Title:
Pre-cut aluminum foil round covers
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention is a pre-cut aluminum foil round cover that is more convenient to use than aluminum foil torn from a roll, conserves a substantial amount of aluminum that would otherwise be unnecessarily thrown away, and covers round containers more safely and effectively than an aluminum foil sheet torn from a roll. The most preferred embodiment is a foil round having a 5 inch (12.5 cm) diameter. The foil rounds can be pre-cut and stacked, thereby eliminating the need for packaging that requires a sharp blade or serrated edge, and eliminating the frustration associated with tearing aluminum foil from a tightly wound roll that is supposed to smoothly tumble inside of a long box.



Inventors:
Cottrell, David (Phoenix, AZ, US)
Application Number:
10/918109
Publication Date:
02/16/2006
Filing Date:
08/13/2004
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
206/449, 220/257.1
International Classes:
B65D85/00; B65D51/20; B65D85/48
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
GEHMAN, BRYON P
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
THE HILL LAW FIRM, PLC (2340 E Laurel St., Mesa, AZ, 85213, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A method of making aluminum foil covers comprising the steps of: forming at least one large sheet of substantially uniform thickness aluminum foil that is flexible and smooth; cutting the at least one large sheet to form numerous substantially disc-shaped single sheets; and packaging a predetermined quantity of the substantially disc-shaped single sheets for use by consumers who desire to cover round containers.

2. The method of claim 1 further comprising the step of recycling at least some of the scrap that is produced by the cutting step.

3. The method of claim 1 wherein the cutting step is characterized by a die cutting process.

4. The method of claim 1 wherein the cutting step is characterized by a stamping process.

5. The method of claim 1 further comprising the steps of stacking and aligning a predetermined quantity of large sheets such that the cutting step will produce numerous stacks of substantially disc-shaped single sheets.

6. The method of claim 1 further comprising the step of embossing a design into the aluminum foil.

7. The method of claim 4 further comprising the step of embossing a design into the numerous substantially disc-shaped single sheets substantially during the cutting step.

8. The method of claim 1 wherein the cutting step is characterized by a decorative design being formed around the perimeter of the substantially disc-shaped single sheets.

9. A disposable consumer product comprising: a substantially uniform thickness of aluminum foil that is flexible and smooth; a pre-formed outer perimeter edge that substantially defines a single ready-to-use sheet of aluminum foil; and a substantially round shape that, when the single sheet is laid out in a plane, is defined by a diameter that is at least one centimeter larger than the diameter of an opening that is desired to be covered.

10. The disposable consumer product of claim 9 further comprising a packaging container that holds a stack of a predetermined quantity of ready-to-use sheets of aluminum foil.

11. The disposable consumer product of claim 9 characterized by an embossed design.

12. The disposable consumer product of claim 9 characterized by a decorative design formed in the outer perimeter edge.

13. The disposable consumer product of claim 9 wherein the pre-formed outer perimeter edge is between ten and fifteen centimeters in diameter.

14. The disposable consumer product of claim 9 wherein the pre-formed outer perimeter edge is between fifteen and twenty centimeters in diameter.

15. The disposable consumer product of claim 9 wherein the pre-formed outer perimeter edge is between twenty and thirty centimeters in diameter.

16. The disposable consumer product of claim 9 wherein the pre-formed outer perimeter edge is between thirty and forty centimeters in diameter.

17. The disposable consumer product of claim 9 further comprising a non-stick coating on a surface of the aluminum foil.

18. A method of making a disposable cover for a round can comprising the steps of: substantially centering a pre-cut disc-shaped sheet of aluminum foil over an open end of the can; and smoothing substantially all overlapping material down the sides of the can.

19. The method of claim 18 further comprising the step of selecting an appropriately sized pre-cut disc-shaped sheet of aluminum foil such that the overlapping material smoothed down the sides of the can will extend at least one centimeter down all sides of the can, but not more than five centimeters down any side of the can.

20. The method of claim 18 further comprising the steps of: carefully removing the disposable cover from the open end of the can; re-covering the can with the same disposable cover; and re-smoothing the overlapping material down the sides of the can.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Nearly every household in the United States has at least one roll of aluminum foil, usually stored in an easy to access location in the kitchen. When needed, a consumer pulls a length of aluminum foil from a tightly wound roll and then tears it to make a rectangular sheet that is most commonly 12 or 18 inches wide at the pre-cut edges. These wide sheets work especially well for covering rectangular baking pans. What is so convenient about aluminum foil is its ability to be hand smoothed and molded to fit a particular need. Sometimes the usefulness of aluminum foil is enhanced by the addition of structure, such as the apertures included in Rasmussen's barbecue aluminum foil (see U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,399,439).

Despite the great qualities of ordinary aluminum foil, its flexibility contributes to its tendency to tear with little effort, especially where there is a fracture along an edge. Intentionally tearing a long sheet along a blade or serrated edge is fairly likely to result in a straight tear, but it is a challenge to pull off and tear a short sheet without losing an entire corner. Short sheets are commonly used to cover cans, jars, cups and glasses, all of which almost always have a round opening with a diameter that is between 5 and 10 centimeters (2-4 inches). Even if the proper amount of foil is cleanly removed from an aluminum foil roll to cover a round opening, the four corners of a rectangular sheet are excess and therefore wasted material when placed over a round container. If a 5 inch piece of foil is all that is needed to cover a round container, such as a can, over two hundred percent more material than is needed must be torn from a standard 12 inch roll, and over three hundred fifty percent excess material must be torn from an 18 inch roll. The most frugal consumer will try to save some of the scrap, but the majority of consumers just wrap the excess down the sides of the container—a wasteful misuse of a natural resource.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is a pre-cut aluminum foil disc which, for the purposes of this description, is called a foil round. A foil round is a specialty item that has a very common use, and the use of a foil round in place of a rectangular sheet from a roll saves time and a significant quantity of raw materials. A foil round can be smoothed over the top of a round-mouthed container in a fraction of the time required to tear a sheet from a roll and deal with the excess material that is wasted. Additionally, because there are no free corners or torn edges, foil rounds are less likely to come off and look much neater than the prior art when applied as a round container cover.

The foil rounds of the present invention are preferably about 10 to 15 centimeters (4-6 inches) in diameter, but most preferably about 12 to 13 centimeters (5 inches) in diameter. This size fits over most cans, jars and glasses that are likely to be covered and leaves adequate overlapping material for smoothing down the sides of such a container so that the foil is secure and creates a highly functional seal. The foil rounds are preferably die cut so that every sheet is the same size, and the trimmed scrap from the manufacturing process can easily be recycled. The foil rounds of the present invention have no corners, and the edges of the final product are free from jagged edges that are common starting points for tears. The symmetry and uniformity of foil rounds makes it easy to stack them very nicely for packaging into compact dispensers that do not require cutting blades. Although there are many different ways to dispense foil rounds, the preferred dispensers are either a tissue box type dispenser or one of the numerous different ways that consumer paper products are packaged.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a plan view of a foil round of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a plan view of the excess material that may be recycled if the foil round of FIG. 1 is used instead of the prior art.

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the prior art after it has been applied over a can.

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of the foil round of FIG. 1 after it has been applied over a can.

The following is the list of numerical callouts used in FIGS. 1-4:

 2foil round
 4pre-cut outer perimeter edge
 6excess material
 8serrated edge
10torn corner
12sides
14round container
16bottom portion
18uniform edge

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The primary focus of the present invention is foil rounds that are suitable for covering round food and beverage container openings more quickly, easily and reliably than any other commercially available disposable consumer product. An additional object of the present invention is to conserve aluminum resources through an ecologically conservative and waste-free design that avoids the unnecessary disposal of tons of scrap aluminum foil by providing an easy means to recover and recycle that scrap during the manufacturing process. As shown in FIG. 1, a foil round 2 of the present invention has a smooth pre-cut outer perimeter edge 4 and is symmetrical for easy centering of the foil round over the top of a round container opening.

In the preferred embodiment, the foil rounds 2 are circular sheets, most preferably having an outer diameter of approximately 5 inches, made from uniform thickness aluminum foil that is flexible and smooth. For the purposes of this description, aluminum foil is any of the various materials that are sold or generally recognized as being aluminum foil or a suitable substitute. The addition of a coating or another element during or after manufacturing does not make such a material unsuitable for use in making the foil rounds of the present invention. Methods for making aluminum foil products will not be discussed because they are already well known in the industry, such as the methods described in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,466,312 and 5,725,695, which are incorporated herein by reference but not limitation.

FIG. 2 exemplifies the differences between the prior art and the foil rounds of the present invention. The most significant disadvantage of the prior art is the amount of excess material 6 that must be manipulated over a round container. Foil rounds are the geometrically appropriate product for covering a cylindrical container with a round opening, but rectangular sheets are currently used because there is no better alternative commercially available. Another important distinction is the smoothness of the outer perimeter edge of a foil round as compared to the prior art. When a consumer tears off a short sheet of the prior art, which creates a serrated edge 8, the last part of the tear almost always results in a torn corner 10. One final distinction worth noting is that the prior art shown is about the best possible result that can be achieved without using a ruler and a scissors to cut a sheet. During actual use, when a short sheet is torn from a roll it is often either too narrow or wastefully wide, not to mention badly torn. The foil rounds of the present invention are always symmetrical and free of tears.

FIGS. 3 and 4 show the advantages of the present invention over the prior art. As shown in FIG. 3, when the excess material 6 of the prior art is smoothed down the sides 12 of a round container 14, it makes it extremely likely that one who grasps the covered container will grasp a considerable area of foil instead of container. If mostly foil is grasped, the container could easily slip away from the foil and be dropped. With the foil rounds of the present invention, as shown in FIG. 4, a conservative amount of overlapping material is all that needs to be smoothed down the sides such that usually only the upper inch or two of the container is covered by foil, thereby leaving the entire bottom portion 16 of the container exposed so that it can safely be moved without the aluminum foil cover slipping off the container. Additionally, the foil rounds provide a substantially uniform edge 18 that is far less likely to be bumped or snagged, so the improved aluminum foil cover maintains an adequate seal over the container even after being moved.

There are numerous well known methods of manufacturing aluminum foil and of cutting thin sheets of material. For example, a continuously cast and cold rolled aluminum foil product could be laid flat and sent though a cutting machine. Die cutting methods and cold stamping methods are two very common manufacturing processes that would be appropriate for making the foil rounds of the present invention. Many of the same methods used to cut and package paper products, such as small writing paper pads that have a decorative shape, can similarly be used to cut and package the foil rounds of the present invention. During mass production, it may be more efficient to stack large sheets of aluminum foil cast strip product so that a thick stack of foil rounds can be stamped or otherwise cut at the same time. Other suitable methods not mentioned herein are not precluded if such other methods will produce a quality final product that is substantially a foil round of the present invention.

While a preferred form of the invention has been shown and described, it will be realized that alterations and modifications may be made thereto without departing from the scope of the following claims. For example: there are numerous decorative designs, including scalloping, that could be incorporated into the outer perimeter edge; there are numerous diameters that could be used instead of 5 inches, or in combination such that there are small, medium and large diameter foil rounds; and, for the purpose of packaging foil rounds, individual rounds may be linked to each other along an edge so that as one round is dispensed, it pulls another round into its position within the package design, or the outer perimeter edge may include a protruding tab to make it easier to remove a single sheet.