Title:
Hot-fillable container and method for bottling a beverage
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An improved hot-fill bottle is provided having smooth sides and no heat panels or vacuum panels. The bottle is produced from a plastic pre-form having a mass, PFmass, calculated as a function of the desired volume of the bottle, in litres, according to the following function:

97 g/l<PFmass<135 g/l

More preferably, PFmass, is calculated as follows:

109 g/l<PFmass<118 g/l

The improved bottle is used in an improved method for hot-filling a beverage container.




Inventors:
Mcrae, Ralph D. (West Vancouver, CA)
Application Number:
10/226476
Publication Date:
12/04/2003
Filing Date:
08/23/2002
Assignee:
MCRAE RALPH D.
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
215/379, 220/606
International Classes:
B65D1/02; B65D51/24; (IPC1-7): B65D90/02; B65D6/28; B65D8/04
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
WEAVER, SUE A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
R. SCOTT WEIDE (7251 WEST LAKE MEAD BLVD., SUITE 530, LAS VEGAS, NV, 89128, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. A hot-fillable beverage container, comprising: (a) a circular base portion; (b) a shoulder portion; (c) a neck portion extending upwardly from said shoulder portion; and (d) a cylindrical body portion extending between said base portion and said shoulder portion, said cylindrical body portion having a circular transverse cross-section along its entire length, and lacking distinct panels formed thereon; wherein said container is constructed from a pre-form of plastic material having a mass, PFmass, as a function of the desired volume of the bottle, in litres, calculated according to the following function: 97 g/l<PFmass<135 g/l

2. A hot-fillable beverage container, comprising: (e) a circular base portion; (f) a shoulder portion; (g) a neck portion extending upwardly from said shoulder portion; and (h) a cylindrical body portion extending between said base portion and said shoulder portion, said cylindrical body portion having a circular transverse cross-section along its entire length, and lacking distinct panels formed thereon; wherein said container is constructed from a pre-form of plastic material having a mass, PFmass, as a function of the desired volume of the bottle, in litres, calculated according to the following function: 109 g/l<PFmass<118 g/l

3. The hot-fillable bottle as claimed in claim 2 wherein said plastic material is polyethylene terephthalate.

4. The hot-fillable bottle as claimed in claim 2 wherein said plastic material is a combination of polyethylene terephthalate and polyethylene naphthalate.

5. The hot-fillable bottle as claimed in claim 2 further comprising a dimple formed in said base portion and extending into the interior of said bottle, said dimple having a plurality of indicia surrounding its edge, indicating one or more compass points, thereby allowing the bottle to be used as a compass in combination with a thin length of metal.

6. The hot-fillable bottle as claimed in claim 2 wherein said neck portion has threads, and wherein said bottle further comprises a cap having a lower portion having threads for threading said cap onto said neck portion of said bottle, and an upper portion defining a hole therethrough for removably attaching said bottle to an attachment location.

7. In a known method for hot-filling a bottle, the method comprising the steps of filling a bottle with a heated beverage, capping the bottle, and allowing the bottle and its contents to cool, an improvement comprising providing a bottle having the characteristics of that bottle claimed in claim 1.

8. In a known method for producing a hot-fillable bottle, the method comprising the steps of providing a pre-form of PET material and injecting a gas into the pre-form, thereby expanding it within a mould to a desired size and shape, an improvement wherein the PET pre-form has a mass, PFmass, calculated as a function of the desired volume of the bottle, in litres, according to the following function: 109 g/l<PFmass<118 g/l.

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD

[0001] The present invention relates to blow-moulded plastic containers, and more particularly to containers designed to be filled with a beverage by a “hot-fill” method.

BACKGROUND

[0002] Many beverages are packaged in blow-moulded plastic containers, and in particular, in polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles. While some beverages are packaged by aseptic means or utilizing preservatives, many other beverages—fruit juices and isotonic drinks, for example—are “hot-filled”. Hot-filling involves the filling of a container with a liquid beverage having some elevated temperature (typically, at about 180-200° F.). The container is capped and allowed to cool, producing a vacuum therein.

[0003] Hot-filling provides various advantages over aseptic or preservative packaging, among them lower capital and operational cost (over aseptic systems), and the elimination of the need for preservatives (the heat of the beverage has a sanitizing effect). The hot headspace in the filled bottle also reduces the carrying capacity of oxygen therein, limiting oxidation of the contents.

[0004] Hot-fillable PET bottles have been well-known for many years, and a variety of such bottles are available today in the market. There are various requirements for such bottles. Most importantly, they must be able to provide thermal resistance against the hot-filled contents. They should also provide an ultraviolet (UV) light barrier and an oxygen (and in some cases a carbon dioxide) barrier to protect the contents from degradation. Their third requirement is that they must be constructed so as to be able to withstand the vacuum created in the bottle as the contents cools, to maintain their intended shape.

[0005] The first two of these requirements are met by manufacturing bottles out of suitable materials, such as PET, and various combinations of such materials. In some instances, the plastics used to produce such bottles may be layered. In other instances, certain additives may be blended directly into the initial resins to provide certain qualitites such as UV resistance.

[0006] The third of these requirements is typically met by constructing the bottles with certain stiffening structures known in the art as “heat panels”, “collapse panels” or “vacuum panels” which typically form a portion of the sides of the bottles. Essentially, these panels, which are described in a variety of patents such as U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,762,221 and 6,375,025, which are incorporated herein by reference, prevent the bottle from collapsing in on itself when the vacuum is generated therein by the cooling of the hot-filled contents.

[0007] However, these stiffening structures adversely affect, in the view of some, the aesthetic look of a bottle, because they prevent the bottle from assuming a traditional round, or cylindrical shape, as a glass bottle would have. Studies have indicated that the configuration and overall aesthetic appearance of a beverage bottle can significantly affect consumer purchasing decisions. A bottle which appears dented or distorted is not necessarily appreciated by consumers, although many manufacturers try to rationalize these distortions as providing “gripping” surfaces for the bottles. Moreover, the panels prevent a label from neatly encircling the circumference of the bottle, since the side of the bottle is not smooth.

[0008] There remains a need, therefore, for a hot-fillable PET bottle with smooth sides and lacking heat panels.

SUMMARY OF INVENTION

[0009] The present invention provides an improved hot-fillable bottle, and an improved method for hot-filling a bottle, using the improved bottle.

[0010] More particularly, the improved bottle is made from a pre-form having a certain mass per volume size of the desired bottle, which allows the bottle to be constructed without stiffening structures, and with smooth sides. Specifically, there is described herein a hot-fillable beverage container, comprising a circular base portion; a shoulder portion; a neck portion extending upwardly from the shoulder portion; and a cylindrical body portion extending between the base portion and the shoulder portion. The cylindrical body portion has a circular transverse cross-section along its entire length, and lacks distinct panels formed thereon. The container is constructed from a pre-form of plastic material having a mass, PFmass, as a function of the desired volume of the container, in litres, calculated according to the following function:

97 g/l<PFmass<135 g/l.

[0011] In a preferred embodiment, the pre-form has a mass of:

109 g/l<PFmass<118 g/l.

[0012] In a preferred embodiment the pre-form is made of PET. In another embodiment, the pre-form is a combination of PET and polyethylene naphthalate (PEN).

[0013] The hot-fillable bottle may have a dimple formed in the base portion thereof which extends into the interior of the bottle, the dimple having a plurality of indicia surrounding its edge, indicating one or more compass points, thereby allowing the bottle to be used as a compass in combination with a thin length of metal.

[0014] In a preferred embodiment of the invention, the neck portion of the bottle has threads, and the bottle has a cap threadable onto the neck portion, the cap having a lower portion having threads for threading the cap onto the neck portion of the bottle, and an upper portion defining a hole therethrough for removably attaching the bottle to an attachment location, for example, onto a back-pack.

[0015] There is also provided, in a known method for hot-filling a bottle, the method comprising the steps of filling a bottle with a heated beverage, capping the bottle, and allowing the bottle and its contents to cool, an improvement which comprises providing a bottle having the characteristics of this new hot-fillable bottle.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

[0016] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a hot-fillable bottle made in accordance with one embodiment of the invention;

[0017] FIG. 2 is a side view of the bottle shown in FIG. 1;

[0018] FIG. 3 is a bottom view of the bottle shown in FIG. 1; and

[0019] FIG. 4 is a perspective view of a preferred cap for the bottle shown in FIG. 1.

DESCRIPTION

[0020] Throughout the following description, specific details are set forth in order to provide a more thorough understanding of the invention. However, the invention may be practised without these particulars. In other instances, well known elements have not been shown or described in detail to avoid unnecessarily obscuring the invention. Accordingly, the specification and drawings are to be regarded in an illustrative, rather than a restrictive, sense.

[0021] Referring first to FIG. 1, a hot-fillable container or bottle, denoted “10” throughout this description, has a base portion 12, a shoulder portion 16, and a neck portion 18 sitting atop the shoulder portion 16, in the manner of many traditional bottles.

[0022] The base portion 12 is preferably circular when viewed from the bottom of the bottle, as shown in FIG. 3, as is the shoulder portion 16 and the neck portion 18, when viewed from the top of the bottle 10. A cylindrical body portion 14 of the bottle 10 extends between the top of base portion 12 and the bottom of shoulder portion 16. Bottle 10 may be constructed of any suitable plastic material, but in a preferred embodiment is constructed of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), as described below. In another embodiment, bottle 10 is constructed of a combination of PET and polyethylene naphthalate (PEN). Any other suitable plastic material may be employed.

[0023] As described earlier, many hot-fillable bottles are made of a plastic material such as PET. This allows the production of light-weight bottles which do not break as readily as glass bottles. Such bottles are made from a process known in the art as injection or stretch blow-moulding. In this process, a “pre-form” amount of plastic, again, usually PET, having an neck portion, an interior portion and an exterior portion, is placed into a mould in a heated state. Air or another gas is injected into the interior portion of the pre-form, through the neck portion, forcing the pre-form to expand to the limits of the mould to assume the desired bottle shape. The newly-formed bottle begins to cool within the mould, and is released from the mould to continue to cool.

[0024] Due to cost considerations, bottle manufacturers attempt to limit as much as possible the amount of PET in the bottle (and originally in the pre-form). Limiting the amount of PET which is used to form the bottle may make the bottles too thin, however, to be able withstand the vacuum created within the bottle during the hot-filling process. Hence, manufacturers have been developing stiffening structures for hot-filled bottles as described earlier.

[0025] Although it might be suggested that increasing the amount of plastic in the bottle might increase its strength, thereby avoiding the need for such stiffening structures, there are number of factors which, to date, have prevented manufacturers from successfully making bottles with an increased amount of PET.

[0026] First, most manufacturers attempt to limit the plastic in a bottle to save cost. The focus of bottle manufacturers is thus on methods of reducing the amount of plastic used to make a bottle. Further, from a manufacturing point of view, if too much plastic is used in the production of a PET bottle, the bottle will collapse under its own weight when it is removed from the mould during the manufacturing process. Also, the bottle will not cool properly if too much plastic is used.

[0027] The present inventors have discovered the fine line which exists between having too little plastic in a bottle (forcing the requirement for stiffening structures and their attendant problems), and having too much plastic in a bottle (with the limitations discussed above). This line may be more clearly defined by way of the following formula:

97 g/l<PFmass<135 g/l

[0028] wherein PFmass is the mass (in grams) of the plastic pre-form which should be used to make a hot-fillable PET bottle which will not require stiffening structures, per desired volume of the bottle, in litres. In a preferred embodiment, this range may be more narrowly defined in accordance with the following function:

109 g/l<PFmass<118 g/l.

[0029] In a preferred embodiment of the bottle, for example, a bottle having a volume of 620 ml (21 oz.) may be produced using a pre-form having a mass of between approximately 68 g and 73 g. A typical hot-fill bottle requiring heat panels has, by way of contrast, a mass of about 35 g, or only about half of the mass of the present bottle.

[0030] The inventors have found that using this amount of plastic in the production of a hot-fillable bottle allows the bottle 10 to be moulded with the body portion 14 thereof having a circular transverse cross-section along its entire length, without the need for any distinct panels formed along its length. This allows bottle 10 to present a pleasing, rounded shape to the consumer, and also allows a label 35 (FIG. 2) to be applied to bottle 10, label 35 showing a smooth face without dimpling.

[0031] The inventors have also determined that using this amount of PET will also provide bottle 10 with enough thickness in body portion 14 to provide an appropriate UV barrier without the requirement for extra, UV-blocking layers of plastic. A bottle produced in accordance with the present invention will also provide an appropriate oxygen barrier. In practise, it has been determined that a bottle produced in accordance with the present invention has a typical thickness of between approximately 0.025″ and 0.055″. By contrast, a typical hot-fillable bottle employing heat panels has a thickness of approximately 0.008″-0.020″. The relative thickness of the bottle also conveniently provides the bottle with better insulative properties—beverages tend to warm up less slowly in the present bottle than in known PET bottles.

[0032] In a preferred embodiment, the present bottle 10 also has a dimple 30 formed in base portion 12, extending into the interior of bottle 10. It will be appreciated that dimple 30 may strengthen bottle 10, but one of its purposes is to allow bottle 10 to be used as a compass in combination with a thin length of metal, such as a pin. In particular, dimple 30 may be provided with a plurality of indicia 50a, 50b surrounding its edge, indicating one or more compass points. When bottle 10 is inverted, and dimple 30 filled with a liquid, a pin may be placed on top of this liquid and, as is well known, the pin will tend to indicate magnetic North. The bottle user turns the bottle so as to align the “North” indicia with the pin, and thereby may gain a sense of direction.

[0033] Bottle 10 may of course be capped with any suitable cap, but it being foreseen that bottle 10 will be reusable (given its strength), bottle 10 may be provided with a specialized cap 40 (shown in FIG. 4), which allows bottle 10 to be removably attached to an attachment point (for example, onto a back pack, not shown). Cap 40 has a lower portion 42 having inner threads for threading cap 40 onto neck portion 18 of bottle 10, and an upper portion defining a hole 44 therethrough for removably attaching bottle 10 to an attachment location with any suitable attachment means (for example, a carabineer).

[0034] Bottle 10 may, as is known in the art, be moulded with various trade-marks and other indicia 20a, 20b.

[0035] The new bottle may be produced by an improved method. In a known method, a hot-fillable bottle is produced by the steps of providing a pre-form of PET material having as little mass as possible to provide a one-time use container, and injecting a gas into the pre-form, thereby expanding it within a mould to a desired size and shape. The improved step involves the provision of a PET pre-form having a mass, PFmass, calculated as a function of the desired volume of the bottle, in litres, according to the following function:

109 g/l<PFmass<118 g/l,

[0036] which allows the production of a bottle which can be reused many times.

[0037] This improved bottle 10 may be used in a known method for hot-filling a bottle, the method having the steps of filling bottle 10 with a heated beverage, capping the bottle with cap 40, and allowing the bottle and its contents to cool.

[0038] As will be apparent to those skilled in the art in the light of the foregoing disclosure, many alterations and modifications are possible in the practice of this invention without departing from the spirit or scope thereof. Accordingly, the scope of the invention is to be construed in accordance with the substance defined by the following claims.