|Publication number||WO2003082561 A1|
|Publication date||9 Oct 2003|
|Filing date||25 Mar 2003|
|Priority date||25 Mar 2002|
|Also published as||US20030234255|
|Publication number||PCT/2003/8769, PCT/US/2003/008769, PCT/US/2003/08769, PCT/US/3/008769, PCT/US/3/08769, PCT/US2003/008769, PCT/US2003/08769, PCT/US2003008769, PCT/US200308769, PCT/US3/008769, PCT/US3/08769, PCT/US3008769, PCT/US308769, WO 03082561 A1, WO 03082561A1, WO 2003/082561 A1, WO 2003082561 A1, WO 2003082561A1, WO-A1-03082561, WO-A1-2003082561, WO03082561 A1, WO03082561A1, WO2003/082561A1, WO2003082561 A1, WO2003082561A1|
|Inventors||Eric M. Hagopian, Thomas Pringle|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (4), Classifications (17), Legal Events (7)|
|External Links: Patentscope, Espacenet|
INSULATED SHIPPING CONTAINER
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
1. Field of the Invention:
 The present invention relates, generally, to shipping containers, and more particularly, to insulated shipping containers, as may be used for the shipping of various temperature-sensitive products by regular mail or other like delivery services.
2. Description of Related Art:  With the rapid worldwide growth in the demand for the shipment and handling of temperature sensitive products, such as blood, gourmet food products, pharmaceuticals, vaccines, bioengineered products and the like, the need for more thermally efficient shipping containers continues to increase dramatically. Particularly with the increase of e-commerce, many companies need thermally efficient shipping containers for shipping such products through inexpensive modes of transportation, such as regular U.S. Mail, directly to the end user.
 In designing and manufacturing insulated shipping containers, various factors must be considered, including weight, size and durability. Since many of the products must be shipped at great distances by rail, truck or air travel, the designers of these containers must strive to keep the weight of these containers at a minimum and yet still provide sufficient protection of the goods at the desired temperature for extended periods, e.g., by providing containers with a sufficiently thick layer of insulation, such as polyurethane and the like. In addition, due to the volume of the goods to be shipped, as well as limitations in available cargo space, the size and configuration of the shipping container must be optimized to maintain the desired temperature and yet minimize the area required for storage.  As a result of these factors, many of today's shipping containers utilize combinations of inexpensive paperboard boxes and more costly foam insulating materials, such as, for example, polyurethane, polystyrene or the like. Although these materials combine to provide a low-cost insulating container, because these materials typically attempt to trap gases to reduce heat transfer, these materials typically provide a low insulation value, such as R-7 or lower. Furthermore, these characteristics of prior art materials require thicker materials to be utilized, thus resulting in bigger and bulkier containers in an attempt to compensate for these thermal inefficiencies. Accordingly, streamlined shipping containers which provide both effective thermal protection and smaller outer dimensions are not currently available for mail-order applications.  With reference to Figure 1 , a prior art shipping container for transporting temperature sensitive materials is shown. Typically, such prior art containers include a exterior protective surface and end cap or lid comprised of cardboard materials and the like. The exterior surface is typically configured with an interior lining for containing the temperature sensitive products. In addition, an insulation material is encapsulated between the exterior protective housing and the interior lining.  This insulating material is typically bonded to the exterior housing and comprises low efficiency types of insulating material. For example, the insulating material generally includes expanded polystyrene or polyurethane and the like which provide a thermal efficiency value, or R-Value, of between 4.0 and 7.2 per inch. As a result, the shipping constraints for prior art shipping containers require the temperature-sensitive products contained within to be shipped within 24 to 48 hours, thus limiting the free use of regular U.S. Mail for transportation, which can take four or five days for delivery. Instead, prior art shipping containers typically require more expensive modes of transportation to be utilized, such as Federal Express Next or Second Day service or UPS Red or Blue services, among others.  Moreover, due to the inefficiencies of prior art containers, temperature sensitive products frequently require refrigerated or heated trucks or vehicles for transport. Furthermore, as regulatory agencies continue to enact more stringent regulations for the temperature control of perishable and other temperature-sensitive goods, the need for more reliable and efficient insulating materials continues to grow.
 Accordingly, a need exists for a shipping container for temperature sensitive products which provides more efficient thermal protection, such as a high R-value, for example, of 20 or more, and which can permit lower cost methods of transportation to be utilized, such as regular U.S. Mail or other four- to five-day delivery services. Furthermore, a need exists for an insulated shipping container that is streamlined and less bulky than prior art containers to provide for the effective use of cargo space during transporting of the temperature-sensitive goods.
 A vacuum insulation panel according to the present invention addresses many of the shortcomings of the prior art. In accordance with the present invention, an insulated shipping container is provided that may be utilized for mail-order applications, such as the shipment of drugs and specialty food products.
 An exemplary container may comprise an exterior protective housing that provides protection for an insulated portion from the environment, e.g., from shipping and handling damages. Although the insulated portion comprises various forms of insulated materials, preferably a vacuum-insulated panel (VIP) configuration is utilized. The insulated portion includes an insulated cap or lid. In addition, the exemplary container may also include an interior protective sleeve or tube for encasing the temperature sensitive products, e.g., pharmaceuticals or vaccines. Further, a refrigerant, a heat source, or other temperature stabilizing material may be placed within or between the interior sleeve and the insulated portion, with the refrigerant, heat source, or temperature stabilizing material and the sleeve being sealed within the insulated portion by the cap. Thereafter, the insulated portion and the sleeve may be placed within the exterior housing and enclosed with the housing end cap.
 In accordance with one embodiment of the present invention, an insulated shipping container comprises an exterior housing; an interior sleeve; and an intermediate insulating portion, wherein the intermediate insulating portion has an R value of about 20 or greater.
 In accordance with one embodiment of the present invention, an insulated shipping container comprises an exterior housing; an interior sleeve; and an intermediate insulating portion, wherein the intermediate insulating portion includes a core material and a barrier material sealed about the core material in an airtight manner.
 In accordance with one embodiment of the present invention, an insulated shipping container comprises an exterior housing; an interior sleeve; and an intermediate insulating portion, wherein the intermediate insulating portion includes an open cell core material comprising at least about 95% open cell and a metalized barrier material sealed about the core material in an airtight manner, with a reduced pressure atmosphere in the intermediate portion.  In accordance with another aspect of the present invention, particularly for the VIP application, the insulated portion may comprise a vacuum detection indicator. The vacuum detection indicator is configured to facilitate the evaluation of the integrity of the vacuum within the vacuum insulation panel. BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 The present invention will be hereinafter described in conjunction with the appended drawing figures, wherein like designations denote like elements, and:  Figure 1 is a view of a conventional art shipping container;
 Figure 2 is a view of an exemplary insulated shipping container in accordance with the present invention; and
 Figure 3 is a view of various exemplary embodiments of the container in Figure 2.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
 The embodiments of the present invention may be described herein in terms of various types of materials and processing steps. It should be appreciated that such materials and steps may be realized by any number of components configured to perform the specified functions. For example, the embodiments of the present invention may employ various insulating materials, wrapping materials, labels, end cap connectors and the like, which may carry out a variety of functions. In addition, those skilled in the art will appreciate that the embodiments of the present invention may be practiced in any number of shipping contexts and that the embodiments relating to an insulated shipping container for mail-order applications, as described herein, is merely one exemplary application of the invention. For example, the principles, features and methods discussed may be applied to any shipping application wherein temperature-sensitive products are to be transported. Further, such general techniques that may be known to those skilled in the art are not described in detail herein.
 As discussed above, many temperature-sensitive products, such as drugs and vaccines, currently have to be kept refrigerated and thus are transported on large refrigerator trucks to pharmacies and hospitals. Furthermore, current containers for drugs do not lend themselves to being shipped directly from the drug manufacturer to the patient via regular U.S. Mail or other four or five day delivery services.  However, in accordance with the present invention, an improved shipping container can be provided for facilitating the shipment of temperature sensitive products directly from the supplier to the end user by use of low-cost transportation services.  With reference to Figure 2, an exemplary insulated shipping container 200 comprises an exterior housing 202, an insulated portion 208 and an interior sleeve 214. Exterior housing 202 includes an open end 204 and an end cap or lid 203, and is configured for providing protection for the insulated portion 208 from the environment, e.g., from shipping and handling damages. Exterior housing 202 and end cap 203 may comprise various materials, such as, for example, fiberboard, cardboard, metals or plastics and the like, which are suitably configured for protection of the insulated portion 208. Further, exterior housing 202 and end cap 203 suitably include a means for connecting together, such as threaded engagement portions 205 and 206, or by any other suitable means now known or hereinafter devised, such as press-fitting, clasping, fastening or other similar arrangements. In addition, it is preferable for cap 203 and housing 202 to be connected in a tamper-proof manner to prevent easy or unintentional opening of housing 202.  Insulated portion 208 suitably comprises various forms of insulated materials, such as polyurethane, polystyrene, and other similar materials. Preferably, insulated portion 208 comprises a vacuum-insulated- panel (VIP) configuration. Insulated portion 208 may also be comprised of a single component, i.e., one insulating material or one vacuum insulating panel, or of a plurality of components, configured in the desired shape to suitably contain interior sleeve 214. In addition, insulated portion 208 suitably includes an insulated end cap 212. Further, insulated portion 208 suitably includes an opening 210 configured for the interior sleeve 214. In accordance with this aspect, insulated portion 208 may also be configured to contain a refrigerant, such as ice, dry ice or other refrigerants, or to contain a heat source or other temperature stabilizing material, with or without packaging around the refrigerants or heat source, to provide additional insulated cooling or heating to the temperature sensitive products.
 In addition, the exemplary container may also include an interior protective sleeve 214 having an opening 216 for encasing the temperature sensitive products. Interior sleeve 214 comprises a tube, container or liner and the like suitably configured to contain dry, solid or liquid materials, e.g., pills or liquids. The interior sleeve 214 may be made from plastic, cardboard, or any other suitable material. Further, in addition to, or instead of, the placement of a refrigerant, heat source, or other temperature stabilizing material within opening 210 of insulated portion 208, the refrigerant or heat source may be placed within interior sleeve 214 and sealed within interior sleeve 214 by an associated end cap (not shown). Moreover, interior sleeve 214 is suitably provided with an exterior surface which serves as a liner to protects the inner area of insulated portion 208 from being punctured or damaged.  Upon enclosing of the temperature sensitive products within interior sleeve 214 and its associated end cap, interior sleeve 214 may be suitably placed within insulated portion 208 . Upon closure by insulated end cap 212, both sleeve 214 and insulated portion 208 may be suitably placed within exterior housing 202 and enclosed with end cap 203. In addition, although shown as separate components, i.e., each component being capable of removal, re-use or replacement, exterior housing 202, insulated portion 208 and interior sleeve 214 could be configured together, such as by bonding, adhesion or other like manners.  Although insulated portion 208 may comprise various materials, in accordance with an exemplary embodiment of the present invention, insulated portion 208 preferably comprises a vacuum insulation panel configuration. In accordance with this embodiment, insulated portion 208 comprises a barrier material and a core material configured to provide an R-value of 20 or more, for example, 25 to 30 per inch. The barrier material preferably comprises a thin, flexible, film-like material, such as, for example, a metal foil or metalized film laminate, e.g., a metalized polymer or polymeric structure, or a non-metallic structure. Moreover, the barrier material is preferably configured to suitably encapsulate the core material and facilitate the maintaining of a vacuum within.  According to one embodiment, the walls of the insulated portion are between V-≥ to 11/2 inches thick, preferably about 1 inch thick.  Preferably, the core material comprises an open-cell core material, such as, for example, an open-cell polystyrene or polyurethane foam and the like, or silica or aerogel, suitably configured to facilitate the drawing of a vacuum area between the barrier material and the core material. In accordance with this aspect, the core material is preferably configured to provide greater than 95% open-cell, and most preferably approximating 99% or greater open-cell material. Preferably, the core material comprises a substantially rigid material, but may also include more flexible compositions.  Although an exemplary embodiment for an insulated portion comprising a vacuum insulating panel is described, the insulated panel can also comprise any other means now known or hereinafter devised for providing a thermal protection factor, i.e., an R-Value, of 20 or more. Furthermore, any known method for providing a vacuum insulating panel or material may be utilized in accordance with the present invention, and the exemplary embodiment described above is merely for illustration purposes.  Although the vacuum insulation panels are durable, often lasting two years or more, the barrier film can be susceptible to deterioration, puncture, tear and other wear that can cause insulated portion 208 to lose the vacuum within the barrier film and thus become inefficient for critical temperature applications. Although a detailed visual inspection may lead an evaluator of the panels to a determination as to the integrity of the vacuum within the panel, generally only the largely visible punctures or tears may be visible. Further, because various of the defects are not readily detectable, damaged vacuum insulation panels currently have the potential to be reused, and thus the potential exposure to the environment for the temperature-sensitive goods is increased. Accordingly, by providing a determination of whether the vacuum is maintained within the vacuum insulation panel, the integrity and thermal efficiency of the vacuum insulation panel can be evaluated. Thus, in accordance with another embodiment of insulated portion 208, the core material may be configured with a vacuum detection indicia visually apparent when a vacuum is drawn within the vacuum insulation panel, such as disclosed in U.S. Patent Application No. 10/241 ,867, assigned to Applicant, and filed September 12, 2002.  In accordance with another embodiment of the present invention, exemplary shipping container 200 may comprise various shapes. For example, with reference to Figure 3, shipping container 200 may comprise a cylindrical shape 306, a semi-circular shape 302, or a rectangular shape 304. Accordingly, any shape configured for containing insulated portion 208 and interior sleeve 214 may be utilized. Further, insulated portion 208 and interior sleeve 214 may comprise any suitable shapes. Moreover, exterior housing 202, insulated portion 208 and interior sleeve 214 may comprise the same or different shapes, depending on different design criteria.  An objective of one embodiment of the present invention is to provide a package that can be easily shipped through the U.S. mail. Accordingly, it is preferred that no dimensions of the outer container exceed twenty inches. And, preferably, a maximum dimension of the container shall be smaller than twelve inches. According to one embodiment, the container shall fit in an enclosure of twelve inches by six inches by six inches.  The present invention has been described above with reference to various preferred embodiments. However, those skilled in the art will recognize that changes and modifications may be made to the various preferred embodiments without departing from the scope of the present invention. For example, rather than providing a threaded-like arrangement for the various end caps, any means for securely engaging an end cap may be utilized. Further, each of the end caps or lids may use similar or different means for enclosing onto their respective container portions. Accordingly, these and other changes or modifications are intended to be included within the scope of the present invention.
|Cited Patent||Filing date||Publication date||Applicant||Title|
|US4044911 *||19 Jan 1976||30 Aug 1977||U.S. Philips Corporation||Heat insulation system|
|US4581285 *||7 Jun 1983||8 Apr 1986||The United States Of America As Represented By The Secretary Of The Air Force||High thermal capacitance multilayer thermal insulation|
|US5246759 *||17 May 1991||21 Sep 1993||Messerschmitt-Bolkow-Blohm Gmbh||Heat insulating system|
|US5399408 *||15 Jan 1993||21 Mar 1995||Thyssen Nordseewerke Gmbh||Thermal insulating body for thermal insulation|
|International Classification||B32B3/22, B32B3/02, B32B5/18, B65D81/38, B32B27/40|
|Cooperative Classification||B32B27/40, B65D81/3823, B65D81/3886, B32B3/22, B32B5/18, B32B3/02|
|European Classification||B32B3/22, B65D81/38B4, B32B27/40, B32B3/02, B65D81/38K4, B32B5/18|
|9 Oct 2003||AL||Designated countries for regional patents|
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