Title:
Storage device for light bulbs
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An apparatus for storing light bulbs and other articles for maintaining an office or residence habitation, comprising one or more layers of low density material. A plurality of cavities are formed in at least a first layer, each cavity shaped to conform to and retain therewithin the light bulb or other maintenance article.



Inventors:
Lake, Russell D. (Keller, TX, US)
Marcantonio, Giandomenico (Irving, TX, US)
Application Number:
11/439333
Publication Date:
11/23/2006
Filing Date:
05/23/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D85/42
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
NEWAY, BLAINE GIRMA
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Stephen S. Mosher (Whitaker, Chalk, Swindle & Sawyer, LLP Suite 3500 301 Commerce Street, Fort Worth, TX, 76102-4186, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An apparatus for storing light bulbs, comprising: a unitary block of resilient, low density material and having at least first and second substantially parallel sides spaced a predetermined distance apart; a plurality of cavities formed in the block, each cavity having an outline shape corresponding to a silhouette of a light bulb to be stored therein, at least a single opening to the first side of the block, and spaced from adjacent cavities according to a cross section dimension of the light bulbs to be stored therein; wherein at least a portion of each cavity has a reduced cross section dimension to enable the portion of the cavity to exert a retaining pressure upon the bulb stored therein.

2. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the block is configured to fit within a predetermined container.

3. The apparatus of claim 2, wherein the container is selected from the group consisting of a box, a tray, a tub, a carton, a sleeve, a shelf system, and a cabinet.

4. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the cavities open to both first and second sides of the block.

5. The apparatus of claim 4, further comprising: a base section of rigid, low density material attached to the second side of the block to form a floor for the plurality of cavities.

6. The apparatus of claim 5, wherein the base section is fabricated of a material selected from the group consisting of expanded polystyrene (EPS), paperboard, or thermoplastic.

7. The apparatus of claim 5, wherein the base section includes at least one cavity aligned with and extending a corresponding cavity in the resilient block at least partially into the base section.

8. The apparatus of claim 4, wherein a thin base section panel of the same resilient, low density material as used for the block to form a floor for the plurality of cavities.

9. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the resilient material is substantially homogeneous and has a density exceeding 0.5 pounds per cubic foot (pcf).

10. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the resilient material is polyurethane (PU) foam having a density in the range of 0.8 to 1.5 pounds per cubic foot (pcf).

11. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein no cavity opens to the second side of the block.

12. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the outline shape of at least a portion of the cavity is reduced in scale to retain the light bulb stored therein in a snug manner.

13. The apparatus of claim 12, wherein the reduction in scale is at least 5%.

14. An apparatus for storing maintenance articles for office and residence habitations, comprising: a first unitary layer of a resilient, low density material having first and second substantially parallel sides spaced a first predetermined distance apart; at least a first cavity formed in the first layer, the first cavity having an outline shape corresponding to a silhouette of a first maintenance article to be stored therein, at least a single opening to the first side of the block, and spaced from an adjacent cavity by a second predetermined distance; at least a second cavity formed in the first layer, the second cavity having an outline shape corresponding to a silhouette of a second maintenance article to be stored therein, at least a single opening to the first side of the first layer, and spaced from an adjacent cavity according to the second predetermined distance; a second unitary layer of substantially rigid, low density material having first and second sides, wherein the first side of the second layer is attached to the second side of the first layer; and at least one cavity formed in the second layer is aligned with and forms a portion of a corresponding cavity in the first layer when the second layer is attached to the second side of the first layer; wherein at least a portion of each cavity in the first layer has a reduced cross section dimension to enable the portion of each cavity so reduced to exert a retaining pressure upon the article stored therein.

15. The apparatus of claim 14, wherein the first maintenance article is a light bulb and the second maintenance article is an item other than a light bulb.

16. The apparatus of claim 15, wherein the second maintenance article is selected from the group consisting of batteries, paint, caulk, paint brushes, spackle, nail packs and lubricating oil.

17. The apparatus of claim 14, wherein the resilient, low density material is polyurethane having a density of at least 0.5 pounds per cubic foot and the rigid, low density material is expanded polystyrene having a density of at least 0.5 pounds per cubic foot.

18. The apparatus of claim 14, wherein an assembly of the first and second layers, wherein the second layer is attached to the first layer, is configured to fit within a predetermined container.

19. The apparatus of claim 18, wherein the container is selected from the group consisting of a box, a tray, a tub, a carton, a sleeve, a shelf system, and a cabinet.

20. The apparatus of claim 14, wherein the cross section dimension is reduced approximately 5%.

21. The apparatus of claim 14, wherein: a third layer of adhesive is interposed between the first and second layers to attach the first side of the second layer to the second side of the first layer.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

The present application claims priority to the Provisional U.S. Patent Application Ser. No. 60/683,762 filed May 23, 2005 by the same inventors and entitled STORAGE DEVICE FOR LIGHT BULBS.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention generally relates to packaging devices and, more particularly, to protective devices for storing glass or other fragile items such as light bulbs. The device may also be configured for storing other supply articles used in the routine maintenance of residential or office habitation.

2. Description of the Prior Art

Packaging devices are readily available for storing nearly all kinds of glassware and other fragile glassware items. Some examples of the types of items stored in protective packaging devices include glassware, dishware, crystal ware, vases, art glass, ornaments, figurines, and the like. Such packaging is especially required for storing or shipment of fine or heirloom quality items that must be protected from the shock of handling.

One type of product that is typically provided with only minimal protective packaging for storage is the ubiquitous light bulb. The packaging typically consists of paper or low-strength cardboard fitments designed to support the bulb within some sort of carton. Often, the carton itself is die cut with folded, upset portions or panels that support and enclose the bulb while separating one bulb's surfaces from an adjacent bulb's surface in packs of more than one bulb. This type of packaging is light weight and inexpensive to produce, and also facilitates handling the bulbs during packing for shipment or for display in a retail environment. However, this type of packaging is structurally weak, providing little or no protection against mechanical shock or impact and against being tightly packed with or under other articles. Moreover, this type of packaging has several other disadvantages from the point of view of the end user, particularly as to its utility in fulfilling the functions of storage, selection, and inventory status.

For example, end users (“users”) in residential or office habitations often keep a supply of light bulbs on hand, usually storing them in some out of the way location on a shelf or in a box or cabinet. The packaged bulbs are placed in a container or stacked on a shelf, often in a haphazard manner because, once a particular bulb is sought, sorting through the available bulbs leaves the unselected bulbs in disarray. This impairs subsequent searches for the correct bulb (unless all of the bulbs are of the same type and rating), because the user must typically handle each bulb to locate its rating or type. Moreover, this method of storing the bulbs impairs taking an inventory of the bulbs on hand when a shopping list is being prepared, because, again, each individual bulb or bulb package must be handled to ascertain its type and rating. With this type of bulb packaging and storage, it is almost impossible to perform a selection of a bulb for replacement or to determine the inventory status by inspection without handling each bulb individually. Handling each bulb individually is time consuming, tends to disturb the inventory arrangement, and risks damage to the bulbs. Further, once a bulb is selected, the paper packaging typically available in the prior art, having no useful shape without a bulb inside, has little or no utility and is usually discarded along with the burned out bulb that the contents of the packaging replaced.

What is needed is a storage device for light bulbs that overcomes these deficiencies and provides added utility and protection for the bulbs.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Accordingly, an apparatus is provided for storing light bulbs, comprising a unitary block or layer of resilient, low density material and having at least first and second substantially parallel sides spaced a predetermined distance apart; a plurality of cavities formed in the block, each cavity having an outline shape corresponding to a silhouette of a light bulb to be stored therein, at least a single opening to the first side of the block, and spaced from adjacent cavities according to a cross section dimension of the light bulbs to be stored therein; wherein at least a portion of each cavity has a reduced cross section dimension to enable the portion of the cavity to exert a retaining pressure upon the bulb stored therein.

In another aspect, an apparatus for storing maintenance articles for office and residence habitations is provided comprising: a first unitary layer of a resilient, low density material having first and second substantially parallel sides spaced a first predetermined distance apart; at least a first cavity formed in the first layer, the first cavity having an outline shape corresponding to a silhouette of a first maintenance article to be stored therein, at least a single opening to the first side of the block, and spaced from an adjacent cavity by a second predetermined distance; at least a second cavity formed in the first layer, the second cavity having an outline shape corresponding to a silhouette of a second maintenance article to be stored therein, at least a single opening to the first side of the first layer, and spaced from an adjacent cavity according to the second predetermined distance; a second unitary layer of substantially rigid, low density material having first and second sides, wherein the first side of the second layer is attached to the second side of the first layer; and at least one cavity formed in the second layer is aligned with and forms a portion of a corresponding cavity in the first layer when the second layer is attached to the second side of the first layer; wherein at least a portion of each cavity in the first layer has a reduced cross section dimension to enable the portion of each cavity so reduced to exert a retaining pressure upon the article stored therein.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 illustrates a first embodiment of a storage device for light bulbs according to the present invention;

FIG. 2 illustrates a line drawing of the embodiment of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 illustrates a second embodiment of a storage device for light bulbs according to the present invention;

FIG. 4 illustrates a line drawing of the embodiment of FIG. 3;

FIG. 5 illustrates a third embodiment of a storage device for light bulbs and associated supply articles for maintaining a residential or office habitation according to the present invention;

FIG. 6 illustrates an exploded view of two portions of the embodiment of FIG. 5; and

FIG. 7 illustrates a perspective view of the embodiment of FIGS. 5 and 6 installed in a case.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Referring to FIG. 1, there is illustrated a top plan view of a first embodiment of a storage device 10 for light bulbs according to the present invention. A block 12 of resilient material having a density of at least 0.5 pounds per cubic foot (pcf) is shown, the block 12 having a first (top) and a second (bottom) substantially parallel sides and a plurality of cavities formed therein for receiving light bulbs within the cavities. The cavities are shaped generally to correspond to the silhouette or outline shape of the light bulb or other article intended to be stored therein. Further, the cavities are spaced to maximize the storage capacity of the storage device while providing sufficient resilient foam material therebetween for adequate cushioning in the event of impact or compression stresses exerted upon the storage device. The spacing may take advantage of the peculiar shapes of light bulbs by arranging them in alternate orientations.

The resilient material, which is preferably homogeneous, may be selected from several available synthetic foam materials such as polyurethane (PU), and preferably has a density of 0.8 to 1.5 pcf. Polyurethane is available in a wide variety of densities and firmness, as well as having other useful properties, including some resistance to slipping of smooth surfaces in contact with it such as the surface of a light bulb. The latter property facilitates gently retaining a bulb in a cavity while protecting it from impact or a moderate amount of pressure. Further, the resilient foam material may be provided in any suitable color.

There are three rows of cylindrically shaped cavities in the block 12 of foam material of the embodiment of the storage device 10 illustrated in FIG. 1. A standard sized cavity 14 for standard size lamp bulbs 18, and a smaller sized cavity 16 for smaller light bulbs 22 are shown. The cavities may be die cut in the foam material using techniques well known in the art. In the figure, a standard sized bulb 18 is shown “heads up” with the bulb rating marked on the bulb in view. Another standard sized bulb 20 is shown “tails out” with the bulb base in view. Thus, the bulbs may be stored in either orientation in the corresponding cylindrical cavities.

The cylindrical cavities shown in FIG. 1 have a nominal diameter that is less than the standard diameter of at least a portion of the light bulb to be stored therein, in order to retain the bulbs snugly but without exerting excessive pressure on the surfaces of the bulbs. Preferably, the nominal diameter is approximately 5% less than the standard diameter. Further, the cavities may be cut entirely through the block, from a first (top) side 24 (see FIG. 2) to the opposite (second or bottom) side 26 (see FIG. 2). Alternatively, each cavity may be formed to have only a single opening, to the first side of the block, wherein the cavity is formed through less than the full thickness of the block 12. As mentioned, the first and second sides are generally parallel to each other and will be spaced apart by a predetermined distance (the thickness) that is at least the same as or slightly greater than the length of the bulbs to be stored therein. In the illustrative example of FIG. 1, the bulb orientation is alternated, with half of the bulbs inserted “heads up” and the other half of the bulbs inserted “tails out,” to better distribute the resilient forces within the foam and maximize the protection afforded to the individual bulbs.

In FIG. 1, the block 12 is shown as a rectangular form, but may be any practical shape to suit a particular application. In the form shown, multiple blocks may be stacked, with the cavities oriented in a horizontal direction. This arrangement facilitates easy inspection to determine the inventory status, and also facilitates removal or insertion of a bulb. Bulbs are easy to select because their ratings, of those bulbs inserted into the cavities “heads up,” so to speak, are exposed to view. Moreover, the user need not handle any bulb until the desired one is located. If the correct bulb is not located, the block may be turned around so that the second side is brought into view, and the bulbs again scanned for the desired rating or size. If the inventory of bulbs needs to be handled, the storage device 10 is merely picked up as a unit and moved as desired. The inventory is not disturbed. Replenishment is similarly an easy process, with minimal handling of individual bulbs being required. Moreover, the bulbs are well protected because they are isolated from each other, and retained in non-slip cavities so that they are unlikely to move around even as the entire block is handled.

Alternatively, the embodiment of FIG. 1 may be placed in a container having substantially rigid walls to provide additional protection to the bulbs, prevent the accumulation of dust, enable stacking the foam blocks (full of bulbs) in a vertical orientation. For example, if the foam block were sized to just fit within a shoe box (or similar container), a plurality of shoe boxes (containers) containing the light bulbs could be easily stored with a high degree of protection afforded the contents. Access to the contents is almost as easy as in the unboxed storage devices, simply by removing the lid of the desired box. Other kinds of containers that may be used include plastic or cardboard trays, tubs, cartons, sleeves, shelving systems, cabinets, and the like, to name a few. One embodiment of a storage device for light bulbs and related supply items that is housed in a case is illustrated in FIG. 7 to be described. The foam blocks may be fabricated in any convenient size and configured to accommodate any shape of light bulb, as will be described herein below for FIGS. 3 and 4.

Referring to FIG. 2, there is illustrated a line drawing of the embodiment of FIG. 1, shown in perspective and without light bulbs inserted, of the storage device 10. The reference numbers of FIG. 2 are the same as the reference numbers of FIG. 1 and identify the same structural features. FIG. 2 thus illustrates a version of the storage device 10 having the cavities 14, 16 that open—that is, the cavities are cut completely through the foam material—to both first (top) 24 and second (bottom) 26 opposite sides of the foam block 12.

Referring to FIG. 3, there is illustrated a second embodiment of a storage device 30 for light bulbs according to the present invention. The embodiment of FIG. 3 is constructed similarly to the embodiment of FIG. 1 except for its size, its shape, and the arrangement of and variety of light bulbs stored within its cavities. As mentioned in the description for FIG. 1, the first side 54 (see FIG. 4) and second side 56 (see FIG. 4) are generally parallel to each other and will be spaced apart by a predetermined distance that is at least the same as or slightly greater than the largest dimension or diameter of the bulbs to be stored therein. The foam block 32 is also larger to accommodate more bulbs. The foam block 32 may be shaped to fit within a storage container (not shown). When used, a storage container (not shown, but see, e.g., FIG. 7) may be constructed of a transparent material for inspection of the contents without opening the container.

The cavities in the storage device 30 shown in FIG. 3 accommodate two sizes of flood or spot light bulbs as well as several very small light bulbs, such as used for night lights or appliance lamps, etc. Illustratively, standard sized cavities 34, 36 are provided for standard sized light bulbs 46, 48 respectively shown “heads up” in cavity 36 and “tails out” in cavity 34. A small flood lamp bulb 38 is shown in a cavity 40 and a large flood lamp bulb 50 is shown inserted in a large flood lamp cavity 44. The storage device 30 of FIG. 3 has additional cavities for various sizes of light bulbs. It will further be appreciated that the cavities for the flood or spot types of bulbs are shaped substantially like the cross section shape or outline of the bulb to conform substantially to the cross section shape or outline of the bulb to be stored therein. Again, at least a portion of the cross section shape or outline of the cavity is reduced in scale to exert a slight pressure upon the bulb to grasp and retain the bulb snugly within the cavity. The reduction in scale is preferably approximately 5%.

Referring to FIG. 4, there is illustrated a line drawing of the embodiment of FIG. 3, shown in perspective and without bulbs inserted. The reference numbers of FIG. 4 are the same as the reference numbers of FIG. 3 and identify the same structural features. Also shown in the perspective view is a bottom panel 52 that illustrates a version having cavities that are closed on the bottom side by a flat, relatively thin foam panel that is attached to the second (bottom) side 56 of the foam block 32.

FIG. 5 illustrates a third embodiment of a storage device 60 for light bulbs and associated supply articles for maintaining a residential or office habitation according to the present invention. The storage device 60 of FIG. 5 is constructed of a first layer 62 and a second layer 64. The first layer is preferably fabricated from polyurethane (PU) foam, e.g., by die cutting or other process well known in the art. Cavities of various sizes and shapes to accommodate light bulbs and other articles are provided. The PU foam should have a density of at least 0.5 pcf and preferably in the range of 0.8 pcf to 1.5 pcf. The second layer 64 may be fabricated of PU or other materials such as expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam. EPS foam is a light weight material that is also rigid; that is, it lacks the same property of resilience that is found in the PU foam material. Thus, the EPS material may be utilized as a base or floor of a storage system, as will be described. The density of the EPS used in the second layer 64 of the storage device 60 shown in FIG. 5 may be in the same or similar range as that specified for the PU foam of the first layer 62.

The cavities formed in the first layer 62 include a cavity 66 for storing a standard flood lamp bulb (not shown), and a cavity 68 for standard sized light bulbs, of which four are provided in the embodiment shown. The cavity 68 includes finger spaces 70 located on opposite sides of the cavity 68 to enable a user's fingers to grasp the sides of the light bulb stored in the cavity 68. The finger spaces 70 may be formed part way into the foam material from the top surface shown in the figure. Other cavities are provided for articles often needed for routine maintenance of a dwelling or habitation. A cavity 72 (without finger spaces) is provided for storing one or more jars of paint (not shown in FIG. 5). A small cavity 74 is shown for storing a small light bulb (not shown). A cavity 76 is shaped for storing a tube of caulking compound (not shown). Cavity 78 is provided for storing a 9 volt battery (not shown) such as for smoke detectors, and smaller, cylindrical cavities 80, 82 are provided for storing C and AA sized batteries (not shown in FIG. 5). Cavity 84, having an elongated rectangular profile is provided for storing small tubes of material such as lubricating oil (not shown) and cavity 86, similarly shaped but larger, is provided for storing a paint brush (not shown in FIG. 5). It will be appreciated by persons skilled in the art that a variety of cavities may be provided to accommodate different supply products or even tools for maintenance of residential or office habitations. The cavities in the first layer 62 are cut through the first layer 62.

FIG. 6 illustrates an exploded view of two portions of the embodiment of FIG. 5. The first layer 62 is as described in FIG. 5, wherein the same reference numbers refer to the same structures. The first, polyurethane layer 62 further includes a first side 88 (also referred to as the top side) and a second side 90 (also referred to as the bottom side). Attached to the second side 90 is the second, expanded polystyrene layer 64, which includes partial cut-outs that correspond to cavities formed in the first layer 62 for articles that have dimensions exceeding the thickness of the first layer 62. For example, cavity 66A is provided to receive the lower portion of a standard sized flood lamp bulb that is stored in the cavity 66. Similarly, cavities 68A and 72A, as well as certain other cavities are formed in the second layer 64 to accommodate the dimensions of the articles stored therein. The second layer 64 may be attached to the second side 90 of the first layer 62, generally by using an adhesive that is compatible with the materials of both the first 62 and second 64 layers. Such adhesives are well known in the art. Persons skilled in the art will also realize that various combinations of materials may be used in the construction of a storage device according to the principles of the present invention to adapt to the storage requirements of many kinds of products. As just one example, the second layer 64 may be fabricated of other rigid, light weight materials such as fiber board (as used in cartons). The fiber board may be readily die cut and provides the stiffness to function as a base or floor for the first layer when handling the storage device during transport, or during removal or insertion of light bulbs or other articles therein.

FIG. 7 illustrates a perspective view of the embodiment of FIGS. 5 and 6 installed in a case. This embodiment is one example of a “Spiff Kit,” a storage system 100 devised for enclosing the storage device of FIGS. 5 and 6 within a case 102 that is portable and provides additional protection for the contents stored within it. The case 102 may be constructed of paper board, thermoplastic, or metal materials, formed by processes well known in the art. The case 102 includes a lid 104 that may be secured by a variety of ways well known in the art and a handle 106 for carrying the storage system 100. All of the other structures illustrated in FIG. 7 bear the same reference numbers as in FIGS. 5 and 6, and identify the same structures. As in the previous figures, the storage system 102 is shown without the particular light bulbs and other articles in place within the cavities, in order to provide clarity of the structures illustrated.

While the invention has been shown in only one of its forms, it is not thus limited but is susceptible to various changes and modifications without departing from the spirit thereof. For example, other types of homogeneous materials may be used to fabricate the homogeneous, resilient block, as long as the same density and resilient properties are utilized. Combinations of foam materials, both resilient and rigid may be used to advantage in configuring a storage device for light bulbs and associated supply articles used in a typical habitation. For example, builders of new homes or apartments, landlords, housing authorities, mortgage lenders, or other interested parties may provide storage kits—e.g., “Spiff Kits”—constructed according to the invention and stocked with assortments of light bulbs and or other articles for use by the new owner or occupant in maintaining their habitation. Moreover, the storage device may be configured and used advantageously for the protective storage of any kind of glass item such as fine china, heirloom quality art glass, vases, crystal, pottery, ornaments, and the like. When configured for other than light bulbs, the density of the resilient material should be adjusted to suit the type of item to be stored.