic packaging material to form the receptacles. The outer edge of each of receptacle is indicated at 14 in FIGS. 1 through 3.
 Located in each receptacle is an object 12 (here a medicinal tablet) to be stored and dispersed. The receptacles are arranged in vertical arrays or columns and horizontal arrays or rows. In this embodiment of the invention, there are two columns and three rows, for a total of six receptacles.
 The two sheets 16 and 18 (see FIGS. 4-6) are bonded together, as by heat bonding or adhesives, in all areas outside of the boundaries 14 defining the tablet receptacles.
 As in the prior art, a central vertical perforated line 20 divides the packaging into two strips containing three tablets each.
 Also in accordance with the prior art, the packages of some sellers have horizontal perforated lines 22 and 24 in the sealed areas between horizontal rows of tablets. Preferably, the central perforated line 20 is made relatively easy to tear, whereas the horizontal perforated lines 22 and 24 are made to require a relatively greater pull force to tear, so as to ensure separation only along line 20 when the tear is started along that line.
 Referring again to FIG. 3, in accordance with the present invention, vertical imperforate lines of weakness 26 and 28 are provided. At each end of each line 26 and 28 is a small slit 32 or 38; 30 or 31 or a v-shaped cut which can be used to start a tearing action along one of the imperforate lines of weakness.
 In addition, at each crossing between a vertical line 26 or 28 and a horizontal perforation line 22 or 24, there is another small vertical slit or v-shaped cut, 34, 36, 40 and 42. These slits are provided to enable the tablets to be removed and opened one at a time, if desired, so that subsequently, a new tear easily can be started along one of the imperforate tear lines 26 or 28.
 Referring now to FIG. 2, in accordance with one of the advantageous features of the invention, because the imperforate tear lines 26 and 28 cross over three tablets each, if a dosage of three tablets is desired, one merely needs to grasp the upper left-hand corner 33 of the package and pull to the left and down while holding the package to tear along the tear line 26 and thus expose three tablets. If it is desired to remove six tablets, one then would grasp the upper right-hand corner 35 and pull it while holding the package with the other hand, and repeat the process.
 If the package 10 is of the type which has no horizontal perforation lines 22 or 24, there is little chance that the package will tear anywhere except along the imperforate line 26 or 28.
 If the package has the horizontal perforation lines 22 and 24, those perforations should be strong enough to resist unwanted separation under the pull used to create separation along line 26 or 28, so that there will be little chance of separation along line 22 or 24 when attempting to uncover a full column of tablets. Of course, perforations 22 and 24 also should be weak enough to permit tearing along line 22 or 24 when a tear along one of those lines is started deliberately, as by pulling on corner 33 while holding the package at a point below the horizontal tear line, tearing sidewise at the edge where the line starts, etc.
 In accordance with one feature of the invention, the locations of the tear lines 26 and 28 are selected so that only a relatively small portion of each tablet protrudes from its receptacle when the tear has been made. This is advantageous in that it allows one to free multiple tablets with one tear, without the tablets easily falling out of the package. This is because the packaging material remaining in contact with each tablet will provide a certain small amount of holding force to keep the tablet in place until it is removed by grasping the exposed portion and pulling it out of remainder of the receptacle. This is done without disturbing the hermetic seals of any of the unopened receptacles.
 Thus, one can, with a single pull, make three tablets ready for easy dispensation without the tablets falling on the floor and possibly being contaminated.
 Although it is preferred that each imperforate tear line extend from the upper edge of the package continuously to the lower edge, it may not be necessary to continue the line all the way to the bottom edge, as long as the line enters or approaches the last receptacle in the column close enough to ensure that the last receptacle in the column will be opened sufficiently.
 Another advantage of the invention is that a person can choose to remove only one tablet from the package, also without damaging the hermetic and moisture-proof qualities of any of the other receptacles, thus preserving the protection of the tablets remaining in the package.
 As shown in FIG. 1, when only one tablet is to be removed, such as the one in the upper left-hand corner of the package, a tear is made along the horizontal perforated line 22, up to the line 26. This tear can be made either before or after tearing along the line 26. If the horizontal tear is made first, the corner 33 is grasped and the package is torn along line 26 to the line 22, and the left edge of the tablet 12 is exposed, making it easy to grasp or otherwise remove the tablet, as by shaking the package and letting gravity pull the tablet out. The space left as the left upper corner 33 is removed from the blister pack is indicated at 37.
 Of course, it is not strictly necessary to tear along the horizontal line 22 at all; it is believed to be sufficient to tear along line 26 down to line 22, bend the corner 33 away from the remainder of the package 10, and remove the tablet, leaving the empty receptacle in place.
 The next tablet below the one removed can be removed later, with the assistance of the cut line 34 to help start the next tear, or by simply tearing along an imperforate line of weakness, if the cut line 34 is not used.
 With cylindrical tablets, such as the tablets 12 shown in the drawings, it is desired to space the imperforate tear line 26 or 28 a distance L between approximately 0.1 D and 0.9 D from one edge of each tablet. D is the diameter of each tablet. Preferably, this distance is approximately 0.75 D.
 This distance can be varied as desired and needed to either ensure retention of the tablets in each receptacle until it is desired to remove it, or, if preferred, to release each tablet immediately upon tearing it free.
 The shape of the tablets can be quite variable. For example, the shape can be triangular, rectilinear, star-shaped, etc. Furthermore, the shape of the tablets or objects being packaged can be rounded on the top and/or bottom, that is, like pills that are semi-spherical.
 It should be noted that in FIGS. 5 and 6, the top and bottom walls 16 and 18 of the packaging are shown separated from the surfaces of the tablet 12 for the purpose of illustration. Actually, the walls 16 and 18 usually make contact with the tablet.
 The exposed edge 44 of the tablet which is easy to grasp to remove the tablet is shown in FIGS. 5 and 6. As it is apparent in FIGS. 4-6, the empty space provided around each of the tablet receptacle has angular walls which tend to provide some frictional force which tends to hold the tablets in the receptacles until grasped and removed.
Tear Line Formation
 Referring now to FIG. 7, the extrusion process for extruding the plastic films under discussion is well-known in the art, except for provision of a small protrusion 58 on each of the upper and lower metal parts 52 and 54 of a die 50 which is used to extrude the film 56 from a molten plastic material such as viscose (to make cellophane). The two sharp points 58 of the die to form slight, shallow grooves along the desired locations of the imperforate lines of weakness. These grooves can supplement or replace the use of the orientation of the plastic material to keep the tear lines straight. Two sheets of film having the grooves and/or orientation lines then are secured to one another back-to-back, with the imperforate lines of weakness 26 and 28 on one sheet aligned with those of the other sheet to ensure tearing of both sheets simultaneously along the lines.
 The grooves in the film can be formed by other means, such as by lightly scoring the film with a stylus, or other means of mechanically fowling a weakened but imperforate line.
 It also should be understood that it may not be necessary to provide starting cuts or notches in the edges of the sheets forming the receptacles 14 in order to start a tear along an imperforate line of weakness. If the small, shallow grooves are formed to define those lines as described above, the grooves may provide an adequate starting point at the edges of the sheets.
 If the package walls 16 and 18 are transparent, as is the usual case, it is preferred to color the starting points and perforation crossing points of the grooves to make them visible to the user.
 Alternatively, the ends and crossing points can be left uncolored so as to make them hard to find, for increasing the child-proof nature of the packaging. Instructions can be read by adults to tell them about where to tear, and children who cannot read will be thwarted in their attempts to open the packages.
 Although those skilled in the art are believed to be able to manufacture the blister packs loaded with objects using known techniques and equipment, one advantageous method is described below.
 First, plastic sheets or strips are extruded, with the orientation of the material extending in the longitudinal direction in which the sheets or strips move out of the extruders, and, if necessary, with the very slight grooves, forming or helping to form the imperforate tear lines. The grooves also can be formed mechanically, after extrusion, as described above.
 The sheets are cut into long strips of the width desired for the blister packs. The lower sheet is indented in six places to form the lower halves of the receptacles, and the objects are put into the indentations.
 The top strips are similarly formed, mated with the lower strip and bonded together in areas other than where the receptacles are located, with the imperforate lines 26 and 28 aligned and fed to a perforation and cutting station where the perforations and starting cuts are made. The packages then are severed from one another, boxed and prepared for shipping.
 This process is automated and requires little or no hand manufacturing labor.
 Variations of the package construction include ones in which the blisters or receptacles are formed in only one sheet, not both.
 For example, the top sheet 16 can be formed with the recesses needed to hold the objects to be stored, and the opposite or bottom sheet 18 can be flat.
 Another embodiment is shown in FIGS. 8-10. The package 60 shown there has a bottom sheet 62 which is relatively stiff, like cardstock, with a coating 64 to which plastic film 66 adheres but from which it can be peeled off.
 In both of the above embodiments, the bottom sheet 18 preferably has imperforate lines of weakness to allow a portion of it to be removed when the top sheet 16 is torn.
 Alternatively, as shown in FIGS. 8-10, the bottom sheet 62 can remain without lines of weakness, and a strip of the top sheet can be peeled off of the surface and torn along an imperforate line of weakness 78 or 80 to free the objects 70 in one or more receptacles 68.
 Since the bottom sheet 62 is not torn off, it is preferred that the location of the tear line 78 or 80 be such that more of the object within is exposed so as to facilitate its removal. For example, the tear line 78 or 80 is located at 0.1 D or below to completely uncover the object instead of at 0.75 D, thereby opening each receptacle wider or completely eliminating the cover over the receptacle.
 Nonetheless, each pull of the tear strop is capable of freeing one, two or all three objects in a column of receptacles. Horizontal perforations 72, 74 can be used to totally remove an unwanted segment of the tear strip when less than all of the objects in a column are freed.
 Optionally, diamond-shaped lift-areas 76 where the plastic film 66 is perforated and lifted free of the surface 64 are provided to assist in providing secondary tear strips; that is, tears starting to peel off the cover on one or more objects such as tablets 70 after the object next to it in the column has been removed. This is done by inserting a thumbnail or fingernail under a corner formed by one of the diamond-shaped lift areas 76 and pulling up until there is enough free film to grasp easily and to pull up to free one or more additional objects 70.
 As it is shown in FIGS. 9 and 10, the edge of the film 66 preferably extends outwardly from the base 62 to facilitate starting to peel the film 66 away from the base and tear the film along the line 78 or 80. As in the embodiments described above, starting cuts can be provided at the ends of the lines 78, 80, if needed.
 As it is shown in FIG. 10, the film 66 is lifted upwardly as indicated by the arrow 79 to tear along the line 78 to remove the cover off most or all of each object 70 to allow it to be grasped or deposited in the hand or another receptacle.
 The provision of the imperforate tear strips 78 and 80 provide a means for freeing and dispersing the objects 70 either singly or in whole columns with a single pull on the tear strip.
 In addition, since the base 62 is not perforated, there is no need for a central perforated line like the line 20 shown in FIGS. 1-3, thus allowing the width of the package 60 to be reduced, thus saving materials.
 The imperforate lines of weakness 78, 80 are formed by the same methods as used to form the lines 26, 28 as described above.
 Of course, the horizontal perforations 72, 74 should be made strong enough to resist tearing when a strip is pulled to free two or three objects 70 in a column, but weak enough to tear when the strip is pulled sideways to deliberately separate the film from the base along the horizontal line.
 The above description of the invention is intended to be illustrative and not limiting. Various changes or modifications in the embodiments described may occur to those skilled in the art. These can be made without departing from the spirit or scope of the invention.
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