The object of the present invention is a container made of flexible
material, with the consistency of a rigid container, and a method of production
The container according to the invention, in its different embodiments,
is particularly suitable for vacuum-packet or non vacuum-packet powder products,
and also for containing liquid or powdery products and for sterilizable products.
Various types of containers are in existence on the market.
For example, flexible containers are used for conserving products
in powder form, such as coffee, under vacuum; these containers do not keep their
shape after opening (they collapse), with the obvious drawbacks this entails, or
rigid metallic containers are used (for example tins) which, however, tend to be
expensive and retain their original bulk after use.
The latter type of container is widely used also for liquids and
Semi-rigid cardboard containers are also in use for liquid products,
such as fruit juices and the like, usually having a layer of aluminium interposed
and an inner plastic film. These containers have a cost midway between the ones
previously described, and although they are sufficiently rigid, they cannot be
completely recycled becaused of the non-homogeneous nature of the materials making
up the various layers, which is a problem also found usually with the flexible
containers first described.
A semi-rigid container of the type just mentioned is described, for
example, in CH-A-385 100, which comprises a bottom lid, a top lid and a skirt
presenting an external layer made of cardboard material and an inner layer made
of polyethylene. The jointing of the skirt takes place along a vertical strip,
by overlapping its two adjacent edges after having removed a cardboard strip on
the internal edge, and by heat welding the polyethylene sheets which come in contact.
The jointing between the edges and the lids, which are made of plastic material,
takes place by inserting the skirt edges into corresponding external peripherical
foldings of the lids and by effecting a welding.
The aim of the present invention is to eliminate the above drawbacks,
by providing a container suitable for all the uses quoted, which is economical,
of low weight, able to be reduced to a small volume after use, possibly recyclable,
and very practical both during storage and use.
The aim is obtained by means of the features listed in the attached
The container according to the invention is made of flexible material
with a one-layer or two -layer film, which is appropriately folded, and has respective
plates, preferably in plastic material, at its lower face and its upper face, in
such a way that it is substantially rigid.
The container's rigidity is given by the said base and upper or cover
plates, which are appropriately heat-welded to the flexible material, and by the
folding system adopted, which determines a horizontal folding edge and two horizontal
or vertical folding edges on two opposite side walls of the container, which may
possibly be folded back onto the walls adjacent to the same.
In order to increase the rigidity of the container, a preliminary
crease may be provided at its vertical edges, or at any rate heat deformation
may be foreseen to produce ribs on the vertical walls.
The container according to the invention can be made equally well
of a single material, or of a double-walled material, according to need.
An embodiment of the container according to the invention, particularly
suitable for vacuum-packing or sterilizing the products contained, has its upper
plate comprising a lid, opening with a hinge for example, which frees a large opening
underneath, which can be appropriately sealed with a peel-off film. The base plate,
on the other hand, can be provided with a volume compensator for eliminating any
unfilled spaces inside the container, at the end of the vacuum or sterilization
cycle. Such volume compensator consists particularly of an impermeable flexible
laminate diaphragm, positioned inside the base, with a communication hole to the
outside, to allow the diaphragm to expand, and consequently any empty spaces in
the container to be filled.
In another embodiment of the container according to the invention,
particularly suitable for containing liquid or powdery substances, not vacuum-packed,
the said upper plate is provided with a dispenser spout, having for example, a
screw plug, and the base plate is shaped in such a way as to be able to fit onto
the upper plate provided with the spout. This allows several containers to be piled
on top of each other, and also an empty container to be crushed completely until
the two plates are brought on top of each other. For this purpose, such plates
can be provided inside with irreversible engaging means which prevent them coming
apart, keeping the empty container in its bulky condition.
The container can also be made of flexible material which is heat-weldable
(heat-sealable) on both sides, so that the base plate and the upper plate can be
heat-welded on either the inner or the outer side of such material.
The two "triangles" which are formed at each of the said folds placed
on the side walls of the containers can be turned towards the outside, and then
The production method for producing a flexible material container,
according to the invention substantially consists in intermittently advancing
such one-layer or multi-layer sheet material; punching, in predetermined zones,
areas where the upper or cover plates must be inserted and, if necessary, areas
where the lower or base plates must be inserted; inserting the respective plates
in the said areas and welding their edges hermetically; carrying out possible creases
by means of a hot plate at predetermined points; feeding the sheet material prepared
in this way to a spindle, having a rectangular section, where it is first effected
a longitudinal welding and then a transverse welding with following cutting so
as to obtain a parallelepiped open on one side, which corresponds to the container
according to the invention lying on one side, which is then filled and welded
on the open side, after which the two transverse welding edges are folded back
and glued with adhesive.
Further characteristics of the invention will be understood more
easily from the detailed description below, which refers to one of its purely exemplary
and therefore not restrictive embodiments, illustrated in the appended drawings,
- Figure 1
- is a diagrammatic axonometric view of a container in flexible material according
to the invention, in a first embodiment, having a hinged lid, shown in a partially
- Figure 2
- is a partial diagrammatic bottom view of the container in figure 1;
- Figures 3A, 3B and 3C
- are diagrammatic views of the upper left-hand part of the container in figure
1, with the folding edge placed on the corresponding side wall extended and then
partially unfolded, to show the type of fold;
- Figure 4
- is a diagrammatic view of the container in figure 1 with the lid in the close
- Figure 5
- is a diagrammatic section taken along the line A-A in figure 4;
- Figure 6
- is a diagrammatic section taken along the line B-B in figure 4;
- Figure 7
- is a top plan view of the lid of the container in figure 1;
- Figure 8
- is a section taken along the line C-C in figure 7;
- Figure 9
- is a bottom plan view stiffening base, with a volume compensator, of the container
in figure 1;
- Figure 10
- is a section taken along the line D-D in figure 9;
- Figure 11
- is a vertical section of the container in figure 1;
- Figure 12
- is a diagrammatic axonometric top view of a second embodiment of the container
in flexible material, according to the invention;
- Figure 13
- is a partial axonometric bottom view of the container in figure 12;
- Figure 14
- is a top plan view of the plate with the dispenser spout of the container in
- Figure 15
- is a sectional view taken along the line E-E in figure 14;
- Figure 16
- is a bottom plan view of the base of the container in figure 12;
- Figure 17
- is a sectional view taken along the line F-F in figure 16;
- Figure 18
- is a vertical section view of the container in figure 12;
- Figure 19
- is a sectional view like the one in figure 18, showing the container which
has been crushed after use;
- Figure 20
- is a diagrammatic vertical section showing several containers stacked on top
of each other;
- Figures 21, 22, 23 and 24
- show in diagrammatic form subsequent phases during the production cycle of
a container according to the invention.
A description is given first of the container shown in figures 1 to
11, which is particularly suitable for vacuum-packed products in powder form,
such as groung coffee and the like.
Such container is shown as a whole with reference number 1 and is
It is made of flexible material, that is of film having a substance
of up to 270 gr/mq, and can be single-or double-walled, the latter being preferred
since, after filling, it provides a smooth outer wall which covers the roughness
which forms on the inner wall after vacuum-packing the contents. The flexible material
of the container 1 is shown as a whole with reference number 2 in the appended
figures and substantially forms its peripheral skirt.
A cover plate 3 (see in detail figures 7, 8) and a base plate or
bottom 4 (see in detail figures 9, 10) are applied in correspondence with the upper
and lower faces of the container 1, conveniently by heat-welding. In the embodiment
shown in the appended figures, the cover plate 3 comprises a perimetral frame 5,
to which a lid 6 is associated, opening with a hinge at 7 and provided, for example,
with rapid snap closing 8. The lid 6 fits particularly into a rectangular border
9 which rises from the frame 5, determining a labyrinth 10 which gives excellent
sealing during use.
The frame 5 bears an upper relief 11, which runs along the outside
of the border, in correspondence with which the cover plate 3 is welded inside
the flexible material 2, which obviously is heat-weldable on its inner side.
Of course, the flexible material 2 can be foreseen heat-weldable
(heat-sealable) on the outer side also, and in this case the cover plate 3 can
be applied to the outside of the material 2 also.
Inside the border 9, which the lid 6 fits into, a further continuous
relief 12 is foreseen, to which a peel-off diaphragm 13 can be heat-welded, being
provided with a gripping tab 14, which facilitates tearing it off when opening.
The diaphragm 13, therefore, makes the container hermetic, keeping it vacuum-sealed
up to the moment of use.
The base plate 4 can be a simple bottom which is applied inside or
outside the lower face of the container 1, to make it rigid. However, according
to the invention, such base plate is conveniently provided with an automatic volume
compensator which allows flexible vacuum-packed containers 1 to be realized which
all have the same outer size, regardless of the density of the product, which may
vary greatly, as happens for example in the case of products in powder form, such
as coffee, producing a variation in volume which would affect the outer dimensions
of the container, or cause empty spaces inside it, after vacuum-packing.
As can be seen in detail in figures 9 to 11, the base plate 4 has
at the bottom a perimetral relief 15 and a central circular relief 16, with an
inner hole 17, along which the inner side of the flexible material 2 is heat-welded
(heat-sealed), a hole 18 being made in the latter in perfect alignment with the
hole 17 of the base plate 4.
As shown diagrammatically in figure 10, an impermeable flexible laminate
diaphragm 20, previously heat-deformed into a concentric corrugated shape, is fixed
above the base plate 4 by means of a raised perimetral border 19, opposite the
said relief 15.
Between the flexible diaphragm 20 and the base plate 4, therefore,
an expansion chamber 21 is formed, communicating with the outside by means of
holes 17, 18, made respectively in the base plate 4 and in the flexible material
2 of the bottom of the container 1.
The corrugated shape of diaphragm or membrane 20 makes the material
extremely flexible, without altering its continuity.
At the end of the vacuum-packing cycle, if empty spaces remain inside
the container 1 due to the density of the powder matter inserted, the thrust generated
by the difference in pressure, due to the air entering the expansion chamber 21
through the holes 17, 18, when the chamber where the container 1 is still under
vacuum, deforms the membrane 20 into a cone, as shown diagrammatically in figure
11, in such a way that it thrust the product against the inner walls of the container
1, thus filling the above-mentioned empty spaces which might be left by the product.
In this way, the container 1 keeps its original dimensions, without
any give in its shape which would cause obvious drawbacks.
The rigidity of the container 1 in flexible material 2 is given not
only by the cover plate 3 and the base plate 4 but also by the particular folding
of the flexible material 2, which determines folding edges, which are in a position
such as to confer considerable rigidity to the container structure.
In particular, figure 1 illustrates in diagrammatic form a folding
edge 22, positioned transversely to one of the container walls, for example the
front one, then turning on the adjacent side walls, and two vertical folding edges
23, foreseen on the two opposite sides of the container 1, which may possibly be
further folded back onto the front or back wall of the container (in case of squashed
containers, this is to say containers with height inferior to the other dimension,
the folding edges 23 could also be horizontal).
The transverse or horizontal folding edge 22 corresponds to the longitudinal
fold of flexible material 2 during the shaping of the container, while the two
vertical edges 23 correspond to transverse folds of the material, as will be seen
in the illustration of the production method of the container according to the
invention, with reference to figures 21 to 24.
Reference will now be made to figures 4 to 6, in which the folding
edges 22 and 23 are illustrated in diagrammatic form, and to figures 3A, 3B, 3C,
in which one end of a vertical folding edge 23 has been unfolded to show the triangle
24 turned towards the inside (see also figure 6).
In addition, preventive creases may possibly be foreseen along the
vertical edges of the container 1, or at any rate heat deformations determining
ribs on the vertical walls of the same, so as to stiffen the container further.
In this way, a container is obtained, which, although it is made of
flexible material, has a high degree of rigidity. As previously shown, this is
due to the two plates, respectively a cover plate 3 and a base plate 4, to the
outlines of which the flexible material 2 is welded, to the horizontal folding
edge 22, which rests onto the rigid base 4, to the triangles 24, which are caused
by the shaping of the container, and to the possible creases in correspondence
with the vertical edges.
The container 1, formed in this way, maintains its three-dimensional
shape even when it is no longer under vacuum and only partially full.
In the embodiment illustrated, in which the container 1 is particularly
suitable for vacuum packing the products contained in it, the inner wall of the
flexible material 2 is made of materials suitable for the purpose, already known
The same container just described can, possibly with slight alterations,
be used for sterilizable products, vacuum packed or not. In this case, the flexible
material 2 will have to be resistent to temperature of 127°C, for example polypropylene
mixtures, and the expansion chamber 21 can be useful for compensating the head
space which is caused during the product filling phases (steam jet, etc.).
Referring now to the figures 12 to 20, a further embodiment of the
container according to the present invention will be described, which is particularly
suitable for containing liquid or even powdery products, which are not vacuum-packed.
This embodiment of the container according to the invention differs
from the previous one only in the shape of the cover plate 3 and the base plate
4, which will have the same reference numbers already used for the embodiment according
to figures 1 to 11, with the introduction of additional reference numbers only
for parts which are substantially different.
As can be seen in the appended figures, the upper cover plate 3 has
a central spout 25, provided for example with a screw top 26 and possibly a seal,
which could again consist of a peel-off diaphragm 13, with a tear-off edge 14,
positioned at the top of the spout 25, as shown in diagrammatic form in figures
12 and 15.
The dispenser spout 25 is foreseen on a raised wall 27 of the upper
plate 3, in such a way that the plate is substantially convex on the outside.
The base plate 4 (see in detail figures 13 and 17) has, on the other
hand, a concave shaped structure, so as to be capable of fitting into the upper
plate 3 almost fixedly, making the containers perfectly stackable on each other,
as shown in figure 20.
The base plate 4 or bottom, which fits into the upper plate 3, can
have a further central appendix 28 with a tooth 29, which moves to fit into a
corresponding seat 30 foreseen inside the dispenser spout 25, to hold the two plates
3 and 4 of the container 1 together, after the container has been crushed, and
to reduce its volume after use, as shown in diagrammatic form in figure 19.
The structure of the container illustrated in the figures from 12
to 20 can be used also for non vacuum-packed powdery products as well as for liquid
products, by foreseeing for example a cap with holes on the top, for the products
to come out.
With particular reference to figures 21 to 24, a brief description
now follows of the production method of the container in flexible material, with
rigid consistency, according to the invention.
A flexible sheet material 2 is moved forward intermittently, on which
areas are punched, in predetermined zones, where the cover plates 3 are to be inserted
and, if necessary, areas where the base plates 4 must be inserted, which are fed
by separated tanks and welded along their outlines in such a way as to obtain a
single hermetic piece. Figure 21 shows such plates 3 and 4 diagrammatically with
a broken line, while the longitudinal broken lines on the sheet material 2 show
the horizontal edges of the container 1 after shaping. On the sheet material 2,
at predetermined points, creases 31 may also possibly be made by means of a hot
plate, which are positioned at the vertical edges of the container 1, to increase
The band of flexible material 2 is then sent to a spindle, which in
the present case is rectangular in section, where first longitudinal welding is
carried out in correspondence with the folding edge 22 (which becomes transverse
or horizontal on the container when formed), as shown in diagrammatic form in figure
A first transverse welding is then carried out in correspondence
with one of the folds 23, which then takes up a vertical position on the container
1 when formed, and in correspondence with which a cut is made, as shown in diagrammatic
form in figure 23.
In this way a parallelepiped is formed, open at the upper part and
welded at the lower part, with the cover plate 3 and the base plate 4 applied
on the opposite fronts. Such parallelepiped is filled with the product and possibly
sent to the vacuum chamber, or for sterilization, whichever is the case, after
which the second transverse welding is carried out in correspondence with the other
folding line 23, as shown in figure 24.
The two edges 23 with the weldings are then folded back and glued
with adhesive, forming the container 1, which is shown in an upright shape in
figures 1 and 4, with a lid opening with a hinge, and in figure 12 with a dispenser
In the case of "squashed" containers, the two transverse weldings
in correspondence with the two folding edges 23 can be effected in orthogonal
sense with respect to what shown in figs. 23 and 24, this is to say, in order for
foldings 23 to be horizontal on the formed container.
It is also clear that the two folding edges 22, 23 can be placed,
on the respective faces of the container, in positions different from the ones
shown. Particularly, the horizontal folding edge 22 could be placed near the lower
edge of the container 1.
The container 1 according to the invention can be realized with a
vast range of flexible materials, many of which are homogeneous with each other,
making recycling extremely easy.
From what has been said, the advantages of the container 1 in flexible
material according to the invention are obvious, when compared with traditional