Title:
Base for top-down storage vessel
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Top-down storage vessels can be stably supported on a base portion opposite a top portion defining an opening. Top-down storage vessels can be stably supported on a closure coupled with the top portion.



Inventors:
Archeny, Armel (Bouvesse-Quirieu, FR)
Application Number:
11/042343
Publication Date:
07/27/2006
Filing Date:
01/26/2005
Assignee:
Graham Packaging Company, L.P. (York, PA, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D6/28
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
HICKS, ROBERT J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
VENABLE LLP (P.O. BOX 34385, WASHINGTON, DC, 20045-9998, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A blow molded container, comprising a base portion, wherein the base portion includes corrugation comprising a plurality of raised parallel ribs and at least one parallel trough extending substantially across the base portion.

2. The blow molded container of claim 1, further comprising: a top portion defining an opening; and a body portion adjacent the top portion and defined by a tubular sidewall, wherein, the base portion is adjacent the body portion.

3. The blow molded container of claim 2, wherein the body portion has an oval cross section.

4. The blow molded container of claim 2, wherein the corrugation comprises five raised ribs and four troughs.

5. The blow molded container of claim 2, wherein the top portion, the body portion, and the base portion are adapted for hot fill applications.

6. The blow molded container of claim 2, wherein the body portion has an oval cross section with a major axis and a minor axis, and the plurality of raised ribs and the at least one trough are parallel to the minor axis.

7. The blow molded container of claim 2, wherein at least one raised parallel rib is concave.

8. The blow molded container of claim 4, wherein the five raised ribs comprise a first outer rib, a first inner rib adjacent to the first outer rib, a central rib adjacent to the first inner rib, a second inner rib adjacent to the central rib, and a second outer rib adjacent to the second inner rib and wherein the first and second inner ribs are taller than the first and second outer ribs.

9. The blow molded container of claim 8, wherein the first and second inner ribs have a concave shape and form four standing points for the container.

10. The blow molded container of claim 2, comprising a polyolefin.

11. The container of claim 1, wherein the raised parallel ribs support the container upright on a surface.

12. The container of claim 1, wherein the raised parallel ribs comprise outermost raised parallel ribs that form standing points for the container.

13. A container system, comprising: a blow molded container comprising a top portion defining an opening, a body portion adjacent the top portion and defined by a tubular sidewall, and a base portion adjacent the body portion, wherein the base portion includes corrugation; and a closure adapted to be coupled with the top portion of the blow molded container.

14. The container system of claim 13, wherein the closure is adapted to support the container in an upright position on a surface.

15. The container system of claim 13, wherein the base portion is adapted to support the container in an upright position on a filling line.

16. A method comprising blow molding a container that comprises a top portion defining an opening, a body portion adjacent the top portion and defined by a tubular sidewall, and a base portion adjacent the body portion, wherein the base portion includes corrugation comprising a plurality of raised parallel ribs and at least one parallel trough extending substantially across the base portion.

17. The method of claim 16, wherein blow molding comprises extrusion blow molding.

18. The method of claim 16, further comprising filling the container with the container standing in an upright position on the corrugation.

19. The method of claim 18, wherein the raised parallel ribs are concave and the container stands on the farthest portions of at least two of the raised parallel ribs.

20. The method of claim 18, further comprising sealing the container with a closure.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to a top-down storage vessel, which can be used for the storage, distribution, and dispensing of a product. More particularly, the invention is a top-down storage vessel that can be stably supported on a base portion opposite a top portion defining an opening.

2. Description of the Related Art

A traditional container has a bottom region on which the container can stably rest on a surface; this bottom region is opposite of a top region of the container that defines an opening. The traditional container is filled through the opening with a substance, for example, a food, with the bottom region in contact with a surface, e.g., the surface of a conveyor. The opening of the traditional container is then sealed, for example, with a cap, and the container with the substance can be further treated, placed into long-term storage, transported, or stored for ready dispensing of the substance from the interior of the container. Throughout such treatment, long-term storage, transport, and storage for ready dispensing, the traditional container is supported on the base portion of the container.

However, the traditional container suffers from several limitations when used for the dispensing, marketing, and advertising of certain substances, for example, viscous fluids. A substance in a traditional container stored with the bottom region supporting the container on a surface will settle near the base region, away from the top portion and the opening. A user desiring to remove a viscous fluid substance, for example, ketchup, from a traditional container often cannot immediately do so simply by tilting the container so that the opening is at the lowest point or by squeezing the container. Instead, the user must often invert the container, attempt to balance the container on a cap sealing the container, the cap being ill-suited to support the container, and wait for an extended period of time for the viscous fluid to flow towards the cap. Alternatively, the user must often violently agitate the container, risking uncontrolled expulsion of the viscous fluid from the container and resultant damage to clothing, furniture, or other property.

When a traditional container is placed, for example, on the shelf of a supermarket or other retail store, the bottom region of the container is in contact with the shelf; the top region of the container is opposite of the bottom region; and a cap sealing the opening is at the highest point. Thus the top region of the container and the cap of the container can be the most visible regions of the container. Packaging of a product is understood to be an important factor in determining whether a consumer will make a first time purchase of a product, and whether a consumer will remain loyal to a product, rather than being diverted by the more interesting packaging of a competitor's product. For example, a purchaser searching for a type of food substance may purchase one brand of food substance over another brand not as a result of a study of the nutritional advantages or lower price of the one brand relative to the other brand, but rather because of an impulsive decision based on the more appealing packaging of the one brand. Such an impulsive decision may, for example, lead to the selection of a brand of a “fun” food, e.g., condiments such as ketchup or mustard associated with picnics and other casual, festive occasions, especially among young consumers. Therefore, it can be desirable to provide the most visible regions of a container with a creative appearance or a resemblance to the whole or a part of someone or something with which a consumer makes a positive mental association. However, the freedom to provide the very visible top region and cap of a traditional container with, for example, a three dimensional design resembling the whole or a part of a person, an animal, a fictional character, or a thing, is constrained by the need that the cap and the top region of the container serve the functions of allowing the traditional container to be filled and sealed and of controlling the dispensing of the contents of the container.

Some of the limitations of a traditional container have been addressed through the manufacture and use of conventional top-down tubes. In a conventional top-down tube, a closure capable of sealing an opening in a top portion of the tube can stably support the top-down tube on a surface. As a result, a substance, such as a viscous fluid, in the container will settle near the top portion and the opening when the tube is stored with the closure stably supporting the tube on a surface. A user can then squeeze or agitate the tube gently for the viscous fluid to flow from the tube in a controlled manner. However, the bottom region of the tube, which is opposite of the top portion, cannot stably support the top-down tube on a surface. A filling operation can be conducted by filling a substance into the top-down tube through the opening before the closure is used to seal the opening. However, because the bottom region cannot stably support the conventional top-down tube on a surface, the tube cannot be stably transported on a conveyor of a filling line used for traditional containers with the top portion of the tube elevated. The tube cannot be stably supported on a conveyor used for traditional containers with the top portion of the tube elevated for a substance to be filled by a filling station through the opening. Instead a new, special filling line for conventional top-down tubes must be constructed, or an existing filling line for traditional containers must be retrofitted to provide sufficient support for the transport and filling of the conventional top-down tubes. Thus, switching from storing a substance in a traditional container to storing the substance in a conventional top-down tube can require expensive construction or an expensive retrofit of existing equipment.

One solution to this problem has been the use of blow-molded containers having conventional base designs. Such containers can be stable on a typical filling line. However, a top-down container with a conventional base does not fill the need for packaging that is aesthetically pleasing and provides marketing and product recognition that is important to packagers and consumers.

There thus remains a need for a top-down storage vessel that can be supported on a surface by a closure, can be supported on a surface by a base portion opposite of the closure during filling operations, and allows for varied three dimensional design of the base portion demanded for marketing and advertising purposes.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

It is therefore an object of the present invention to provide top-down storage vessels that can be supported on a surface by a closure, can be supported on a surface by a base portion opposite of the closure during filling operations, and allows for varied three dimensional design of the base portion demanded for marketing and advertising purposes.

An embodiment of a top-down storage vessel of the present invention includes a blow molded container. The blow molded container can include a top portion defining an opening, a body portion adjacent the top portion and defined by a tubular sidewall, and a base portion adjacent the body portion. The top portion, the body portion, and the base portion can be adapted for hot fill applications. The base portion can include corrugation comprising a plurality of raised ribs and at least one parallel trough extending substantially across the base portion. The corrugation can support the container upright on a surface.

The body portion of the blow molded container can have an oval cross section. The body portion can have an oval cross section at a first point, a second point, and a third point. The second point can be between the first and third points. The area of the oval cross section at the second point can be smaller than the area of the oval cross section at the first point and can be smaller than the area of the oval cross section at the third point. The oval cross section has a major axis and a minor axis. The plurality of raised ribs and the at least one trough can be parallel to the minor axis.

The raised parallel ribs can be concave; the at least one parallel trough can be concave; and the corrugation can be concave. The two outermost raised ribs can form standing points for the container.

The corrugation can include five raised ribs and four troughs. The five raised ribs can include a first outer rib, a first inner rib adjacent to the first outer rib, a central rib adjacent to the first inner rib, a second inner rib adjacent to the central rib, and a second outer rib adjacent to the second inner rib. The first and the second inner ribs can be taller than the first and second outer ribs. The first and the second inner ribs can have a concave shape, and can form four standing points for the container.

The blow molded container can include a polyolefin, and can be formed by an extrusion blow molding process.

A container system can include a blow molded container having a top portion defining an opening, a body portion adjacent to the top portion, and a base portion adjacent to the body portion, and can include a closure. The body portion can be defined by a tubular sidewall, the base portion can have corrugation, and the closure can be adapted to be coupled with the top portion. The closure can be adapted to support the container in an upright position on a surface. The base portion can be adapted to support the container in an upright position on a filling line.

A base for a container can include a base portion. A plurality of raised ribs and at least one parallel trough can extend substantially across the base portion. The raised parallel ribs can support the container upright on a surface; the two outermost raised ribs can form standing points for the container.

A method includes blow molding a container that has a top portion defining an opening, a body portion adjacent to the top portion, and a base portion adjacent to the body portion. The body portion can be defined by a tubular sidewall, and the base portion can have corrugation. The corrugation can include a plurality of raised ribs and at least one parallel trough extending substantially across the base portion. The raised ribs can be concave and the container can stand on the farthest portions of at least two of the raised ribs. The blow molding can include extrusion blow molding. The method can include filling the container with the container standing in an upright position on the corrugation. The method can include sealing the container with a closure; the container can stand in an upright position on either the corrugation or the closure.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a top-down storage vessel according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 2 is an exploded view of a top-down storage vessel according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 3 is a front elevational view of a top-down storage vessel according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 4 is a rear elevational view of a top-down storage vessel according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 5 is a left side elevational view of a top-down storage vessel according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 6 is a top plan view of a top-down storage vessel according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 7 is a bottom plan view of a top-down storage vessel according to an embodiment of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Embodiments of the invention are discussed in detail below. In describing embodiments, specific terminology is employed for the sake of clarity. However, the invention is not intended to be limited to the specific terminology so selected. A person skilled in the relevant art will recognize that other equivalent components can be employed and other methods developed without parting from the spirit and scope of the invention. All references cited herein are incorporated by reference as if each had been individually incorporated.

A top-down storage vessel of the present invention can include a blow-molded container 102, shown in FIG. 1. An exploded view of an embodiment of a top-down storage vessel including a blow molded container 102 is shown in FIG. 2. The blow-molded container 102 includes a top portion 104 defining an opening (the opening is not shown), a body portion 106 adjacent to the top portion 104 and defined by a tubular side wall, and a base adjacent to the body portion 106. The base includes a base portion 108; the base portion 108 includes corrugation 110. The corrugation 110 includes a plurality of raised parallel ribs and at least one parallel trough; the raised parallel ribs and the parallel trough or troughs can extend substantially across the base portion 108. In an embodiment, the corrugation 110 includes five parallel raised ribs 131-135 and four parallel troughs 114 extending substantially across the base portion 108, as shown in FIG. 1. The body portion 106 can have an oval cross section, as illustrated in FIGS. 6 and 7. The body portion 106 (see FIG. 3) can have an oval cross section at a first point 321, a second point 322, and a third point 323, with the second point between the first and third points. Accordingly, the body portion can have an oval cross section at the second point 322 that has a smaller cross sectional area than the cross sectional area of an oval cross section at the first point 321 and of an oval cross section at the third point 323. Viewed from the front, as shown in FIG. 3, the body portion 106 can have an hourglass shape. The body portion 106 can have an hourglass shape when viewed from the back, as shown in FIG. 4. The oval cross section of the body portion 106 can have a major axis and a minor axis and the plurality of raised parallel ribs 131-135 and the parallel troughs 114 can be parallel to the minor axis.

The top portion 104, the body portion 106, and the base portion 108 can be adapted for hot fill applications. The container 102 can be used to package a wide variety of liquid, viscous, or solid products including, for example, juices, other beverages, yogurt, sauces, pudding, lotions, soaps in liquid or gel form, and bead shaped objects such as candy.

Formulating a blow molded container with a portion that is nearly flat can be difficult. If a portion intended to be flat is in fact outwardly, i.e., convexly, curved, the container may be unstable when placed with the portion contacting a surface, such as the surface of a shelf or filling line, in order to support the container. A portion intended to be flat can be irregular, so that there are many standing points. The position of the container may then be effectively unstable when the portion is placed onto a surface, because there are many resting positions for the container on the surface. Therefore, it can be advantageous to produce a container with a minimum number of standing points, for example, three or four standing points, on a portion of the container which is to be placed onto a surface.

In an exemplary embodiment of the blow-molded container 102 of the present invention, the corrugation 110 can support the container 102 upright on a surface. The corrugation 110 can have a concave shape. For example, the raised parallel ribs 131-135 can be concave as illustrated in FIG. 1; the concavity of a first inner rib 133 is shown in FIG. 5. For example, a concave rib can be taller farther from a major axis of an oval shaped body portion 106 than it is closer to the major axis of an oval shaped body portion 106. That is, the concave rib can be taller towards the outside of the container 102. The parallel trough or troughs 114 can also be concave. The two outermost raised parallel ribs, for example, the two ribs on either side of a minor axis of an oval shaped body portion 106 that are farthest from the minor axis, can form standing points for the container 102. For example, when the base portion 108 of a container 102 is placed in contact with a surface, the raised parallel ribs, e.g., the two outermost raised parallel ribs, can be in contact with the surface and support the container 102 upright on the surface.

In the embodiment of the blow-molded container 102 of the present invention illustrated in FIG. 1, the corrugation 110 includes five raised parallel ribs 131-135 and four parallel troughs 114. The five raised ribs can include a first outer rib 131, a first inner rib 133 adjacent to the first outer rib 131, a central rib 135 adjacent to the first inner rib 133, a second inner rib 134 adjacent to the central rib 135, and a second outer rib 132 adjacent to the second inner rib 134, as illustrated in FIG. 3. The first inner rib 133 and the second inner rib 134 can be taller than the central rib 135. The first inner rib 133 and the second inner rib 134 can have a concave shape, as shown in FIG. 1. When the first inner rib 133 and the second inner rib 134 are taller than the other ribs, and have a concave shape, then the two tallest points, close to the outside of the container 102, of the first inner rib 133, and the two tallest points, close to the outside of the container 102, of the second inner rib 134 will be in or nearly in contact with a surface onto which the corrugation 110 is placed in order to support the container 102. Thus, the first inner rib 133 and the second inner rib 134 can provide four standing points for the container 102.

The container 102 can be made by conventional blow molding processes including, for example, extrusion blow molding, stretch blow molding, and injection blow molding. The container 102 has a one-piece construction and can be prepared from a monolayer plastic material, such as a polyamide, for example, nylon; a polyolefin such as polyethylene, for example, low density polyethylene (LDPE) or high density polyethylene (HDPE), or polypropylene; a polyester, for example, polyethylene terephthalate (PET) or polyethylene naphthalate (PEN); or others, which can also include additives to vary the physical or chemical properties of the material. For example, some plastic resins can be modified to improve the oxygen permeability. Alternatively, the container can be prepared from a multilayer plastic material. The layers can be any plastic material, including virgin, recycled, and reground material, and can include plastics or other materials with additives to improve physical properties of the container. In addition to the above-mentioned materials, other materials often used in multilayer plastic containers include, for example, ethylvinyl alcohol (EVOH) and tie layers or binders to hold together materials that are subject to delamination when used in adjacent layers. A coating may be applied over the monolayer or multilayer material, for example, to introduce oxygen barrier properties. In an exemplary embodiment, the present container is prepared from polyethylene.

In an embodiment of a container system of the present invention, the container system can include a blow-molded container 102; the blow-molded container 102 can include a top portion 104 defining an opening, a body portion 106 adjacent to the top portion 104 and defined by a tubular side wall, and a base portion 108 adjacent to the body portion 106. The base portion 108 includes corrugation 110. The container system can include a closure 116, shown in FIG. 1, adapted to be coupled with the top portion 104 of the blow-molded container 102. The closure 116 is also shown in FIGS. 4 and 5. The closure 116 can be adapted to support the container 102 in an upright position on a surface in use. For example, a container system including the container 102 and the closure 116 could be placed on a shelf, e.g., for storage or display, with the closure 116 contacting the surface of the shelf and supporting the container 102. Placing the container 102 with the closure 116 contacting a shelf can have several advantages. For example, when stored in such a position, a viscous fluid, such as ketchup, will rest in the section of the interior of the container 102 closest to the closure 116. Then, when a user wishes to obtain some of the viscous fluid from the container 102, the user need only squeeze or gently agitate the container 102 for the viscous fluid to flow from the container 102 in a controlled manner. The functioning of a top-down storage vessel of the present invention can be contrasted with the functioning of a traditional container in which a closure is located on the opposite side of the portion of the container that contacts a shelf. A user desiring to remove viscous fluid from a traditional container must often invert the container, attempt to balance the container on a closure ill-suited for this position, and wait for an extended period of time for the viscous fluid to flow towards the closure; or the user must often violently agitate the container, risking uncontrolled exiting of the viscous fluid from the container and resultant damage to clothing, furniture, or other property.

A top-down storage vessel of the present invention also has the advantage that when a container 102 is stored, the base portion 108 of the container 102 can be on the most elevated portion of the container 102, that is, opposite of the closure 116 contacting a surface. The base portion 108 can then be designed to serve a decorative function, for example, a marketing or advertising function, without being constrained by the need to simultaneous provide a connection to or serve as a closure. For example, in the embodiment of a top-down storage vessel of the present invention as illustrated, e.g., in FIGS. 1 through 4, the base portion 108 can serve a decorative function. For example, the base portion 108 can resemble the hair or a crown of, e.g., a person, an animal, or a fictional character.

As shown in FIG. 5, the closure 116 can include a lid 517, a flange 518, and a hinge 519 connecting the lid 517 and the flange 518. The lid 517 can be sealed onto the flange 518 so that a substance contained in the interior of the blow molded container 102 cannot leave the container 102. For example, a substance contained in the interior of the blow molded container 102 can be a food. The lid 517 can be unsealed from the flange 518, so that a substance in the container 102 can leave the container 102, for example, so that a substance can be forced out by squeezing the container 102. The hinge 519 can be flexible, so that the lid 517 can be unsealed from the flange 518, with the lid 517 still being connected to the flange 518 by the hinge 519 so that, for example, the lid 517 cannot be easily misplaced by a user. As other examples, the lid 517 can be designed to snap onto the flange 518 without a hinge connecting the lid 517 and the flange 518; or the lid 517 can be threaded and the flange 518 have mating threads so that the lid 517 can be screwed onto the flange 518.

The lid 517 may include features which can serve, for example, a structural or physical function or a decorative function. For example, in the embodiment shown in FIG. 5, the lid 517 includes the lid feature 120, also shown in FIG. 1. The lid feature 120 can function as a support for the container, when the container 102 is placed on a surface, such as the surface of a shelf. The lid feature 120 can also serve a decorative function, for example, the lid feature 120 can resemble feet of, e.g., a person, an animal, or a fictional character.

The closure 116 can be attached to the top portion 104 in any one of a number of ways. In an embodiment, the top portion 104 may include an engagement feature and the closure 116 can include a mating engagement feature, so that the closure 116 can be engaged with the top portion 104. An engagement feature can be, for example, a snap connection feature or a threaded feature. FIG. 2 illustrates a top portion 104 with a snap connection feature 202 and a closure 116 with a mating snap connection feature; the closure 116 can be snapped onto the top portion 104. For example, the mating snap connection feature may be within a flange 518 which is part of the closure 116. As another example of a way of attaching the closure 116 to the top portion 104, the top portion 104 can include a threaded feature and the closure 116 can include a mating threaded feature, so that the closure 116 can be screwed onto the top portion 104. In another embodiment, the closure 116 can be welded onto the top portion 104, for example, by heating plastic material of the closure 116, heating plastic material of the top portion 104, and bringing the closure 116 and the top portion 104 into contact with each other. The closure 116 can be glued onto the top portion 104. Other ways or combinations of ways can be used to attach the closure 116 to the top portion 104.

In a method of using the container system of the invention, the base portion 108 of the blow molded container 102 can be adapted to support the container in an upright position on a filling line. For example, the base portion 108 of the container 102 can be placed onto the surface of a conveyor of a filling line and can stably support the container 102 on the conveyor. For example, portions of the two outermost raised ribs towards the outside of the container 102 can form standing points which can stably support the container 102 on the conveyor. Thus, a conveyor designed to transport traditional containers can be used to transport top-down storage vessels of the present invention without adapting the conveyor. The conveyor can transport the container 102 underneath a filling station. A substance, e.g., a food, can be filled by the filling station through the opening of the top portion 104 into the container 102. After filling, the closure 116 can be attached to the top portion 104 of the container 102.

In an alternative way of attaching the closure 116 to the top portion 104, the closure 116 and the container 102 can be formed as a single unit. During a filling operation, a lid 517 can be unsealed from a flange 518, and a substance can be filled through the flange 518 into the container 102. After filling, the lid 517 can be sealed onto the flange 518.

A method aspect of the present invention can include blow molding a container 102. The container 102 can include a top portion 104, a body portion 106 adjacent to the top portion 104, and a base portion 108 adjacent to the body portion 106. The top portion 104 can define an opening; the body portion 106 can be defined by a tubular side wall. The base portion 108 can include corrugation 110 having a plurality of raised parallel ribs 131-135 and parallel troughs 114 extending substantially across the base portion 108. The blow molding can, for example, include extrusion blow molding. The method can include filling the container 102 with a substance with the container 102 standing in an upright position on the corrugation 110. The raised ribs 131-135 can be concave, and the container 102 can be capable of standing on the farthest portions of at least two of the raised ribs. The farthest portions of a raised rib can be the portions of the raised rib farthest from the major axis of an oval shaped body portion 106; for example, the farthest portions 526 of a raised inner rib 133 are shown in FIG. 5. The method can include sealing the container 102 with a closure 116. The container 102 can stand in an upright position on the corrugation 110; the container 102 can stand in an upright position on the closure 116.

The embodiments illustrated and discussed in this specification are intended only to teach those skilled in the art the best way known to the inventors to make and use the invention. Nothing in this specification should be considered as limiting the scope of the present invention. All examples presented are representative and non-limiting. The above-described embodiments of the invention may be modified or varied, without departing from the invention, as appreciated by those skilled in the art in light of the above teachings. It is therefore to be understood that, within the scope of the claims and their equivalents, the invention may be practiced otherwise than as specifically described.