Disposable Flexible Container

A disposable flexible container for a fluent product comprises a product volume at least partially defined by a nonstructural panel. A structural support volume is arranged to generate and maintain tension in the nonstructural panel when the structural support volume is expanded. Additionally, the disposable flexible container includes a dispenser for dispensing the fluent product from the product volume.

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Description

FIELD

The present disclosure relates in general to containers, and more particularly, to containers that are flexible and disposable.

BACKGROUND

Fluent products include liquid products and/or pourable solid products. In various embodiments, a container can be used to receive, contain, and dispense one or more fluent products. And, in various embodiments, a container can be used to receive, contain, and/or dispense individual articles or separately packaged portions of a product. A container can include one or more product volumes. A product volume can be configured to be filled with one or more fluent products. A container receives a fluent product when its product volume is filled. Once filled to a desired volume, a container can be configured to contain the fluent product in its product volume, until the fluent product is dispensed. A container contains a fluent product by providing a barrier around the fluent product. The barrier prevents the fluent product from escaping the product volume. The barrier can also protect the fluent product from the environment outside of the container. A filled product volume is typically closed off by a cap or a seal. A container can be configured to dispense one or more fluent products contained in its product volume(s). Once dispensed, an end user can consume, apply, or otherwise use the fluent product(s), as appropriate. In various embodiments, a container may be configured to be refilled and reused or a container may be configured to be disposed of after a single fill or even after a single use. A container should be configured with sufficient structural integrity, such that it can receive, contain, and dispense its fluent product(s), as intended, without failure.

A container for fluent product(s) can be handled, displayed for sale, and put into use. A container can be handled in many different ways as it is made, filled, decorated, packaged, shipped, and unpacked. A container can experience a wide range of external forces and environmental conditions as it is handled by machines and people, moved by equipment and vehicles, and contacted by other containers and various packaging materials. A container for fluent product(s) should be configured with sufficient structural integrity, such that it can be handled in any of these ways, or in any other way known in the art, as intended, without failure.

A container can also be displayed for sale in many different ways as it is offered for purchase. A container can be offered for sale as an individual article of commerce or packaged with one or more other containers or products, which together form an article of commerce. A container can be offered for sale as a primary package with or without a secondary package. A container can be decorated to display characters, graphics, branding, and/or other visual elements when the container is displayed for sale. A container can be configured to be displayed for sale while laying down or standing up on a store shelf, while presented in a merchandising display, while hanging on a display hanger, or while loaded into a display rack or a vending machine. A container for fluent product(s) should be configured with a structure that allows it to be displayed in any of these ways, or in any other way known in the art, as intended, without failure.

A container can also be put into use in many different ways, by its end user. A container can be configured to be held and/or gripped by an end user, so a container should be appropriately sized and shaped for human hands; and for this purpose, a container can include useful structural features such as a handle and/or a gripping surface. A container can be stored while laying down or standing up on a support surface, while hanging on or from a projection such as a hook or a clip, or while supported by a product holder, or (for refillable or rechargeable containers) positioned in a refilling or recharging station. A container can be configured to dispense fluent product(s) while in any of these storage positions or while being held by the user. A container can be configured to dispense fluent product(s) through the use of gravity, and/or pressure, and/or a dispensing mechanism, such as a pump, or a straw, or through the use of other kinds of dispensers known in the art. Some containers can be configured to be filled and/or refilled by a seller (e.g. a merchant or retailer) or by an end user. A container for fluent product(s) should be configured with a structure that allows it to be put to use in any of these ways, or in any other way known in the art, as intended, without failure. A container can also be configured to be disposed of by the end user, as waste and/or recyclable material, in various ways.

One conventional type of container for fluent products is a rigid container made from solid material(s). Examples of conventional rigid containers include molded plastic bottles, glass jars, metal cans, cardboard boxes, etc. These conventional rigid containers are well-known and generally useful; however their designs do present several notable difficulties.

First, some conventional rigid containers for fluent products can be expensive to make. Some rigid containers are made by a process shaping one or more solid materials. Other rigid containers are made with a phase change process, where container materials are heated (to soften/melt), then shaped, then cooled (to harden/solidify). Both kinds of making are energy intensive processes, which can require complex equipment.

Second, some conventional rigid containers for fluent products can require significant amounts of material. Rigid containers that are designed to stand up on a support surface require solid walls that are thick enough to support the containers when they are filled. This can require significant amounts of material, which adds to the cost of the containers and can contribute to difficulties with their disposal.

Third, some conventional rigid containers for fluent products can be difficult to decorate. The sizes, shapes, (e.g. curved surfaces) and/or materials of some rigid containers, make it difficult to print directly on their outside surfaces. Labeling requires additional materials and processing, and limits the size and shape of the decoration. Overwrapping provides larger decoration areas, but also requires additional materials and processing, often at significant expense.

Fourth, some conventional rigid containers for fluent products can be prone to certain kinds of damage. If a rigid container is pushed against a rough surface, then the container can become scuffed, which may obscure printing on the container. If a rigid container is pressed against a hard object, then the container can become dented, which may look unsightly. And if a rigid container is dropped, then the container can rupture, which may cause its fluent product to be lost.

Fifth, some fluent products in conventional rigid containers can be difficult to dispense. When an end user squeezes a rigid container to dispense its fluent product, the end user must overcome the resistance of the rigid sides, to deform the container. Some users may lack the hand strength to easily overcome that resistance; these users may dispense less than their desired amount of fluent product. Other users may need to apply so much of their hand strength, that they cannot easily control how much they deform the container; these users may dispense more than their desired amount of fluent product.

SUMMARY

The present disclosure describes various embodiments of containers made from flexible material. Because these containers are made from flexible material, these containers can be less expensive to make, can use less material, and can be easier to decorate, when compared with conventional rigid containers. First, these containers can be less expensive to make, because the conversion of flexible materials (from sheet form to finished goods) generally requires less energy and complexity, than formation of rigid materials (from bulk form to finished goods). Second, these containers can use less material, because they are configured with novel support structures that do not require the use of the thick solid walls used in conventional rigid containers. Third, these flexible containers can be easier to print and/or decorate, because they are made from flexible materials, and flexible materials can be printed and/or decorated as conformable webs, before they are formed into containers. Fourth, these flexible containers can be less prone to scuffing, denting, and rupture, because flexible materials allow their outer surfaces to deform when contacting surfaces and objects, and then to bounce back. Fifth, fluent products in these flexible containers can be more readily and carefully dispensed, because the sides of flexible containers can be more easily and controllably squeezed by human hands. Even though the containers of the present disclosure are made from flexible material, they can be configured with sufficient structural integrity, such that they can receive, contain, and dispense fluent product(s), as intended, without failure. Also, these containers can be configured with sufficient structural integrity, such that they can withstand external forces and environmental conditions from handling, without failure. Further, these containers can be configured with structures that allow them to be displayed and put into use, as intended, without failure.

In an exemplary embodiment, a disposable flexible container for a fluent product in accordance with the disclosure comprises a product volume at least partially defined by a nonstructural panel and a structural support volume arranged to generate and maintain tension in the nonstructural panel when the structural support volume is expanded. The disposable flexible container also includes a dispenser for dispensing the fluent product from the product volume. Preferably, the nonstructural panel which at least partially defines the product volume has at least one pair of opposed sides and the disposable flexible container has a structural support volume associated with, or in proximity to, each of the opposed sides of the nonstructural panel in spaced apart relation at a distance from one another.

In one embodiment, the nonstructural panel includes a perimeter and one or more structural support volumes surround at least 50% of the nonstructural panel in association with, or in proximity to, the perimeter of the nonstructural panel.

In another embodiment, the nonstructural panel has first and second pairs of opposed sides and one or more structural support volumes surround the nonstructural panel in association with, or in proximity to, the first pair of opposed sides and at least one of the second pair of opposed sides.

In still another embodiment, one or more structural support volumes substantially surround the nonstructural panel in association with, or in proximity to, the first and second pairs of opposed sides to impart tension to the nonstructural panel at least between one of the first and second pairs of opposed sides. In this embodiment, the structural support volumes may comprise a first pair of opposed structural support volumes in association with, or in proximity to, the first pair of opposed sides of the nonstructural panel to impart tension to the nonstructural panel and a second pair of opposed structural support volumes in association with, or in proximity to the second pair of opposed sides to maintain the first pair of structural support volumes in spaced relation a distance apart from one another. In yet another embodiment, the structural support volume may comprise a single continuous structural support volume substantially surrounding the nonstructural panel in proximity to the first and second pairs of opposed sides to impart tension through both of the first and second pairs of opposed sides of the nonstructural panel.

In a further respect, the disposable flexible container in accordance with the disclosure includes at least two flexible panels wherein at least one of the flexible panels is a nonstructural panel, wherein the nonstructural panel has opposed sides, and including a structural support volume associated with one or both of the opposed sides of the nonstructural panel.

In all of the embodiments, the nonstructural panel may comprise a flexible squeeze panel for dispensing the fluent product from the product volume through the dispenser and, for this purpose, the flexible squeeze panel may have a dimensionless tensile stress at least at least at some point or for some portion of the non-structural panel in the range of about 1E-6 to about 20, preferably, a dimensionless tensile stress in the range of about 4E-5 to about 10 and, more preferably, a dimensionless tensile stress in the range of about 2E-3 to about 0.9.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1A illustrates a front view of an embodiment of a stand up flexible container.

FIG. 1B illustrates a side view of the stand up flexible container of FIG. 1A.

FIG. 1C illustrates a top view of the stand up flexible container of FIG. 1A.

FIG. 1D illustrates a bottom view of the stand up flexible container of FIG. 1A.

FIG. 2A illustrates a top view of a stand up flexible container having a structural support frame that has an overall shape like a frustum.

FIG. 2B illustrates a front view of the container of FIG. 2A.

FIG. 2C illustrates a side view of the container of FIG. 2A.

FIG. 2D illustrates an isometric view of the container of FIG. 2A.

FIG. 3A illustrates a top view of a stand up flexible container having a structural support frame that has an overall shape like a pyramid.

FIG. 3B illustrates a front view of the container of FIG. 3A.

FIG. 3C illustrates a side view of the container of FIG. 3A.

FIG. 3D illustrates an isometric view of the container of FIG. 3A.

FIG. 4A illustrates a top view of a stand up flexible container having a structural support frame that has an overall shape like a trigonal prism.

FIG. 4B illustrates a front view of the container of FIG. 4A.

FIG. 4C illustrates a side view of the container of FIG. 4A.

FIG. 4D illustrates an isometric view of the container of FIG. 4A.

FIG. 5A illustrates a top view of a stand up flexible container having a structural support frame that has an overall shape like a tetragonal prism.

FIG. 5B illustrates a front view of the container of FIG. 5A.

FIG. 5C illustrates a side view of the container of FIG. 5A.

FIG. 5D illustrates an isometric view of the container of FIG. 5A.

FIG. 6A illustrates a top view of a stand up flexible container having a structural support frame that has an overall shape like a pentagonal prism.

FIG. 6B illustrates a front view of the container of FIG. 6A.

FIG. 6C illustrates a side view of the container of FIG. 6A.

FIG. 6D illustrates an isometric view of the container of FIG. 6A.

FIG. 7A illustrates a top view of a stand up flexible container having a structural support frame that has an overall shape like a cone.

FIG. 7B illustrates a front view of the container of FIG. 7A.

FIG. 7C illustrates a side view of the container of FIG. 7A.

FIG. 7D illustrates an isometric view of the container of FIG. 7A.

FIG. 8A illustrates a top view of a stand up flexible container having a structural support frame that has an overall shape like a cylinder.

FIG. 8B illustrates a front view of the container of FIG. 8A.

FIG. 8C illustrates a side view of the container of FIG. 8A.

FIG. 8D illustrates an isometric view of the container of FIG. 8A.

FIG. 9A illustrates a top view of an embodiment of a self-supporting flexible container, having an overall shape like a square.

FIG. 9B illustrates an end view of the flexible container of FIG. 9A.

FIG. 10A illustrates a top view of an embodiment of a self-supporting flexible container, having an overall shape like a triangle.

FIG. 10B illustrates an end view of the flexible container of FIG. 10A.

FIG. 11A illustrates a top view of an embodiment of a self-supporting flexible container, having an overall shape like a circle.

FIG. 11B illustrates an end view of the flexible container of FIG. 11A.

FIG. 12A illustrates an isometric view of push-pull type dispenser.

FIG. 12B illustrates an isometric view of dispenser with a flip-top cap.

FIG. 12C illustrates an isometric view of dispenser with a screw-on cap.

FIG. 12D illustrates an isometric view of rotatable type dispenser.

FIG. 12E illustrates an isometric view of nozzle type dispenser with a cap.

FIG. 13A illustrates an isometric view of straw dispenser.

FIG. 13B illustrates an isometric view of straw dispenser with a lid.

FIG. 13C illustrates an isometric view of flip up straw dispenser.

FIG. 13D illustrates an isometric view of straw dispenser with bite valve.

FIG. 14A illustrates an isometric view of pump type dispenser.

FIG. 14B illustrates an isometric view of pump spray type dispenser.

FIG. 14C illustrates an isometric view of trigger spray type dispenser.

FIG. 15A illustrates a cross-sectional view of a nonstructural panel disposed between structural support volumes before expansion.

FIG. 15B illustrates a cross-sectional view of a nonstructural panel disposed between structural support volumes after expansion.

FIG. 15C illustrates a cross-sectional view of a nonstructural panel disposed between structural support volumes while applying a squeeze force.

FIG. 15D illustrates a top plan view of the nonstructural panel of FIG. 15C disposed between structural support volumes while applying a squeeze force.

FIG. 16A illustrates a nonstructural panel having opposed fixed sides and having a structural support volume disposed intermediate the fixed sides.

FIG. 16B illustrates a nonstructural panel having opposed fixed sides and having a structural support volume associated with one of the fixed sides.

FIG. 16C illustrates a nonstructural panel having opposed fixed sides and having a structural support volume associated with both of the fixed sides.

FIG. 16D illustrates a nonstructural panel having opposed fixed sides and having a structural support volume surrounding at least 50% of the perimeter of the nonstructural panel.

FIG. 16E illustrates a nonstructural panel having two pairs of opposed sides and having multiple structural support volumes surrounding the nonstructural panel.

FIG. 16F illustrates a nonstructural panel having two pairs of opposed sides and having a structural support volume surrounding the nonstructural panel.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

The present disclosure describes various embodiments of containers made from flexible material. Because these containers are made from flexible material, these containers can be less expensive to make, can use less material, and can be easier to decorate, when compared with conventional rigid containers. First, these containers can be less expensive to make, because the conversion of flexible materials (from sheet form to finished goods) generally requires less energy and complexity, than formation of rigid materials (from bulk form to finished goods). Second, these containers can use less material, because they are configured with novel support structures that do not require the use of the thick solid walls used in conventional rigid containers. Third, these flexible containers can be easier to decorate, because their flexible materials can be easily printed before they are formed into containers. Fourth, these flexible containers can be less prone to scuffing, denting, and rupture, because flexible materials allow their outer surfaces to deform when contacting surfaces and objects, and then to bounce back. Fifth, fluent products in these flexible containers can be more readily and carefully dispensed, because the sides of flexible containers can be more easily and controllably squeezed by human hands.

Even though the containers of the present disclosure are made from flexible material, they can be configured with sufficient structural integrity, such that they can receive, contain, and dispense fluent product(s), as intended, without failure. Also, these containers can be configured with sufficient structural integrity, such that they can withstand external forces and environmental conditions from handling, without failure. Further, these containers can be configured with structures that allow them to be displayed for sale and put into use, as intended, without failure.

As used herein, the term “about” modifies a particular value, by referring to a range equal to the particular value, plus or minus twenty percent (+/−20%). For any of the embodiments of flexible containers, disclosed herein, any disclosure of a particular value, can, in various alternate embodiments, also be understood as a disclosure of a range equal to about that particular value (i.e. +/−20%).

As used herein, the term “ambient conditions” refers to a temperature within the range of 15-35 degrees Celsius and a relative humidity within the range of 35-75%.

As used herein, the term “approximately” modifies a particular value, by referring to a range equal to the particular value, plus or minus fifteen percent (+/−15%). For any of the embodiments of flexible containers, disclosed herein, any disclosure of a particular value, can, in various alternate embodiments, also be understood as a disclosure of a range equal to approximately that particular value (i.e. +/−15%).

As used herein, when referring to a sheet of material, the term “basis weight” refers to a measure of mass per area, in units of grams per square meter (gsm). For any of the embodiments of flexible containers, disclosed herein, in various embodiments, any of the flexible materials can be configured to have a basis weight of 10-1000 gsm, or any integer value for gsm from 10-1000, or within any range formed by any of these values, such as 20-800 gsm, 30-600 gsm, 40-400 gsm, or 50-200, etc.

As used herein, when referring to a flexible container, the term “bottom” refers to the portion of the container that is located in the lowermost 30% of the overall height of the container, that is, from 0-30% of the overall height of the container. As used herein, the term bottom can be further limited by modifying the term bottom with a particular percentage value, which is less than 30%. For any of the embodiments of flexible containers, disclosed herein, a reference to the bottom of the container can, in various alternate embodiments, refer to the bottom 25% (i.e. from 0-25% of the overall height), the bottom 20% (i.e. from 0-20% of the overall height), the bottom 15% (i.e. from 0-15% of the overall height), the bottom 10% (i.e. from 0-10% of the overall height), or the bottom 5% (i.e. from 0-5% of the overall height), or any integer value for percentage between 0% and 30%.

As used herein, the term “branding” refers to a visual element intended to distinguish a product from other products. Examples of branding include one of more of any of the following: trademarks, trade dress, logos, icons, and the like. For any of the embodiments of flexible containers, disclosed herein, in various embodiments, any surface of the flexible container can include one or more brandings of any size, shape, or configuration, disclosed herein or known in the art, in any combination.

As used herein, the term “character” refers to a visual element intended to convey information. Examples of characters include one or more of any of the following: letters, numbers, symbols, and the like. For any of the embodiments of flexible containers, disclosed herein, in various embodiments, any surface of the flexible container can include one or more characters of any size, shape, or configuration, disclosed herein or known in the art, in any combination.

As used herein, the term “closed” refers to a state of a product volume, wherein fluent products within the product volume are prevented from escaping the product volume (e.g. by one or more materials that form a barrier, and by a cap), but the product volume is not necessarily hermetically sealed. For example, a closed container can include a vent, which allows a head space in the container to be in fluid communication with air in the environment outside of the container.

As used herein, the term “directly connected” refers to a configuration wherein elements are attached to each other without any intermediate elements therebetween, except for any means of attachment (e.g. adhesive).

As used herein, when referring to a flexible container, the term “dispenser” refers to a structure configured to dispense fluent product(s) from a product volume and/or from a mixing volume to the environment outside of the container. For any of the flexible containers disclosed herein, any dispenser can be configured in any way disclosed herein or known in the art, including any suitable size, shape, and flow rate. For example, a dispenser can be a push-pull type dispenser, a dispenser with a flip-top cap, a dispenser with a screw-on cap, a rotatable type dispenser, dispenser with a cap, a pump type dispenser, a pump spray type dispenser, a trigger spray type dispenser, a straw dispenser, a flip up straw dispenser, a straw dispenser with bite valve, a dosing dispenser, etc. A dispenser can be a parallel dispenser, providing multiple flow channels in fluid communication with multiple product volumes, wherein those flow channels remain separate until the point of dispensing, thus allowing fluent products from multiple product volumes to be dispensed as separate fluent products, dispensed together at the same time. A dispenser can be a mixing dispenser, providing one or more flow channels in fluid communication with multiple product volumes, with multiple flow channels combined before the point of dispensing, thus allowing fluent products from multiple product volumes to be dispensed as the fluent products mixed together. As another example, a dispenser can be formed by a frangible opening. As further examples, a dispenser can utilize one or more valves and/or dispensing mechanisms disclosed in the art, such as those disclosed in: published US patent application 2003/0096068, entitled “One-way valve for inflatable package”; U.S. Pat. No. 4,988,016 entitled “Self-sealing container”; and U.S. Pat. No. 7,207,717, entitled “Package having a fluid actuated closure”; each of which is hereby incorporated by reference. Still further, any of the dispensers disclosed herein, may be incorporated into a flexible container either directly, or in combination with one or more other materials or structures (such as a fitment), or in any way known in the art. In some alternate embodiments, dispensers disclosed herein can be configured for both dispensing and filling, to allow filling of product volume(s) through one or more dispensers. In other alternate embodiments, a product volume can include one or more filling structure(s) (e.g. for adding water to a mixing volume) in addition to or instead of one or more dispenser(s). Any location for a dispenser, disclosed herein can alternatively be used as a location for a filling structure.

As used herein, when referring to a flexible container, the term “disposable” refers to a container which, after dispensing a product to an end user, is not configured to be refilled with an additional amount of the product, but is configured to be disposed of (i.e. as waste, compost, and/or recyclable material). Part, parts, or all of any of the embodiments of flexible containers, disclosed herein, can be configured to be disposable.

As used herein, when referring to a flexible container, the term “durable” refers to a container that is reusable more than non-durable containers.

As used herein, when referring to a flexible container, the term “effective base contact area” refers to a particular area defined by a portion of the bottom of the container, when the container (with all of its product volume(s) filled 100% with water) is standing upright and its bottom is resting on a horizontal support surface. The effective base contact area lies in a plane defined by the horizontal support surface. The effective base contact area is a continuous area bounded on all sides by an outer periphery.

The outer periphery is formed from an actual contact area and from a series of projected areas from defined cross-sections taken at the bottom of the container. The actual contact area is the one or more portions of the bottom of the container that contact the horizontal support surface, when the effective base contact area is defined. The effective base contact area includes all of the actual contact area. However, in some embodiments, the effective base contact area may extend beyond the actual contact area.

The series of projected area are formed from five horizontal cross-sections, taken at the bottom of the flexible container. These cross-sections are taken at 1%, 2%, 3%, 4%, and 5% of the overall height. The outer extent of each of these cross-sections is projected vertically downward onto the horizontal support surface to form five (overlapping) projected areas, which, together with the actual contact area, form a single combined area. This is not a summing up of the values for these areas, but is the formation of a single combined area that includes all of these (projected and actual) areas, overlapping each other, wherein any overlapping portion makes only one contribution to the single combined area.

The outer periphery of the effective base contact area is formed as described below. In the following description, the terms convex, protruding, concave, and recessed are understood from the perspective of points outside of the combined area. The outer periphery is formed by a combination of the outer extent of the combined area and any chords, which are straight line segments constructed as described below.

For each continuous portion of the combined area that has an outer perimeter with a shape that is concave or recessed, a chord is constructed across that portion. This chord is the shortest straight line segment that can be drawn tangent to the combined area on both sides of the concave/recessed portion.

For a combined area that is discontinuous (formed by two or more separate portions), one or more chords are constructed around the outer perimeter of the combined area, across the one or more discontinuities (open spaces disposed between the portions). These chords are straight lines segments drawn tangent to the outermost separate portions of the combined area. These chords are drawn to create the largest possible effective base contact area.

Thus, the outer periphery is formed by a combination of the outer extent of the combined area and any chords, constructed as described above, which all together enclose the effective base area. Any chords that are bounded by the combined area and/or one or more other chords, are not part of the outer periphery and should be ignored.

Any of the embodiments of flexible containers, disclosed herein, can be configured to have an effective base contact area from 1 to 50,000 square centimeters (cm2), or any integer value for cm2 between 1 and 50,000 cm2, or within any range formed by any of the preceding values, such as: from 2 to 25,000 cm2, 3 to 10,000 cm2, 4 to 5,000 cm2, 5 to 2,500 cm2, from 10 to 1,000 cm2, from 20 to 500 cm2, from 30 to 300 cm2, from 40 to 200 cm2, or from 50 to 100 cm2, etc.

As used herein, when referring to a flexible container, the term “expanded” refers to the state of one or more flexible materials that are configured to be formed into a structural support volume, after the structural support volume is made rigid by one or more expansion materials. An expanded structural support volume has an overall width that is significantly greater than the combined thickness of its one or more flexible materials, before the structural support volume is filled with the one or more expansion materials. Examples of expansion materials include liquids (e.g. water), gases (e.g. compressed air), fluent products, foams (that can expand after being added into a structural support volume), co-reactive materials (that produce gas), or phase change materials (that can be added in solid or liquid form, but which turn into a gas; for example, liquid nitrogen or dry ice), or other suitable materials known in the art, or combinations of any of these (e.g. fluent product and liquid nitrogen). In various embodiments, expansion materials can be added at atmospheric pressure, or added under pressure greater than atmospheric pressure, or added to provide a material change that will increase pressure to something above atmospheric pressure. For any of the embodiments of flexible containers, disclosed herein, its one or more flexible materials can be expanded at various points in time, with respect to its manufacture, sale, and use, including, for example: before or after its product volume(s) are filled with fluent product(s), before or after the flexible container is shipped to a seller, and before or after the flexible container is purchased by an end user.

As used herein, when referring to a product volume of a flexible container, the term “filled” refers to the state when the product volume contains an amount of fluent product(s) that is equal to a full capacity for the product volume, with an allowance for head space, under ambient conditions. As used herein, the term filled can be modified by using the term filled with a particular percentage value, wherein 100% filled represents the maximum capacity of the product volume.

As used herein, the term “flat” refers to a surface that is without significant projections or depressions.

As used herein, the term “flexible container” refers to a container configured to have a product volume, wherein one or more flexible materials form 50-100% of the overall surface area of the one or more materials that define the three-dimensional space of the product volume. For any of the embodiments of flexible containers, disclosed herein, in various embodiments, the flexible container can be configured to have a product volume, wherein one or more flexible materials form a particular percentage of the overall area of the one or more materials that define the three-dimensional space, and the particular percentage is any integer value for percentage between 50% and 100%, or within any range formed by any of these values, such as: 60-100%, or 70-100%, or 80-100%, or 90-100%, etc. One kind of flexible container is a film-based container, which is a flexible container made from one or more flexible materials, which include a film.

For any of the embodiments of flexible containers, disclosed herein, in various embodiments, the middle of the flexible container (apart from any fluent product) can be configured to have an overall middle mass, wherein one or more flexible materials form a particular percentage of the overall middle mass, and the particular percentage is any integer value for percentage between 50% and 100%, or within any range formed by any of the preceding values, such as: 60-100%, or 70-100%, or 80-100%, or 90-100%, etc.

For any of the embodiments of flexible containers, disclosed herein, in various embodiments, the entire flexible container (apart from any fluent product) can be configured to have an overall mass, wherein one or more flexible materials form a particular percentage of the overall mass, and the particular percentage is any integer value for percentage between 50% and 100%, or within any range formed by any of the preceding values, such as: 60-100%, or 70-100%, or 80-100%, or 90-100%, etc.

As used herein, when referring to a flexible container, the term “flexible material” refers to a thin, easily deformable, sheet-like material, having a flexibility factor within the range of 1,000-2,500,000 N/m. For any of the embodiments of flexible containers, disclosed herein, in various embodiments, any of the flexible materials can be configured to have a flexibility factor of 1,000-2,500,000 N/m, or any integer value for flexibility factor from 1,000-2,500,000 N/m, or within any range formed by any of these values, such as 1,000-1,500,000 N/m, 1,500-1,000,000 N/m, 2,500-800,000 N/m, 5,000-700,000 N/m, 10,000-600,000 N/m, 15,000-500,000 N/m, 20,000-400,000 N/m, 25,000-300,000 N/m, 30,000-200,000 N/m, 35,000-100,000 N/m, 40,000-90,000 N/m, or 45,000-85,000 N/m, etc. Throughout the present disclosure the terms “flexible material”, “flexible sheet”, “sheet”, and “sheet-like material” are used interchangeably and are intended to have the same meaning. Examples of materials that can be flexible materials include one or more of any of the following: films (such as plastic films), elastomers, foamed sheets, foils, fabrics (including wovens and nonwovens), biosourced materials, and papers, in any configuration, as separate material(s), or as layer(s) of a laminate, or as part(s) of a composite material, in a microlayered or nanolayered structure, and in any combination, as described herein or as known in the art. In various embodiments, part, parts, or all of a flexible material can be coated or uncoated, treated or untreated, processed or unprocessed, in any manner known in the art. In various embodiments, parts, parts, or about all, or approximately all, or substantially all, or nearly all, or all of a flexible material can made of sustainable, bio-sourced, recycled, recyclable, and/or biodegradable material. Part, parts, or about all, or approximately all, or substantially all, or nearly all, or all of any of the flexible materials described herein can be partially or completely translucent, partially or completely transparent, or partially or completely opaque. The flexible materials used to make the containers disclosed herein can be formed in any manner known in the art, and can be joined together using any kind of joining or sealing method known in the art, including, for example, heat sealing (e.g. conductive sealing, impulse sealing, ultrasonic sealing, etc.), welding, crimping, bonding, adhering, and the like, and combinations of any of these.

As used herein, when referring to a flexible container, the term “flexibility factor” refers to a material parameter for a thin, easily deformable, sheet-like material, wherein the parameter is measured in Newtons per meter, and the flexibility factor is equal to the product of the value for the Young's modulus of the material (measured in Pascals) and the value for the overall thickness of the material (measured in meters).

As used herein, when referring to a flexible container, the term “fluent product” refers to one or more liquids and/or pourable solids, and combinations thereof. Examples of fluent products include one or more of any of the following: bites, bits, creams, chips, chunks, crumbs, crystals, emulsions, flakes, gels, grains, granules, jellies, kibbles, liquid solutions, liquid suspensions, lotions, nuggets, ointments, particles, particulates, pastes, pieces, pills, powders, salves, shreds, sprinkles, and the like, either individually or in any combination. Throughout the present disclosure the terms “fluent product” and “flowable product” are used interchangeably and are intended to have the same meaning. Any of the product volumes disclosed herein can be configured to include one or more of any fluent product disclosed herein, or known in the art, in any combination.

As used herein, when referring to a flexible container, the term “formed” refers to the state of one or more materials that are configured to be formed into a product volume, after the product volume is provided with its defined three-dimensional space.

As used herein, the term “graphic” refers to a visual element intended to provide a decoration or to communicate information. Examples of graphics include one or more of any of the following colors, patterns, designs, images, and the like. For any of the embodiments of flexible containers, disclosed herein, in various embodiments, any surface of the flexible container can include one or more graphics of any size, shape, or configurations, disclosed herein or known in the art, in any combination.

As used herein, when referring to a flexible container, the term “height area ratio” refers to a ratio for the container, with units of per centimeter (cm−1), which is equal to the value for the overall height of the container (with all of its product volume(s) filled 100% with water, and with overall height measured in centimeters) divided by the value for the effective base contact area of the container (with all of its product volume(s) filled 100% with water, and with effective base contact area measured in square centimeters). For any of the embodiments of flexible containers, disclosed herein, in various embodiments, any of the flexible containers, can be configured to have a height area ratio from 0.3 to 3.0 per centimeter, or any value in increments of 0.05 cm−1 between 0.3 and 3.0 per centimeter, or within any range formed by any of the preceding values, such as: from 0.35 to 2.0 cm−1, from 0.4 to 1.5 cm−1, from 0.4 to 1.2 cm−1, or from 0.45 to 0.9 cm−1, etc.

As used herein, the term “indicia” refers to one or more of characters, graphics, branding, or other visual elements, in any combination. For any of the embodiments of flexible containers, disclosed herein, in various embodiments, any surface of the flexible container can include one or more indicia of any size, shape, or configuration, disclosed herein or known in the art, in any combination.

As used herein, the term “indirectly connected” refers to a configuration wherein elements are attached to each other with one or more intermediate elements therebetween.

As used herein, the term “joined” refers to a configuration wherein elements are either directly connected or indirectly connected.

As used herein, the term “lateral” refers to a direction, orientation, or measurement that is parallel to a lateral centerline of a container, when the container is standing upright on a horizontal support surface, as described herein. A lateral orientation may also be referred to a “horizontal” orientation, and a lateral measurement may also be referred to as a “width.”

As used herein, the term “like-numbered” refers to similar alphanumeric labels for corresponding elements, as described below. Like-numbered elements have labels with the same last two digits; for example, one element with a label ending in the digits 20 and another element with a label ending in the digits 20 are like-numbered. Like-numbered elements can have labels with a differing first digit, wherein that first digit matches the number for its figure; as an example, an element of FIG. 3 labeled 320 and an element of FIG. 4 labeled 420 are like-numbered. Like-numbered elements can have labels with a suffix (i.e. the portion of the label following the dash symbol) that is the same or possibly different (e.g. corresponding with a particular embodiment); for example, a first embodiment of an element in FIG. 3A labeled 320-a and a second embodiment of an element in FIG. 3B labeled 320-b, are like numbered.

As used herein, the term “longitudinal” refers to a direction, orientation, or measurement that is parallel to a longitudinal centerline of a container, when the container is standing upright on a horizontal support surface, as described herein. A longitudinal orientation may also be referred to a “vertical” orientation. When expressed in relation to a horizontal support surface for a container, a longitudinal measurement may also be referred to as a “height”, measured above the horizontal support surface.

As used herein, when referring to a flexible container, the term “middle” refers to the portion of the container that is located in between the top of the container and the bottom of the container. As used herein, the term middle can be modified by describing the term middle with reference to a particular percentage value for the top and/or a particular percentage value for the bottom. For any of the embodiments of flexible containers, disclosed herein, a reference to the middle of the container can, in various alternate embodiments, refer to the portion of the container that is located between any particular percentage value for the top, disclosed herein, and/or any particular percentage value for the bottom, disclosed herein, in any combination.

As used herein, the term “mixing volume” refers to a type product volume that is configured to receive one or more fluent product(s) from one or more product volumes and/or from the environment outside of the container.

As used herein, when referring to a product volume, the term “multiple dose” refers to a product volume that is sized to contain a particular amount of product that is about equal to two or more units of typical consumption, application, or use by an end user. Any of the embodiments of flexible containers, disclosed herein, can be configured to have one or more multiple dose product volumes. A container with only one product volume, which is a multiple dose product volume, is referred to herein as a “multiple dose container.”

As used herein, the term “nearly” modifies a particular value, by referring to a range equal to the particular value, plus or minus five percent (+/−5%). For any of the embodiments of flexible containers, disclosed herein, any disclosure of a particular value, can, in various alternate embodiments, also be understood as a disclosure of a range equal to approximately that particular value (i.e. +/−5%).

As used herein, when referring to a flexible container, the term “non-durable” refers to a container that is temporarily reusable, or disposable, or single use.

As used herein, when referring to a flexible container, the term “overall height” refers to a distance that is measured while the container is standing upright on a horizontal support surface, the distance measured vertically from the upper side of the support surface to a point on the top of the container, which is farthest away from the upper side of the support surface. Any of the embodiments of flexible containers, disclosed herein, can be configured to have an overall height from 2.0 cm to 100.0 cm, or any value in increments of 0.1 cm between 2.0 and 100.0 cm, or within any range formed by any of the preceding values, such as: from 4.0 to 90.0 cm, from 5.0 to 80.0 cm, from 6.0 to 70.0 cm, from 7.0 to 60.0 cm, from 8.0 to 50.0 cm, from 9.0 to 40.0 cm, or from 10.0 to 30.0, etc.

As used herein, when referring to a sheet of flexible material, the term “overall thickness” refers to a linear dimension measured perpendicular to the outer major surfaces of the sheet, when the sheet is lying flat. For any of the embodiments of flexible containers, disclosed herein, in various embodiments, any of the flexible materials can be configured to have an overall thickness 5-500 micrometers (μm), or any integer value for micrometers from 5-500, or within any range formed by any of these values, such as 10-500 μm, 20-400 μm, 30-300 μm, 40-200 μm, or 50-100 μm, etc.

As used herein, the term “product volume” refers to an enclosable three-dimensional space that is configured to receive and directly contain one or more fluent product(s), wherein that space is defined by one or more materials that form a barrier that prevents the fluent product(s) from escaping the product volume. By directly containing the one or more fluent products, the fluent products come into contact with the materials that form the enclosable three-dimensional space; there is no intermediate material or container, which prevents such contact. Throughout the present disclosure the terms “product volume” and “product receiving volume” are used interchangeably and are intended to have the same meaning. Any of the embodiments of flexible containers, disclosed herein, can be configured to have any number of product volumes including one product volume, two product volumes, three product volumes, four product volumes, five product volumes, six product volumes, or even more product volumes. In some embodiments, one or more product volumes can be enclosed within another product volume. Any of the product volumes disclosed herein can have a product volume of any size, including from 0.001 liters to 100.0 liters, or any value in increments of 0.001 liters between 0.001 liters and 3.0 liters, or any value in increments of 0.01 liters between 3.0 liters and 10.0 liters, or any value in increments of 1.0 liters between 10.0 liters and 100.0 liters, or within any range formed by any of the preceding values, such as: from 0.001 to 2.2 liters, 0.01 to 2.0 liters, 0.05 to 1.8 liters, 0.1 to 1.6 liters, 0.15 to 1.4 liters, 0.2 to 1.2 liters, 0.25 to 1.0 liters, etc. A product volume can have any shape in any orientation. A product volume can be included in a container that has a structural support frame, and a product volume can be included in a container that does not have a structural support frame.

As used herein, when referring to a flexible container, the term “resting on a horizontal surface” refers to the container resting directly on the horizontal support surface, without other support.

As used herein, the term “sealed,” when referring to a product volume, refers to a state of the product volume wherein fluent products within the product volume are prevented from escaping the product volume (e.g. by one or more materials that form a barrier, and by a seal), and the product volume is hermetically sealed.

As used herein, when referring to a flexible container, the term “self-supporting” refers to a container that includes a product volume and a structural support frame, wherein, when the container is resting on a horizontal support surface, in at least one orientation, the structural support frame is configured to prevent the container from collapsing and to give the container an overall height that is significantly greater than the combined thickness of the materials that form the container, even when the product volume is unfilled. Any of the embodiments of flexible containers, disclosed herein, can be configured to be self-supporting.

As used herein, when referring to a flexible container, the term “single use” refers to a closed container which, after being opened by an end user, is not configured to be reclosed. Any of the embodiments of flexible containers, disclosed herein, can be configured to be single use.

As used herein, when referring to a product volume, the term “single dose” refers to a product volume that is sized to contain a particular amount of product that is about equal to one unit of typical consumption, application, or use by an end user. Any of the embodiments of flexible containers, disclosed herein, can be configured to have one or more single dose product volumes. A container with only one product volume, which is a single dose product volume, is referred to herein as a “single dose container.”

As used herein, when referring to a flexible container, the terms “stand up,” “stands up,” “standing up”, “stand upright”, “stands upright”, and “standing upright” refer to a particular orientation of a self-supporting flexible container, when the container is resting on a horizontal support surface. This standing upright orientation can be determined from the structural features of the container and/or indicia on the container. In a first determining test, if the flexible container has a clearly defined base structure that is configured to be used on the bottom of the container, then the container is determined to be standing upright when this base structure is resting on the horizontal support surface. If the first test cannot determine the standing upright orientation, then, in a second determining test, the container is determined to be standing upright when the container is oriented to rest on the horizontal support surface such that the indicia on the flexible container are best positioned in an upright orientation. If the second test cannot determine the standing upright orientation, then, in a third determining test, the container is determined to be standing upright when the container is oriented to rest on the horizontal support surface such that the container has the largest overall height. If the third test cannot determine the standing upright orientation, then, in a fourth determining test, the container is determined to be standing upright when the container is oriented to rest on the horizontal support surface such that the container has the largest height area ratio. If the fourth test cannot determine the standing upright orientation, then, any orientation used in the fourth determining test can be considered to be a standing upright orientation.

As used herein, when referring to a flexible container, the term “stand up container” refers to a self-supporting container, wherein, when the container (with all of its product volume(s) filled 100% with water) is standing up, the container has a height area ratio from 0.4 to 1.5 cm−1. Any of the embodiments of flexible containers, disclosed herein, can be configured to be stand up containers.

As used herein, when referring to a flexible container, the term “nonstructural panel” refers to flexible material(s) and/or laminate(s) of flexible material(s) which overlay a product volume disposed within the flexible container.

As used herein, a “flexible squeeze panel” is a nonstructural panel that is under tension generated and maintained across the nonstructural panel by a structural support volume when expanded.

As used herein, when referring to a flexible container, the term “structural support frame” refers to a rigid structure formed of one or more structural support members, joined together, around one or more sizable empty spaces and/or one or more nonstructural panels, and generally used as a major support for the product volume(s) in the flexible container and in making the container self-supporting and/or standing upright. In each of the embodiments disclosed herein, when a flexible container includes a structural support frame and one or more product volumes, the structural support frame is considered to be supporting the product volumes of the container, unless otherwise indicated.

As used herein, when referring to a flexible container, the term “structural support member” refers to a rigid, physical structure, which includes one or more expanded structural support volumes, and which is configured to be used in a structural support frame, to carry one or more loads (from the flexible container) across a span. A structure that does not include at least one expanded structural support volume, is not considered to be a structural support member, as used herein.

A structural support member has two defined ends, a middle between the two ends, and an overall length from its one end to its other end. A structural support member can have one or more cross-sectional areas, each of which has an overall width that is less than its overall length.

A structural support member can be configured in various forms. A structural support member can include one, two, three, four, five, six or more structural support volumes, arranged in various ways. For example, a structural support member can be formed by a single structural support volume. As another example, a structural support member can be formed by a plurality of structural support volumes, disposed end to end, in series, wherein, in various embodiments, part, parts, or about all, or approximately all, or substantially all, or nearly all, or all of some or all of the structural support volumes can be partly or fully in contact with each other, partly or fully directly connected to each other, and/or partly or fully joined to each other. As a further example, a structural support member can be formed by a plurality of support volumes disposed side by side, in parallel, wherein, in various embodiments, part, parts, or about all, or approximately all, or substantially all, or nearly all, or all of some or all of the structural support volumes can be partly or fully in contact with each other, partly or fully directly connected to each other, and/or partly or fully joined to each other.

In some embodiments, a structural support member can include a number of different kinds of elements. For example, a structural support member can include one or more structural support volumes along with one or more mechanical reinforcing elements (e.g. braces, collars, connectors, joints, ribs, etc.), which can be made from one or more rigid (e.g. solid) materials. In other embodiments, the nonstructural panel may comprise a relatively flat and/or curved surface, and/or have display indicia and/or decorative elements, and/or have structural elements. For example, the structural elements can include one or more of expanded volumes including structural support volumes, textural features, and ergonomic elements.

Structural support members can have various shapes and sizes. Part, parts, or about all, or approximately all, or substantially all, or nearly all, or all of a structural support member can be straight, curved, angled, segmented, or other shapes, or combinations of any of these shapes. Part, parts, or about all, or approximately all, or substantially all, or nearly all, or all of a structural support member can have any suitable cross-sectional shape, such as circular, oval, square, triangular, star-shaped, or modified versions of these shapes, or other shapes, or combinations of any of these shapes. A structural support member can have an overall shape that is tubular, or convex, or concave, along part, parts, or about all, or approximately all, or substantially all, or nearly all, or all of a length. A structural support member can have any suitable cross-sectional area, any suitable overall width, and any suitable overall length. A structural support member can be substantially uniform along part, parts, or about all, or approximately all, or substantially all, or nearly all, or all of its length, or can vary, in any way described herein, along part, parts, or about all, or approximately all, or substantially all, or nearly all, or all of its length. For example, a cross-sectional area of a structural support member can increase or decrease along part, parts, or all of its length. Part, parts, or all of any of the embodiments of structural support members of the present disclosure, can be configured according to any embodiment disclosed herein, including any workable combination of structures, features, materials, and/or connections from any number of any of the embodiments disclosed herein.

As used herein, when referring to a flexible container, the term “structural support volume” refers to a fillable space made from one or more flexible materials, wherein the space is configured to be at least partially filled with one or more expansion materials, which create tension in the one or more flexible materials, and form an expanded structural support volume. One or more expanded structural support volumes can be configured to be included in a structural support member. A structural support volume is distinct from structures configured in other ways, such as: structures without a fillable space (e.g. an open space), structures made from inflexible (e.g. solid) materials, structures with spaces that are not configured to be filled with an expansion material (e.g. an unattached area between adjacent layers in a multi-layer panel), and structures with flexible materials that are not configured to be expanded by an expansion material (e.g. a space in a structure that is configured to be a non-structural panel). Throughout the present disclosure the terms “structural support volume” and “expandable chamber” are used interchangeably and are intended to have the same meaning.

In some embodiments, a structural support frame can include a plurality of structural support volumes, wherein some of or all of the structural support volumes are in fluid communication with each other. In other embodiments, a structural support frame can include a plurality of structural support volumes, wherein some of or none of the structural support volumes are in fluid communication with each other. Any of the structural support frames of the present disclosure can be configured to have any kind of fluid communication disclosed herein.

As used herein, the term “substantially” modifies a particular value, by referring to a range equal to the particular value, plus or minus ten percent (+/−10%). For any of the embodiments of flexible containers, disclosed herein, any disclosure of a particular value, can, in various alternate embodiments, also be understood as a disclosure of a range equal to approximately that particular value (i.e. +/−10%).

As used herein, when referring to a flexible container, the term “temporarily reusable” refers to a container which, after dispensing a product to an end user, is configured to be refilled with an additional amount of a product, up to ten times, before the container experiences a failure that renders it unsuitable for receiving, containing, or dispensing the product. As used herein, the term temporarily reusable can be further limited by modifying the number of times that the container can be refilled before the container experiences such a failure. For any of the embodiments of flexible containers, disclosed herein, a reference to temporarily reusable can, in various alternate embodiments, refer to temporarily reusable by refilling up to eight times before failure, by refilling up to six times before failure, by refilling up to four times before failure, or by refilling up to two times before failure, or any integer value for refills between one and ten times before failure. Any of the embodiments of flexible containers, disclosed herein, can be configured to be temporarily reusable, for the number of refills disclosed herein.

As used herein, the term “thickness” refers to a measurement that is parallel to a third centerline of a container, when the container is standing upright on a horizontal support surface, as described herein. A thickness may also be referred to as a “depth.”

As used herein, when referring to a flexible container, the term “top” refers to the portion of the container that is located in the uppermost 20% of the overall height of the container, that is, from 80-100% of the overall height of the container. As used herein, the term top can be further limited by modifying the term top with a particular percentage value, which is less than 20%. For any of the embodiments of flexible containers, disclosed herein, a reference to the top of the container can, in various alternate embodiments, refer to the top 15% (i.e. from 85-100% of the overall height), the top 10% (i.e. from 90-100% of the overall height), or the top 5% (i.e. from 95-100% of the overall height), or any integer value for percentage between 0% and 20%.

As used herein, when referring to a flexible container, the term “unexpanded” refers to the state of one or more materials that are configured to be formed into a structural support volume, before the structural support volume is made rigid by an expansion material.

As used herein, when referring to a product volume of a flexible container, the term “unfilled” refers to the state of the product volume when it does not contain a fluent product. As used herein, when referring to a flexible container, the term “unformed” refers to the state of one or more materials that are configured to be formed into a product volume, before the product volume is provided with its defined three-dimensional space. For example, an article of manufacture could be a container blank with an unformed product volume, wherein sheets of flexible material, with portions joined together, are laying flat against each other.

Flexible containers, as described herein, may be used across a variety of industries for a variety of products. For example, flexible containers, as described herein, may be used across the consumer products industry, including the following products: soft surface cleaners, hard surface cleaners, glass cleaners, ceramic tile cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners, wood cleaners, multi-surface cleaners, surface disinfectants, dishwashing compositions, laundry detergents, fabric conditioners, fabric dyes, surface protectants, surface disinfectants, cosmetics, facial powders, body powders, hair treatment products (e.g. mousse, hair spray, styling gels), shampoo, hair conditioner (leave-in or rinse-out), cream rinse, hair dye, hair coloring product, hair shine product, hair serum, hair anti-frizz product, hair split-end repair products, permanent waving solution, antidandruff formulation, bath gels, shower gels, body washes, facial cleaners, skin care products (e.g. sunscreen, sun block lotions, lip balm, skin conditioner, cold creams, moisturizers), body sprays, soaps, body scrubs, exfoliants, astringent, scrubbing lotions, depilatories, antiperspirant compositions, deodorants, shaving products, pre-shaving products, after shaving products, toothpaste, mouthwash, etc. As further examples, flexible containers, as described herein, may be used across other industries, including foods, beverages, pharmaceuticals, commercial products, industrial products, medical, etc.

FIGS. 1A-1D illustrates various views of an embodiment of a stand up flexible container 100. FIG. 1A illustrates a front view of the container 100. The container 100 is standing upright on a horizontal support surface 101.

In FIG. 1A, a coordinate system 110, provides lines of reference for referring to directions in the figure. The coordinate system 110 is a three-dimensional Cartesian coordinate system with an X-axis, a Y-axis, and a Z-axis, wherein each axis is perpendicular to the other axes, and any two of the axes define a plane. The X-axis and the Z-axis are parallel with the horizontal support surface 101 and the Y-axis is perpendicular to the horizontal support surface 101.

FIG. 1A also includes other lines of reference, for referring to directions and locations with respect to the container 100. A lateral centerline 111 runs parallel to the X-axis. An XY plane at the lateral centerline 111 separates the container 100 into a front half and a back half. An XZ plane at the lateral centerline 111 separates the container 100 into an upper half and a lower half. A longitudinal centerline 114 runs parallel to the Y-axis. A YZ plane at the longitudinal centerline 114 separates the container 100 into a left half and a right half. A third centerline 117 runs parallel to the Z-axis. The lateral centerline 111, the longitudinal centerline 114, and the third centerline 117 all intersect at a center of the container 100.

A disposition with respect to the lateral centerline 111 defines what is longitudinally inboard 112 and longitudinally outboard 113. When a first location is nearer to the lateral centerline 111 than a second location, the first location is considered to be disposed longitudinally inboard 112 to the second location. And, the second location is considered to be disposed longitudinally outboard 113 from the first location. The term lateral refers to a direction, orientation, or measurement that is parallel to the lateral centerline 111. A lateral orientation may also be referred to a horizontal orientation, and a lateral measurement may also be referred to as a width.

A disposition with respect to the longitudinal centerline 114 defines what is laterally inboard 115 and laterally outboard 116. When a first location is nearer to the longitudinal centerline 114 than a second location, the first location is considered to be disposed laterally inboard 115 to the second location. And, the second location is considered to be disposed laterally outboard 116 from the first location. The term longitudinal refers to a direction, orientation, or measurement that is parallel to the longitudinal centerline 114. A longitudinal orientation may also be referred to a vertical orientation.

A longitudinal direction, orientation, or measurement may also be expressed in relation to a horizontal support surface for the container 100. When a first location is nearer to the support surface than a second location, the first location can be considered to be disposed lower than, below, beneath, or under the second location. And, the second location can be considered to be disposed higher than, above, or upward from the first location. A longitudinal measurement may also be referred to as a height, measured above the horizontal support surface 100.

A measurement that is made parallel to the third centerline 117 is referred to a thickness or depth. A disposition in the direction of the third centerline 117 and toward a front 102-1 of the container is referred to as forward 118 or in front of. A disposition in the direction of the third centerline 117 and toward a back 102-2 of the container is referred to as backward 119 or behind. These terms for direction, orientation, measurement, and disposition, as described above, are used for all of the embodiments of the present disclosure, whether or not a support surface, reference line, or coordinate system is shown in a figure.

The container 100 includes a top 104, a middle 106, and a bottom 108, the front 102-1, the back 102-2, and left and right sides 109. The top 104 is separated from the middle 106 by a reference plane 105, which is parallel to the XZ plane. The middle 106 is separated from the bottom 108 by a reference plane 107, which is also parallel to the XZ plane. The container 100 has an overall height of 100-oh. In the embodiment of FIG. 1A, the front 102-1 and the back 102-2 of the container are joined together at a seal 129, which extends around the outer periphery of the container 100, across the top 104, down the side 109, and then, at the bottom of each side 109, splits outward to follow the front and back portions of the base 190, around their outer extents.

The container 100 includes a structural support frame 140, a product volume 150, a dispenser 160, panels 180-1 and 180-2, and a base structure 190. A portion of panel 180-1 is illustrated as broken away, in order to show the product volume 150. The product volume 150 is configured to contain one or more fluent products. The dispenser 160 allows the container 100 to dispense these fluent product(s) from the product volume 150 through a flow channel 159 then through the dispenser 160, to the environment outside of the container 100. In the embodiment of FIGS. 1A-1D, the dispenser 160 is disposed in the center of the uppermost part of the top 104, however, in various alternate embodiments, the dispenser 160 can be disposed anywhere else on the top 140, middle 106, or bottom 108, including anywhere on either of the sides 109, on either of the panels 180-1 and 180-2, and on any part of the base 190 of the container 100. The structural support frame 140 supports the mass of fluent product(s) in the product volume 150, and makes the container 100 stand upright. The panels 180-1 and 180-2 are relatively flat surfaces, overlaying the product volume 150, and are suitable for displaying any kind of indicia. However, in various embodiments, part, parts, or about all, or approximately all, or substantially all, or nearly all, or all of either or both of the panels 180-1 and 180-2 can include one or more curved surfaces. The base structure 190 supports the structural support frame 140 and provides stability to the container 100 as it stands upright.

The structural support frame 140 is formed by a plurality of structural support members. The structural support frame 140 includes top structural support members 144-1 and 144-2, middle structural support members 146-1, 146-2, 146-3, and 146-4, as well as bottom structural support members 148-1 and 148-2.

The top structural support members 144-1 and 144-2 are disposed on the upper part of the top 104 of the container 100, with the top structural support member 144-1 disposed in the front 102-1 and the top structural support member 144-2 disposed in the back 102-2, behind the top structural support member 144-1. The top structural support members 144-1 and 144-2 are adjacent to each other and can be in contact with each other along the laterally outboard portions of their lengths. In various embodiments, the top structural support members 144-1 and 144-2 can be in contact with each other at one or more relatively smaller locations and/or at one or more relatively larger locations, along part, or parts, or about all, or approximately all, or substantially all, or nearly all, or all of their overall lengths, so long as there is a flow channel 159 between the top structural support members 144-1 and 144-2, which allows the container 100 to dispense fluent product(s) from the product volume 150 through the flow channel 159 then through the dispenser 160. The top structural support members 144-1 and 144-2 are not directly connected to each other. However, in various alternate embodiments, the top structural support members 144-1 and 144-2 can be directly connected and/or joined together along part, or parts, or about all, or approximately all, or substantially all, or nearly all, or all of their overall lengths.

The top structural support members 144-1 and 144-2 are disposed substantially above the product volume 150. Overall, each of the top structural support members 144-1 and 144-2 is oriented about horizontally, but with its ends curved slightly downward. And, overall each of the top structural support members 144-1 and 144-2 has a cross-sectional area that is substantially uniform along its length; however the cross-sectional area at their ends are slightly larger than the cross-sectional area in their middles.

The middle structural support members 146-1, 146-2, 146-3, and 146-4 are disposed on the left and right sides 109, from the top 104, through the middle 106, to the bottom 108. The middle structural support member 146-1 is disposed in the front 102-1, on the left side 109; the middle structural support member 146-4 is disposed in the back 102-2, on the left side 109, behind the middle structural support member 146-1. The middle structural support members 146-1 and 146-4 are adjacent to each other and can be in contact with each other along substantially all of their lengths. In various embodiments, the middle structural support members 146-1 and 146-4 can be in contact with each other at one or more relatively smaller locations and/or at one or more relatively larger locations, along part, or parts, or about all, or approximately all, or substantially all, or nearly all, or all of their overall lengths. The middle structural support members 146-1 and 146-4 are not directly connected to each other. However, in various alternate embodiments, the middle structural support members 146-1 and 146-4 can be directly connected and/or joined together along part, or parts, or about all, or approximately all, or substantially all, or nearly all, or all of their overall lengths.

The middle structural support member 146-2 is disposed in the front 102-1, on the right side 109; the middle structural support member 146-3 is disposed in the back 102-2, on the right side 109, behind the middle structural support member 146-2. The middle structural support members 146-2 and 146-3 are adjacent to each other and can be in contact with each other along substantially all of their lengths. In various embodiments, the middle structural support members 146-2 and 146-3 can be in contact with each other at one or more relatively smaller locations and/or at one or more relatively larger locations, along part, or parts, or about all, or approximately all, or substantially all, or nearly all, or all of their overall lengths. The middle structural support members 146-2 and 146-3 are not directly connected to each other. However, in various alternate embodiments, the middle structural support members 146-2 and 146-3 can be directly connected and/or joined together along part, or parts, or about all, or approximately all, or substantially all, or nearly all, or all of their overall lengths.

The middle structural support members 146-1, 146-2, 146-3, and 146-4 are disposed substantially laterally outboard from the product volume 150. Overall, each of the middle structural support members 146-1, 146-2, 146-3, and 146-4 is oriented about vertically, but angled slightly, with its upper end laterally inboard to its lower end. And, overall each of the middle structural support members 146-1, 146-2, 146-3, and 146-4 has a cross-sectional area that changes along its length, increasing in size from its upper end to its lower end.

The bottom structural support members 148-1 and 148-2 are disposed on the bottom 108 of the container 100, with the bottom structural support member 148-1 disposed in the front 102-1 and the bottom structural support member 148-2 disposed in the back 102-2, behind the top structural support member 148-1. The bottom structural support members 148-1 and 148-2 are adjacent to each other and can be in contact with each other along substantially all of their lengths. In various embodiments, the bottom structural support members 148-1 and 148-2 can be in contact with each other at one or more relatively smaller locations and/or at one or more relatively larger locations, along part, or parts, or about all, or approximately all, or substantially all, or nearly all, or all of their overall lengths. The bottom structural support members 148-1 and 148-2 are not directly connected to each other. However, in various alternate embodiments, the bottom structural support members 148-1 and 148-2 can be directly connected and/or joined together along part, or parts, or about all, or approximately all, or substantially all, or nearly all, or all of their overall lengths.

The bottom structural support members 148-1 and 148-2 are disposed substantially below the product volume 150, but substantially above the base structure 190. Overall, each of the bottom structural support members 148-1 and 148-2 is oriented about horizontally, but with its ends curved slightly upward. And, overall each of the bottom structural support members 148-1 and 148-2 has a cross-sectional area that is substantially uniform along its length.

In the front portion of the structural support frame 140, the left end of the top structural support member 144-1 is joined to the upper end of the middle structural support member 146-1; the lower end of the middle structural support member 146-1 is joined to the left end of the bottom structural support member 148-1; the right end of the bottom structural support member 148-1 is joined to the lower end of the middle structural support member 146-2; and the upper end of the middle structural support member 146-2 is joined to the right end of the top structural support member 144-1. Similarly, in the back portion of the structural support frame 140, the left end of the top structural support member 144-2 is joined to the upper end of the middle structural support member 146-4; the lower end of the middle structural support member 146-4 is joined to the left end of the bottom structural support member 148-2; the right end of the bottom structural support member 148-2 is joined to the lower end of the middle structural support member 146-3; and the upper end of the middle structural support member 146-3 is joined to the right end of the top structural support member 144-2. In the structural support frame 140, the ends of the structural support members, which are joined together, are directly connected, all around the periphery of their walls. However, in various alternative embodiments, any of the structural support members 144-1, 144-2, 146-1, 146-2, 146-3, 146-4, 148-1, and 148-2 can be joined together in any way described herein or known in the art.

In alternative embodiments of the structural support frame 140, adjacent structural support members can be combined into a single structural support member, wherein the combined structural support member can effectively substitute for the adjacent structural support members, as their functions and connections are described herein. In other alternative embodiments of the structural support frame 140, one or more additional structural support members can be added to the structural support members in the structural support frame 140, wherein the expanded structural support frame can effectively substitute for the structural support frame 140, as its functions and connections are described herein. Also, in some alternative embodiments, a flexible container may not include a base structure.

FIG. 1B illustrates a side view of the stand up flexible container 100 of FIG. 1A.

FIG. 1C illustrates a top view of the stand up flexible container 100 of FIG. 1A.

FIG. 1D illustrates a bottom view of the stand up flexible container 100 of FIG. 1A.

FIGS. 2A-8D illustrate embodiments of stand up flexible containers having various overall shapes. Any of the embodiments of FIGS. 2A-8D can be configured according to any of the embodiments disclosed herein, including the embodiments of FIGS. 1A-1D. Any of the elements (e.g. structural support frames, structural support members, panels, dispensers, etc.) of the embodiments of FIGS. 2A-8D, can be configured according to any of the embodiments disclosed herein. While each of the embodiments of FIGS. 2A-8D illustrates a container with one dispenser, in various embodiments, each container can include multiple dispensers, according to any embodiment described herein. FIGS. 2A-8D illustrate exemplary additional/alternate locations for dispenser with phantom line outlines. Part, parts, or about all, or approximately all, or substantially all, or nearly all, or all of each of the panels in the embodiments of FIGS. 2A-8D is suitable to display any kind of indicia. Each of the side panels in the embodiments of FIGS. 2A-8D is configured to be a nonstructural panel, overlaying product volume(s) disposed within the flexible container, however, in various embodiments, one or more of any kind of decorative or structural element (such as a rib, protruding from an outer surface) can be joined to part, parts, or about all, or approximately all, or substantially all, or nearly all, or all of any of these side panels. For clarity, not all structural details of these flexible containers are shown in FIGS. 2A-8D, however any of the embodiments of FIGS. 2A-8D can be configured to include any structure or feature for flexible containers, disclosed herein. For example, any of the embodiments of FIGS. 2A-8D can be configured to include any kind of base structure disclosed herein.

FIG. 2A illustrates a front view of a stand up flexible container 200 having a structural support frame 240 that has an overall shape like a frustum. In the embodiment of FIG. 2A, the frustum shape is based on a four-sided pyramid, however, in various embodiments, the frustum shape can be based on a pyramid with a different number of sides, or the frustum shape can be based on a cone. The support frame 240 is formed by structural support members disposed along the edges of the frustum shape and joined together at their ends. The structural support members define a rectangular shaped top panel 280-t, trapezoidal shaped side panels 280-1, 280-2, 280-3, and 280-4, and a rectangular shaped bottom panel (not shown). Each of the side panels 280-1, 280-2, 280-3, and 280-4 is about flat, however in various embodiments, part, parts, or about all, or approximately all, or substantially all, or nearly all, or all of any of the side panels can be approximately flat, substantially flat, nearly flat, or completely flat. The container 200 includes a dispenser 260, which is configured to dispense one or more fluent products from one or more product volumes disposed within the container 200. In the embodiment of FIG. 2A, the dispenser 260 is disposed in the center of the top panel 280-t, however, in various alternate embodiments, the dispenser 260 can be disposed anywhere else on the top, sides, or bottom, of the container 200, according to any embodiment described or illustrated herein. FIG. 2B illustrates a front view of the container 200 of FIG. 2A, including exemplary additional/alternate locations for a dispenser, any of which can also apply to the back of the container. FIG. 2C illustrates a side view of the container 200 of FIG. 2A, including exemplary additional/alternate locations for a dispenser (shown as phantom lines), any of which can apply to either side of the container. FIG. 2D illustrates an isometric view of the container 200 of FIG. 2A.

FIG. 3A illustrates a front view of a stand up flexible container 300 having a structural support frame 340 that has an overall shape like a pyramid. In the embodiment of FIG. 3A, the pyramid shape is based on a four-sided pyramid, however, in various embodiments, the pyramid shape can be based on a pyramid with a different number of sides. The support frame 340 is formed by structural support members disposed along the edges of the pyramid shape and joined together at their ends. The structural support members define triangular shaped side panels 380-1, 380-2, 380-3, and 380-4, and a square shaped bottom panel (not shown). Each of the side panels 380-1, 380-2, 380-3, and 380-4 is about flat, however in various embodiments, part, parts, or about all, or approximately all, or substantially all, or nearly all, or all of any of the side panels can be approximately flat, substantially flat, nearly flat, or completely flat. The container 300 includes a dispenser 360, which is configured to dispense one or more fluent products from one or more product volumes disposed within the container 300. In the embodiment of FIG. 3A, the dispenser 360 is disposed at the apex of the pyramid shape, however, in various alternate embodiments, the dispenser 360 can be disposed anywhere else on the top, sides, or bottom, of the container 300. FIG. 3B illustrates a front view of the container 300 of FIG. 3A, including exemplary additional/alternate locations for a dispenser (shown as phantom lines), any of which can also apply to any side of the container. FIG. 3C illustrates a side view of the container 300 of FIG. 3A. FIG. 3D illustrates an isometric view of the container 300 of FIG. 3A.

FIG. 4A illustrates a front view of a stand up flexible container 400 having a structural support frame 440 that has an overall shape like a trigonal prism. In the embodiment of FIG. 4A, the prism shape is based on a triangle. The support frame 440 is formed by structural support members disposed along the edges of the prism shape and joined together at their ends. The structural support members define a triangular shaped top panel 480-t, rectangular shaped side panels 480-1, 480-2, and 480-3, and a triangular shaped bottom panel (not shown). Each of the side panels 480-1, 480-2, and 480-3 is about flat, however in various embodiments, part, parts, or about all, or approximately all, or substantially all, or nearly all, or all of the side panels can be approximately flat, substantially flat, nearly flat, or completely flat. The container 400 includes a dispenser 460, which is configured to dispense one or more fluent products from one or more product volumes disposed within the container 400. In the embodiment of FIG. 4A, the dispenser 460 is disposed in the center of the top panel 480-t, however, in various alternate embodiments, the dispenser 460 can be disposed anywhere else on the top, sides, or bottom, of the container 400. FIG. 4B illustrates a front view of the container 400 of FIG. 4A, including exemplary additional/alternate locations for a dispenser (shown as phantom lines), any of which can also apply to any side of the container 400. FIG. 4C illustrates a side view of the container 400 of FIG. 4A. FIG. 4D illustrates an isometric view of the container 400 of FIG. 4A.

FIG. 5A illustrates a front view of a stand up flexible container 500 having a structural support frame 540 that has an overall shape like a tetragonal prism. In the embodiment of FIG. 5A, the prism shape is based on a square. The support frame 540 is formed by structural support members disposed along the edges of the prism shape and joined together at their ends. The structural support members define a square shaped top panel 580-t, rectangular shaped side panels 580-1, 580-2, 580-3, and 580-4, and a square shaped bottom panel (not shown). Each of the side panels 580-1, 580-2, 580-3, and 580-4 is about flat, however in various embodiments, part, parts, or about all, or approximately all, or substantially all, or nearly all, or all of any of the side panels can be approximately flat, substantially flat, nearly flat, or completely flat. The container 500 includes a dispenser 560, which is configured to dispense one or more fluent products from one or more product volumes disposed within the container 500. In the embodiment of FIG. 5A, the dispenser 560 is disposed in the center of the top panel 580-t, however, in various alternate embodiments, the dispenser 560 can be disposed anywhere else on the top, sides, or bottom, of the container 500. FIG. 5B illustrates a front view of the container 500 of FIG. 5A, including exemplary additional/alternate locations for a dispenser (shown as phantom lines), any of which can also apply to any side of the container 500. FIG. 5C illustrates a side view of the container 500 of FIG. 5A. FIG. 5D illustrates an isometric view of the container 500 of FIG. 5A.

FIG. 6A illustrates a front view of a stand up flexible container 600 having a structural support frame 640 that has an overall shape like a pentagonal prism. In the embodiment of FIG. 6A, the prism shape is based on a pentagon. The support frame 640 is formed by structural support members disposed along the edges of the prism shape and joined together at their ends. The structural support members define a pentagon shaped top panel 680-t, rectangular shaped side panels 680-1, 680-2, 680-3, 680-4, and 680-5, and a pentagon shaped bottom panel (not shown). Each of the side panels 680-1, 680-2, 680-3, 680-4, and 680-5 is about flat, however in various embodiments, part, parts, or about all, or approximately all, or substantially all, or nearly all, or all of any of the side panels can be approximately flat, substantially flat, nearly flat, or completely flat. The container 600 includes a dispenser 660, which is configured to dispense one or more fluent products from one or more product volumes disposed within the container 600. In the embodiment of FIG. 6A, the dispenser 660 is disposed in the center of the top panel 680-t, however, in various alternate embodiments, the dispenser 660 can be disposed anywhere else on the top, sides, or bottom, of the container 600. FIG. 6B illustrates a front view of the container 600 of FIG. 6A, including exemplary additional/alternate locations for a dispenser (shown as phantom lines), any of which can also apply to any side of the container 600. FIG. 6C illustrates a side view of the container 600 of FIG. 6A. FIG. 6D illustrates an isometric view of the container 600 of FIG. 6A.

FIG. 7A illustrates a front view of a stand up flexible container 700 having a structural support frame 740 that has an overall shape like a cone. The support frame 740 is formed by curved structural support members disposed around the base of the cone and by straight structural support members extending linearly from the base to the apex, wherein the structural support members are joined together at their ends. The structural support members define curved somewhat triangular shaped side panels 780-1, 780-2, and 780-3, and a circular shaped bottom panel (not shown). Each of the side panels 780-1, 780-2, and 780-3, is curved, however in various embodiments, part, parts, or about all, or approximately all, or substantially all, or nearly all, or all of any of the side panels can be approximately flat, substantially flat, nearly flat, or completely flat. The container 700 includes a dispenser 760, which is configured to dispense one or more fluent products from one or more product volumes disposed within the container 700. In the embodiment of FIG. 7A, the dispenser 760 is disposed at the apex of the conical shape, however, in various alternate embodiments, the dispenser 760 can be disposed anywhere else on the top, sides, or bottom, of the container 700. FIG. 7B illustrates a front view of the container 700 of FIG. 7A. FIG. 7C illustrates a side view of the container 700 of FIG. 7A, including exemplary additional/alternate locations for a dispenser (shown as phantom lines), any of which can also apply to any side panel of the container 700. FIG. 7D illustrates an isometric view of the container 700 of FIG. 7A.

FIG. 8A illustrates a front view of a stand up flexible container 800 having a structural support frame 840 that has an overall shape like a cylinder. The support frame 840 is formed by curved structural support members disposed around the top and bottom of the cylinder and by straight structural support members extending linearly from the top to the bottom, wherein the structural support members are joined together at their ends. The structural support members define a circular shaped top panel 880-t, curved somewhat rectangular shaped side panels 880-1, 880-2, 880-3, and 880-4, and a circular shaped bottom panel (not shown). Each of the side panels 880-1, 880-2, 880-3, and 880-4, is curved, however in various embodiments, part, parts, or about all, or approximately all, or substantially all, or nearly all, or all of any of the side panels can be approximately flat, substantially flat, nearly flat, or completely flat. The container 800 includes a dispenser 860, which is configured to dispense one or more fluent products from one or more product volumes disposed within the container 800. In the embodiment of FIG. 8A, the dispenser 860 is disposed in the center of the top panel 880-t, however, in various alternate embodiments, the dispenser 860 can be disposed anywhere else on the top, sides, or bottom, of the container 800. FIG. 8B illustrates a front view of the container 800 of FIG. 8A, including exemplary additional/alternate locations for a dispenser (shown as phantom lines), any of which can also apply to any side panel of the container 800. FIG. 8C illustrates a side view of the container 800 of FIG. 8A. FIG. 8D illustrates an isometric view of the container 800 of FIG. 8A.

In additional embodiments, any stand up flexible container with a structural support frame, as disclosed herein, can be configured to have an overall shape that corresponds with any other known three-dimensional shape, including any kind of polyhedron, any kind of prismatoid, and any kind of prism (including right prisms and uniform prisms).

FIG. 9A illustrates a top view of an embodiment of a self-supporting flexible container 900, having an overall shape like a square. FIG. 9B illustrates an end view of the flexible container 900 of FIG. 9A. The container 900 is resting on a horizontal support surface 901.

In FIG. 9B, a coordinate system 910, provides lines of reference for referring to directions in the figure. The coordinate system 910 is a three-dimensional Cartesian coordinate system, with an X-axis, a Y-axis, and a Z-axis. The X-axis and the Z-axis are parallel with the horizontal support surface 901 and the Y-axis is perpendicular to the horizontal support surface 901.

FIG. 9A also includes other lines of reference, for referring to directions and locations with respect to the container 100. A lateral centerline 911 runs parallel to the X-axis. An XY plane at the lateral centerline 911 separates the container 100 into a front half and a back half. An XZ plane at the lateral centerline 911 separates the container 100 into an upper half and a lower half. A longitudinal centerline 914 runs parallel to the Y-axis. A YZ plane at the longitudinal centerline 914 separates the container 900 into a left half and a right half. A third centerline 917 runs parallel to the Z-axis. The lateral centerline 911, the longitudinal centerline 914, and the third centerline 917 all intersect at a center of the container 900. These terms for direction, orientation, measurement, and disposition, in the embodiment of FIGS. 9A-9B are the same as the like-numbered terms in the embodiment of FIGS. 1A-1D.

The container 900 includes a top 904, a middle 906, and a bottom 908, the front 902-1, the back 902-2, and left and right sides 909. In the embodiment of FIGS. 9A-9B, the upper half and the lower half of the container are joined together at a seal 929, which extends around the outer periphery of the container 900. The bottom of the container 900 is configured in the same way as the top of the container 900.

The container 900 includes a structural support frame 940, a product volume 950, a dispenser 960, a top panel 980-t and a bottom panel (not shown). A portion of the top panel 980-t is illustrated as broken away, in order to show the product volume 950. The product volume 950 is configured to contain one or more fluent products. The dispenser 960 allows the container 900 to dispense these fluent product(s) from the product volume 950 through a flow channel 959 then through the dispenser 960, to the environment outside of the container 900. The structural support frame 940 supports the mass of fluent product(s) in the product volume 950. The top panel 980-t and the bottom panel are relatively flat surfaces, overlaying the product volume 950, and are suitable for displaying any kind of indicia.

The structural support frame 940 is formed by a plurality of structural support members. The structural support frame 940 includes front structural support members 943-1 and 943-2, intermediate structural support members 945-1, 945-2, 945-3, and 945-4, as well as back structural support members 947-1 and 947-2. Overall, each of the structural support members in the container 900 is oriented horizontally. And, each of the structural support members in the container 900 has a cross-sectional area that is substantially uniform along its length, although in various embodiments, this cross-sectional area can vary.

Upper structural support members 943-1, 945-1, 945-2, and 947-1 are disposed in an upper part of the middle 906 and in the top 904, while lower structural support members 943-2, 945-4, 945-3, and 947-2 are disposed in a lower part of the middle 906 and in the bottom 908. The upper structural support members 943-1, 945-1, 945-2, and 947-1 are disposed above and adjacent to the lower structural support members 943-2, 945-4, 945-3, and 947-2, respectively.

In various embodiments, adjacent upper and lower structural support members can be in contact with each other at one or more relatively smaller locations and/or at one or more relatively larger locations, along part, or parts, or about all, or approximately all, or substantially all, or nearly all, or all of their overall lengths, so long as there is a gap in the contact for the flow channel 959, between the structural support members 943-1 and 943-2. In the embodiment of FIGS. 9A-9B, the upper and lower structural support members are not directly connected to each other. However, in various alternate embodiments, adjacent upper and lower structural support members can be directly connected and/or joined together along part, or parts, or about all, or approximately all, or substantially all, or nearly all, or all of their overall lengths.

The ends of structural support members 943-1, 945-2, 947-1, and 945-1 are joined together to form a top square that is outward from and surrounding the product volume 950, and the ends of structural support members 943-2, 945-3, 947-2, and 945-4 are also joined together to form a bottom square that is outward from and surrounding the product volume 950. In the structural support frame 940, the ends of the structural support members, which are joined together, are directly connected, all around the periphery of their walls. However, in various alternative embodiments, any of the structural support members of the embodiment of FIGS. 9A-9B can be joined together in any way described herein or known in the art.

In alternative embodiments of the structural support frame 940, adjacent structural support members can be combined into a single structural support member, wherein the combined structural support member can effectively substitute for the adjacent structural support members, as their functions and connections are described herein. In other alternative embodiments of the structural support frame 940, one or more additional structural support members can be added to the structural support members in the structural support frame 940, wherein the expanded structural support frame can effectively substitute for the structural support frame 940, as its functions and connections are described herein.

FIGS. 10A-11B illustrate embodiments of self-supporting flexible containers (that are not stand up containers) having various overall shapes. Any of the embodiments of FIGS. 10A-11B can be configured according to any of the embodiments disclosed herein, including the embodiments of FIGS. 9A-9B. Any of the elements (e.g. structural support frames, structural support members, panels, dispensers, etc.) of the embodiments of FIGS. 10A-11B, can be configured according to any of the embodiments disclosed herein. While each of the embodiments of FIGS. 10A-11B illustrates a container with one dispenser, in various embodiments, each container can include multiple dispensers, according to any embodiment described herein. Part, parts, or about all, or approximately all, or substantially all, or nearly all, or all of each of the panels in the embodiments of FIGS. 10A-11B is suitable to display any kind of indicia. Each of the top and bottom panels in the embodiments of FIGS. 10A-11B is configured to be a nonstructural panel, overlaying product volume(s) disposed within the flexible container, however, in various embodiments, one or more of any kind of decorative or structural element (such as a rib, protruding from an outer surface) can be joined to part, parts, or about all, or approximately all, or substantially all, or nearly all, or all of any of these panels. For clarity, not all structural details of these flexible containers are shown in FIGS. 10A-11B, however any of the embodiments of FIGS. 10A-11B can be configured to include any structure or feature for flexible containers, disclosed herein.

FIG. 10A illustrates a top view of an embodiment of a self-supporting flexible container 1000 (that is not a stand up flexible container) having a product volume 1050 and an overall shape like a triangle. However, in various embodiments, a self-supporting flexible container can have an overall shape like a polygon having any number of sides. The support frame 1040 is formed by structural support members disposed along the edges of the triangular shape and joined together at their ends. The structural support members define a triangular shaped top panel 1080-t, and a triangular shaped bottom panel (not shown). The top panel 1080-t and the bottom panel are about flat, however in various embodiments, part, parts, or about all, or approximately all, or substantially all, or nearly all, or all of any of the side panels can be approximately flat, substantially flat, nearly flat, or completely flat. The container 1000 includes a dispenser 1060, which is configured to dispense one or more fluent products from one or more product volumes disposed within the container 1000. In the embodiment of FIG. 10A, the dispenser 1060 is disposed in the center of the front, however, in various alternate embodiments, the dispenser 1060 can be disposed anywhere else on the top, sides, or bottom, of the container 1000. FIG. 10A includes exemplary additional/alternate locations for a dispenser (shown as phantom lines). FIG. 10B illustrates an end view of the flexible container 1000 of FIG. 10B, resting on a horizontal support surface 1001.

FIG. 11A illustrates a top view of an embodiment of a self-supporting flexible container 1100 (that is not a stand up flexible container) having a product volume 1150 and an overall shape like a circle. The support frame 1140 is formed by structural support members disposed around the circumference of the circular shape and joined together at their ends. The structural support members define a circular shaped top panel 1180-t, and a circular shaped bottom panel (not shown). The top panel 1180-t and the bottom panel are about flat, however in various embodiments, part, parts, or about all, or approximately all, or substantially all, or nearly all, or all of any of the side panels can be approximately flat, substantially flat, nearly flat, or completely flat. The container 1100 includes a dispenser 1160, which is configured to dispense one or more fluent products from one or more product volumes disposed within the container 1100. In the embodiment of FIG. 11A, the dispenser 1160 is disposed in the center of the front, however, in various alternate embodiments, the dispenser 1160 can be disposed anywhere else on the top, sides, or bottom, of the container 1100. FIG. 11A includes exemplary additional/alternate locations for a dispenser (shown as phantom lines). FIG. 11B illustrates an end view of the flexible container 1100 of FIG. 10B, resting on a horizontal support surface 1101.

In additional embodiments, any self-supporting container with a structural support frame, as disclosed herein, can be configured to have an overall shape that corresponds with any other known three-dimensional shape. For example, any self-supporting container with a structural support frame, as disclosed herein, can be configured to have an overall shape (when observed from a top view) that corresponds with a rectangle, a polygon (having any number of sides), an oval, an ellipse, a star, or any other shape, or combinations of any of these.

FIGS. 12A-14C illustrate various exemplary dispensers, which can be used with the flexible containers disclosed herein. FIG. 12A illustrates an isometric view of push-pull type dispenser 1260-a. FIG. 12B illustrates an isometric view of dispenser with a flip-top cap 1260-b. FIG. 12C illustrates an isometric view of dispenser with a screw-on cap 1260-c. FIG. 12D illustrates an isometric view of rotatable type dispenser 1260-d. FIG. 12E illustrates an isometric view of nozzle type dispenser with a cap 1260-d. FIG. 13A illustrates an isometric view of straw dispenser 1360-a. FIG. 13B illustrates an isometric view of straw dispenser with a lid 1360-b. FIG. 13C illustrates an isometric view of flip up straw dispenser 1360-c. FIG. 13D illustrates an isometric view of straw dispenser with bite valve 1360-d. FIG. 14A illustrates an isometric view of pump type dispenser 1460-a, which can, in various embodiments be a foaming pump type dispenser. FIG. 14B illustrates an isometric view of pump spray type dispenser 1460-b. FIG. 14C illustrates an isometric view of trigger spray type dispenser 1460-c.

In all of the foregoing embodiments, and any other embodiments constructed in accordance with the disclosure, it will be appreciated that the panels, e.g., 180-1, 180-2 of FIGS. 1A-1D, 280-1-280-4 of FIGS. 2A-2D, 380-1-380-4 of FIGS. 3A-3D, 480-1, 480-3 of FIGS. 4A-4D, 580-1, 580-4 of FIGS. 5A-5D, 680-1, 680-5 of FIGS. 6A-6D, 780-1, 780-3 of FIGS. 7A-7D, 880-1, 880-4 of FIGS. 8A-8D, 980-t and a bottom panel (not shown) of FIGS. 9A-9B, 1080-t and a bottom panel (not shown) of FIGS. 10A-10B, and 1180-t, and a bottom panel (not shown) of FIGS. 11A-11B, can comprise nonstructural (or flexible squeeze) panels that are opposed to one another in the sense that there is at least some fluent product between any two of the panels in each embodiment so that fluent product can be dispensed when any two or more of the panels are squeezed toward one another. In any embodiment, squeeze panels may be arranged to be squeezed toward each other to dispense a fluent product from the container. The squeeze panels may be co-facially arranged, or arranged at any other orientation. The squeeze panels may be arranged such that they are squeezed toward the center of the container to dispense a fluent product.

Also, in all of the foregoing embodiments, and any other embodiments constructed in accordance with the disclosure, it will be appreciated that the structural support frames, e.g., 140 in FIGS. 1A-1D, 240 of FIGS. 2A-2D, 340 of FIGS. 3A-3D, 440 of FIGS. 4A-4D, 540 of FIGS. 5A-5D, 640 of FIGS. 6A-6D, 740 of FIGS. 7A-7D, 840 of FIGS. 8A-8D, 940 of FIGS. 9A-9B, 1040 of FIGS. 10A-10B, and 1140 of FIGS. 11A-11B, can comprise one or more structural support members which take the form of expanded structural support volumes.

In all of the foregoing embodiments, and any other embodiments constructed in accordance with the disclosure, the nonstructural (or flexible) squeeze panels identified above in connection with the embodiments of FIGS. 1A-1D, 2A-2D, 3A-3D, 4A-4D, 5A-5D, 6A-6D, 7A-7D, 8A-8D, 9A-9D, 10A-10D, and 11A-11D have opposed sides and an expanded structural support volume which makes up the structural support frames 140, 240, 340, 440, 540, 640, 740, 840, 940, 1040, and 1140, associated with each of the opposed sides. The structural support volume or volumes can have at least some curvature and be disposed in generally concave spaced relation to one another (e.g., see structural support volumes 146-1, 146-2 in FIG. 1A), they can be generally straight and be disposed generally at an angle to one another (e.g., see structural support volumes 246-1, 246-2, 246-3, 246-4 of FIG. 2A), or they can be generally straight and be disposed in generally parallel relation to one another (e.g., see structural support volumes 446-1, 446-2, 446-3 in FIG. 4C), or they can have various other shapes and/or relationships to one another.

Referring again to FIGS. 1A-1D, a flexible container in accordance with the disclosure can be formed of various different flexible materials and/or laminates having the requisite characteristics to be capable of containing and dispensing a fluent product while being disposable after the fluent product has been fully dispensed. In a broad sense, a flexible container in accordance with the disclosure, such as the flexible container 100 in FIGS. 1A-1D, will have a product volume, such as 150, at least partially defined by a panel, such as 180-1, which may be configured to be a nonstructural panel. To provide support for a defined shape, a flexible container in accordance with the disclosure, such as the flexible container 100 in FIGS. 1A-1D, includes a structural support volume, such as structural support members 146-1, 146-2, arranged to generate and maintain tension in the nonstructural panel, such as 180-1, when the structural support volume is expanded.

Still referring to FIGS. 1A-1D, the flexible container in accordance with the disclosure also includes a dispenser, such as 160, for dispensing a fluent product from the product volume, such as 150, through, e.g., a flow channel, such as 159, to the environment outside the flexible container. One of the unique aspects of the disclosure is that the flexible container, such as 100 in FIGS. 1A-1D, has a nonstructural panel, such as 180-1, that is maintained under tension akin to a drum head as a result of the effect of the structural support volume, i.e., structural support members 146-1, 146-2. The manner in which tension is generated and maintained by the structural support volume, i.e., structural support members 146-1, 146-2, is explained below but, as a result of the tension, the nonstructural panel, such as 180-1, becomes a flexible squeeze panel that resists deformation, facilitates dispensing fluent product through the dispenser 160, and springs back after it is squeezed.

In order to understand this phenomenon, FIGS. 15A-15D illustrate a nonstructural panel 1580 disposed between structural support volumes 1546-1 and 1546-2 that are suitably maintained a relatively fixed distance apart. FIG. 15A illustrates the nonstructural panel 1580 before expansion of the structural support volumes 1546-1 and 1546-2, FIG. 15B illustrates the nonstructural panel 1580 after expansion of the structural support volumes 1546-1 and 1546-2, FIG. 15C illustrates the nonstructural panel 1580 after expansion of the structural support volumes 1546-1 and 1546-2 while applying a squeeze force, and FIG. 15D is a top plan view illustrating the nonstructural panel 1580 disposed between the structural support volumes 1546-1 and 1546-2 while applying a squeeze force, and these views illustrate various different parameters utilized in equations leading to a determination of total squeeze force. The concept of total squeeze force in connection with flexible containers incorporates three separate force components that make up the total squeeze force for an arrangement such as the one which is illustrated in FIGS. 15A-15C.

The total squeeze force is nondimensionalized to be expressed as a dimensionless squeeze force as:


F*=Ftotal/EWt

where the total squeeze force (Ftotal) is determined by the following equation:


Ftotal=[2·W·E·t·sin·θ·σ*]+[W·E·t·tan·θ·(1−cos θ)]+[(2E·W·t3·tan θ)/(L2)]


{Force Component 1}{Force Component 2}{Force Component 3}

where:
Force Component 1=squeeze force due to initial tension in the nonstructural panel
Force Component 2=squeeze force due to elongation of the nonstructural panel
Force Component 3=squeeze force due to pure bending of the nonstructural panel
and where:
W=width of the nonstructural panel
E=elastic modulus of the nonstructural panel material
t=thickness of the nonstructural panel material
θ=angle of deflection of the nonstructural panel
σ*=dimensionless tensile stress in the nonstructural panel (σ*=σ/E)
L=separation distance of the structural support volumes
d=the width of the structural support volume in an unexpanded state
α=structure index (α=d/L)
and where:
σ* is determined by the formula:


σ*=2α(1−Γ) and where:

Γ is a function of ψ determined by the formula:

Γ = 6 + 5 πΨ + 6 πΨ 2 + 6 Ψ + 16 + 12 πΨ 2 + 32 Ψ - 5 π 2 Ψ 2 + 12 Ψ 2 π ( 10 Ψ + 5 + 5 Ψ 2 )

and where:
ψ is the dimensionless stiffness index determined by the formula:

ψ = Et PL

and where:
P=pressure within structural support volume when expanded
For squeeze panels in some embodiments, the second and third terms of the squeeze force equation (elongation and bending, respectively) can be neglected as they are very small in comparison with the first term (initial tension component).

By utilizing the foregoing equations, the nonstructural panel of the flexible container in accordance with the disclosure comprises a flexible squeeze panel having a dimensionless squeeze force F* in the range of about 5E-9 to about 30 at least at some point or for some portion of the panel. Preferably, the flexible squeeze panel has a dimensionless squeeze force F* in the range of about 2E-7 to about 3 and, more preferably, in the range of about 1E-5 to about 1 at least at some point or for some portion of the panel.

Based upon the foregoing equations, the flexible squeeze panel of the flexible container has a dimensionless squeeze force to mass ratio (F*lm where m=mass of the flexible squeeze panel) in the range of about 1E-10 to about 30 g−1 at least at some point or for some portion of the panel. Preferably, the flexible squeeze panel has a dimensionless squeeze force to mass ratio (F*l/m) in the range of about 1E-7 to about 1 g−1 and, more preferably, in the range of about 1E-5 to about 0.1 g−1 at least at some point or for some portion of the panel.

The flexible squeeze panel of the flexible container has a dimensionless squeeze force to thickness ratio (F*lt where t=thickness of the flexible squeeze panel) in the range of about 1E-11 to about 6 (μm−1) at least at some point or for some portion of the panel. Preferably, the flexible squeeze panel has a dimensionless squeeze force to thickness ratio (F*lt) in the range of about 2E-8 to about 0.2 (μm−1) and, more preferably, in the range of about 1E-6 to about 0.01 (μm−1) at least at some point or for some portion of the panel.

In accordance with the disclosure, at least the flexible squeeze panel of the flexible container has a thickness (t) in the range of about 10 to about 500 micrometers (μm) and, preferably, a thickness in the range of about 20 to about 400 micrometers (μm). Preferably, at least the flexible squeeze panel of the flexible container has a thickness (t) in the range of about 30 to about 300 micrometers (μm) and, more preferably, at least the flexible squeeze panel has a thickness in the range of about 40 to about 200 micrometers (μm). Still more preferably, and in accordance with the disclosure, at least the flexible squeeze panel of the flexible container has a thickness (t) in the range of about 50 to about 200 micrometers (μm).

From the equation for total squeeze force for a nonstructural panel of a flexible container and, specifically, for a flexible squeeze panel, i.e., from Ftotal=[2·W·E·t·sin θ·σ*]+[W·E·t·tan θ·(1−cos θ)]+[2·E·W·t3·tan θ/L2], it is possible to understand the significantly reduced amount of material that can be used to generate the same effective structure as would be found in a rigid container. For a flexible container as disclosed herein, having a flexible squeeze panel, in some embodiments, the squeeze force from the initial tension portion of the equation can be the majority of the overall squeeze force and, in other embodiments, it can be significantly more than the majority to about all of the total squeeze force.

In another respect, and based upon the foregoing equations, the flexible squeeze panel has a dimensionless tension (σ*) in the range of about 1E-6 to about 20, preferably, in the range of about 4E-5 to about 10 and, more preferably, in the range of about 2E-3 to about 0.9 at least at some point or for some portion of the panel.

In yet another respect, and based upon the foregoing equations, the flexible squeeze panel of the flexible container has a dimensionless stiffness index (ψ) in the range of about 2E-5 to about 1.5E3, preferably, in the range of about 3E-4 to about 100 and, more preferably, in the range of about 0.01 to about 20 at least at some point or for some portion of the panel.

In yet another respect, the flexible squeeze panel has a dimensionless structure index (α) in the range of about 0.001 to about 20, preferably, in the range of about 0.01 to about 10 and, more preferably, in the range of about 0.04 to about 1 at least at some point or for some portion of the panel.

In order to further understand the principle behind the use of one or more structural support volumes to generate and maintain tension in a nonstructural panel to create a tensioned flexible squeeze panel, FIGS. 16A-16F illustrate various arrangements and conditions for a tensioned flexible squeeze panel 1680-1 having one or more structural support volumes 1646-1, 1646-2, 1646-3, 1646-4.

Referring to FIG. 16A, the nonstructural panel 1680-1 has opposed fixed sides 1682-1, 1682-2 and the structural support volume 1646-1 is disposed at a point intermediate the fixed sides 1682-1, 1682-2 of the nonstructural panel 1680-1. When the structural support volume 1646-1 is expanded, e.g., by inflation, tension is generated and maintained in the nonstructural panel 1680-1 as represented by the arrows 1699-1 and 1699-2 on either side of the structural support volume 1646-1.

Referring next to FIG. 16B, the nonstructural panel 1680-1 has opposed fixed sides 1682-1, 1682-2 and the structural support volume 1646-1 is associated with one of the fixed sides, i.e., fixed side 1682-1, of the nonstructural panel 1680-1. When the structural support volume 1646-1 is expanded, tension is generated and maintained in the nonstructural panel 1680-1 as represented by the arrow 1699-1 on the panel side of the structural support volume 1646-1.

Referring to FIG. 16C, the nonstructural panel 1680-1 has opposed fixed sides 1682-1, 1682-2 and one of the structural support volumes 1646-1, 1646-2 is associated with each of the fixed sides 1682-1, 1682-1 of the nonstructural panel 1680-1. When the structural support volumes 1646-1, 1646-2 are expanded, tension is generated and maintained in the nonstructural panel 1680-1 as represented by the arrow 1699-1 between the structural support volumes 1646-1, 1646-2. The two structural support volumes are at a separation distance of L from each other as indicated.

Referring next to FIG. 16D, the nonstructural panel 1680-1 includes a perimeter which, as illustrated, has opposed fixed sides 1682-1, 1682-2 and the structural support volume 1646-1 surrounds at least about 50% of the nonstructural panel 1680-1 in association with, or proximity to, the perimeter of the nonstructural panel.

More specifically, and still referring to FIG. 16D, the nonstructural panel 1680-1 includes first and second pairs of opposed sides and, in particular, opposed fixed sides 1682-1, 1682-2 as well as opposed sides 1682-3, 1682-4 extending between opposed fixed sides 1682-1, 1682-2 and, in the illustrated embodiment, the structural support volume 1646-1 surrounds the nonstructural panel 1680-1 in association with, or proximity to, the first pair of opposed fixed sides 1682-1, 1682-2 and at least one of the second pair of opposed sides 1682-3.

When the structural support volume 1646-1 is expanded, tension is generated and maintained in the nonstructural panel 1680-1 as represented by the arrow 1699-1 between the structural support volume portions 1646-1a, 1641-1b.

Referring to FIG. 16E, the nonstructural panel 1680-1 includes first and second pairs of opposed sides and, in particular, opposed sides 1682-1, 1682-2 as well as opposed sides 1682-3, 1682-4 extending between opposed sides 1682-1, 1682-2 and, in the illustrated embodiment, the structural support volumes 1646-1, 1646-2, 1646-3, 1646-4 surround the nonstructural panel 1680-1 in association with, or proximity to, the first and second pairs of opposed sides 1682-1, 1682-2, 1682-3, 1682-4, respectively. In this embodiment, the structural support volumes 1646-1, 1646-2, 1646-3, 1646-4 comprise a first pair of opposed structural support volumes (1646-1, 1646-2) in proximity to the first pair of opposed sides 1682-1, 1682-2 to impart tension to the nonstructural panel 1680-1 and a second pair of opposed structural support volumes (1646-3, 1646-4) in proximity to the second pair of opposed sides 1682-3, 1682-4 to maintain the first pair of opposed structural support volumes (1646-1, 1646-2) a distance apart. When the structural support volumes 1646-1, 1646-2, 1646-3, 1646-4 are expanded, the structural support volumes (1646-3, 1646-4) maintain the opposed structural support volumes (1646-1, 1646-2) in spaced apart relation at a distance from one another, and the structural support volumes (1646-1, 1646-2) cause tension to be generated and maintained in the nonstructural panel 1680-1 as represented by the arrow 1699-1 between the structural support volumes 1646-1, 1646-2. There is also a tension generated in the perpendicular direction, but because the spacing between opposed structural support volumes is greater, the tension level is less, in accordance with the equations above.

Referring to FIG. 16F, the nonstructural panel 1680-1 includes first and second pairs of opposed sides and, in particular, opposed sides 1682-1, 1682-2 as well as opposed sides 1682-3, 1682-4 extending between opposed sides 1682-1, 1682-2 and, in the illustrated embodiment, the structural support volume 1646-1 surrounds the nonstructural panel 1680-1 in association with, or proximity to, the first and second pairs of opposed sides 1682-1, 1682-2, 1682-3, 1682-4. In this embodiment, the structural support volume 1646-1 comprises a single continuous structural support volume substantially entirely surrounding the nonstructural panel 1680-1 to impart tension through both of the first and second pairs of opposed sides 1682-1, 1682-2, 1682-3, 1682-4. When the structural support volume 1646-1 is expanded e.g., by inflation, it maintains the structural support volume portions generally designated 1646-1a, 1646-1b and 1646-1c, 1646-1d in spaced apart relation at a distance from one another thereby causing tension to be generated and maintained in the nonstructural panel 1680-1 as represented by the arrows 1699-1, 1699-2.

In a practical embodiment of a disposable flexible container in accordance with the disclosure, FIG. 1A illustrates a flexible container 100 having a nonstructural (or flexible squeeze) panel 180-1 which at least partially defines the product volume 150. The nonstructural panel 180-1 of the flexible container 100 will be seen to have at least one pair of opposed sides 182-1, 182-2. The flexible container 100 also has a structural support volume 146-1 and 146-2 associated with, or in proximity to, each of the opposed sides 182-1, 182-2 of the nonstructural panel 180-1 in spaced apart relation at a distance from one another.

The nonstructural panel 180-1 will be understood to include a perimeter defined in FIG. 1A by the inner boundaries of structural support volumes or members 144-1, 146-1, 146-2, 148-1, and one or more of the structural support volumes or members surround at least 50% of the nonstructural panel 180-1, e.g., structural support members 146-1, 146-2, in association with, or in proximity to, the perimeter of the nonstructural panel. In other embodiments contemplated in accordance with the disclosure, the structural support volume(s) surround at least about 60%, 70%, 80%, 90%, or all of the nonstructural panel 180-1 as specifically shown in FIG. 1A, in association with, or in proximity to, the perimeter of the nonstructural (or squeeze) panel.

Still referring to FIG. 1A, the nonstructural panel 180-1 preferably has first and second pairs of opposed sides 182-1, 182-2 and 184-1, 184-2, respectively, and one or more structural support volumes, such as structural support members 146-1, 146-2, 148-1 surround the nonstructural panel in association with, or in proximity to, the first pair of opposed sides 182-1, 182-2 and at least one, e.g., side 184-1, of the second pair of opposed sides 184-1, 184-2.

In the illustrated embodiment, one or more structural support volumes, such as 144-1, 146-1, 146-2, 148-1, substantially entirely surround the nonstructural panel 180-1 in association with, or in proximity to, the first and second pairs of opposed sides 182-1, 182-2, 184-1, 184-2 to impart tension to the nonstructural panel at least between one of the first and second pairs of opposed sides, e.g., sides 182-1, 182-2. In this embodiment, the structural support volumes may comprise a first pair of opposed structural support volumes (146-1, 146-2) in association with, or in proximity to, the first pair of opposed sides 182-1, 182-2 of the nonstructural panel 180-1 to impart tension to the nonstructural panel and a second pair of opposed structural support volumes (144-1, 148-1) in association with, or in proximity to the second pair of opposed sides 184-1, 184-2 to maintain the first pair of structural support volumes (146-1, 146-2) in spaced relation a distance apart from one another.

In yet another embodiment, the structural support volume (represented in FIG. 1A as structural support volumes 144-1, 146-1, 146-2, 148-1) may comprise a single continuous structural support volume substantially entirely surrounding the nonstructural panel in proximity to the first and second pairs of opposed sides 182-1, 182-2, 184-1, 184-2 to impart tension through both of the first and second pairs of opposed sides of the nonstructural (or flexible squeeze) panel 180-1.

In a further respect, and referring to FIGS. 1A and 1B, the disposable flexible container 100 in accordance with the disclosure includes at least two flexible panels 180-1 and 180-2 wherein at least one, and preferably both, of the flexible panels 180-1, 180-2 are nonstructural panels which are opposed to one another for dispensing fluent product when they are squeeze toward one another. It will be noted that either or both of the nonstructural panels has opposed sides (such as the sides 182-1, 182-2 in the case of the panel 180-1), and a structural support volume, such as structural support members 146-1, 146-2, 146-3, 146-4, is associated with each of the opposed sides (such as the sides 182-1, 182-2 of the panel 180-1) in the embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 1A-1D.

Part, parts, or all of any of the embodiments disclosed herein can be combined with part, parts, or all of other embodiments known in the art of flexible containers, including those described below.

Embodiments of the present disclosure can use any and all embodiments of materials, structures, and/or features for flexible containers, as well as any and all methods of making and/or using such flexible containers, as disclosed in the following US provisional patent applications: (1) application 61/643,813 filed May 7, 2012, entitled “Film Based Containers” (applicant's case 12464P); (2) application 61/643,823 filed May 7, 2012, entitled “Film Based Containers” (applicant's case 12465P); (3) application 61/676,042 filed Jul. 26, 2012, entitled “Film Based Container Having a Decoration Panel” (applicant's case 12559P); (4) application 61/727,961 filed Nov. 19, 2012, entitled “Containers Made from Flexible Material” (applicant's case 12559P2); (5) application 61/680,045 filed Aug. 6, 2012, entitled “Methods of Making Film Based Containers” (applicant's case 12579P); and (6) application 61/780,039 filed Mar. 13, 2013, entitled “Flexible Containers with Multiple Product Volumes” (applicant's case 12785P); and each of which is hereby incorporated by reference.

Part, parts, or all of any of the embodiments disclosed herein also can be combined with part, parts, or all of other embodiments known in the art of containers for fluent products, so long as those embodiments can be applied to flexible containers, as disclosed herein. For example, in various embodiments, a flexible container can include a vertically oriented transparent strip, disposed on a portion of the container that overlays the product volume, and configured to show the level of the fluent product in the product volume.

The dimensions and values disclosed herein are not to be understood as being strictly limited to the exact numerical values recited. Instead, unless otherwise specified, each such dimension is intended to mean both the recited value and a functionally equivalent range surrounding that value. For example, a dimension disclosed as “40 mm” is intended to mean “about 40 mm”.

Every document cited herein, including any cross referenced or related patent or application, is hereby incorporated herein by reference in its entirety unless expressly excluded or otherwise limited. The citation of any document is not an admission that it is prior art with respect to any document disclosed or claimed herein or that it alone, or in any combination with any other reference or references, teaches, suggests or discloses any such embodiment. Further, to the extent that any meaning or definition of a term in this document conflicts with any meaning or definition of the same term in a document incorporated by reference, the meaning or definition assigned to that term in this document shall govern.

While particular embodiments of the present invention have been illustrated and described, it would be obvious to those skilled in the art that various other changes and modifications can be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. It is therefore intended to cover in the appended claims all such changes and modifications that are within the scope of this invention.

Claims

1. A disposable flexible container for a fluent product, comprising:

a product volume at least partially defined by a nonstructural panel;
a structural support volume arranged to generate and maintain tension in the nonstructural panel when expanded; and
a dispenser for dispensing the fluent product from the product volume.

2. The disposable flexible container of claim 1, wherein the nonstructural panel has opposed fixed sides and the structural support volume is disposed intermediate the fixed sides of the nonstructural panel.

3. The disposable flexible container of claim 1, wherein the nonstructural panel has opposed fixed sides and the structural support volume is associated with one of the fixed sides of the nonstructural panel.

4. The disposable flexible container of claim 3, including a second structural support volume associated with the other of the fixed sides of the nonstructural panel.

5. The disposable flexible container of claim 1, including a second structural support volume and wherein the structural support volumes are associated with the nonstructural panel in spaced apart relation at a distance from one another.

6. The disposable flexible container of claim 1, wherein the nonstructural panel includes a perimeter and the structural support volume surrounds at least 50% of the nonstructural panel in association with, or proximity to, the perimeter of the nonstructural panel.

7. The disposable flexible container of claim 1, wherein the nonstructural panel has first and second pairs of opposed sides and the structural support volume surrounds the nonstructural panel in association with, or proximity to, the first pair of opposed sides and at least one of the second pair of opposed sides.

8. The disposable flexible container of claim 7, wherein the structural support volume substantially entirely surrounds the nonstructural panel in association with, or proximity to, the first and second pairs of opposed sides to impart tension to the nonstructural panel at least between one of the first and second pairs of opposed sides.

9. The disposable flexible container of claim 8, wherein the structural support volume comprises a first pair of opposed structural support volumes in proximity to the first pair of opposed sides to impart tension to the nonstructural panel and a second pair of opposed structural support volumes in proximity to the second pair of opposed sides to maintain the first pair of structural support volumes a distance apart.

10. The disposable flexible container of claim 8, wherein the structural support volume comprises a single continuous structural support volume substantially surrounding the nonstructural panel to impart tension through both of the first and second pairs of opposed sides.

11. The disposable flexible container of claim 1, including at least two flexible panels wherein at least one of the flexible panels is a nonstructural panel, wherein the nonstructural panel has opposed sides, and including a structural support volume associated with each of the opposed sides of the nonstructural panel.

12. The disposable flexible container of claim 11, wherein the structural support volumes associated with the opposed sides of the nonstructural panel have at least some curvature and are disposed in generally concave spaced relation to one another.

13. The disposable flexible container of claim 11, wherein the structural support volumes associated with the opposed sides of the nonstructural panel are generally straight and are disposed in generally parallel relation to one another.

14. The disposable flexible container of claim 11, wherein the structural support volumes associated with the opposed sides of the nonstructural panel are generally straight and are disposed generally at an angle to one another.

15. The disposable flexible container of claim 5, wherein the nonstructural panel comprises a flexible squeeze panel having a dimensionless tensile stress at least at some point or for some portion of the nonstructural panel in the range of about 1E-6 to about 20.

16. The disposable flexible container of claim 5, wherein the nonstructural panel comprises a flexible squeeze panel having a dimensionless stiffness index at least at some point or for some portion of the nonstructural panel in the range of about 2E-5 to about 1.5E3.

17. The disposable flexible container of claim 5, wherein the nonstructural panel comprises a flexible squeeze panel having a dimensionless structure index at least at some point or for some portion of the nonstructural panel in the range of about 0.01 to about 10.

18. The disposable flexible container of claim 5, wherein the nonstructural panel comprises a flexible squeeze panel having a dimensionless squeeze force at least at some point or for some portion of the nonstructural panel in the range of about 5E-9 to about 30.

19. The disposable flexible container of claim 5, wherein the nonstructural panel comprises a flexible squeeze panel having a dimensionless squeeze force to mass ratio at least at some point or for some portion of the nonstructural panel in the range of about 1E-10 to about 30 g-1.

20. The disposable flexible container of claim 5, wherein the nonstructural panel comprises a flexible squeeze panel having a dimensionless squeeze force to thickness ratio at least at some point or for some portion of the nonstructural panel in the range of about 1E-11 to about 6 (μm-1).

Patent History

Publication number: 20160221727
Type: Application
Filed: Apr 8, 2016
Publication Date: Aug 4, 2016
Inventors: Scott Kendyl STANLEY (Mason, OH), Jun YOU (West Chester, OH), Kenneth Stephen McGUIRE (Montgomery, OH), Andrew Paul RAPACH (Fairfield, OH)
Application Number: 15/094,096

Classifications

International Classification: B65D 35/04 (20060101);