(19)
(11)EP 3 429 930 B1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT SPECIFICATION

(45)Mention of the grant of the patent:
06.05.2020 Bulletin 2020/19

(21)Application number: 17712076.3

(22)Date of filing:  16.03.2017
(51)Int. Cl.: 
B65B 55/10  (2006.01)
A61L 2/00  (2006.01)
B65B 65/00  (2006.01)
A61L 2/20  (2006.01)
B65B 35/30  (2006.01)
(86)International application number:
PCT/EP2017/056293
(87)International publication number:
WO 2017/158118 (21.09.2017 Gazette  2017/38)

(54)

PROCESS OF STERILIZATION OF A PACKAGING SYSTEM, AND ELEMENT FOR CLOSING THE INTERFACE OPENING BETWEEN AN APPARATUS FOR STERILIZING CONTAINERS AND A FILLING MACHINE

VERFAHREN ZUM STERILISIEREN EINES VERPACKUNGSSYSTEMS UND ELEMENT ZUM VERSCHLIESSEN DER SCHNITTSTELLENÖFFNUNG ZWISCHEN EINER VORRICHTUNG ZUM STERILISIEREN VON BEHÄLTNISSEN UND EINER FÜLLMASCHINE

PROCÉDÉ DE STÉRILISATION D'UN SYSTÈME D'EMBALLAGE, ET ÉLÉMENT DE FERMETURE DE L'OUVERTURE D'INTERFACE ENTRE UN APPAREIL DE STÉRILISATION DE CONTENANTS ET UNE MACHINE DE REMPLISSAGE


(84)Designated Contracting States:
AL AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MK MT NL NO PL PT RO RS SE SI SK SM TR

(30)Priority: 17.03.2016 IT UA20161756

(43)Date of publication of application:
23.01.2019 Bulletin 2019/04

(73)Proprietor: I.M.A. Industria Macchine Automatiche S.p.A
70064 Ozzano dell'Emilia (BO) (IT)

(72)Inventor:
  • MEONI, Eddi
    40064 Ozzano Dell'Emilia (IT)

(74)Representative: Modiano, Micaela Nadia et al
Modiano & Partners Via Meravigli, 16
20123 Milano
20123 Milano (IT)


(56)References cited: : 
EP-A1- 0 570 946
DE-C1- 19 817 735
DE-A1- 19 726 222
US-A- 5 022 165
  
      
    Note: Within nine months from the publication of the mention of the grant of the European patent, any person may give notice to the European Patent Office of opposition to the European patent granted. Notice of opposition shall be filed in a written reasoned statement. It shall not be deemed to have been filed until the opposition fee has been paid. (Art. 99(1) European Patent Convention).


    Description


    [0001] The present invention relates to a process of sterilization of a packaging system, and to an element for closing the interface opening between an apparatus for sterilizing containers and a filling machine.

    [0002] In some industrial sectors (in particular the pharmaceutical sector, but also, in some cases in the food industry, in the cosmetics industry etc.) it is necessary to sterilize the containers that will subsequently be filled with the product (of interest to the end user).

    [0003] The aim of the preliminary sterilization of the containers is linked to the need to not contaminate in any way the product with which they will be filled.

    [0004] For this reason, there is a step of sterilization in which the sterilization is carried out of the entire sterilization apparatus (in particular its internal chamber within which the containers are conveyed) and of the filling machine (in this case too concentrating on just the area within which the containers or the product are conveyed). The combination of the sterilization apparatus and the filling machine constitutes a packaging system.

    [0005] Usually in sterilization apparatuses, a high temperature is created inside the chamber for conveying the containers, in order to eliminate the contaminants.

    [0006] In particular the apparatuses comprise an entry station of the containers (which does not need to be subjected to sterilization), a sterilization station (within which the containers are subjected to elevate temperatures) and a cooling station (in which the containers are returned to temperatures suitable to their subsequent filling).

    [0007] In a preliminary step before putting the sterilization apparatus into operation, it is necessary that the cooling station also be subjected to high temperatures, in order to ensure that the containers, inside it, cannot in any way be contaminated.

    [0008] In order to allow the creation of the necessary sterilization temperature in the cooling station, the opening from such station through which the containers exit is closed (this is the opening connected to the entry to the filling machine, arranged downstream) using an adapted closure door.

    [0009] Similarly, the filling machines also need to be subjected to a preliminary sterilization treatment, so as to eliminate and/or inertize all the potentially contaminant residues present inside them.

    [0010] In particular the use is known of VHP (Vaporized Hydrogen Peroxide), diffused inside the machine, in order to execute these sterilization operations.

    [0011] In order to prevent leaks of the sterilization vapors, and their entry into the cooling station of the sterilization apparatus arranged upstream (through the connection opening), the door to close the sterilization apparatus makes it possible to segregate the internal volume of the filling machine as well (by delimiting the volume in which the hydrogen peroxide vapors can circulate).

    [0012] It is clear that, by virtue of these operations, it is possible to carry out an accurate sterilization of the entire packaging line.

    [0013] In reality however, there is one area that is not subjected to any sterilization: this is an edge of the opening on which the closure door is overlaid.

    [0014] The door will in fact be characterized by a surface juxtaposed with the aforementioned edge of the opening, with the interposition of a specific gasket, in order to ensure the temporary mutual isolation of the sterilization apparatus and of the filling machine.

    [0015] It is therefore evident that the sterilization operations will be effective upstream and downstream of the gasket of the door, while the portion of opening that is juxtaposed with the gasket will not undergo any sterilization and may therefore comprise some contaminant substances.

    [0016] The aim of the present invention is to solve the above mentioned drawbacks, by providing a process of sterilization of a packaging system that extends to all the parts and the components facing the conveyance path of the containers.

    [0017] Within this aim, an object of the invention is to provide an element for closing the interface opening between an apparatus for sterilizing containers and a filling machine that makes it possible to subject every part of the apparatus and of the machine to sterilization operations and, in particular, the entire surface of the edges delimiting the opening.

    [0018] Another object of the present invention is to provide an element for closing the interface opening between an apparatus for sterilizing containers and a filling machine that enables the execution of extraordinary sterilization operations of the apparatus and of the machine in the traditional manner.

    [0019] Another object of the invention is to provide an element for closing the interface opening between an apparatus for sterilizing containers and a filling machine in which the shape, technical structure and operation are substantially different from those of conventional packaging systems.

    [0020] Another object of the present invention is to provide an element for closing the interface opening between an apparatus for sterilizing containers and a filling machine, which are low cost, easily and practically implemented, and safe in use.

    [0021] This aim and these and other objects which will become better apparent hereinafter are achieved by a process of sterilization of a packaging system, constituted by an apparatus for sterilizing containers and by a filling machine, which consists in:
    • arranging a door so as to close the interface opening defined between said apparatus for sterilizing containers and said filling machine, at least two expandable gaskets, each closed onto itself, being interposed between said door and said opening and coupled to a perimetric region of a component chosen from either said door or the delimiting edge of said opening,
    • subjecting said sterilization apparatus to sterilization, keeping inactive, therefore with minimum space occupation and separated from said door, the gasket that lies closest to said apparatus and keeping expanded, therefore with maximum space occupation and in hermetic abutment against said door, the gasket that lies furthest from said apparatus,
    • subjecting said filling machine to sterilization, keeping inactive, therefore with minimum space occupation and separated from said door, the gasket that lies closest to said machine and keeping expanded, therefore with maximum space occupation and in hermetic abutment against said door, the gasket that lies furthest from said machine.


    [0022] Such aim and such objects are also achieved by an element for closing the interface opening between an apparatus for sterilizing containers and a filling machine, characterized in that it comprises a door, which can move between a first configuration of juxtaposition and closure of said opening and a second configuration of misalignment and opening of said opening, between said door and the edge of said opening, and juxtaposed therewith in said first configuration, there being interposed and coupled to a perimetric region of a component chosen from either said door or the delimiting edge of said opening at least two continuous and closed perimetric gaskets, which delimit said opening, each gasket being expandable independently, upon the expansion of at least one first gasket, at least one second gasket, not subjected to expansion, being connected to the internal compartment of either said sterilization apparatus or said filling machine, therefore undergoing the respective sterilization treatment simultaneously with said compartment.

    [0023] Further characteristics and advantages of the invention will become better apparent from the detailed description that follows of a preferred, but not exclusive, embodiment of the process of sterilization of a packaging system and of the element for closing the interface opening between an apparatus for sterilizing containers and a filling machine according to the invention, which is illustrated by way of non-limiting example in the accompanying drawings, wherein:

    Figure 1 is a cross-sectional side view taken along a transverse plane of a connection area defined between a sterilization apparatus and a filling machine, which comprises an interface opening on which a closing element according to the invention is overlaid;

    Figure 2 is a schematic cross-sectional side view taken along a transverse plane of the flow of sterilized containers between a sterilization apparatus and a filling machine;

    Figure 3 is a schematic cross-sectional side view taken along a transverse plane of the step of interrupting the flow of sterilized containers between a sterilization apparatus and a filling machine;

    Figure 4 is a schematic cross-sectional side view taken along a transverse plane of the step of interrupting the conveyance path of the containers between a sterilization apparatus and a filling machine;

    Figure 5 is a schematic cross-sectional side view taken along a transverse plane of the step of closing the opening between a sterilization apparatus and a filling machine in order to carry out the sterilization of the sterilization apparatus;

    Figure 6 is a schematic cross-sectional side view taken along a transverse plane of the step of closing the opening between a sterilization apparatus and a filling machine in order to carry out the sterilization of the filling machine.



    [0024] With reference to the figures, an element for closing the interface opening 2 between an apparatus A for sterilizing containers C and a filling machine B is generally designated by the reference numeral 1: the sterilization apparatus A and the filling machine B constitute a packaging system.

    [0025] According to the invention, the innovative sterilization process of a packaging system entails a series of consecutive steps intended to ensure an optimal sterilization of all the parts of the plant through which the containers C can pass (with the aim of preventing them from being subjected to a contaminant agent during the steps of packaging).

    [0026] Firstly it is necessary to arrange a door 3 so as to close the interface opening 2, defined between the sterilization apparatus A and the filling machine B.

    [0027] At least two expandable gaskets 4 and 5, each closed onto itself, are interposed between the door 3 and the opening 2 and coupled to a perimetric region of a component chosen from either the door 3 or the delimiting edge of the opening.

    [0028] It is then necessary to subject the sterilization apparatus A to sterilization, keeping inactive, therefore with minimum space occupation and separated from the door 3, the gasket 4 that lies closest to the apparatus A. In this step the gasket 5, i.e. the one that lies furthest from the apparatus A, will instead be expanded, therefore with maximum space occupation: such condition will determine the abutment of the (expanded) gasket 5 against the door 3 so as to define a mutual hermetic mating.

    [0029] During this step of sterilization of the apparatus A, the temperature inside the apparatus A will be increased to extremely high levels (at least higher than 100°C, and often far higher). The high-temperature air inside the apparatus A can circulate freely in the entire volume inside it and can also strike the surface of the door 3 that faces and is proximate to the inactive gasket 4.

    [0030] In this manner, during the sterilization of the apparatus A, the sterilization will also occur of the inactive gasket 4 and also of the parts of the door 3 and opening 2 that are arranged upstream of the gasket 5 (which ensures the hermetic closure of the apparatus A proper).

    [0031] Subsequently, it will become necessary to subject the filling machine B to sterilization, keeping inactive, therefore with minimum space occupation and separated from the door 3, the gasket 5 that lies closest to the machine B and keeping expanded, therefore with maximum space occupation and in hermetic abutment against the door, the gasket 4 that lies furthest from the machine B.

    [0032] During this step of sterilization of the machine B, VHP (vaporized hydrogen peroxide) is diffused inside the machine B. Such vapors, present inside the machine B, can circulate freely in the entire volume inside it and can also strike the surface of the door 3 that faces and is proximate to the inactive gasket 5.

    [0033] In this manner, during the sterilization of the machine B, the sterilization will also occur of the inactive gasket 5 and also of the parts of the door 3 and opening 2 that are arranged upstream of the gasket 4 (which ensures the hermetic closure of the apparatus A proper).

    [0034] In the transition from the step of sterilizing the apparatus A to the step of sterilizing the machine B, there is an intermediate step in which both the gaskets 4 and 5 will be in the expanded configuration.

    [0035] Both the gaskets 4 and 5 can return to the inactive configuration which corresponds to the minimum space occupation, only at the end of both steps of sterilization: at this point it will also be possible to remove the door 3 in order to reopen the opening 2.

    [0036] According to a specific form of execution of the process according to the invention, the expansion of the gaskets 4 and 5 can positively be obtained by way of the independent inflation thereof. In such case, it will be necessary to have a respective pneumatic supply circuit controlled by way of a solenoid valve (or other component equivalent thereto) which is controlled by a control and management unit.

    [0037] It should be noted that the apparatus A for sterilizing the containers C and the machine B are separate devices: the conveyance path for the containers C therefore necessarily has a point of discontinuity between the apparatus A and the machine B.

    [0038] In order to allow the easy conveyance of the containers C from the apparatus A to the machine B, there is a guide bridge 6 that can be juxtaposed to the area of discontinuity of the conveyance paths defined respectively on the apparatus A and on the machine B.

    [0039] When a sterilization needs to be carried out of the apparatus A and of the machine B, it is necessary to have a preliminary step of interrupting the conveyance path of the containers C, which consists in removing the guide bridge 6 (designed to form an interconnection between the portion of the conveyance path that is inside the apparatus A and is terminal with respect to it and the portion of the conveyance path that is inside the machine B and is initial with respect to it).

    [0040] The process according to the invention is briefly illustrated in Figures 2 to 6 accompanying this application.

    [0041] Figure 2 illustrates a standard step of operation of the packaging system in which the containers C, after having been subjected to sterilization in the apparatus A, move past the opening 2 (by sliding along the guide bridge 6) and arrive at the filling machine B inside which they will be filled with a specific product (for example a medicine).

    [0042] Figure 3 shows the interruption of the flow of containers C, for example as a consequence of the necessity to intervene in the system for maintenance operations.

    [0043] It is useful to highlight that, when the containers C leave the active conveyor inside the apparatus A they are no longer able to advance on their own toward the station B (the guide bridge 6 does not comprise any drive unit).

    [0044] The use is therefore known of a pusher 7 that will transfer the containers C along the guide bridge 6, up to the machine B.

    [0045] Once all the containers C have been processed, it will be possible to interrupt the operation of the packaging system, and this can also correspond to the interruption of the movement of the conveyance path (both the part inside the apparatus A and the part inside the machine B).

    [0046] In Figure 4 it can be seen that, having reached this point, it will be possible to move the guide bridge 6, thus producing a discontinuity in the conveyance path (between the part inside the apparatus A and the part inside the machine B).

    [0047] Figure 5 shows the step of sterilizing the apparatus A.

    [0048] Firstly it should be noted that the door 3 is in the configuration to close the opening 2: it is possible to see that the gasket 4 (outermost, and closest to the apparatus A) is in the inactive condition (minimum space occupation and separated from the door 3) while the gasket 5 (innermost, and furthest from the apparatus A) is expanded (maximum space occupation and in hermetic abutment against the door 3).

    [0049] The hot air found inside the apparatus A during its sterilization can therefore flow from the outline of the door 3 along its face directed toward the machine B, and strike the inactive gasket 4 and the outer surface of the expanded gasket 5, as well as the parts of the door 3 and the edge of the opening 2 that are delimited between the gaskets 4 and 5.

    [0050] Once sterilization of the apparatus A has finished, the expansion of the gasket 4 will be begun.

    [0051] Figure 5 shows the step of sterilizing the machine B, in which the gasket 5 (innermost, and closest to the machine B) is in the inactive condition (minimum space occupation and separated from the door 3) while the gasket 4 (outermost, and furthest from the machine B) is expanded (maximum space occupation and in hermetic abutment against the door 3).

    [0052] The hydrogen peroxide vapors that are found inside the machine B during the sterilization thereof can therefore flow from the outline of the door 3 also along its face directed toward the apparatus A, and strike the inactive gasket 5 and the outer surface of the expanded gasket 4, as well as the parts of the door 3 and the edge of the opening 2 that are delimited between the gaskets 4 and 5.

    [0053] In this manner, it has been seen that the process of sterilization according to the invention makes it possible to eliminate the risks of contamination on every part of the packaging system and, in particular, also on the door 3 and on the portions of the opening 2 that are proximate thereto (as well as on the gaskets 4 and 5).

    [0054] The present invention also relates to an innovative element 1 for closing the interface opening 2 between an apparatus A for sterilizing containers C and a filling machine B that makes it possible to optimize the sterilization operations.

    [0055] The element 1 according to the invention comprises a door 3, which can move between a first configuration of juxtaposition and closure of the opening 2 (visible by way of example in the accompanying Figures 1, 5 and 6) and a second configuration of misalignment and opening of the opening 2 (visible by way of example in the accompanying Figures 2, 3 and 4).

    [0056] Between the door 3 and the edge of the opening 2, which are mutually juxtaposed in the first configuration (visible by way of example in the accompanying Figures 1, 5 and 6), at least two continuous and closed perimetric gaskets 4 and 5 are interposed.

    [0057] The gaskets 4 and 5 delimit the opening 2: each gasket 4 and 5 is independently expandable.

    [0058] Upon the expansion of at least one first gasket 4 or 5, at least one second gasket 5 or 4, not subjected to expansion, will be conveniently connected to the internal compartment of either the sterilization apparatus A or the filling machine B, therefore undergoing the respective sterilization treatment simultaneously with such compartment.

    [0059] It is useful to point out that the expandable gaskets 4 and 5 are inflatable: the respective inflation will be done by a respective pneumatic supply circuit controlled by a respective control and management unit (not shown in the accompanying figures).

    [0060] According to a specific embodiment of undoubted applicative interest, the door 3 can positively be slideable parallel to the opening 2: such embodiment is the one shown by way of example in the accompanying figures.

    [0061] In the first configuration of juxtaposition and closure of the opening 2, the perimetric frame 8 of the door 3 will be aligned and proximate to the edge 9 of the opening 2.

    [0062] The expandable gaskets 4 and 5 will be one inside the other (with a geometric shape structure substantially complementary to that of the opening 2 proper); the gaskets 4 and 5 will be arranged substantially along the perimeter of the opening 2 and interposed between the perimetric frame 8 of the door 3 and the edge 9 of the opening 2.

    [0063] It should further be noted that, in the embodiment defined above, the perimetric edge 9 of the opening 2 comprises respective slots 10 for accommodating the gaskets 4 and 5.

    [0064] The gaskets 4 and 5, in the inactive configuration, therefore with minimum space occupation, can conveniently be contained within the slots 10; when on the other hand the gaskets 4 and 5 are in the expanded configuration, therefore with maximum space occupation, they will be protruding at least partially from the slots, and will therefore be in hermetic abutment against the perimetric frame 8 of the door 3.

    [0065] According to an alternative embodiment that is equally advantageous in terms of implementation, the door 3 can oscillate with respect to the opening 2 and is adapted to enter inside it, substantially with a snug fit.

    [0066] In this case the door 3 will define, with respect to the opening 2, a first configuration of juxtaposition and closure of the opening 2, at which the perimetric outline of the door 3 will effectively be aligned with and proximate to the edge of the opening 2.

    [0067] In this embodiment the expandable gaskets 4 and 5 will be arranged, side by side, substantially along the inner walls of the opening 2, and interposed between the perimetric outline of the door 3 and the inner walls of the opening 2.

    [0068] With particular reference to such embodiment, the inner walls of the opening 2 will comprise respective recesses for accommodating the gaskets 4 and 5.

    [0069] The gaskets 4 and 5 in such case, in the inactive configuration, therefore with minimum space occupation, will be contained within the recesses, while in the expanded configuration, therefore with maximum space occupation, will protrude at least partially from the recesses, in hermetic abutment against the perimetric outline of the door 3.

    [0070] With particular reference to an embodiment that enables an optimal operation of the packaging system, by defining the continuity of the conveyance path of the containers C between the apparatus A and the machine B and, at the same time, making it possible to interrupt such continuity simply and rapidly, the closing element 1 is controlled by an interconnection bridge 6 arranged along the conveyance path of the containers C from the sterilization apparatus A to the filling machine B.

    [0071] The bridge 6 can move between an active arrangement for alignment with the portion of the conveyance path that is inside the apparatus A and is terminal with respect to it, and with the portion of the conveyance path that is inside the machine B and is initial with respect to it.

    [0072] The bridge 6 constitutes a guiding gangway for the containers C in transit, and also defines an arrangement of interrupting the path, when it is substantially misaligned with respect to such portions of the apparatus A and of the machine B (such as for example shown in Figures 1, 5 and 6).

    [0073] Advantageously the aim of the present invention is to solve the above mentioned drawbacks, by providing a process of sterilization of a packaging system (constituted by a sterilization apparatus A and by a filling machine B) that is extended to all the parts and the components facing the conveyance path of the containers C.

    [0074] As seen previously, all the parts of the packaging system will be subjected to sterilization by adopting the process according to the invention.

    [0075] Positively the present invention also relates to an element 1 for closing the interface opening 2 between an apparatus A for sterilizing containers C and a filling machine B that makes it possible to subject every part of the apparatus A and of the machine B to sterilization operations and, in particular, the entire surface of the edges 9 delimiting the opening 2.

    [0076] Conveniently the closing element 1 according to the invention enables the execution of extraordinary sterilization operations of the apparatus A and of the machine B in the traditional manner, that is, without it being necessary to execute further steps or to adopt external machines in order to ensure the correct sterilization also of the interface area between the apparatus A and the machine B. It is in fact sufficient to use the expandable gaskets 4 and 5 in order to ensure the completeness of the sterilization, by exploiting the possibility to expand them independently during the sterilization of the apparatus A and of the machine B.

    [0077] Positively the element 1 for closing the opening 2 has a shape, a technical structure and an operation that are substantially different from those of conventional packaging systems, and therefore is original and innovative with respect thereto.

    [0078] Conveniently the sterilization process according to the invention and the closing element 1 according to the invention can be implemented relatively simply and at substantially low cost: such characteristics make the described technical solutions easy and safe to practically apply.

    [0079] The invention thus conceived is susceptible of numerous modifications and variations, all of which are within the scope of the appended claims.

    [0080] In the embodiments illustrated, individual characteristics shown in relation to specific examples may in reality be interchanged with other, different characteristics, existing in other embodiments.

    [0081] In practice, the materials employed, as well as the dimensions, may be any according to requirements and to the state of the art.

    [0082] Where technical features mentioned in any claim are followed by reference signs, those reference signs have been included for the sole purpose of increasing the intelligibility of the claims and accordingly, such reference signs do not have any limiting effect on the interpretation of each element identified by way of example by such reference signs.


    Claims

    1. A process of sterilization of a packaging system, constituted by an apparatus (A) for sterilizing containers (C) and by a filling machine (B), which consists in:

    - arranging a door (3) so as to close the interface opening (2) defined between said apparatus (A) for sterilizing containers (C) and said filling machine (B), at least two continuous and closed perimetric expandable gaskets (4, 5), being interposed between said door (3) and said opening (2) and coupled to a perimetric region of a component chosen from either said door (3) or the delimiting edge of said opening,

    - subjecting said sterilization apparatus (A) to sterilization, keeping inactive the gasket (4) that lies closest to said apparatus (A), therefore with minimum space occupation and separated from said door (3), and keeping expanded the gasket (5) that lies furthest from said apparatus (A), therefore with maximum space occupation and in hermetic abutment against said door (3),

    - subjecting said filling machine (B) to sterilization, keeping inactive the gasket (5) that lies closest to said machine (B), therefore with minimum space occupation and separated from said door (3), and keeping expanded the gasket (4) that lies furthest from said machine (B), therefore with maximum space occupation and in hermetic abutment against said door (3).


     
    2. The sterilization process according to claim 1, characterized in that said expansion of said gaskets (4, 5) is obtained by way of the independent inflation thereof.
     
    3. The sterilization process according to claim 1, characterized in that it comprises a preliminary step of interrupting the conveyance path of said containers (C) from said sterilization apparatus (A) to said filling machine (B), which consists in removing an interconnection bridge (6) that is arranged between the portion of said conveyance path that is inside said apparatus (A) and is terminal with respect to it and the portion of said conveyance path that is inside said machine (B) and is initial with respect to it.
     
    4. An element for closing the interface opening (2) between an apparatus (A) for sterilizing containers (C) and a filling machine (B), characterized in that it comprises a door (3), which can move between a first configuration of juxtaposition and closure of said opening (2) and a second configuration of opening of said opening (2), between said door (3) and the edge of said opening (2), and juxtaposed therewith in said first configuration, there being interposed and coupled to a perimetric region of a component chosen from either said door (3) or the delimiting edge of said opening at least two continuous and closed perimetric gaskets (4, 5), which delimit said opening (2), each gasket (4, 5) being expandable independently, upon the expansion of at least one first gasket (4, 5), at least one second gasket (5, 4), not subjected to expansion, being connected to the internal compartment of either said sterilization apparatus (A) or said filling machine (B), therefore undergoing the respective sterilization treatment simultaneously with said compartment.
     
    5. The closure element according to claim 4, characterized in that said expandable gaskets (4, 5) are of the type that can be inflated by way of a respective pneumatic supply circuit which is controlled by a respective control and management unit.
     
    6. The closure element according to claim 4, characterized in that said door (3) can slide parallel to said opening (2), in the first configuration of juxtaposition and closure of said opening (2) the perimetric frame (8) of said door (3) being aligned and proximate to the edge (9) of said opening (2), said expandable gaskets (4, 5) being one inside the other, and arranged substantially along the perimeter of said opening (2) and interposed between said perimetric frame (8) of said door (3) and said edge (9) of said opening (2).
     
    7. The closure element according to claim 6, characterized in that said perimetric edge (9) of said opening (2) comprises respective slots (10) for accommodating said gaskets (4, 5), said gaskets (4, 5), in the inactive configuration, therefore with minimum space occupation, being contained within said slots (10), and in the expanded configuration, therefore with maximum space occupation, protruding at least partially from said slots (10), in hermetic abutment against the perimetric frame (8) of said door (3).
     
    8. The closure element according to claim 4 and as an alternative to claim 6, characterized in that said door (3) can oscillate with respect to said opening (2) and is adapted to enter inside it, substantially with a snug fit, in the first configuration of juxtaposition and closure of said opening (2) the perimetric outline of said door (3) being aligned with and proximate to the edge of said opening (2), said expandable gaskets (4, 5) being arranged, side by side, substantially along the inner walls of said opening (2), and interposed between said perimetric contour of said door (3) and the inner walls of said opening (2).
     
    9. The closure element according to claim 8, characterized in that the inner walls of said opening (2) comprise respective recesses for accommodating said gaskets (4, 5), said gaskets (4, 5), in the inactive configuration, therefore with minimum space occupation, being contained within said recesses, and in the expanded configuration, therefore with maximum space occupation, protruding at least partially from said recesses, in hermetic abutment against the perimetric outline of said door (3).
     
    10. The closure element according to one or more of claims 4 to 9, characterized in that it comprises an interconnection bridge (6) that is arranged along the conveyance path of said containers (C) from said sterilization apparatus (A) to said filling machine (B), said bridge (6) being movable between an active arrangement of alignment with the portion of said conveyance path that is inside said apparatus (A) and is terminal with respect to it and with the portion of said conveyance path that is inside said machine (B) and is initial with respect to it, constituting a guiding gangway for said containers (C) in transit, and an arrangement of interrupting the path, in which it is substantially misaligned with respect to said portions of said apparatus (A) and said machine (B).
     


    Ansprüche

    1. Ein Verfahren zum Sterilisieren eines Verpackungssystems, das aus einer Vorrichtung (A) zum Sterilisieren von Behältnissen (C) und einer Füllmaschine (B) besteht; bestehend aus:

    - dem Anordnen einer Tür (3), um die Schnittstellenöffnung (2) bestimmt zwischen der Vorrichtung (A) zum Sterilisieren von Behältnissen (C) und der Füllmaschine (B) zu schließen, wobei mindestens zwei durchgehende und geschlossene expandierbare Umfangsdichtungen (4, 5) zwischen der Tür (3) und der Öffnung (2) angeordnet und mit einem Umfangsbereich einer Komponente gekoppelt sind, die entweder aus der Tür (3) oder dem Begrenzungsrand der Öffnung gewählt ist,

    - dem Sterilisieren der Sterilisationsvorrichtung (A), wobei die Dichtung (4), die der Vorrichtung (A) am nächsten liegt, inaktiv gehalten wird, daher mit minimalem Platzbedarf und von der Tür (3) getrennt, und wobei die Dichtung (5), die am weitesten entfernt von der Vorrichtung (A) liegt, expandiert gehalten wird, daher mit maximalem Platzbedarf und in hermetischer Abdichtung mit der Tür (3),

    - dem Sterilisieren der Füllmaschine (B), wobei die Dichtung (5), die der Maschine (B) am nächsten liegt, inaktiv gehalten wird, daher mit minimalem Platzbedarf und von der Tür (3) getrennt, und wobei die Dichtung (4), die am weitesten entfernt von der Maschine (B) liegt, expandiert gehalten wird, daher mit maximalem Platzbedarf und in hermetischer Abdichtung mit der Tür (3).


     
    2. Das Sterilisationsverfahren gemäß Anspruch 1, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass die Expansion der Dichtungen (4, 5) durch ihre unabhängige Inflation erzielt wird.
     
    3. Das Sterilisationsverfahren gemäß Anspruch 1, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass es einen vorläufigen Schritt des Unterbrechens des Beförderungspfades der Behältnisse (C) von der Sterilisationsvorrichtung (A) zu der Füllmaschine (B) umfasst, der in dem Entfernen einer Verbindungsbrücke (6) besteht, die zwischen dem Abschnitt des Beförderungspfades, der sich innerhalb der Vorrichtung (A) und an seinem Ende befindet, und dem Abschnitt des Beförderungspfades angeordnet ist, der sich innerhalb der Maschine (B) und an seinem Anfang befindet.
     
    4. Ein Element zum Schließen der Schnittstellenöffnung (2) zwischen einer Vorrichtung (A) zum Sterilisieren von Behältnissen (C) und einer Füllmaschine (B), dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass es eine Tür (3) umfasst, die sich zwischen einer ersten Konfiguration der benachbarten Anordnung und des Verschließens der Öffnung (2) und einer zweiten Konfiguration des Öffnens der Öffnung (2) bewegen kann; wobei zwischen der Tür (3) und dem Rand der Öffnung (2), und in der ersten Konfiguration ihnen benachbart, mindestens zwei durchgehende und geschlossene Umfangsdichtungen (4, 5) angeordnet und mit einem Umfangsbereich einer Komponente gekoppelt sind, gewählt aus der Tür (3) oder dem Begrenzungsrand der Öffnung, wobei die Dichtungen die Öffnung (2) begrenzen; wobei jede Dichtung (4, 5) unabhängig expandierbar ist, wobei bei der Expansion mindestens einer ersten Dichtung (4, 5) mindestens eine zweite Dichtung (5, 4), die keiner Expansion unterzogen wird, mit dem Innenraum entweder der Sterilisationsvorrichtung (A) oder der Füllmaschine (B) verbunden wird und somit der entsprechenden Sterilisationsbehandlung gleichzeitig mit dem Raum unterzogen wird.
     
    5. Das Verschlusselement gemäß Anspruch 4, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass die expandierbaren Dichtungen (4, 5) von der Art sind, die mit Hilfe eines entsprechenden pneumatischen Versorgungskreises aufgepumpt werden kann, welcher von einer entsprechenden Steuerungs- und Verwaltungseinheit gesteuert wird.
     
    6. Das Verschlusselement gemäß Anspruch 4, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass die Tür (3) parallel zu der Öffnung (2) gleiten kann, wobei in der ersten Konfiguration der benachbarten Anordnung und des Verschließens der Öffnung (2) der Umfangsrahmen (8) der Tür (3) mit dem Rand (9) der Öffnung (2) ausgerichtet und ihm benachbart ist, wobei sich die expandierbaren Dichtungen (4, 5) ineinander befinden und im Wesentlichen entlang dem Umfang der Öffnung (2) und zwischen dem Umfangsrahmen (8) der Tür (3) und dem Rand (9) der Öffnung (2) angeordnet sind.
     
    7. Das Verschlusselement gemäß Anspruch 6, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass der Umfangsrand (9) der Öffnung (2) entsprechende Schlitze (10) zur Aufnahme der Dichtungen (4, 5) umfasst, wobei die Dichtungen (4, 5) in der inaktiven Konfiguration und daher mit minimalem Platzbedarf in den Schlitzen (10) untergebracht sind und in der expandierten Konfiguration, und daher mit maximalem Platzbedarf, zumindest teilweise aus den Schlitzen (10) vorstehen, in hermetischer Abdichtung mit dem Umfangsrahmen (8) der Tür (3).
     
    8. Das Verschlusselement gemäß Anspruch 4 und alternativ zu Anspruch 6, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass die Tür (3) im Verhältnis zu der Öffnung (2) schwingen kann und ausgebildet ist, um im Wesentlichen mit guter Passung in sie einzudringen; wobei in der ersten Konfiguration der benachbarten Anordnung und des Verschließens der Öffnung (2) der Umriss der Tür (3) mit dem Rand der Öffnung (2) ausgerichtet und ihm benachbart ist; wobei die expandierbaren Dichtungen (4, 5) nebeneinander im Wesentlichen entlang den Innenwänden der Öffnung (2) und zwischen dem Umriss der Tür (3) und den Innenwänden der Öffnung (2) angeordnet sind.
     
    9. Das Verschlusselement gemäß Anspruch 8, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass die Innenwände der Öffnung (2) entsprechende Vertiefungen zur Aufnahme der Dichtungen (4, 5) umfassen, wobei die Dichtungen (4, 5) in der inaktiven Konfiguration, und daher mit minimalem Platzbedarf, in die Vertiefungen aufgenommen sind und in der expandierten Konfiguration, und daher mit maximalem Platzbedarf, zumindest teilweise aus den Vertiefungen herausragen, in hermetischer Abdichtung mit dem Umriss der Tür (3).
     
    10. Das Verschlusselement gemäß einem oder mehreren der Ansprüche 4 bis 9, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass es eine Verbindungsbrücke (6) umfasst, die entlang dem Beförderungspfad der Behälter (C) von der Sterilisationsvorrichtung (A) zu der Füllmaschine (B) angeordnet ist, wobei die Brücke (6) beweglich ist zwischen einer aktiven Anordnung der Ausrichtung mit dem Abschnitt des Beförderungspfades, der sich innerhalb der Vorrichtung (A) und an seinem Ende befindet, und dem Abschnitt des Beförderungspfades, der sich innerhalb der Maschine (B) und an seinem Anfang befindet, einen Führungs-Laufgang für die durchlaufenden Behälter (C) bildend; und einer Anordnung zum Unterbrechen des Pfades, in welcher sie im Wesentlichen im Verhältnis zu den Abschnitten der Vorrichtung (A) und der Maschine (B) versetzt ist.
     


    Revendications

    1. Procédé de stérilisation d'un système de conditionnement, constitué d'un appareil (A) pour stériliser des contenants (C) et d'une machine de remplissage (B), qui consiste à :

    - agencer une trappe (3) de manière à fermer l'ouverture d'interface (2) définie entre ledit appareil (A) pour stériliser des contenants (C) et ladite machine de remplissage (B), au moins deux joints expansibles périmétriques fermés et continus (4, 5) étant intercalés entre ladite trappe (3) et ladite ouverture (2) et couplés à une zone périmétrique d'un composant choisi parmi soit ladite trappe (3) soit le bord de délimitation de ladite ouverture,

    - soumettre ledit appareil de stérilisation (A) à une stérilisation, maintenir inactif le joint (4) qui se situe le plus près dudit appareil (A), par conséquent avec une occupation d'espace minimale et séparé de ladite trappe (3), et maintenir dilaté le joint (5) qui se situe le plus loin dudit appareil (A), par conséquent avec une occupation d'espace maximale et en butée hermétique contre ladite trappe (3),

    - soumettre ladite machine de remplissage (B) à une stérilisation, maintenir inactif le joint (5) qui se situe le plus près de ladite machine (B), par conséquent avec une occupation d'espace minimale et séparé de ladite trappe (3), et maintenir dilaté le joint (4) qui se situe le plus loin de ladite machine (B), par conséquent avec une occupation d'espace maximale et en butée hermétique contre ladite trappe (3).


     
    2. Procédé de stérilisation selon la revendication 1, caractérisé en ce que ladite dilatation desdits joints (4, 5) est obtenue au moyen du gonflage indépendant de ceux-ci.
     
    3. Procédé de stérilisation selon la revendication 1, caractérisé en ce qu'il comporte une étape préliminaire consistant à interrompre le trajet de transport desdits contenants (C) dudit appareil de stérilisation (A) à ladite machine de remplissage (B), qui consiste à retirer un pont d'interconnexion (6) qui est agencé entre la partie dudit trajet de transport qui est à l'intérieur dudit appareil (A) et est terminale par rapport à lui et la partie dudit trajet de transport qui est à l'intérieur de ladite machine (B) et est initiale par rapport à lui.
     
    4. Élément pour fermer l'ouverture d'interface (2) entre un appareil (A) pour stériliser des contenants (C) et une machine de remplissage (B), caractérisé en ce qu'il comporte une trappe (3), qui peut se déplacer entre une première configuration de juxtaposition et de fermeture de ladite ouverture (2) et une seconde configuration d'ouverture de ladite ouverture (2), entre ladite trappe (3) et le bord de ladite ouverture (2), et juxtaposés à celle-ci dans ladite première configuration, étant intercalés et couplés à une zone périmétrique d'un composant choisi parmi soit ladite trappe (3) soit le bord de délimitation de ladite ouverture au moins deux joints périmétriques fermés et continus (4, 5), qui délimitent ladite ouverture (2), chaque joint (4, 5) pouvant être dilaté indépendamment, lors de l'expansion d'au moins un premier joint (4, 5), au moins un second joint (5, 4), non soumis à l'expansion, étant relié au compartiment interne soit dudit appareil de stérilisation (A) soit de ladite machine de remplissage (B), en subissant par conséquent le traitement de stérilisation respectif simultanément audit compartiment.
     
    5. Élément de fermeture selon la revendication 4, caractérisé en ce que lesdits joints expansibles (4, 5) sont du type qui peut être gonflé au moyen d'un circuit d'alimentation pneumatique respectif qui est commandé par une unité de commande et de gestion respective.
     
    6. Élément de fermeture selon la revendication 4, caractérisé en ce que ladite trappe (3) peut coulisser parallèlement à ladite ouverture (2), dans la première configuration de juxtaposition et de fermeture de ladite ouverture (2), le châssis périmétrique (8) de ladite trappe (3) étant aligné et proche du bord (9) de ladite ouverture (2), lesdits joints expansibles (4, 5) étant l'un dans l'autre, et agencés sensiblement le long du périmètre de ladite ouverture (2) et intercalés entre ledit châssis périmétrique (8) de ladite trappe (3) et ledit bord (9) de ladite ouverture (2).
     
    7. Élément de fermeture selon la revendication 6, caractérisé en ce que ledit bord périmétrique (9) de ladite ouverture (2) comporte des fentes (10) respectives pour recevoir lesdits joints (4, 5), lesdits joints (4, 5), dans la configuration inactive, par conséquent avec une occupation d'espace minimale, étant contenus à l'intérieur desdites fentes (10), et dans la configuration dilatée, par conséquent avec une occupation d'espace maximale, faisant saillie au moins partiellement à partir desdites fentes (10), en butée hermétique contre le châssis périmétrique (8) de ladite trappe (3).
     
    8. Élément de fermeture selon la revendication 4 et en variante de la revendication 6, caractérisé en ce que ladite trappe (3) peut osciller par rapport à ladite ouverture (2) et est adaptée pour pénétrer à l'intérieur d'elle, pratiquement avec un ajustement serré, dans la première configuration de juxtaposition et de fermeture de ladite ouverture (2), le contour périmétrique de ladite trappe (3) étant aligné avec le bord de ladite ouverture (2) et proche de celui-ci, lesdits joints expansibles (4, 5) étant agencés, côte à côte, sensiblement le long des parois intérieures de ladite ouverture (2) et intercalés entre ledit contour périmétrique de ladite trappe (3) et les parois intérieures de ladite ouverture (2).
     
    9. Élément de fermeture selon la revendication 8, caractérisé en ce que les parois intérieures de ladite ouverture (2) comportent des évidements respectifs pour recevoir lesdits joints (4, 5), lesdits joints (4, 5), dans la configuration inactive, par conséquent avec une occupation d'espace minimale, étant contenus à l'intérieur desdits évidements, et dans la configuration dilatée, par conséquent avec une occupation d'espace maximale, faisant saillie au moins partiellement à partir desdits évidements, en butée hermétique contre le contour périmétrique de ladite trappe (3).
     
    10. Élément de fermeture selon une ou plusieurs des revendications 4 à 9, caractérisé en ce qu'il comporte un pont d'interconnexion (6) qui est agencé le long du trajet de transport desdits contenants (C) dudit appareil de stérilisation (A) jusqu'à ladite machine de remplissage (B), ledit pont (6) étant mobile entre un agencement actif d'alignement avec la partie dudit trajet de transport qui est à l'intérieur dudit appareil (A) et est terminale par rapport à lui et avec la partie dudit trajet de transport qui est à l'intérieur de ladite machine (B) et est initiale par rapport à lui, constituant une passerelle de guidage pour lesdits contenants (C) en transit, et un agencement d'interruption du trajet, dans lequel il est sensiblement désaligné par rapport auxdites parties dudit appareil (A) et de ladite machine (B).
     




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