WO2011075664A1 - Vacuum clip for storage bags - Google Patents

Vacuum clip for storage bags Download PDF

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Publication number
WO2011075664A1
WO2011075664A1 PCT/US2010/061072 US2010061072W WO2011075664A1 WO 2011075664 A1 WO2011075664 A1 WO 2011075664A1 US 2010061072 W US2010061072 W US 2010061072W WO 2011075664 A1 WO2011075664 A1 WO 2011075664A1
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WO
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Patent type
Prior art keywords
tongue
clip apparatus
storage bag
member
body member
Prior art date
Application number
PCT/US2010/061072
Other languages
French (fr)
Inventor
John Helmsderfer
Alex Androski
Andrew Ahr
Thomas Coulter
Original Assignee
Abinitio Vsd Llc
Priority date (The priority date is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the date listed.)
Filing date
Publication date

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Classifications

    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B65CONVEYING; PACKING; STORING; HANDLING THIN OR FILAMENTARY MATERIAL
    • B65BMACHINES, APPARATUS OR DEVICES FOR, OR METHODS OF, PACKAGING ARTICLES OR MATERIALS; UNPACKING
    • B65B31/00Packaging articles or materials under special atmospheric or gaseous conditions; Adding propellants to aerosol containers
    • B65B31/04Evacuating, pressurising or gasifying filled containers or wrappers by means of nozzles through which air or other gas, e.g. an inert gas, is withdrawn or supplied
    • B65B31/046Evacuating, pressurising or gasifying filled containers or wrappers by means of nozzles through which air or other gas, e.g. an inert gas, is withdrawn or supplied the nozzles co-operating, or being combined, with a device for opening or closing the container or wrapper
    • B65B31/048Evacuating, pressurising or gasifying filled containers or wrappers by means of nozzles through which air or other gas, e.g. an inert gas, is withdrawn or supplied the nozzles co-operating, or being combined, with a device for opening or closing the container or wrapper specially adapted for wrappers or bags

Abstract

A clip apparatus (100) for sealing storage bags (200) includes a first body member (101), a second body member (102), a tongue (103), and a seal member (118). The first body member (101) includes a valve (120). The second body member (102) is rotatably coupled with the first body member (101) to move between an open position and a closed position where the first and second body members (101, 102) are engaged. The tongue (103) is disposed at least partially between the first and second body members (101, 102) and defines a flow passage (124) for communicating with an interior of a storage bag (200) and the valve (120) in the first body member (101). The seal member (118) ensures that the storage bag (200) and the clip apparatus (100) are sealed to enable evacuation of the storage bag (200) prior to storage of perishable items.

Description

VACUUM CLIP FOR STORAGE BAGS

Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to storage systems for perishable goods and, more particularly, to an apparatus configured to seal a storage bag.

Background of the Invention

[0001] There are a variety of problems associated with food being exposed to air. Non-dry goods are prone to spoiling if exposed to air. Food being frozen can also be subject to the condition known as freezer burn, which occurs when ice crystals form on food, drawing out the moisture within and leaving the food dried out. Both problems can be remedied by separating food from outside air in a storage bag. However, even the air within a storage bag is sufficient to cause food spoilage or freezer burn.

[0002] Modern consumers freeze large quantities of food on a regular basis for a variety of reasons. It is often more affordable to buy food in bulk to store for later, with freezing being the most efficient method of doing so. It is also often practical to prepare meals in advance to save time later, making it necessary that food remain fresh for extended periods of time. Consumers who prefer to buy fruits and vegetables fresh also need a means to preserve them for extended periods of time as the air contained in grocery store bags allows them to spoil quickly. Therefore, there is a need for a system allowing a consumer to create a vacuum seal within a storage bag.

[0003] A variety of systems have been implemented to meet this need.

Examples of these systems can be found in U.S. Patent No. 7,540,127 to Sung et al. and U.S. Patent No. 7,004,632 to Hamilton. However, the prior art systems suffer from various drawbacks. Some systems require the use of specialized storage bags having integrated valves, and the vacuum equipment associated with these specialized storage bags can be bulky and difficult to store. Other systems heat seal the bags and thereby render them useless for additional use. Thus, these systems can be costly for a consumer needing to repurchase bags every time food needs to be stored.

[0004] Consequently, it would be desirable to create a device that is capable of sealing any kind of storage bag that addresses these and other drawbacks.

Summary of the Invention

[0005] In one embodiment of the invention, a clip apparatus for sealing storage bags includes a first body member, a second body member, a valve, a tongue, and a seal member. The first body member includes a first operating end. The second body member has a second operating end and is pivotally coupled with the first body member. The first and second body members move between an open position and a closed position. In the open position, the first and second operating ends are disengaged. In the closed position, the first and second operating ends are engaged and sealed together to define an internal space. The valve is configured to enable selective fluid communication between the internal space and the exterior environment around the clip apparatus. The tongue is disposed at least partially between the first and second body members. The tongue engages an interior of a storage bag and includes a flow passage extending between the internal space and the interior of the storage bag when the first and second body members are in the closed position. The seal member is located between the first and second body members and seals the internal space at least partially around the tongue.

[0006] The tongue may be hingedly coupled to one of the first and second body members. Alternatively, the tongue may be slidably mounted within the first and second body members. In this regard, the tongue may be slid into and out of an opening in a storage bag to evacuate air from the storage bag. The tongue may also include a sharp leading edge configured to cut an opening into a storage bag. A system for sealing storage bags may include the clip apparatus and a vacuum pump.

[0007] In another embodiment, a clip apparatus for sealing storage bags includes a body member having a sealed internal space and a valve communicating with the sealed internal space. A tongue extends from the body member and includes a flow passage communicating with the sealed internal space. The clip apparatus also includes first and second arms pivotally coupled to the body member and including respective first and second sealing gaskets configured to sealingly engage the tongue. When a storage bag is placed over the tongue, the first and second sealing gaskets seal the bag at the first and second arms. The first and second sealing gaskets may be biased together by a biasing member such as magnets.

[0008] In another embodiment, a method of evacuating a storage bag with a clip apparatus includes rotating first and second body members to an open position spaced from a tongue, and inserting the tongue through an opening in the storage bag. The first and second body members are then rotated to a closed position sealing the storage bag against the tongue. Finally, air may be forced from the storage bag through the tongue and a valve in the clip apparatus to thereby evacuate the bag.

Brief Description of the Drawings

[0009] The accompanying drawings, which are incorporated in and constitute a part of this specification, illustrate embodiments of the invention and, together with a general description of the invention given above, and the detailed description given below, serve to explain the invention.

[0010] FIG. 1A is a perspective view of a clip apparatus in an open position in accordance with one embodiment of the invention.

[0011] FIG. IB is a perspective view of the clip apparatus of FIG. 1A in a closed position.

[0012] FIG. 2 is a rear side view of the clip apparatus of FIG. 1A.

[0013] FIG. 3 is an exploded view of the clip apparatus of FIG. 1 A.

[0014] FIG. 4 is a perspective view of the tongue of the clip apparatus of FIG.

1A.

[0015] FIG. 5 is a cross-sectional side view of the clip apparatus of FIG. 1A.

[0016] FIG. 6A is a perspective view of the clip apparatus of FIG. 1A in an open position adjacent a storage bag.

[0017] FIG. 6B is a perspective view of the clip apparatus of FIG. 6A, where the clip apparatus is attached to the storage bag.

[0018] FIG. 7 is a perspective view of a vacuum pump configured for use with the clip apparatus of FIG. 1.

[0019] FIG. 8 is a cross-sectional side view of the vacuum pump of FIG. 7.

[0020] FIG. 9 is a perspective view of a system including the vacuum pump of

FIG. 7 coupled with the clip apparatus of FIG. 1A.

[0021] FIG. 10 is a cross-sectional side view of the system of FIG. 9.

[0022] FIG. 11 is a schematic view of the system of FIG. 9 attached to a storage bag with a hand demonstrating the use of the vacuum pump.

[0023] FIG. 12 is an exploded view of an alternative embodiment of a clip apparatus.

[0024] FIG. 13A is a perspective view of the clip apparatus of FIG. 12 in an open position adjacent a storage bag.

[0025] FIG. 13B is a perspective view of the clip apparatus of FIG. 13 A, where the clip apparatus is attached to the storage bag.

[0026] FIG. 14 is an enlarged side view of area 14 of the clip apparatus and storage bag of FIG. 13B, illustrating an interlocking zipper of the storage bag within the clip.

[0027] FIG. 15 is a side view of a clip apparatus in the open position according to another embodiment. [0028] FIG. 16 is a front view of the clip apparatus of FIG. 15 in the closed position.

[0029] FIG. 17 is a cross-sectional side view of the clip apparatus of FIG. 15.

[0030] FIG. 18A is a perspective view of a locking member of the clip apparatus of FIG. 15.

[0031] FIG. 18B is a partial cross-sectional side view of the clip apparatus and locking member of FIG. 18 A in an engaged position.

[0032] FIG. 19A is a perspective view of a tongue housing of a clip apparatus according to another embodiment.

[0033] FIG. 19B is a perspective view of a tongue of the clip apparatus of FIG.

19A.

[0034] FIG. 20A is a schematic side view of the clip apparatus of FIG. 19A in a first position with a storage bag inserted into the clip apparatus.

[0035] FIG. 20B is a schematic side view of the clip apparatus of FIG. 20A moved to a second position with the storage bag further inserted into the clip apparatus.

[0036] FIG. 20C is a schematic side view of the clip apparatus of FIG. 20B moved to a third position and illustrating the flow path of air from the storage bag.

[0037] FIG. 21 A is a schematic side view of another embodiment of a clip apparatus, with a storage bag inserted into the tongue housing.

[0038] FIG. 2 IB is a schematic side view of the clip apparatus of FIG. 21 A, with the clip apparatus closed on the storage bag.

[0039] FIG. 21C is a schematic side view of the clip apparatus of FIG. 2 IB, with the tongue inserted into the storage bag.

[0040] FIG. 21D is a schematic side view of the clip apparatus of FIG. 21C, with the clip apparatus attached to a vacuum pump for removing air from the storage bag.

[0041] FIG. 2 IE is a schematic side view of the clip apparatus of FIG. 2 ID, with the tongue retracted from the storage bag.

[0042] FIG. 22A is a perspective view of yet another embodiment of a clip apparatus, with the clip apparatus in the closed position.

[0043] FIG. 22B is a perspective view of the clip apparatus of FIG. 22A, with the clip apparatus in the open position.

[0044] FIG. 22C is a side view of the clip apparatus of FIG. 22A.

[0045] FIG. 22D is a longitudinal cross-sectional side view of the clip apparatus of FIG. 22A. Detailed Description

[0046] FIGS. 1A-5 show one embodiment of a clip apparatus 100 for sealing storage bags 200 containing perishable items such as foodstuffs. It will be understood that "storage bag" in this application refers to any bag or container configured to contain a perishable item, including but not limited to freezer bags and sandwich bags. As shown in FIGS. 1A and IB, the clip apparatus 100 includes a first body member 101 and a second body member 102. The first body member 101 includes a first operating end 106 and the second body member 102 includes a corresponding or second operating end 107. The first body member 101 and the second body member 102 are pivotally coupled at a hinge 105. However, the first body member 101 and the second body member 102 may be pivotally coupled by other known methods including a unitary flexing connection section such as those used with binder clips, in other embodiments. The first body member 101 and the second body member 102 rotate about each other at the hinge 105 between an open position and a closed position.

[0047] In the open position illustrated in FIG. 1A, the first and second operating ends 106, 107 are disengaged and spaced from each other. In the closed position illustrated in FIG. IB, the first and second operating ends 106, 107 are engaged and sealed together to form an internal space sealed between the first and second operating ends 106, 107. Housed at least partially within the first body member 101 and the second body member 102 is a partially tubular member herein referred to as a tongue 103. The tongue 103 is coupled to at least one of the first and second body members 101, 102 adjacent the hinge 105 in the illustrated embodiment. A recess 104 formed within the second body member 102 adjacent the second operating end 107 allows the tongue 103 to extend beyond the first and second operating ends 106, 107 when the first and second body members are in the closed position of FIG. IB. Alternatively, the recess 104 may be formed in the first body member 101 or at least partially in each of the first and second body members 101, 102 in other embodiments.

[0048] The first body member 101 further includes a valve 120 disposed adjacent to the first operating end 106. The valve 120 may be a one-way check valve 120 that allows air to flow out of the internal space in the clip apparatus 100 but not into the internal space. The first body member 101 includes a first handle 113 and the second body member 102 includes a second handle 114. In the embodiment of FIGS. 1A-5, the first and second handles 113, 114 are disposed on an opposite side of the hinge 105 from the first and second operating ends 106, 107. The hinge 105 thus acts as a pivot point for the first and second body members 101, 102. When pressure is applied to compress the first and second handles 113, 114 as shown in FIG. 1A, the first body member 101 and second body member 102 swing apart at the first and second operating ends 106, 107. In the present embodiment, the first handle 113 is angled with respect to the first operating end 106, while the second handle 114 is generally in the same plane as the second operating end 107. The second body member 102 thus defines a planar support surface 108 configured to support the clip apparatus 100 on a flat surface. It will be appreciated that each of the handles 113, 114 could be angled or planar with respect to the operating ends 106, 107 in alternative embodiments of the invention.

[0049] As shown in FIGS. 2 and 3, the clip apparatus 100 may also include a spring 116 engaging the first body member 101 and the second body member 102. The spring 116 biases the first and second body members 101, 102 towards the closed position of FIG. IB such that when pressure is not being applied to the first and second handles 113, 114, the first and second operating ends 106, 107 are pressed together. The spring 116 is shown as a torsion spring 116 having first and second legs 116a, 116b respectively engaging the first and second handles 113, 114, but alternative types of springs such as compression springs mounted between the first and second handles 113, 114 may be used in other embodiments.

[0050] The exploded view of the clip apparatus 100 in FIG. 3 illustrates that the first body member 101 includes notches 117 configured to engage an opening 202 of a storage bag 200, as will be described in detail below. The notches 117 could alternatively be formed in the second body member 102 or at least partially in each of the first and second body members 101, 102 in other embodiments. The clip apparatus 100 further includes a seal member 118 located between the first and second body members 101, 102. The seal member 118 may be a rubberized gasket configured to seal the internal space at least partially between the first and second operating ends 106, 107 from ambient air at the recess 104 and the notches 117. The seal member 118 includes raised portions 118a adjacent to the notches 117 to engage the notches 117 and configured to compress appropriately to permit a storage bag 200 or the end portion thereof to pass through the notches 117 without compromising the seal of the internal space.

[0051] FIGS. 3 and 4 illustrate the tongue 103 in further detail. The tongue 103 includes a tongue body 121 and a tongue end 122. The tongue 103 also includes a first orifice 109 in the tongue end 122 and a second orifice 110 in a top surface 123 of the tongue body 121. A flow passage 124 is defined in the tongue 103 between the first orifice 109 and the second orifice 110. The tongue body 121 may also include a pivot mount 126 spaced from the tongue end 122, the pivot mount 126 configured to pivotally couple the tongue 103 to pivot mount receptacles 127 on the second body member 102 proximate to the hinge 105. The pivot mount 126 may be incorporated with the hinge 105 or coupled to the first body member 101 in alternative embodiments. The embodiment shown in FIG. 3 illustrates that the seal member 118 includes pivot mount apertures 118b adapted to enable the pivot mount 126 to pass through the seal member 118 and engage with the pivot mount receptacles 127 on the second body member 102. Alternatively, a separate seal member may be used to seal the internal space at the pivot mount 126 and the hinge 105 in other embodiments.

[0052] FIG. 5 is a cross sectional view of the clip apparatus 100. In the closed position shown, the tongue 103 is sealed between the first body member 101 and the second body member 102 in the internal space of the clip apparatus 100. The clip apparatus 100 defines a flow path F from the first orifice 109 of the tongue 103, through the flow passage 124 and the second orifice 110, and through the one-way valve 120. If the clip apparatus 100 is closed onto a storage bag 200 such that the first orifice 109 of the tongue 103 is in fluid communication with the interior of the storage bag 200, the flow path F illustrates the only direction air within the storage bag 200 can flow through the clip apparatus 100. Thus, the clip apparatus 100 provides a mechanism for evacuating a storage bag 200 to prevent freezer burn and/or spoilage of contents held within the storage bag 200.

[0053] In operation, the clip apparatus 100 may be used with a storage bag 200 to store perishable products as illustrated in FIGS. 6A and 6B. The storage bag 200 includes an interior compartment 201 and an opening 202. Advantageously, the storage bag 200 in the illustrative embodiment is a known zipper-sealed storage bag including an interlocking zipper 203 at the opening 202. As shown in FIG. 6A, a compression force is applied to the first and second handles 113, 114 against the bias of the spring 116 to separate the first and second operating ends 106, 107 and expose the tongue 103. The storage bag 200 is partially sealed at the opening 202 with the interlocking zipper 203 and left open in a small area for the tongue 103. The clip apparatus 100 is then positioned on the storage bag 200 at that small area such that the tongue 103 is inserted through the opening 202 of the storage bag 200 and the interlocking zipper 203 is closed on both sides of the clip apparatus 100.

[0054] As shown in FIG. 6B, when the compression force is released on the first and second handles 113, 114, the first and second operating ends 106, 107 clamp onto the exterior of the storage bag 200 at the opening 202. The notches 117 in the first body member 101 provide clearance for the interlocking zipper 203 to extend through the clip apparatus 100 in the sealed and closed position of the first and second operating ends 106, 107. The tongue end 122 is therefore sealed within the interior 201 of the storage bag 200 when the interlocking zipper 203 is closed to seal the storage bag 200 outside of the clip apparatus 100 on either side of the clip apparatus 100. Air from the interior 201 of the storage bag 200 may be forced out of the storage bag 200 and through the flow path F in the clip apparatus 100 to evacuate the storage bag 200.

[0055] One embodiment of a system 350 for sealing storage bags 200 may include a vacuum pump 300 in combination with the clip apparatus 100 as illustrated in FIGS. 7-11. The vacuum pump 300 is a manually-operated device, which may be inexpensive and simple to manufacture. However, the vacuum pump 300 may also be a mechanically operated device in other embodiments. The vacuum pump 300 includes a grip 301 at the top, a slot 302 at the base, and a vacuum chamber 303 between the grip 301 and the slot 302. Pulling the grip 301 upwardly creates suction within the vacuum chamber 303. The slot 302 is configured to engage the clip apparatus 100 along the first body member 101 as shown in FIG. 9, and the slot 302 includes a contoured inner surface 304 which engages the first body member 101.

[0056] As illustrated in FIG. 8, the contoured inner surface 304 includes a valve orifice 305 that aligns with the valve 120 in the clip apparatus 100 when the first body member 101 engages the contoured inner surface 304. The valve orifice 305 allows flow of air between the slot 302 and the vacuum chamber 303. Extending downwardly from the grip 301 into the vacuum chamber 303 is a shaft 306 coupled to a piston 307. As the piston 307 slides upwardly within the vacuum chamber 303, a vacuum is created behind the piston 307 which may draw air through the valve orifice 305. As shown in FIG. 10, when the clip apparatus 100 is inserted into the slot 302 of the vacuum pump 300, the vacuum formed behind the piston 307 draws air from the one way valve 120 in the clip apparatus 100 to evacuate a storage bag 200 held by the clip apparatus 100.

[0057] In summary, the system 350 for sealing storage bags 200 can evacuate a storage bag 200 as follows. The clip apparatus 100 is moved to an open position and engaged with a storage bag 200 as previously described. The slot 302 of the vacuum pump 300 is then engaged with the first body member 101 of the clip apparatus 100 so that the vacuum chamber 303 and valve orifice 305 are aligned with the valve 120 on the clip apparatus 100. Then an operator pulls the grip 301 upward as shown in FIG. 11, creating suction within the vacuum chamber 303 behind the piston 307. The suction pulls air from inside the storage bag 200 into the tongue 103 through the first orifice 109. Air then flows out of the tongue 103 through the second orifice 110 and the one way valve 120 into the vacuum chamber 303 of the vacuum pump 300. The vacuum pump 300 is then disengaged from the first body member 101 of the clip apparatus 100 and the storage bag 200 and clip apparatus 100 are fully evacuated and ready for storage.

[0058] Another embodiment of a clip apparatus 400 for sealing a storage bag

200 is illustrated in FIGS. 12-14. The clip apparatus 400 includes many of the same elements as the clip apparatus 100 of the first described embodiment, and these similar elements have been marked with the same reference numbers in the 400's (i.e., the tongue 103 of the first embodiment is now tongue 403 in this embodiment). As shown in FIG. 12, the clip apparatus 400 does not include notches formed on the first body member 401. Instead, the first body member 401 and the second body member 402 have generally planar mating surfaces along the first operating end 406 and the second operating end 407. A first seal member 431 is coupled to the first body member 401 and a second seal member 430 is coupled to the second body member 402. The second seal member 430 includes generally planar portions 430a configured to mate with the first seal member 431 to prevent air from leaking out of the clip apparatus 400. As with the first embodiment, the second seal member 430 also includes pivot mount apertures 430b to allow the pivot mount 426 to pass through the second seal member 430 and engage with the pivot mount receptacles 427 on the second body member 402.

[0059] In operation, the clip apparatus 400 is one element of a system for storing perishable products as illustrated in FIGS. 13A-14. The system may include the clip apparatus 400 and the vacuum pump 300 previously described. Also as previously described, a storage bag 200 has an interior compartment 201 and an opening 202. Advantageously, the storage bag 200 in the illustrative embodiment is a conventional zipper-sealed storage bag including an interlocking zipper 203 at the opening 202. As shown in FIG. 13A, a compression force is applied to the first and second handles 413, 414 against the bias of the spring 416 to separate the first and second operating ends 406, 407 and expose the tongue 403. The storage bag 200 is partially sealed at the opening 202 with the interlocking zipper 203 and left open in a small area for the tongue 403. The clip apparatus 400 is then positioned on the storage bag 200 at that small area such that the tongue 403 is inserted through the opening 202 of the storage bag 200 and the interlocking zipper 203 is sealingly closed on both sides of the clip apparatus 400. [0060] As shown in FIG. 13B, when the compression force is released on the first and second handles 413, 414, the first and second operating ends 406, 407 clamp onto the exterior of the storage bag 200 at the opening 202. The interlocking zipper 203 is pressed between the first and second seal members 430, 431. Shown most clearly in FIG. 14, the first and second seal members 430, 431 force the interlocking zipper 203 closed and thereby seal the storage bag 200 around the periphery of the clip apparatus 400. The tongue end 422 is therefore sealed within the interior 201 of the storage bag 200. Air from the interior 201 of the storage bag 200 may then be forced out of the storage bag 200 to evacuate the storage bag 200, as previously described.

[0061] Another embodiment of a clip apparatus 500 for sealing a storage bag

200 is illustrated in FIGS. 15-18B. The clip apparatus 500 includes many of the same elements as the clip apparatus 400 of the previously described embodiment, and these similar elements have been marked with the same reference numbers in the 500's (i.e., the first body member 401 of the previous embodiment is now first body member 501 in this embodiment). Similar to the previous embodiment, the first body member 501 and the second body member 502 are pivotally coupled at a hinge 505. In this embodiment, the second body member 502 includes a retractable knife cover 540 and a knife blade 541 coupled with a bottom surface of the second body member 502. The knife blade 541 may be used to cut an opening into a storage bag 200 such as at the corner of a storage bag 200. The knife cover 540 is slidably coupled to the second body member 502 by a spring 542, which biases the knife cover 540 forward to cover the knife blade 541 during normal operation of the clip apparatus 500. In operation, a user may slide the knife cover 540 rearwardly from the position shown in FIG. 15 to the position shown in FIG. 17 to reveal the knife blade 541 and cut an opening into a storage bag 200.

[0062] The tongue 503 of the present clip apparatus 500 defines an L-shaped member having a front end 522 and a rear end 544. The rear end 544 is coupled to the first body member 501 adjacent a flow port 545 formed in the first body member 501, as shown most clearly in FIG. 17. The front end 522 of the tongue 503 projects forwardly beyond the first operating end 506 so that the tongue 503 may be positioned within the opening formed in a storage bag 200 when the clip apparatus 500 is moved to the closed position shown in FIG. 16. Similar to the previous embodiment, the clip apparatus 500 includes a first seal member 531 and a second seal member 530 disposed on the corresponding first and second body members 501, 502 and configured to seal the opening of the storage bag 200 around the tongue 503. The tongue 503 further includes a flow passage 524 configured to communicate with the interior of the storage bag 200 at the front end 522 and with the flow port 545 in the first body member 501 at the rear end 544. The check valve 520 is now positioned within the flow passage 524 adjacent the rear end 544 of the tongue 503 instead of in the first body member 501.

[0063] The clip apparatus 500 further includes a tension spring 546 coupled to the tongue 503 and the first body member 501. The rear end 544 of the tongue 503 is configured to be reversibly deformable by a user to move the front end 522 downwardly away from the first operating end 506 in the direction of arrow 547 in FIG. 17. This downward movement against the bias of the spring 546 forms an opening through which the storage bag 200 may be inserted as shown in FIG. 17 so that the opening in the storage bag 200 surrounds the tongue 503. The elasticity of the tongue 503 and the bias of the spring 546 ensure that the tongue 503 returns to the position shown in FIG. 17 after the storage bag 200 has been inserted into the clip apparatus 500.

[0064] The clip apparatus 500 also includes a locking mechanism to hold the first and second body members 501, 502 in the closed position. As shown most clearly in FIGS. 18A and 18B, the locking mechanism includes a U-shaped locking member 548 coupled to the first operating end 506 of the first body member 501. The U-shaped locking member 548 includes arrow-shaped locking heads 548a. The second body member 502 includes a corresponding pair of lock notches 549 configured to receive the locking heads 548a and effectively prevent pivotal movement of the first body member 501 back away from the second body member 502. The second body member

502 also includes one or more release buttons 550 configured to be pressed inwardly against the locking heads 548a (see FIG. 18B) to release the locking heads 548a from engagement with the lock notches 549 when the clip apparatus 500 is to be removed from the storage bag 200.

[0065] In operation, the clip apparatus 500 evacuates air from the storage bag

200 in a similar manner as the previously-described embodiments. As explained above, the knife blade 541 may be revealed and used to cut an opening into the storage bag 200. The storage bag 200 is then fed into the clip apparatus 500 and over the tongue

503 as shown in FIG. 17. The first and second body members 501, 502 are then moved to the closed position and a vacuum pump may be positioned over the flow port 545 in the first body member 501. The vacuum pump then draws air through the flow passage 524 and the check valve 520 in the tongue from the storage bag 200 until the storage bag 200 is fully evacuated. At that time, the clip apparatus 500 and storage bag 200 may be positioned in a storage unit to preserve the items placed therein, and the risk of spoilage is lowered by the removal of air from the interior of the storage bag 200.

[0066] Another embodiment of a clip apparatus 600 for sealing a storage bag

200 is illustrated in FIGS. 19A-20C. The clip apparatus 600 includes some of the same elements as the clip apparatus 100 of the first described embodiment, and these similar elements have been marked with the same reference numbers in the 600's (i.e., the first body member 101 of the first embodiment is now first body member 601 in this embodiment). In this embodiment, the first and second body members 601, 602 collectively define an internal sealed space with a slidable tongue assembly 660. The first and second operating ends 606, 607 of the first and second body members 601, 602 define an opening 659 between them in the closed position of the clip apparatus 600 shown schematically in FIGS. 20A-20C. When the slidable tongue assembly 660 moves forward into engagement with the first and second operating ends 606, 607, the internal space in the clip apparatus 600 is sealed behind this engagement.

[0067] The tongue assembly 660 further includes a tongue housing 661 shown in FIG. 19A and a tongue 662 shown in FIG. 19B. The tongue housing 661 includes a front end 663 and a rear end 664 with a tongue passage 665 extending along the entire length there between. The front end 663 of the tongue housing 661 includes sharpened front edges 663a configured to sealingly engage the first and second body members 601, 602 and cut through a storage bag 200, as described in further detail below. The tongue housing 661 also includes a flow port 666 positioned between the front end 663 and the rear end 664 and in communication with the tongue passage 665.

[0068] As shown in FIG. 19B, the tongue 662 is an elongate member including a front end 667 and a closed rear end 668. A flow passage 669 extending through the tongue 662 communicates with the front end 667 and a flow port 670 positioned adjacent the rear end 668. The tongue 662 further includes a sealing ring 671 configured to slide along the tongue passage 665 in the tongue housing 661. The sealing ring 671 seals area around the rear end 668 of the tongue 662 from the area around the front end 667 of the tongue 662. The tongue 662 also includes a handle 672 extending rearwardly from the rear end 668 and configured to extend outside the internal space of the clip apparatus 600 for movement by a user.

[0069] The operation of this embodiment of the clip apparatus 600 is further illustrated in FIGS. 20A-20C. In a first position of the clip apparatus 600 shown in FIG. 20A, the tongue assembly 660 is retracted from the opening 659 in the first and second body members 601, 602 such that a corner or other end of a storage bag 200 may be pushed into the clip apparatus 600. The handle 672 of the tongue 662 is then pushed forwardly as shown by arrow 673 to move the tongue 663 and tongue housing 661 together to the second position shown in FIG. 20B. The sharp front edges 663 of the tongue housing 663 engage the first and second body members 601, 602, thereby capturing the inserted end of the storage bag 200 and cutting an opening at the engagement. The storage bag 200 may then be pushed further into the clip apparatus 600 so that the opening slides over the front end 667 of the tongue 662. The user then pushes the handle 672 forwardly as shown by arrow 674 to slide the tongue 662 forward in the tongue passage 665 and into the interior of the storage bag 200, to the position shown in FIG. 20C. A vacuum pump (not shown) may then be connected to the clip apparatus 600 and used to draw air out of the storage bag 200 along the air pathway AP shown in FIG. 20C through the tongue 662, the flow port 670 in the tongue 662, and the flow port 666 in the tongue housing 661. The evacuated storage bag 200 and clip apparatus 600 may then be placed in a storage unit to preserve the items placed therein, and the risk of spoilage is lowered by the removal of air from the interior of the storage bag 200.

[0070] Another embodiment of a clip apparatus 700 for sealing a storage bag

200 is illustrated in FIGS. 21A-21E. The clip apparatus 700 includes many of the same elements as the clip apparatuses 500, 600 of the previous two described embodiments, and these similar elements have been marked with the same reference numbers in the 700's (i.e., the first body member 601 of the previous embodiment is now first body member 701 in this embodiment). The first and second body members 701, 702 of the clip apparatus 700 are pivotally coupled by hinge 705 and include respective seal members 731, 730 and a locking member 748 and release button 750 as previously described. The clip apparatus 700 also includes the tongue assembly 760 having a tongue housing 761 and tongue 762 as described above. In this embodiment, the tongue housing 761 is not slidable with respect to the first and second body members 701, 702, but the tongue assembly 760 operates in all other respects similarly as the previous embodiment.

[0071] With this embodiment of the clip apparatus 700, an opening may be formed in the storage bag 200 by manually cutting the storage bag 200 with the sharp front edge(s) 763 of the tongue assembly 760 while the clip apparatus 700 is in the opened position shown in FIG. 21 A. The opening of the storage bag 200 is then forced into the tongue housing 761 as shown. The user then pivots the first and second body members 701, 702 towards one another as shown by arrows 780 to the closed and locked position shown in FIG. 2 IB. The user may then push the handle 772 forward as shown by arrows 781 in FIG. 21C so that the front end 767 of the tongue 762 projects forwardly from the first and second body members 701, 702 and into the interior of the storage bag 200. A vacuum pump 300 may then be coupled with the clip assembly 700 and used to draw air out of the interior of the storage bag 200 through the tongue 762 as indicated by arrows 782 in FIG. 21D. Finally, the handle 772 may be pulled rearwardly to withdraw the tongue 762 back within the first and second body members701, 702 of the clip apparatus 700, as shown by arrow 783 in FIG. 2 IE. It will be understood that the tongue 762 may also be left projecting forwardly as shown in FIG. 21D during storage of the storage bag 200 and clip apparatus 700. Just as the previous

embodiments, the risk of spoilage is lowered by the removal of air from the interior of the storage bag 200.

[0072] Another embodiment of a clip apparatus 800 for sealing a storage bag

200 is illustrated in FIGS. 22A-22D. In this embodiment, the clip apparatus 800 includes a body member 801 and a tongue 802 coupled to or integrally formed with the body member 801. The tongue 802 is an elongate hollow member and may be referred to as a straw, a needle, or another similar descriptive term for elongate hollow members. The tongue 802 includes a distal end 803 with flow openings 804 and a proximal end 805 communicating with an internal space 806 in the body member 801. The body member 801 may further include a one-way valve or check valve 807 configured to seal the internal space 806 from the exterior surroundings (except for through the tongue 802).

[0073] The clip apparatus 800 further includes a first arm 808a pivotally coupled to the body member 801. The first arm 808a includes a front end 809a with a sealing gasket 810a attached thereto and a rear end 811a pivotally coupled to the body member 801 by a hinge 812a or similar member. The clip apparatus 800 also includes a second arm 808b also having a front end 809b with a sealing gasket 810b and a rear end 811b pivotally coupled to the body member 801 by a hinge 812b or similar member. The first and second arms 808a, 808b are configured to freely pivot towards and away from each other and the tongue 802. When the first and second arms 808a, 808b are pivoted to a closed position where the sealing gaskets 810a, 810b close around the tongue 802, the sealing gaskets 810a, 810b are configured to provide a seal around the periphery of the tongue 802. In this regard, a storage bag 200 slid over the tongue 802 will be sealed at the sealing gaskets 810a, 810b. The sealing gaskets 810a, 810b may include magnets, springs, or other biasing devices to attract or bias the first and second arms 808a, 808b into the closed position shown in FIG. 22C.

[0074] In operation, a user opens the first and second arms 808a, 808b as shown in FIG. 22B. The tongue 802 is then inserted through an opening of a storage bag 200 or punctures through a panel of the storage bag 200. The user then closes the first and second arms 808a, 808b onto the tongue 802 and the storage bag 200 to seal the interior of the storage bag 200 in communication with the tongue 802 and the internal space 806 in the body member 801. A vacuum pump as previously described may then be operatively coupled to the body member 801 and actuated to draw air from the interior of the storage bag 200 through the flow openings 804 in the tongue 802 and the check valve 807 to thereby evacuate the storage bag 200 of air. The clip apparatus 800 and the storage bag 200 may then be placed in a storage unit to preserve the items placed therein, and the risk of spoilage is lowered by the removal of air from the interior of the storage bag 200.

[0075] While the present invention has been illustrated by a description of various preferred embodiments and while these embodiments have been described in some detail, it is not the intention of the Applicant to restrict or in any way limit the scope of the appended claims to such detail. Additional advantages and modifications will readily appear to those skilled in the art. For example, the check valve 120 of the various embodiments may be repositioned in the second body member 102 or adjacent the hinge 105 in other embodiments of the clip apparatus 100. The various features of the invention may be used alone or in numerous combinations depending on the needs and preferences of the user. What is claimed is:

Claims

1. A clip apparatus for sealing a storage bag, comprising:
a first body member including a first operating end;
a second body member pivotally coupled with the first body member and including a second operating end, the first and second body members having an open position wherein the first and second operating ends are disengaged and a closed position wherein the first and second operating ends are engaged to define an internal space;
a tongue disposed at least partially between the first and second body members and configured to engage an interior of the storage bag, the tongue including a flow passage communicating with the internal space and the interior of the storage bag when the first and second body members are in the closed position;
a valve configured to enable flow from the internal space out of the clip apparatus; and
a seal member disposed between the first and second body members and configured to seal the internal space at least partially around the tongue.
2. The clip apparatus of claim 1, wherein the valve is a one-way valve adapted to prevent ambient air from entering the interior of the storage bag and the internal space when the first and second body members are in the closed position.
3. The clip apparatus of claim 1, wherein the first body member includes a first handle and the second body member includes a second handle, the first and second handles configured to actuate the first and second body members between the open position and the closed position.
4. The clip apparatus of claim 1, further comprising:
a biasing member engaged with the first body member and the second body member and operative to bias the first and second body members to the closed position.
5. The clip apparatus of claim 1, wherein at least one of the first and second body members defines a generally planar support surface collectively formed by the respective handle and operating end.
6. The clip apparatus of claim 1, wherein the tongue is hingedly coupled with at least one of the first or second body members such that the tongue is spaced from the first and second operating ends in the open position.
7. The clip apparatus of claim 6, wherein the valve is disposed in the first body member adjacent the first operating end.
8. The clip apparatus of claim 7, wherein the storage bag includes an interlocking zipper and the clip apparatus further comprises:
at least one notch formed in one of the first or second body members, the notch being configured to engage the storage bag so that an interlocking zipper of the storage bag passes through the notch in the closed position.
9. The clip apparatus of claim 8, wherein the seal member includes a raised portion configured to seal the notch in the closed position.
10. The clip apparatus of claim 7, wherein the seal member includes a first seal member portion coupled to the first body member and a second seal member portion coupled to the second body member.
11. The clip apparatus of claim 10, wherein the storage bag includes an interlocking zipper and the first and second seal member portions are configured to sealingly engage the interlocking zipper when the storage bag is placed in the clip apparatus.
12. The clip apparatus of claim 1, wherein the tongue includes a free end and is coupled to the first body member with a spring that biases the free end of the tongue into engagement with the first operating end.
13. The clip apparatus of claim 12, wherein the tongue may be pivoted away from the first operating end against the spring bias to insert the storage bag over the tongue.
14. The clip apparatus of claim 12, wherein the valve is positioned within the flow passage of the tongue and adjacent to the first body member.
15. The clip apparatus of claim 1, wherein the second body member further includes a knife blade along an outer periphery and a retractable knife cover configured to slide between a first position covering the knife blade and a second position revealing the knife blade, the knife blade configured to cut an opening into the storage bag.
16. The clip apparatus of claim 1, further comprising:
a locking member coupled to one of the first and second body members; and a locking notch provided on the other of the first and second body members, wherein the locking member is configured to engage with the locking notch in the closed position of the first and second body members and thereby prevent movement out of the closed position.
17. The clip apparatus of claim 16, further comprising:
a release button disposed on the other of the first and second body members and configured to release the locking member from the locking notch when the clip apparatus is to be moved to an open position.
18. The clip apparatus of claim 1, wherein the tongue includes a tongue housing having a leading edge sharpened to cut an opening into the storage bag, an inner tongue member configured to slide within the tongue housing, and a handle coupled to the inner tongue member.
19. The clip apparatus of claim 18, wherein the tongue housing is slidably mounted within the first and second body members by moving the handle.
20. The clip apparatus of claim 18, wherein the tongue housing is fixedly mounted within the first and second body members.
21. The clip apparatus of claim 18, wherein the inner tongue member includes a leading edge configured to be inserted into the storage bag when the handle moves to slide the inner tongue member through the tongue housing.
22. The clip apparatus of claim 18, wherein the inner tongue member and the tongue housing collectively define a flow passageway for air to be evacuated from the storage bag.
23. A clip apparatus for sealing a storage bag, comprising:
a body member including a sealed internal space and a valve communicating with the sealed internal space;
a tongue extending from the body member and configured to engage an interior of the storage bag, the tongue including a flow passage communicating with the sealed internal space;
a first arm pivotally coupled to the body member and including a first sealing gasket;
a second arm pivotally coupled to the body member and including a second sealing gasket,
wherein the first and second arms may be pivoted such that the first and second sealing gaskets sealingly engage the tongue, thereby to seal the storage bag when the tongue engages the interior of the storage bag.
24. The clip apparatus of claim 23, wherein the first and second arms include a biasing member configured to bias the first and second sealing gaskets into sealing engagement with the tongue.
25. The clip apparatus of claim 24, wherein the biasing member includes magnets positioned in the first and second sealing gaskets.
26. A method of evacuating a storage bag with a clip apparatus having a first body member, a second body member pivotally coupled to the first body member, a valve, and a tongue disposed at least partially between the first and second body members and having a flow passage, the method comprising:
rotating the first and second body members to an open position wherein the first and second body members are spaced from the tongue;
inserting the tongue through an opening of the storage bag;
rotating the first and second body members to a closed position wherein the first and second body members engage and seal the tongue within the opening of the storage bag; and
forcing air from the storage bag through the flow passage and the valve to evacuate the storage bag.
27. A system for sealing a storage bag, comprising:
a clip apparatus according to claim 1 ; and
a vacuum pump including a vacuum chamber and a slot configured to engage the clip apparatus, the vacuum pump operable to evacuate air from the storage bag through the tongue and the valve.
28. A system for sealing a storage bag, comprising:
a clip apparatus according to claim 23; and
a vacuum pump including a vacuum chamber and a slot configured to engage the clip apparatus, the vacuum pump operable to evacuate air from the storage bag through the tongue and the valve.
PCT/US2010/061072 2009-12-17 2010-12-17 Vacuum clip for storage bags WO2011075664A1 (en)

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US61/287,530 2009-12-17

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US13525986 US20130016924A1 (en) 2009-12-17 2012-06-18 Vacuum clip for storage bags
US13565567 US20130031871A1 (en) 2009-12-17 2012-08-02 Bag vacuum apparatus

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