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1. WO2020141300 - APPARATUS AND METHOD FOR PACKAGING TOBACCO INDUSTRY PRODUCTS

Note: Text based on automatic Optical Character Recognition processes. Please use the PDF version for legal matters

[ EN ]

Apparatus and Method for Packaging Tobacco Industry Products Field

The present invention relates to apparatus for packaging tobacco industry products, and to a method of packaging tobacco industry products.

Background

Apparatus for producing wrapped and sealed bundles of cigarettes typically includes a plurality of rotatable pocket wheels. A plurality of pockets are arranged in the circumferential surfaces of the pocket wheels, and packaging components are transferred between the pockets of adjacent pocket wheels as the pocket wheels rotate. Each pocket wheel is adapted to perform one or more operations on the packaging components as the pocket wheels rotate, such as folding and sealing operations.

In other kinds of cigarette packaging apparatus a linear conveyor, for example a belt conveyor, is provided to move packaging components to wrappers and sealers that wrap and seal a wrapper about a group of cigarettes to produce a wrapped bundle.

Summary

According to the present invention, there is provided apparatus for packaging tobacco industry products, the apparatus defining a path and comprising a plurality of carriers configured to move along the path, each carrier being adapted to carry a group of tobacco industry products and a wrapper;

the apparatus further comprising:

a sealing station located at a position on the path and configured to seal the wrapper about the group of tobacco industry products to form a sealed bundle of tobacco industry products; and

a process station located at a position on the path and configured to extract gaseous fluid from and/or input gaseous fluid into the sealed bundle of tobacco industry products.

Preferably, the path is a closed loop.

The carriers may move in only a single direction along the path.

The apparatus may comprise an electromagnetic drive system configured to move the carriers along the path.

A control system may be provided. The control system may be configured to control movement of the carriers along the path such that the relative spacing between adjacent carriers is alterable.

The sealing station preferably comprises a first sealer arranged to form a first seal in the wrapper, and a second sealer arranged to form a pair of second seals in the wrapper, each of the second seals being perpendicular to the first seal, and wherein the second sealer is located downstream of the first sealer along the path.

Each of the first sealer and the second sealer may comprise sealer bars configured to form the first and second seals, respectively.

The second sealer may comprise two pairs of sealer bars.

The sealer bars of the first sealer and the sealer bars of the second sealer may be arranged parallel to the path in the position on the path where the first sealer and second sealer are located.

The apparatus preferably comprises a rotation mechanism configured to rotate the group of tobacco industry products and wrapper after the first seal has been formed.

The first sealer and/ or the second sealer may be configured to form seals in a plurality of wrappers simultaneously.

The process station may comprise a pipe configured to extract gaseous fluid from and/ or input gaseous fluid into the sealed bundle of tobacco industry products via an opening in the sealed bundle of tobacco industry products.

The apparatus may comprise at least one track, wherein the path is defined by the at least one track, and wherein each carrier comprises a track engagement portion adapted to movably engage with the track, and a retainer adapted to retain the group of tobacco industry products and wrapper.

Each track engagement portion may comprise one or more rollers arranged to roll along the track during use.

Each retainer may comprise spaced walls that define a space therebetween, the space being adapted to receive and carry the group of tobacco industry products and wrapper.

Each retainer maybe configured such that ends of the wrapper protrude from the space when the group of tobacco industry products and wrapper are received in the pocket such that the ends of the wrapper can be sealed by the sealing station.

Each retainer may comprise a first holder part adapted to hold a first end of the group of tobacco industry products and wrapper.

Each retainer may further comprise a second holder part adapted to hold a second end of the group of tobacco industry products and wrapper, the second holder part being arranged on an opposite side of the retainer to the first holder part.

The second holder part maybe removably attachable to the carrier.

The second holder part may be pivotally attached to the carrier.

Each retainer maybe removably attachable to the track engagement portion.

Each retainer may be magnetically attachable to the track engagement portion.

Each carrier may comprise a mechanical clip for removably attaching the retainer to the track engagement portion.

Each retainer may further comprise an alignment device for aligning the retainer relative to the track engagement portion.

The apparatus preferably comprises a loading station configured to load a group of tobacco industry products and/or a wrapper onto one of the carriers.

The loading station may comprise a pusher arranged to push a group of tobacco industry products onto the one of the carriers.

The loading station is preferably configured to position a wrapper between a group of tobacco industry products and the carrier prior to loading the group of tobacco industry products onto the carrier, such that the wrapper is at least partially wrapped about the group of tobacco industry products as the group of tobacco industry products is loaded onto the carrier.

The apparatus preferably comprises an unloading station configured to remove the sealed bundle of tobacco industry products from the carrier.

According to an aspect of the invention, there is provided a method of packaging tobacco industry products, the method comprising:

carrying groups of tobacco industry products and wrappers on a plurality of carriers that move along a path;

sealing the wrapper about the group of tobacco industry products to form a sealed bundle of tobacco industry products; and,

extracting gaseous fluid from and/or inputting gaseous fluid into the sealed bundle of tobacco industry products.

The carriers may move in only a single direction along the path.

The carriers may move along the track by an electromagnetic drive system.

The method may further comprise controlling movement of the carriers along the path such that the relative spacing between adjacent carriers is alterable.

Brief Description

Embodiments of the present invention will now be described, by way of example only, with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:

FIG. 1 shows a schematic diagram of the apparatus for packaging tobacco industry products;

FIG. 2 shows a carrier and a part of the track of the apparatus of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 shows the carrier of FIG. 2;

FIG. 4 shows the pocket of the carrier of FIG. 2 and FIG. 3;

FIG. 5 shows a cross-sectional diagram of the pocket of FIG. 4, with a wrapper and group of tobacco industry products in the pocket;

FIG. 6 shows a group of tobacco industry products and a frame;

FIG. 7 shows a wrapper;

FIG. 8 shows a first holder part of the pocket of FIG. 4;

FIG. 9 shows a second holder part of the pocket of FIG. 4;

FIGS. 10A, 10B and 10C show the pocket of FIG. 4 during a loading process;

FIG. 11 shows a loaded pocket following the loading process of FIGS. 10A, 10B and 10C; FIG. 12 schematically shows a first sealing process;

FIG. 13 schematically shows a second sealing process;

FIG. 14 shows a wrapped and sealed bundle of tobacco industry products;

FIG. 15 shows a first sealer of the apparatus of FIG. 1;

FIG. 16 shows a second sealer of the apparatus of FIG. 1;

FIG. 17 shows the first and second sealers and two carriers of the apparatus of FIG. 1; FIG. 18 shows a carrier and a rotator of the apparatus of FIG. 1 in a first position;

FIG. 19 shows a carrier and a rotator of the apparatus of FIG. 1 in a second position; FIG. 20 shows a schematic diagram of a process station of the apparatus of FIG. 1; and, FIG. 21 shows a pack of tobacco industry products containing the wrapped bundle of FIG. 14.

Detailed Description

As shown in FIG. 1, the apparatus 1 for packaging tobacco industry products comprises a conveyor 2 that defines a path 3 along which a plurality of carriers 4 can move. In this example, the conveyor 2 has a track 5 that defines the path 2, and the carriers 4 are movable along the track 5. In this example, the path 2 is defined by the track 5. The path 2 is a closed loop having opposing straight sides 6 and linking curves 7 at each end, such that a carrier 4 can move continuously along the path 3 in a loop.

As indicated schematically in FIG. 1, the apparatus 1 includes a loading station 8, a sealing station 9, a process station 10, and an unloading station 11 arranged

sequentially on the path 3 defined by the conveyor 2. The carriers 4 each move in a single direction along the path 3, and as used herein the term‘downstream’ means in the direction of movement of the carriers 4 along the path 3, in this example from the loading station 8 towards the unloading station 11, via the sealing station 9 and process station 10. Accordingly, the term‘upstream’ means the opposite direction to the movement of the carriers 4 along the path 3.

As explained further hereinafter, at the loading station 8 a wrapper (12, see FIG. 7) and a group of tobacco industry products (13, see FIG. 6) are loaded onto the carriers 4 of the conveyor 2. At the sealing station 9 the wrapper (12, see FIG. 7) is sealed about the group of tobacco industry products (13, see FIG. 6). At the process station 10 gaseous fluid, for example a gas or an inert gas such as a nitrogen rich gas mixture, is either evacuated from the sealed group of tobacco industry products or injected into the sealed group of tobacco industry products. The sealed group of tobacco industry products is then removed from the conveyor 2 at the unloading station 11. The carriers 4 move the wrapper (12, see FIG. 7) and group of tobacco industry products (13, see FIG. 6) along the path 3 defined by the track 5, and the sealing station 9 and process station 10 interact with the wrapper (12, see FIG. 7) and the group of tobacco industry products (13, see FIG. 6) on the carriers 4 to produce sealed wrapped bundles of tobacco industry products (52, see FIG. 14).

As illustrated in FIG. 2 and FIG. 3, each carrier 4 includes a track engagement portion 14 and a pocket 15. The track engagement portion 14 engages with the track 5 and can move along the track 5. In this example, as shown, the track engagement portion 14 includes rollers 16 that roll on a surface of the track 5. Multiple rollers 16 are provided at different angles and are arranged to roll on different surfaces of the track 5 such that the track engagement portion 14 can only move in the direction of the track 5. The pocket 15 is attached to the track engagement portion 14 and is moved along the track 5 with the track engagement portion 14. The pocket 15 is adapted to carry components of tobacco industry product packaging, in particular a group of tobacco industry products (13, see FIG. 6) and a wrapper (12, see FIG. 7), as explained further hereinafter.

In these examples, the track engagement portion 14 has an arm 74 that extends away from the track 5, and the pocket 15 is attached to a distal end of the arm 74. The arm 74 provides a separation between the track 5 and the group of tobacco industry products (13, see FIG. 6) and a wrapper (12, see FIG. 7) being carried in the pocket 15.

In a preferred example, the carriers 4 are moved around the track 5 by an

electromagnetic drive system. In this example, the track engagement portion 14 comprises a magnetic component 17, which maybe a permanent magnet, an electromagnet, or a body of magnetic material, for example steel or iron. In addition, the conveyor 2 includes a plurality of electromagnetic coils (not shown) arranged about the track 5. A control system is arranged to apply power to the electromagnetic coils in a sequence such that the carriers 4 are moved along the track 5. By controlling the power applied to the electromagnetic coils it is possible to control the position and speed of the carriers 4 individually, allowing the spacing between individual carriers 4 to be controlled.

Each carrier 4 may have a unique identifier which is tracked in software or may be stored on a readable medium mounted on the track engagement portion 12 and read by a reader arranged on the track 5. This allows tracking and accurate positioning of the carriers 4 along the track 5.

In alternative examples, a mechanical drive system, for example a belt or chain, is arranged to move the carriers 4 along the track 5.

As illustrated in FIGS. 2 to 5 each carrier 4 includes a pocket 15 that is adapted to receive components of tobacco industry product packaging. The pocket 15 is attachable to the track engagement portion 14 of the carrier 4. In particular, the pocket 15 includes a base plate 18 that is attachable to the track engagement portion 12 of the carrier 4, and a space 19 is defined in the pocket 15 in which a group of tobacco industry products 13 and a wrapper 12 can be received, as shown most clearly in FIG. 5 and described hereinafter.

FIG. 6 shows a group of tobacco industry products 13, in this example cigarettes 29, that are arranged for packaging. The cigarettes 29 are each elongate rod-shaped articles 20 that have a filter 21 at one end. An optional frame 22 is also illustrated in FIG. 6. The cigarettes 29 may be provided in such a frame 22, which includes an opening 23 through which the cigarettes 29 can be removed. The frame 22 may be rigid, for example made of card or plastics, and is configured to hold the cigarettes 29 and to protect them against impact and the like. In alternative examples, no frame 22 is provided, and the group of cigarettes 29 are received directly in the wrapper 12, as explained hereinafter.

FIG. 7 shows a wrapper 12 for the group of tobacco industry products (13, see FIG. 6). The wrapper 12 is formed of a barrier material 24. The wrapper 12 has a resealable opening 25, which is defined by a cut line 26 or line of weakening which is covered by a resealable label 27. The resealable label 27 is attached to the barrier material 24 by a pressure sensitive adhesive that allows the resealable label 27 to be peeled back from the barrier material 24, lifting the area of the barrier material defined by the cut line 26 or line of weakening to create an opening. The resealable label 27 can then be re adhered to the barrier material 24 to reseal the wrapper 12. As shown, the resealable label 27 includes a pull tab 28. The pull tab 28 maybe free from adhesive so that a user can grasp the pull tab 28 and peel the resealable label 27, as described above.

Referring again to FIGS. 2 to 5, the pocket 15 is adapted to substantially match the shape of the group of tobacco industry products 13, as shown most clearly in FIG. 5. In this example, the group of tobacco industry products 13 is cuboid or substantially cuboid, and the space 19 within the pocket 15, being shaped to receive the group of tobacco industry products 13, is also cuboid or substantially cuboid. The pocket 15 is also adapted such that the wrapper 12 can be positioned to surround the group of tobacco industry products 13 within the space 19 in pocket 15, as illustrated in FIG. 5.

In this position, ends 30, 31 of the wrapper 12 protrude from the pocket 15 and are accessible for sealing the wrapper 12, as explained further hereinafter.

FIGS. 8 to 11 illustrate one example of a process for loading a group of tobacco industry products 13 and a wrapper 12 into the pocket 15. Such a loading process can be performed at the loading station 8, and reversed at the unloading station 9 to remove the sealed wrapped bundles from the apparatus 1.

As shown in FIG. 8 and FIG. 9, the pocket 15 comprises a first holder part 32 and a second holder part 33. The first holder part 32 comprises the base plate 18 that is attachable to the track engagement portion 14 of the carrier 4 (see FIG. 2 and FIG. 3). The first holder part 32 also comprises a first claw 34 that extends perpendicularly from a first end 36 of the base plate 18 and then in a direction parallel to the base plate 18 such that a part of the first claw 43 forms a wall that is parallel to and spaced from the base plate 18, defining a space 19 therebetween. In this example, the first claw 34 comprises spaced fingers 35, but this is optional and in other examples the first claw 35 comprises a plate-like member. A second end 37 of the base plate 18 comprises mounting holes 38 for attachment of the second holder part 33.

FIG. 9 shows the second holder part 33 which comprises a second claw 39. The second claw 39 comprises pins 40 that engage with the mounting holes 39 on the base plate 18. The second claw 39 extends perpendicularly away from the base plate 18, then in a direction parallel to the base plate 18 towards the first claw 32 so that part of the

second claw 39 forms a wall that is parallel to and spaced from the base plate 18. The second claw 39 comprises spaced fingers 41 similar to those of the first claw 32, but it will be appreciated that these are optional and the second claw 39 may be plate-like.

In this way, the pocket 15 is formed and a space 19 is defined between the base plate 18 and first and second claws 34, 39. The first and second claws 34, 39 are spaced from each other to provide a space for ends 30, 31 of the wrapper 12 to protrude from the pocket 15, as shown in FIG. 5 and also shown in FIG. 11.

In addition, the width of the pocket 15 in a direction across the base plate 18 between the open ends of the pocket 15 is less than a width of the wrapper 12, such that ends 44, 45, 46, 47 of the wrapper protrude from the pocket 15, as shown in FIG. 11.

FIGS. 10A, 10B and 10C illustrate an example of how the loading station 8 (see FIG. 1) loads the group of tobacco industry products 13 and wrapper 12 into the pocket 15 such that the loaded pocket 15 shown in FIG. 11 is provided.

In FIG. 10A the first and second holder parts 32, 33 are initially separated, with the wrapper 12 positioned adjacent the first holder part 32, the group of tobacco industry products 13 positioned adjacent the wrapper 12, and the second holder part 33 positioned adjacent the group of tobacco industry products 13. In this example, the first holder part 32 may be attached to the carrier 4 and track 5 (see FIG. 2), while the second holder part 33 is supported on separate apparatus of the loading station 8.

As shown in FIGS. 10B and 10C, as the first and second holder parts 32, 33 are brought together the group of tobacco industry products 13 is pushed into the wrapper 12 and then into the space 19 in the first holder part 32. In this way, the wrapper 12 is partially wrapped about the group of tobacco industry products 13, with the ends 30, 31 and the ends 44, 45, 46, 47 of the wrapper 12 protruding from the pocket 15 as shown in FIG. 11.

In an alternative example, the second holder part 33 is omitted. In this case, a part of the conveyor 2, for example a part of the track 5, may comprise a guide with which the wrapper 12 and group of tobacco industry products 13 engages. The guide is shaped to push the group of tobacco industry products 13 into the space 19 of the pocket 15, and then hold the wrapper 12 and group of tobacco industry products 13 in the position

shown in FIG. 10C as the carrier 4 moves along the path 3 (see FIG. 1). In this example, the wrapper 12 and group of tobacco industry products 13 are pushed into the first holder part 32 at the loading station 8, and then the carrier 4 moves the pocket 15 along the track 5 where the wrapper 12 engages the guide. The guide may include a plough that pushes the wrapper 12 into the correct position as the carrier 4 moves along the track 5.

In a further alternative, the second holder part 33 may be pivotally attached to the base plate 18. In this example, the second holder part 33 can be pivoted into an open position to allow the wrapper 12 and group of tobacco industry products 13 to be pushed into the first holder part 32, and then the second holder part 33 can be pivoted into a closed position to hold the wrapper 12 and group of tobacco industiy products 13 in the position shown in FIG. 11. .

As shown in FIG. 1, from the loading station 18 the carriers 4 carry the loaded pockets 15 along the path 3 defined by the track 5 to the sealing station 9 where the wrapper 12 is sealed about the group of tobacco industry products 13. In this example, the sealing station 9 has a first sealer 57 and a second sealer 59, as illustrated in FIGS. 12 to 17.

FIG. 12 shows a first seal being formed in the wrapper 12. In this example, the first seal is formed between two ends 30, 31 of the wrapper 12 that protrude from between the first claw 34 and the second claw 39 of the pocket 15. The first seal is formed by the first sealer that includes a pair of sealer bars 42, 43. The ends 30, 31 of the wrapper 12 are positioned between the sealer bars 42, 43, which are then pressed together to form the first seal.

FIG. 13 shows a pair of second seals being formed in the ends 44, 45, 46, 47 of the wrapper 12 that protrude from the pocket 15. The pocket 15 is shown from the end of the first holder part 32, with the ends 44, 45, 46, 47 of the wrapper 12 extending from opposing sides of the pocket 15 as shown in FIG. 11. The ends 44, 45, 46, 47 of the wrapper 12 are first folded by a folding mechanism, for example a plough located on the path of the conveyor that moves the ends 44, 45, 46, 47 of the wrapper 12 into the position illustrated as the carrier 4 moves along the path 3 (see FIG. 1). The second sealer then seals the ends 44, 45, 46, 47 of the wrapper 12 together to form second seals. In particular, the second sealer has a first pair of sealer bars 48, 49 that form a seal between ends 44, 45 of the wrapper 12 protruding from one side of the pocket 15,

and a second pair of sealer bars 50, 51 that form a seal between ends 46, 47 of the wrapper 12 protruding from the other side of the pocket 15. The ends 44, 45, 46, 47 of the wrapper 12 are positioned between the sealer bars 48, 49, 50, 51, which are then pressed together. The sealer bars 48, 49, 50, 51 may be heated such that heat seals are formed in the wrapper 12.

In this way, the wrapper 12 sealed about the group of tobacco industry products 13, as described above, to form a wrapped bundle 52. As shown, a first seal 53, formed by the first sealer, extends across a rear face 54 of the wrapped bundle 52, and a pair of second seals 55, formed by the second sealer, extend along opposing side faces 56 of the wrapped bundle 52. The pair of second seals 55 extend perpendicularly to the first seal 53

The first sealer and the second sealer are located in the sealing station 9 (see FIG. 1). FIG. 15 shows the first sealer 57, which includes the pair of sealer bars 42, 43, schematically illustrated in FIG. 12. During use, the sealer bars 42, 43 are pressed together with the ends 30, 31 of the wrapper 12 (see FIG. 12) in between, to apply heat to fuse the ends 30, 31 of the wrapper 12 to each other, thereby forming the first seal 53 (see FIG. 14). In this example, one of the sealer bars 43 is a fixed anvil and the other is a moveable sealer bar 42. An actuator, in this example a pneumatic actuator 58, is provided to move the moveable sealer bar 42 to press the ends 30, 31 of the wrapper 12 together.

In one example, the first sealer 57 is an ultrasonic sealer. In this case, an oscillator 75 applies ultrasonic vibrations to the moveable sealer bar 42. The ultrasonic vibrations cause the material of the wrapper 12 to heat up and fuse together, creating the first seal 53. In an alternative, one or both of the sealer bars 42, 43 are heated by electric heaters and this heat fuses the ends 30, 31 of the wrapper 12 together when they are pressed between the two sealer bars 42, 43. In another alternative, the first sealer 57 is an induction sealer that generates a potential difference between the sealer bars 42, 43, which induces current through the wrapper 12 and causes the wrapper 12 to be heated and fused together between the sealer bars 42, 43.

FIG. 16 illustrates the second sealer 59. As shown in FIG. 16, and as schematically illustrated in FIG. 13, the second sealer 59 has a first pair of sealer bars 48, 49 and a second pair of sealer bars 50, 51, and each pair of sealer bars 48, 49, 50, 51 is arranged to create a seal 55, as shown in FIG. 14. In this example, the first pair of sealer bars 48, 49 includes one fixed sealer bar 49 and one moveable sealer bar 48. Similarly, the second pair of sealer bars includes one fixed sealer bar 51 and one movable sealer bar 50. Actuators 58 are provided to move the moveable sealer bars 48, 50 during operation. The first pair of sealer bars 48, 49 and the second pair of sealer bars 50, 51 are parallel to each other and spaced, so that the first pair of sealer bars 48, 49 forms a seal 55 on one side of the pocket 15, and the second pair of sealer bars 50, 51 forms a seal 55 on an opposite side of the pocket 15.

The fixed sealer bars 49, 51 and/or the moveable sealer bars 48, 50 maybe heated by electric heaters, so that the wrapper material is heated between the sealer bars 48, 49, 50, 51 to create a seal. Alternatively, the second sealer 59 is an ultrasonic sealer. In this case, an oscillator 75 applies ultrasonic vibrations to the moveable sealer bars 48, 50. The ultrasonic vibrations cause the material of the wrapper 12 to heat up and fuse together, creating the second seals 55. In another alternative, the second sealer 59 is an induction sealer that generates a potential difference between the pairs of sealer bars 48, 49, 50, 51, which induces current through the wrapper 12 and causes the wrapper 12 to be heated and fused together between the sealer bars 48, 49, 50, 51.

FIG. 17 illustrates the arrangement of the first sealer 57 and the second sealer 59 in the sealing station 9. As shown, the sealer bars 42, 43 of the first sealer 57 are arranged parallel to the sealer bars 48, 49, 50, 51 of the second sealer 59. In addition, the sealer bars 42, 43 of the first sealer 57 and the sealer bars 48, 49, 50, 51 of the second sealer 59 are all parallel to the path 3 defined by the track 5 (see FIG. 1).

In this arrangement, the wrapper 12 and the group of tobacco industry products 13 are rotated between the first sealer 57 and the second sealer 59 to produce the wrapped bundle 52 illustrated in FIG. 14. That is, the first seal 53 is formed in the wrapper 12, then the wrapper 12 and group of tobacco industry products 13 are rotated, and then the pair of second seals 55 is formed. In other words, the wrapper 12 and group of tobacco industry products 13 are rotated downstream of the first sealer 57 and upstream of the second sealer 59.

As shown in FIG. 17, at the first sealer 57 the pocket 15 of the carrier 4 has a first orientation, so the sealer bars 42, 43 of the first sealer 57 create the first seal 53 in the wrapper 12, and then between the first sealer 57 and the second sealer 59 the pocket 15 is rotated into a second orientation, so the sealer bars 48, 49, 50, 51 of the second sealer 59 form the second pair of seals 55 in the wrapper 12.

The advantage of such an arrangement is that all of the sealer bars 42, 43, 48, 49, 50, 51 are arranged in parallel with the track 5, meaning that multiple wrappers 12 can be sealed simultaneously by moving the carriers 4 into the first and second sealers 57, 59 at the same time. This can increase machine throughput and increase efficiency. This advantage is further accentuated by the control system for individually controlling the progress of the carriers 4 along the track 5, so the carriers 4 can be positioned close together in the sealing station 9 for sealing multiple wrappers 12 simultaneously, and the spacing between the carriers 4 can then be increased for other processes.

In one example, referring to FIG. 1 to FIG. 3, the pocket 15 is rotatably mounted to the track engagement portion 14 and a cam arrangement is provided to rotate the pocket 15 as the carrier 4 moves between the first sealer 57 and the second sealer 59. In particular, the pocket 15 is rotatably mounted to the arm 74 of the track engagement portion 14. As illustrated, the arm 74 comprises a pivot 61 to which the pocket 15 is attached. An offset cam follower 60 is also provided that is attached to the pocket 15, such that the cam follower 60 can be used to rotate the pocket 15 relative to the track engagement portion 14. A cam is arranged on or adjacent to the conveyor 2, at least in the area between the first sealer 57 and the second sealer 59, and the cam follower 60 engages the cam, which is shaped to rotate the pocket 15 as the carrier 4 moves along the path 3 between the first sealer 57 and the second sealer 58.

In another example, illustrated in FIG. 18 and FIG. 19, a rotator 62 is provided for each carrier 14. The rotator 62 comprises a track engagement portion 63 and moves along the track 5 alongside the carrier 4 in a similar manner to the carrier 4. A linkage 64 extends between a pivot 65 on the rotator 62 and an offset pin 66 on the pocket 15, which is rotatably mounted to the track engagement portion 14 as described above. In this way, changing the distance between the carrier 4 and the rotator 62 along the track 5 will cause rotation of the pocket 15 relative to the track engagement portion 14. By controlling the relative positions of the rotator 62 and carrier 4 along the track 5 the orientation of the pocket 15 can be controlled, as illustrated. The carrier 4 and the rotator 62 are shown closer together in FIG. 19 than in FIG. 18, and the pocket 15 has been rotated through 90 degrees between the two positions.

In alternative examples, the sealing station 9 may include only a single sealer. In this case, the first seal 53 can be made then the pocket 15 can be rotated before the second seals 55 are made by the same sealer. In this case, the sealer may be mounted on a moveable platform that moves the sealer between the various positions needed to form the seals in the wrapper.

After the wrapper 12 has been sealed about the group of tobacco industry products 13 the carrier 4 moves the wrapped bundle 52 along the path 3 to the process station 10, as indicated in FIG. 1. In this example, the process station 10 is a vacuum station that is configured to extract air from within the wrapped bundle 52, to provide a vacuum packed bundle of tobacco industry products.

As illustrated in FIG. 14, in one example the wrapped bundle 52 includes a one-way valve 67. The one-way valve 67 may be provided on the wrapper 12 before it is wrapped and sealed about the group of tobacco industry products 13, or alternatively the one way valve 67 may be attached to the wrapper 12 after the wrapping and sealing processes. The one-way valve 67 covers an opening in the wrapper 12 and only permits flow of gaseous fluid out of the interior of the wrapped bundle 52.

A part of the vacuum station 10 is illustrated in FIG. 20. As shown, the vacuum station 10 comprises a suction head 68 that engages with the wrapped bundle 52 and extracts air from the interior of the wrapped bundle 52 via the one-way valve 67. The suction head 68 comprises a pipe 69 that is placed against the side of the wrapped bundle 52, over the one-way valve 67. In this way, the pipe 69 can be used to extract air from within the wrapped bundle 52. The pipe 69 may be movable and moved into

engagement with the wrapped bundle 52 when the carrier 4 moves the wrapped bundle 52 into the vacuum station 10. In addition, the pipe 69 may include a seal that seals against the side of the wrapped bundle 52.

In one example, gaseous fluid, for example air, is extracted from within the wrapped bundle 52 so that the pressure within the wrapped bundle 52 is a partial vacuum. For example, the pressure within the wrapped bundle 52 may be reduced to less than 1 bar.

In some examples, the pressure within the wrapped bundle 52 is less than 500 millibar, for example between 40 and 300 millibar. In other embodiments, the pressure within the wrapped bundle 52 is less than 150 millibar, preferably about 80 millibar. However, it will be appreciated that the pressure within the enclosure of the wrapped bundle 3 may be any value less than 1 bar.

In this example, the pocket may comprise an opening that permits the suction head 68 to contact the wrapped bundle 52 over the one-way valve 67 as illustrated in FIG. 20. In particular, an opening maybe formed in either of the first holder part 32 or the second holder part 33, or the one-way valve 67 may be positioned between the first holder part 32 and the second holder part 33.

In alternative examples, the process station 10 may be configured to inject gaseous fluid into the wrapped bundle 52, for example an inert gas such as a nitrogen rich gas mixture. In this case, the one-way valve 67 on the wrapped bundle 52 maybe arranged oppositely, so that gas can pass into the wrapped bundle 52 but not out of the wrapped bundle 52. A pipe 69, similar to as illustrated in FIG. 20, can be used to provide the gaseous fluid to the wrapped bundle 52. In this example, the pressure inside the wrapped bundle 52 may be greater than atmospheric pressure, in particular greater than 1 bar.

As illustrated in FIG. 1, after the vacuum station 10 the carriers 4 move the pockets 15 and wrapped bundles along the path 3 to the unloading station 11. At the unloading station 11 the wrapped bundles are removed from the pockets for onward conveyance.

In one example, the wrapped bundles are conveyed to further packaging apparatus where a hinged-lid pack outer is erected about the wrapped bundle. Such a hinged-lid pack outer 70 is shown in FIG. 21. As shown, the pack outer 70 includes a body 71 that receives the wrapped bundle 52 so that the wrapped bundle 52 protrudes from an end 73 of the body 71. A lid 72 is hinged to the end 73 of the body 71 such that it can pivot between a closed position where the wrapped bundle 52 is enclosed in the body 71 and lid 72, and an open position (illustrated in FIG. 21) in which one end of the wrapped bundle 52 is accessible.

In alternative embodiments, at the loading station 8 and unloading station 11 the pockets 15 themselves may be attached to, and detached from, the carriers 4. In this way, pockets 15 with a pre-loaded group of tobacco industry products 13 and a wrapper 12 can be prepared by separate apparatus, or by hand, and then attached to the carriers 4 at the loading station 8. Then, at the unloading station 11 the pockets 15, which contain the wrapped bundles 52, can be detached from the carriers 4 for onward

conveyance and/ or further processing. Empty pockets 15 can be circulated back to the start of the apparatus 1, for example by a further conveyor.

In these examples, the pockets 15 are removably attached to the carriers 4. For example, a mechanical or magnetic clip may be provided to removably attach the pockets 15 to the track engagement portions 14 of the carriers 4. The loading station 8 and the unloading station 11 may comprise a mechanism, such as an additional conveyor and/or a gripping mechanism that engages with the pockets 15 and removes them from the carriers 4.

Referring again to FIG.3 and FIG. 4, in examples the pocket 15 comprises a recess 76 for attaching to the track engagement portion 14 of the carrier 4. In particular, as illustrated, the base plate 18 of the pocket 15 comprises a circular recess 76 that receives a circular boss of the track engagement portion 14. The recess 76 also includes pin holes 77 that engage with pins (not illustrated) of the track engagement portion 14 to ensure correct alignment between the track engagement portion 14 and the pocket 15. In this example, the boss of the track engagement portion 14 includes a magnet and the base plate 18 of the pocket includes a ferromagnetic material, for example steel. In this way, the pocket 15 can be magnetically attached to the track engagement portion 14, and can also be removed by overcoming the magnetic force between the magnet and the base plate 18. In other examples, the base plate 18 includes a magnet, and the track engagement portion 14 includes a ferromagnetic material. Alternatively, both the base plate 18 of the pocket 15 and the boss of the track engagement portion 14 include a magnet.

In other examples, the pocket 15 is attachable to the track engagement portion 14 by a mechanical clip. For example, a the base plate 18 may comprise a clip having a deformable retaining member that engages with a part of the track engagement portion 14 for retaining the pocket 15 on the track engagement portion 14 until the deformable retaining member is moved to allow detachment.

In the examples described above the track 5 follows a looped path 3, in this case an oval shape. However, it will be appreciated that the track 5 can take any shape, for example the track 5 may be circular, or it may have straight sides with connecting bends in a square or rectangular arrangement. Alternatively, the track 5 may include only bends.

In yet another alternative, the track 5 does not follow a closed loop path 3. For example, the track comprises ends, with the loading station 8 arranged at one end, the unloading station 11 arranged at the other end, and the other stations arranged in between. In this example, further apparatus may be provided to move the carriers 4 from one end of the track 5 to the other, for example a separate conveyor.

In yet further alternative examples, the apparatus 1 may include several individual tracks that are arranged to define a closed path, and the various stations are located along the path, on separate tracks.

In other examples, the apparatus may include further process stations that may be arranged along the path followed by the carriers 4. For example, the apparatus 1 may further include a printing station arranged to print on one or more of the packaging components, or a label applicator arranged to apply a label to one or more of the packaging components. Additionally, a further loading station may be provided to load other components onto the carriers 4. In one example, a card frame or a part of the pack outer may be loaded onto the carriers 4 at such an additional loading station.

It will be appreciated that the apparatus 1 described herein maybe used for other types of packaging for tobacco industry products. For example, the apparatus 1 may be used to produce non-resealable packaging for tobacco industry products. In one particular example, the apparatus 1 may be used to wrap and seal tobacco industry products in a foil wrapper that includes a non-resealable openable section that can be pulled off the packaging to access the contents.

The apparatus 1 detailed herein is particularly described with reference to packaging for cigarettes. However, it will be appreciated that the packaging may alternatively be used to package any smoking article or tobacco industry product.

As used herein, the term“tobacco industry product” is to be understood as including smoking articles comprising combustible smoking articles such as cigarettes, cigarillos, cigars, tobacco for pipes or for roll-your-own cigarettes, (whether based on tobacco, tobacco derivatives, expanded tobacco, reconstituted tobacco, tobacco substitutes or other smokable material), electronic smoking articles such as e-cigarettes, heating devices that release compounds from substrate materials without burning such as tobacco heating products; and hybrid systems to generate aerosol from a combination

of substrate materials, for example hybrid systems containing a liquid or gel or solid substrate.

In one embodiment, the tobacco industry product is a smoking article for combustion selected from the group consisting of a cigarette, a cigarillo and a cigar.

In one embodiment, the tobacco industry product is a non-combustible smoking article.

In one embodiment the tobacco industry product is a heating device which releases compounds by heating, but not burning, a substrate material. The material may be for example tobacco or other non-tobacco products, which may or may not contain nicotine. In one embodiment the heating device is a tobacco heating device.

In another embodiment the tobacco industry product is a hybrid system to generate aerosol by heating, but not burning, a combination of substrate materials. The substrate materials may comprise for example solid, liquid or gel which may or may not contain nicotine. In one embodiment, the hybrid system comprises a liquid or gel substrate and a solid substrate. The solid substrate may be for example tobacco or other non-tobacco products, which may or may not contain nicotine. In one embodiment the hybrid system comprises a liquid or gel substrate and tobacco.

The apparatus 1 detailed herein is particularly described with reference to packaging for tobacco industry products, for example cigarettes. However, it will be appreciated that the packaging may alternatively be used to package non-tobacco-industry products. For example, the packaging may alternatively be used to packaging any consumer product, such as an article or a product. In examples, the packaging is used to package food products, electronics, or other consumer goods, such as for example tissues.

In order to address various issues and advance the art, the entirety of this disclosure shows by way of illustration various embodiments in which the claimed invention(s) maybe practiced and provide for superior packaging apparatus. The advantages and features of the disclosure are of a representative sample of embodiments only, and are not exhaustive and/ or exclusive. They are presented only to assist in understanding and teach the claimed features. It is to be understood that advantages, embodiments, examples, functions, features, structures, and/or other aspects of the disclosure are not to be considered limitations on the disclosure as defined by the claims or limitations on equivalents to the claims, and that other embodiments may be utilised and

modifications maybe made without departing from the scope and/or spirit of the disclosure. Various embodiments may suitably comprise, consist of, or consist essentially of, various combinations of the disclosed elements, components, features, parts, steps, means, etc. In addition, the disclosure includes other inventions not presently claimed, but which may be claimed in future.