Title:
Stopper device for containers, such as cylinders, equipped with a neck of the water fountain type
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The invention includes a stopper placed in a capsule having an external skirt and an internal duct, onto which the stopper is fitted. The lower part of the stopper includes a tapered part made from flexible rubber, in the form of a bellows with straight walls forming a slot functioning as a valve. The valve closes under the effect of the water pressure exerted on the walls, while the fountain tube effects the opening of the valve by penetrating into the slot. Preferably, the stopper consists of a single piece without movable parts.



Inventors:
Michiels, Marc (Paris, FR)
Sales, Daniel (Paris, FR)
Application Number:
10/791928
Publication Date:
08/04/2005
Filing Date:
03/03/2004
Assignee:
Aqua Pyrenees S.A.
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
141/364, 215/254
International Classes:
B65D47/20; B67D3/00; (IPC1-7): B65D51/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
NGO, LIEN M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
OSTROLENK FABER GERB & SOFFEN (1180 AVENUE OF THE AMERICAS, NEW YORK, NY, 100368403, US)
Claims:
1. A stopper device for containers equipped with a neck of the water fountain type, such as cylinders, which are intended for containing drinking water or another liquid during the storage and transport of the liquid and for cooperating with a fountain tube for the purpose of dispensing the liquid, said device comprising being placed in a capsule which includes an external skirt to receive the neck of the cylinder, and an internal duct to pass the fountain tube and support a stopper, wherein the stopper is made from a flexible and elastic material and is formed of a single piece free of movable parts, and wherein the stopper includes a bellows-shaped tapered part, the tapered part having closely set straight walls of which form a slot, the closing and opening of which function as a valve having the property, with one wall being laid against the other, of preventing the passage of the liquid contained in the container.

2. The device as claimed in claim 1, wherein the closed position of the bellows is assisted by hydrostatic pressure when the cylinder is filled, and by mechanical means, such as reinforcements exerting a thrust on the walls of the bellows, said thrust being oriented at 90° with respect to the slot.

3. The device as claimed in claim 1, wherein the stopper has in its lower part an annular hollow part which fits onto the duct and which terminates in an annular flange serving as a seal on which the end of the neck of the cylinder rests.

4. The device as claimed in claim 1, wherein the tube can slide freely within the duct when the liquid is drawn off, and the inner wall of the duct includes a sealing bead opposing the passage of the liquid flowing incidentally outside the tube.

5. The device as claimed in claim 1, wherein the bottom of the capsule is equipped, at the location intended for the passage of the tube in the duct, with a diaphragm which yields under the effect of the impact exerted by the tube and which consists, for example, of daisy petals.

6. A stopper for use in containers that dispense liquid and include a neck portion, said stopper being made from flexible and elastic material and housed within the neck portion, said stopper comprising a fixed part surmounted by a bellows-shaped tapered part with closely set straight walls forming a slot functioning as a valve, the opening and closing of which are actuated by virtue of the elasticity and flexibility of the material of the bellows and by means of hydrostatic pressure exerted by the liquid filling the container.

7. The stopper as claimed in claim 6, wherein the rigidity of the walls is reinforced by at least one reinforcement member positioned at 90° with respect to the slot of the bellows.

8. The stopper as claimed in claim 6, wherein the fixed part is in the form of a hollow barrel fastened to the body of the stopper by being fitted onto it.

9. A stopper assembly for containers intended for housing liquid and for cooperating with a fountain tube for the purpose of dispensing the liquid, said assembly comprising: a capsule having an external skirt which receives the neck of the container, and an internal duct structured and arranged to pass the fountain tube therethrough and to work in cooperation with a stopper, the stopper including: a bellows member, the member including at least two walls which cooperate to form a slot which when open allows the passage of water housed in the container therethrough, and when closed prevents the passage of water housed in the container therethrough.

10. The stopper assembly as claimed in claim 9, wherein the stopper is made from a flexible and elastic material, and is formed of a single piece free of movable parts.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to a stopper device for containers such as cylinders having a neck adapted for use with water fountains or dispensers.

2. Description of the Related Art

Typically, water is dispensed in offices and businesses by refrigerated water fountains or dispensers commonly referred to as “water-coolers.” The water is delivered in containers, e.g., cylinders, and installed on the water fountain by placing it upside down.

A stopper device is placed on the cylinder for sealing purposes. Stopper devices are already known, for example from European patent number 641713 of ELKAY and from French patent number 2769004 of RICAL. The stopper devices include a plastic capsule containing an external skirt serving as a receptacle for the neck of the cylinder and, an internal duct for the passage of a fountain dispensing tube.

The stopper in each of these patents consists of a movable cap. The cap is separated by breakage in the ELKAY patent.

In the RICAL patent, the cup-shaped stopper is a cap, which is displaced between the duct and the head of the tube. Moreover, the cap fits into the free end of the duct during the storage or transport of the liquid. When the fountain dispensing tube is slipped into the duct, the tube's head pushes the cap toward the top of the duct to detach it from the duct and fit onto the head of the tube.

A problem with the stopper system of RICAL is that if the cap malfunctions because it does not arrive at its proper location, the cap can fall accidentally to the bottom of the cylinder. As a result, the neck of the cylinder remains accessible and in communication with the external surroundings, thus risking contamination.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

A stopper device must be compatible with cylinders and fountains available on the market. This is to ensure the dispensing of liquid, as desired. This is also to ensure a good watertight seal during transfer and storage, even after the cylinder is removed from the dispenser, which still contains liquid.

Another important feature of a stopper device is that once the dispenser is removed from the fountain, the orifice of the stopper should be closable and become watertight. If the stopper allowed any external contamination, this could impair effective washing of the cylinder prior to filling. It is also important that the stopper must protect against dust and any bacteriological pollution.

The stopper device of the present invention is intended to work with containers of the type having a neck to be used in water fountains or water dispensers. The device is also intended for containing drinking water in the container during the storage and transport of the latter and for cooperating with a fountain tube to dispense the liquid. An example embodiment of the stopper of the present invention is used in combination with a capsule having an external skirt which receives the neck of the cylinder, and has an internal duct to pass the fountain tube and support the stopper.

In an example embodiment, the stopper device according to the invention includes a stopper made of flexible and elastic material, formed from a single piece free of movable parts. The stopper preferably includes a bellows-shaped tapered part with closely set straight walls, which form a slot. The closing and opening of the slot functions as a valve. The slot is formed by two walls, wherein one wall is laid against the other. This prevents the passage of the liquid stored in the container.

Effective closing of the bellows is assisted by hydrostatic pressure when the cylinder is filled. This action may be reinforced by mechanically increasing the rigidity of said walls, such as reinforcements exerting a thrust perpendicular to the direction of the walls. Preferably, the reinforcements are positioned at 90° with respect to the slot of the bellows, on either side of the walls.

In an example embodiment, the stopper is used in combination with a cap having an external skirt portion and an internal duct portion. The lower part of the stopper has at its end an annular flange or seal, the width of which covers the bottom of the capsule between the external skirt and the internal duct. The flange creates a watertight seal at the junction of the neck of the cylinder and the stopper. Moreover, the neck contributes to the seal by pressing the annular flange of the stopper against the bottom of the capsule.

In an example embodiment, the stopper device according to the present invention includes a tamper feature so that unauthorized prior use of the cylinder can be detected. The bottom of the capsule is equipped, at a location intended to undergo impact during introduction of the tube into the duct, with a daisy-shaped diaphragm. The diaphragm includes petals connected to one another by means of tear lines or the like that can easily be perforated by penetration of the fountain tube. Once perforated, it becomes obvious that the diaphragm has been used. This prevents tampering.

In an example embodiment of the invention, the stopper includes an upturned neck made from flexible and elastic material. The stopper is housed within the neck and consists of a fixed part surmounted by the bellows-shaped tapered part.

Other features and advantages of the present invention will become apparent from the following description of the preferred embodiments which refers to the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

A stopper device according to the invention, used for the neck of a cylinder, is illustrated by way of nonlimiting examples, in the accompanying drawings.

FIGS. 1A and 1B show perspective views of the stopper of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a top view of the stopper.

FIG. 3 is a section through the capsule fitted with a stopper, the latter being presented in section according to line 3-3 of FIG. 2.

FIG. 4 is a top view of the stopper and capsule of FIG. 3, the slot of which has a fountain tube passing through it.

FIG. 5 is a section taken along line 5-5 of FIG. 4.

DESCRIPTION OF THE EMBODIMENTS

FIGS. 1A and 1B show an example embodiment of the stopper of the present invention. The stopper 1 is preferably made in one piece from elastic material, such as natural rubber. Preferably, the stopper 1 does not comprise any movable parts.

Referring now to FIGS. 2 and 3, the stopper 1 is placed in a capsule 3 which is preferably made from PE plastic. The capsule 3 serves as a receptacle for a neck 5 of a container such as a cylinder that contains water. The capsule 3 includes an external skirt 3a and an internal duct 6 that allows for the passage of a fountain tube 7.

The lower part of the stopper 1 includes a hollow barrel 2 and terminates in an annular flange 4. The hollow barrel 2 fits onto the duct 6. The annular flange 4 rests on and seals the bottom of the capsule 3. The seal is aided by the end of the neck of the cylinder 5 which sits on the annular flange 4 and holds this part of the seal against the body of the capsule 3.

The hollow barrel 2 is thus fastened in the capsule both by being fitted onto the duct 6 and by being blocked by the neck 5 of the cylinder.

The stopper 1 includes a bellows-shaped tapered part 8. This part is made up of two closely set walls 9a, 9b, that are preferably straight, forming a slot 8b. The slot 8b forms a watertight seal when the two walls 9a, 9b are laid or closed against one another. This is advantageous in an office environment where water leaks are especially harmful.

The bellows-shaped tapered part 8 functions as a valve. The opening and closing of the valve is actuated by virtue of the elasticity and rigidity of the material and by hydrostatic pressure when the container is filled with a liquid.

In an example embodiment, the bottom of the capsule 3 includes a daisy-shaped diaphragm 11 having a plurality of petals located at the entrance of the duct 6. In an example embodiment, the petals are joined by tear lines or the like which can easily be perforated, i.e., penetrated, when the cylinder and the stopper 1 are fitted onto the tube 7.

In an example embodiment, the daisy-shaped diaphragm 11 includes a tamper feature. The daisy-shaped diaphragm 11 is structured and arranged so that once the tube 7 perforates the tear lines and penetrates the petals, it indicates the forced passage of the tube 7. Thus, a used cylinder can not be confused with a new cylinder and, consequently, reuse of the same cylinder cannot pass unnoticed.

During operation, the cylinder 5 is full of water and carries a capsule 3, including the stopper 1. The tamperproof diaphragm is intact, e.g., the tear lines have not been perforated (FIGS. 2 and 3). The cylinder 5 is placed onto the fountain, which penetrates and destroys the daisy by the impact being exerted by the tube 7. The water is drawn off when the cylinder 5 is put onto the fountain and the tube 7 is slipped into the slot 8b of the stopper (FIGS. 4 and 5). The water pours out through apertures 13 of the tube 7 and through the water fountain or dispenser.

To prevent the water in the cylinder 5 from accidentally penetrating into the space left free outside the tube 7, and from spilling out of the cylinder, the inner wall of the duct 6 includes an annular sealing bead 10.

With the same purpose in mind, a space or dish is formed inside the capsule 3, so that the water can accumulate there instead of discharging from the cylinder and spilling onto the floor.

To remove the cylinder 5 from the fountain, the cylinder is lifted off the tube 7. In an example embodiment, the slot 8b closes in a watertight seal. In other words, the watertight valve closes. Thus, any residue traces of water in the cylinder 5 is prevented from spilling out.

An advantage of the stopper according to the invention is that it is safe. It does not contain any movable parts. It is easy to use, and consequently carries a low risk of malfunctioning, particularly when the stopper is put into operation and removed.

Although present invention has been described in relation to particular embodiments thereof, many other variations and modifications and other uses will become apparent to those skilled in the art.