Shipping container for temperature-sensitive products using semi-rigid or flexible foam
A shipping container or package for temperature-sensitive products that can ship in a collapsed or flat configuration made up of an unassembled corrugated container or box, laid flat to which is secured a rectangular sheet of semi-rigid or flexible foam that has had three (3) parallel grooves and both ends mitered into it so that the insulating sheet can be folded as the container or box is assembled, yet shipped flat.
1. Field of Invention
The field of invention relates to containers or packages, used for temperature-sensitive products and method of producing the same.
2. Description of the Related Art
When shipping or distributing temperature-sensitive products the typical material used is expanded polystyrene (“EPS”), either in the form of a molded container or an EPS lined corrugated box. EPS is often sold under the STYROFOAM trademark. When more temperature protection is required, the EPS is replaced by vacuum panels. Vacuum panels are semi-rigid porous board wrapped in plastic film and sealed after the air inside the board has been reduced to create a vacuum. Other vacuum panel constructions use rigid boards. The disadvantages of these systems are that they are expensive to produce, they take up a great deal of space, and therefore increase the shipping cost. The EPS molded container as well as the EPS lined corrugated box and the vacuum panel lined box configuration containers all must be shipped fully assembled to the user.
Other packaging methods for temperature-sensitive can get very complex and therefore very expensive for both the package and the shipping cost. One example of such complex methods is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 6,192,703, which is not admitted to being prior art by its mention in this Background section. The '703 patent discloses an insulating vacuum panel and method for making the same. It does not teach any way of making a vacuum panel assembly to a package in a flat state, and therefore must also be shipped fully assembled to the user.
What is needed, therefore, is a shipping container or package for temperature-sensitive products, with equal to or improved insulating properties to those of existing products, but costs less to produce and that may be shipped flat or collapsed (un-assembled) to the user which will save a considerable amount of money.SUMMARY OF INVENTION
A container or package for shipping temperature-sensitive products with superior insulating properties and that can be shipped flat to the end user, comprises an unassembled corrugated box to which is secured a rectangular sheet of either semi-rigid or flexible foam (from here onward called “foam”, that has three parallel grooves and both ends mitered into it so that the insulating sheet can be folded as the corrugated box is assembled, yet shipped flat. These and other features, aspects, and advantages of the present invention will become better understood with regard to the following description, claims, and accompanying drawings.BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS
A shipping container or package for temperature-sensitive products that can ship flat comprises an unassembled box laid flat, to which is secured a rectangular sheet of insulating “foam,” as the term is herein defined, that has had three parallel grooves and both ends mitered into it so that the insulating sheet can be folded as the box is assembled, yet shipped flat. The apparatus, and the method of making the shipping container or package, are described as follows.
After the sheet 10 is formed, it is secured to an unfolded, knock-down, unassembled corrugated box. The securing is preferably done with adhesive, but other securing such as clips or other methods can be used that are well known in the art. The assembly can be shipped at this state, dramatically lowering the shipping cost. The use of foam also contributes to its low cost.
The foam ranges from soft to semi-rigid, based on the density of foam used. The system is ideal for shipments weighing less than 65 pounds, which is also the limit for couriers like Fed Ex, UPS and the U.S. Postal Service. Insulating a box in this way is capable of keeping its contents cold for between 24 to 48 hours. The preferred thickness of the foam is between one (1) and three (3) inches, depending upon the product, temperature to be maintained and size of shipping container or package.
Major benefits of this system of the present invention besides the ability to be shipped flat is the substantial reduction in both delivery time and cost. Compared with the making of an Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) container which requires an expensive fabricating mold. The mold average cost is $40,000.00, and a typical fabrication time is 4 (four) to 8 (eight) weeks from order to delivery. In contrast, the foam can be cut to any desired shape, on demand, with no capital invested in molds. The present invention saves both time and money.
Instead of foam, other materials that meet the important criteria can be used. The criteria are that it must be: 1) adequate in terms of thermal barrier capability; 2) stiff enough to hold its shape inside the corrugated box; 3) resistant to moisture and dirt; 4) non-toxic; 5) low cost; and 6) flexible enough to conform to the shape of the corrugated box and for the joints to seal tightly. Polyurethane and polyethylene are examples of suitable materials.
While there have been described what are present considered to be the preferred embodiments of this invention, it will be obvious to those skilled in the art that various changes and modifications may be made therein without departing from the invention, and it is, therefore, aimed to cover all such changes and modifications as fall within the true spirit and scope of the invention.
1. A package for temperature-sensitive products comprising:
- an outside box;
- a first rectangular piece of foam insulation, wherein two opposite sides of said rectangular piece are mitered at angles that add up to 90? or less, and wherein three notches whose angles add up to 90? or less, are formed in the insulation parallel to the mitered sides;
- a top panel of foam insulation; and
- a bottom panel of foam insulation, wherein the first piece, top panel, and bottom panel are sized to fit inside the outside box when assembled.
2. The package of claim 1, wherein the foam is selected according to the criteria that the material must have adequate thermal barrier capability; the material must be stiff enough to hold its shape inside the box; the material must be resistant to moisture and dirt; the material must be non-toxic; the material must have low cost relative to EPS and vacuum bags; and the material must be flexible enough to conform to the shape of the box and for box joints to seal tightly.
3. The package of claim 1, wherein the foam is made of a material selected from the group consisting of closed cell foam and open cell foam.
4. The package of claim 1, the foam having a thickness between 1 inch and 3 inches.
5. The package of claim 1, wherein the thickness of the foam is calculated to maintain the temperature of package contents below ambient temperature for at least 24 hours.
6. The package of claim 1, wherein the thickness of the foam is calculated to maintain the temperature of package contents below ambient temperature for at least 24 hours.
7. The package of claim 1, wherein the outside box is made of corrugated cardboard.
8. The package of claim 1, wherein the gross weight of the package is less than 65 pounds.
9. The package of claim 1, wherein the box and the foam are secured to each other.
10. The package of claim 9, wherein the box and foam are secured to each other by at least one mechanism taken from the group consisting of adhesive and clips.
11. The package of claim 1, wherein the foam is disposed upon the box, both in a flat position for shipping.
12. The package of claim 1, wherein the foam is made of at least one selected from the group consisting of polyurethane and polyethylene.
13. A method of making a package for temperature-sensitive products comprising the steps of:
- providing a laid-out and unassembled box, having pre-formed folds;
- providing insulating foam of a selected thickness;
- cutting a rectangle out of the foam substantially the same size as four linear sides of the box;
- cutting three parallel folding notches in the foam at angles adding up to about 90?or less; and
- cutting two opposite ends of the rectangle parallel to the notches at angles that add up to 90?; and
- securing the foam to the box.
14. The method of claim 13, wherein the securing step is at least one taken from the group consisting of adhering and clipping.
15. The method of claim 13, wherein cutting the three folding notches are positioned to align with the pre-formed folds of the box.
16. The method of claim 13, further comprising the step of aligning the edges of the rectangular foam to the edges of the box before securing them.
17. The method of claim 13, further comprising the step of bending each corner of the unassembled box and securing the edges to form a cube.
18. The method of claim 17, further comprising the step of providing a rectangular piece of insulating foam for the top of the box and a rectangular piece of insulating foam for the bottom of the box.
19. The method of claim 18, further comprising the step of securing a box top and a box bottom onto the box with the foam top and foam bottom enclosed.
20. The method of claim 13, wherein the cutting step is performed with a mitering tool.