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1. WO2020109839 - FACE MASK TIE MANAGEMENT INSERT

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

[ EN ]

FACE MASK TIE MANAGEMENT INSERT

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The subject matter of the present invention relates generally to an insert for the packaging and dispensing of one of multiple face masks from a container without tangling the tie strings of the masks.

BACKGROUND

Surgeons, nurses, and other healthcare professionals often wear surgical masks to prevent the spread of infection through contact with the body fluids of patients. Additionally, healthcare professionals are often required to wear sterile surgical masks during surgical procedures to maintain the sterile environment. Non-sterile surgical masks are often formed of a flat, rectangular panel which covers the face of the wearer, with multiple ties or strings attached to the corners of the rectangular panel. In some instances, the sterile face mask additionally includes a transparent eye shield attached to the upper portion of the rectangular panel for protecting the wearer’s eyes.

The masks are generally stacked, sold and stored together and are intended to be removed one by one for use. Inevitably, the tie strings of the stacked masks become tangled. The entangled tie strings require time and effort to separate the masks from each other, often leading to inadvertently handling the masks that remain in the package or removing multiple masks at once. Handling or removing the remaining masks from the package exposes the extra masks to microorganisms that may contaminate the extra masks. This contamination may expose patients to infections.

The only way to avoid such risk of contamination is to throw away all the masks that were handled when they were untangled, resulting in unnecessary waste. Because hospitals must both reduce costs and maintain sanitary conditions, contamination or waste of the masks is unacceptable.

An alternative packaging method for surgical masks involves individually folding each and every string of every mask such that the tie strings are isolated from one another before the masks are stacked and placed into a dispenser. This method generally requires manual folding of the tie strings, which incurs additional expensive manufacturing costs and tedious labor.

One solution is to provide a packaging container, such as a box, having an opening for dispensing the face masks and providing a separate compartment within the box for containing the tie strings to avoid entanglement. For example, a plurality of masks may be stacked and positioned so that all the strings hang in one direction forming two columns of tie strings hanging distal to the opening of the dispenser.

U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,269,315 (Boyce); 4,673,084 (Hubbard et. al.); 5,615,767 (Eull et. al.); French patent FR 2350823; and German patent DE 7607669 disclose containers for dispensing face masks having compartments for gathering the tie strings. However, these containers are often formed from large, complex blanks of cardboard or other material and require complex folding and/or adhesives to maintain the structure of the container to separate the tie strings from the masks. As a result, these dispensers require additional manufacturing and assembly time and cost.

Furthermore, even with specialized containers as described above, the problem of handling or removing multiple masks at once is not eliminated. For example, some containers are so difficult to remove masks from that healthcare professionals tear off the lid to access the masks, leaving the remaining masks exposed to contamination.

Consequently, there is a need for a packaging solution that overcomes the shortcomings of existing packaging for dispensing of sterile face masks to reduce waste and contamination of the masks.

SUMMARY

The present invention is directed to an insert for managing tie strings of a plurality of face masks within a dispenser package, where each face mask includes a face mask body and left and right tie strings. The insert includes a body having a lower portion, an upper portion, a neck connecting the lower portion and the upper portion, and a cut-out portion for the tie strings formed between the lower portion, the neck, and the upper portion.

In one particular embodiment, the cut-out portion can include first and second channels.

In addition, the left and right tie strings of the face masks can be configured to extend through the first and second channels, respectively.

In one more embodiment, the upper portion of the insert can be wider than the lower portion of the insert.

In yet another embodiment, the upper portion of the insert can include a first flap and a second flap.

In addition, the first flap and the second flap can extend from opposing sides of the upper portion.

Further, the lower portion of the insert can define a first side edge and a second side edge, wherein the first flap can extend beyond the first side edge and the second flap can extend beyond the second side edge.

Moreover, the neck can include a fold region having a crease for folding the lower portion up to face the upper portion.

Additionally, the first and second flaps can be configured to be folded over first and second side edges of the lower portion towards a central axis of the insert, respectively, when the neck is folded at the crease to secure the left and right tie strings in the insert.

Further, a lower edge of each of the plurality of face masks can be configured to rest adjacent the fold region.

Moreover, the tie strings can be configured to extend in a direction distally from the fold region.

In still yet another embodiment, the ratio of the width of the neck to the width of the lower portion can range from about 1 :1.5 to about 1 :4.

In an additional embodiment, the ratio of the width of the lower portion to the width of the upper portion can range from about 1 :1 to about 1 :2.

In one more embodiment, the insert can be configured to secure the plurality of face masks by folding the body to hold the tie strings in place.

In yet another embodiment, the insert can be made of paper or cardboard material.

In still another embodiment, the insert can be made of a single layer of material.

In an additional embodiment, the insert can be formed in one piece.

In one more embodiment, the lower portion can have a width ranging from about 17.8 cm to about 25.4 cm.

In yet another embodiment, the upper portion can have a width ranging from about 25.4 cm to about 35.6 cm.

In still another embodiment, the neck can have a width ranging from about 6.3 cm to about 1 1.4 cm.

In one more embodiment, the lower portion can have a width ranging from about 17.8 cm to about 25.4 cm, the upper portion can have a width ranging from about 25.4 cm to about 35.6 cm, and the neck can have a width ranging from about 6.3 cm to about 11.4 cm.

The present invention additionally relates to a face mask tie management system. The face mask tie management system includes a package for dispensing face masks, wherein the package includes an opening for dispensing the face masks, and an insert. The insert can include a body having a lower portion, an upper portion, a neck connecting the lower portion and the upper portion, and a cut-out portion for the tie strings formed between the lower portion, the neck, and the upper portion.

In another embodiment of the face mask tie management system, the system further includes a stack of face masks, wherein the tie strings of the stack of face masks can be secured by the insert, wherein the stack of face masks having tie strings secured by the insert can be positioned inside the package such that the face masks can be dispensed from the package one at a time.

The present invention further relates to a method of managing tie strings of a plurality of face masks for dispensing the plurality of face masks. Each face mask can include a face mask body and left and right tie strings. The method includes steps of:

providing the plurality of face masks in a stack, wherein the mask bodies are stacked on top of each other; providing an insert for managing the tie strings of the plurality of face masks, the insert including a body having a lower portion, an upper portion, and a neck connecting the lower portion and the upper portion; and a cut-out portion for the tie strings, wherein the cut-out portion comprises first and second channels formed by the lower portion, the neck, and the upper portion; positioning the left and right tie strings through the first and second channels of the insert, respectively;

folding the lower portion of the insert up toward the upper portion; and securing the tie strings by folding flaps on each opposing end of the upper portion over respective side edges of the lower portion towards a central axis of the insert to secure the insert in a folded configuration.

These and other features, aspects, and advantages of the present invention will become better understood with reference to the following description and appended claims. The accompanying drawings, which are incorporated and constitute a part of this specification, illustrate embodiments of the invention and, together with the description, serve to explain the principles of the invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

A full and enabling disclosure of the present invention, including the best mode thereof, directed to one of ordinary skill in the art, is set forth in the

specification, which makes reference to the appended figures, in which:

Figure 1 is a top view of a tie management insert according to the present invention before the insert has been folded or assembled with a stack of face masks to secure the stack of masks.

Figure 2 is a rear view of an exemplary stack of face masks which may be used with the insert of Figure 1.

Figure 3 is a rear view of the partially-assembled tie management insert of Figure 1 with a stack of face masks in which the tie strings of the face masks have been received in the channels of the insert.

Figure 4 is a rear view of the partially-assembled tie management insert of Figure 1 with a stack of face masks in which the rear portion of the insert has been folded upward.

Figure 5 rear view of an assembled configuration of the tie management insert wherein the insert has secured a stack of face masks.

Figure 6 is a front view an assembled configuration of the tie management insert wherein the insert has secured a stack of face masks.

Figure 7 is a perspective view of the tie management system of the present invention wherein the tie management insert has secured a stack of face masks and is placed within a dispenser.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Reference now will be made in detail to embodiments of the invention, one or more examples of which are illustrated in the drawings. Each example is provided by way of explanation of the invention, not limitation of the invention. In fact, it will be apparent to those skilled in the art that various modifications and variations can be

made in the present invention without departing from the scope or spirit of the invention. For instance, features illustrated or described as part of one embodiment can be used with another embodiment to yield a still further embodiment. Thus, it is intended that the present invention covers such modifications and variations as come within the scope of the appended claims and their equivalents.

Generally speaking, the present invention is directed to a tie management system comprising an insert for managing the tie strings of a stack of surgical masks within a container. The insert has left- and right-side channels to segregate the respective left and right tie strings of the stack of surgical masks during packaging and to prevent the inadvertent dispensing of multiple face masks at once. Further, the tie management insert has a lower portion, an upper portion, a neck and a cut out portion which form the channels. The neck comprises a fold region from which the lower portion is folded up toward the upper portion. The bottom edges of the stack of surgical face masks are configured to rest adjacent to the fold region.

Further, the upper portion has left- and right-side flaps that are folded over the left-and right-side edges of the lower portion when the lower portion is folded upward at the fold region. The flaps of the upper portion secure the upper portion to the lower portion to hold the segregated tie strings, and thus the surgical masks, in place.

Referring now to Figure 1 , a tie management insert 100 contemplated by the present invention is shown in a flat, unfolded configuration before the insert has been folded and secured about the tie strings in a stack of face masks. The insert 100 has an upper portion 102, a lower portion 104, and a neck 106 connecting the upper portion 102 and the lower portion 104. The insert 100 further has a cut-out portion 1 10 formed between the upper portion 102, the neck 106, and the lower portion 104. The cut-out portion 110 includes a first channel 108a and a second channel 108b. The neck 106 may also define a fold region where the insert 100 may be folded such that the lower portion 104 is folded up toward the upper portion 102. Specifically, the fold may occur at the crease 1 12 located on a portion of the neck 106 adjacent to the lower portion 104. The crease 1 12 may approximately bisect a height hi of the insert 100, although it is to be understood that the crease 1 12 may be located anywhere along a height h2 of the of the neck 106. The crease 1 12 may be generally perpendicular to a central axis or midline M of the insert 100. The upper portion 102 of the insert 100 further includes a first flap 1 14a and a second flap 1 14b which are used to secure the upper portion 102 to the lower portion 104 when the insert 100 is in the folded configuration. The first and second flaps 114a and 1 14b each extend wider than respective first and second side edges 1 18a and 118b of the lower portion 104. The first flap 1 14a and second flap 1 14b have first and second fold lines 1 16a and 116b, respectively. The fold lines 1 16a and 1 16b are approximately parallel to and can be aligned with the first and second side edges 1 18a and 1 18b of the lower portion 104.

The insert 100 can be formed in one piece out of a paper, stock, or cardboard material. The insert can also be formed in one piece out of a rigid or semi-rigid plastic material. In one embodiment, a single layer of material is used. As will be demonstrated below, no adhesive or fastener is required or used to hold the insert 100 in its final folded configuration.

As shown in Figure 1 , the lower portion 104 has an outer width wi extending between the first and second side edges 118a and 1 18b of the lower portion 104. The neck has an inner width w2. The upper portion 102 has an outer width w3. The flaps 1 14a and 1 14b each have a flap width w4. The sides of the lower portion 104 extending wider than the inner width w2 of the neck 106 have a width w5. As mentioned above, the insert 100 has an overall height hi and the neck 106 and the channels 108a and 108b of the cut-out portion 1 10 have a height h2. The lower portion 104 has a height h3.

The outer width w-i of the lower portion 104 may range from about 7 inches (17.8 cm) to about 10 inches (25.4 cm), such as from about 8 inches (20.3 cm) to about 9 inches (22.9 cm). In one particular embodiment, the outer width wi of the lower portion 104 may be about 8.6 inches (21.84 cm). The inner width w2 of the neck 106 may range from about 2.5 inches (6.35 cm) to about 4.5 inches (1 1.4 cm), such as from about 3 inches (7.6 cm) to about 4 inches (10.2 cm). In one particular embodiment, the inner width w2 of the neck 106 may be about 3.33 inches (8.46 cm). The ratio of the width w2 of the neck 106 to the width wi of the lower portion 104 may range from about 1 :1.5 to about 1 :4. The outer width w3 of the upper portion 102 may range from about 10 inches (25.4 cm) to about 14 inches (35.6 cm), such as from about 1 1 inches (27.9 cm) to about 13 inches (33 cm). In one particular embodiment, the outer width w3 of the upper portion 102 may be about 12 inches (30.48 cm). The ratio of the width w-i of the lower portion 104 to the width w3 of the upper portion 102 may range from about 1 :1 to about 1 :2. The flap width w4 may range from greater than 0 inches (0 cm) to about 2 inches (5.1 cm). The width w5 of the sides of the lower portion 104 extending wider than the inner width w2 of the neck 106 may range from about 1.25 inches (3.2 cm) to about 3.75 inches (9.5 cm). The height hi of the insert 100 may range from about 5 inches (12.7 cm) to about 10 inches (25.4 cm), such as from about 6 inches (15.2 cm) to about 9 inches (22.9 cm). In one particular embodiment, the height hi of the insert 100 may be about 7.5 inches (19.05 cm). The height h2 of the neck 106 and the channels 108a and 108b of the cut-out portion 1 10 may range from about 1 inch (2.5 cm) to about 3 inches (7.6 cm), such as from about 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) to about 2.5 inches (6.6 cm). In one particular embodiment, the height h2 of the neck 106 and the channels 108a and 108b may be about 2 inches (2.08 cm). In addition, the height h3 of the lower portion 104 can be approximately one half the total height hi of the insert.

Next, Figure 2 shows a rear view of an exemplary stack of masks 200 that can be secured by the insert 100 of the present invention. The stack of masks 200 includes rectangular-shaped mask bodies 202 formed of conventional surgical mask material, such as a multi-layered material which is permeable to air. The mask bodies 202 have a bottom edge 210. Attached to an upper edge of each of the mask bodies 202 is an eye shield 208 formed of substantially transparent, flexible material. The mask bodies 202 each have a means for securing the mask on the face of the wearer. Advantageously, this can be a pair of tie strings on each side of the surgical mask body 202 forming left tie strings 204 and right tie strings 206. Moreover, it is to be understood that although the means for securing the mask is shown as a pair of left 204 and right 206 tie strings, tie strings or other elongated fasteners may be present in other quantities than those specifically shown in Figure 2.

Turning now to Figures 3-6, the steps for assembling the insert 100 to secure the tie strings of the stack of masks 200 are illustrated.

First, the insert 100 is positioned over the back of the stack of masks 200 such that the upper portion 102 of the insert 100 contacts the rear of the rectangular mask bodies 202. The left-side tie strings 204 are gathered and pulled through the first channel 108a of the insert 100, and the right-side tie strings 206 are gathered and pulled through the second channel 108b, such that the left-side tie strings 204 and the right-side tie strings 206 lay on top of the lower portion 104 of the insert 100, as shown in Figure 3. The free ends of the tie strings 204 and 206 extend distally away from the neck 106 and crease 112.

Next, the insert 100 is folded along the crease 1 12 so that the lower portion 104 is folded upward to face the upper portion 102. At the same time, the gathered left-side tie strings 204 and right-side tie-strings 206 are brought upward such that the left-side tie strings 204 and the right-side tie strings 206 lay on top of the upper portion 102 and the eye shields 208, as shown in Figure 4, so that the free ends of the tie strings 204 and 206 remain extending distally from the neck 106 and crease 1 12. In this configuration, the flaps 114a and 1 14b of the upper portion 102 extend out toward the left and right sides, respectively, wider than the width wi of the lower portion.

Finally, the first flap 1 14a is folded along fold line 1 16a towards the central axis or midline M of the insert 100 such that flap 1 14a contacts and secures the first side edge 1 18a of the lower portion 104, and the second flap 1 14b is folded along fold line 1 16b towards a central axis or midline M of the insert 100 such that flap 1 14b contacts and secures the second side edge 118b of the lower portion 104, as shown in Figure 5. In this final folded configuration of the tie management insert system, the stack of masks 200 is secured within the folded insert 100. The left- and right-side tie strings 204 and 206 remain secured in their respective channels 108a and 108b and segregated from each other. The tie strings are further segregated from the mask bodies 202 so that the groups of tie strings 204 and 206 are secured from being pulled out by the dispensing of a mask.

Figure 6 illustrates a front view of this final folded and secured configuration.

In this configuration, only one mask of the stack of masks 200 is visible from an exposed surface for access at any given time.

As shown in Figure 7, the final folded and secured stack of masks 200 about the insert 100 may then be inserted into any suitable package or dispenser 302 as part of a face mask dispensing system 300. The dispenser 302 may include an aperture 304 through which the front mask of the stack of masks 200 is exposed and may be removed, as seen in Figure 7. As the front exposed mask is removed, the tie strings 204 and 206 connected thereto slide through the channels 108a and 108b of the insert 100 and out the aperture 304. The segregated channels 108a and 108b therefore prevent the ties 204 and 206 from becoming entangled with one another and allows smoother release of the mask from the dispenser 302. As a result, the removal of the front mask of the stack of masks 200 will not result in the removal or handling of other masks in the stack 200.

The tie management insert 100 of the present invention significantly reduces the occurrence of both packaging defects and dispensing errors of a stack of masks 200 within a box or container in the clinical setting.

Samples of three different types of dispensers for surgical masks were tested to evaluate the reduction in waste generated by the tie management insert of the present invention (Code H) as compared to a current mask dispenser (Code C) and a leading competitor’s mask dispenser (Code R). In the study, dispensers were place on a shelf that simulated a hospital operating room scrub area. Healthcare professionals, who were the test subjects, were instructed to dispense a mask as they would in a clinical environment. The test results are provided in Tables 1 and 2 below.

TABLE 1


As shown in Table 1 , the tie management system of the present invention

(Code H) yielded significantly fewer dispensing errors as compared to the current and competitive mask dispensers.

TABLE 2


As shown in Table 2, the tie management system of the present invention (Code H) yielded significantly fewer packaging defects as compared to the current and competitive mask dispensers.

Due to the significant reduction in both dispensing errors by healthcare professionals, and packaging defects of the mask dispenser, the tie management

insert system of the present invention had a significant reduction in overall waste as compared to the current and competitive mask dispensers.

This written description uses examples to disclose the invention, including the best mode, and also to enable any person skilled in the art to practice the invention, including making and using any devices or systems and performing any incorporated methods. The patentable scope of the invention is defined by the claims and may include other examples that occur to those skilled in the art. Such other examples are intended to be within the scope of the claims if they include structural elements that do not differ from the literal language of the claims or if they include equivalent structural elements with insubstantial differences from the literal language of the claims.