Title:
Inflatable Food Carrier Case
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An inflatable food carrier case formed of flexible plastics material has an outer wall and inner wall to create an inflatable air chamber there between. Upon inflation of the air chamber the case provides protection for the enclosed item(s) of food, such as fruit. There may be a semi-rigid rim to provide structure to the body of the case. The case is formed in two halves and joined together via a hinge. Air inlets/outlets are provided across the hinge to allow air to flow into other air chambers. A valve is provided in the outer wall for inflation. An attachment device is provided for a clip or similar device to enable attachment to another article.



Inventors:
Allen, Paige Chemene (Surrey, GB)
Application Number:
12/159719
Publication Date:
12/18/2008
Filing Date:
03/08/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D81/02
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Primary Examiner:
REYNOLDS, STEVEN ALAN
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
NIXON & VANDERHYE, PC (901 NORTH GLEBE ROAD, 11TH FLOOR, ARLINGTON, VA, 22203, US)
Claims:
1. An inflatable food carrier case comprising: walls formed of a flexible airtight material, wherein the walls are formed at least partly of an outer and inner wall to create an inflatable air chamber therebetween which, when inflated, provides protection for food within the carrier case.

2. An inflatable food carrier case as defined in claim 1, wherein the case comprises two components hinged together, each of which components includes an inflatable chamber.

3. An inflatable food carrier case as defined in claim 2, wherein air sorts extend across a hinge to allow air to flow between the inflatable chambers in the components.

4. An inflatable food carrier case as defined in claim 1, wherein the walls of the case comprise a plurality of plastics panels with at least one semi-rigid rim to provide structure for a body of the case.

5. An inflatable food carrier case as defined in claim 1, and including a valve in an outer wall for inflation of the air chamber.

6. An inflatable food carrier case as defined in claim 1, wherein the case is formed with a single cavity adapted to receive an item of food therein.

7. An inflatable food carrier case ad defined in claim 1, wherein the case is formed with a plurality of cavities adapted to receive respective multiple items of food therein.

8. An inflatable food carrier case as defined in claim 1, and including an attachment device to enable attachment of a clip to the case, wherein the clip attaches the case to another article.

9. An inflatable food carrier case as defined in claim 1, wherein at least one of the inner wall and the outer wall is adapted to receive a coolant or coolant device.

10. (canceled)

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to an inflatable carrier case for carrying either singular or multiple units of fruit and other items of food and relates particularly, though not exclusively, to such a carrier case for children's lunches.

BACKGROUND TO THE INVENTION

Current means of carrying food or fruit are hard plastic containers, soft lunch boxes, cling film or other means. These are either cumbersome or do not provide a good level of, or adequate, protection. For example, there is a tendency for a piece of fruit to become bruised as it bounces around inside a hard lunchbox or if it is left loose in a school bag or briefcase.

The present invention was developed with a view to providing a food carrier case with inflatable walls which overcomes or substantially ameliorates the above disadvantages and/or more generally to provide a protective food/fruit carrier case of improved performance.

References to prior art in this specification are provided for illustrative purposes only and are not to be taken as an admission that such prior art is part of the common general knowledge in Australia or elsewhere.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

According to the present invention there is provided an inflatable food carrier case comprising walls formed of a flexible airtight material, wherein the walls are formed at least partly of an outer and inner wall to create an inflatable air chamber which, when inflated, provides protection for the food within the carrier case.

Typically the walls of the carrier case are made of a flexible plastics material. The carrier case may have an extra outer wall made of other material such as, but not exclusively, a fabric material. The inner and outer walls may be of different shape and size (to suit the contents it is designed to hold) and to reflect various outer appearances. For example the overall exterior appearance of the item may be that of a head with a face on it, a rugby ball or football or an animal so as to appeal to children.

Part of the structure may be a rim which can be made from a more rigid substance to provide structural shaping to the case where necessary. For inflation the case may include a valve in the inner or outer wall. A hinge where air can move between different parts of the case may be used in a “clamshell” overall design, enabling the user to deploy an opening where articles can be inserted/retrieved into/from the receiving space.

The case may be formed with a single cavity adapted to receive an item of food therein. Alternatively, the case may be formed with a plurality of cavities adapted to receive respective multiple items of food therein.

The case can be closed and secured by means of any suitable fastening mechanism, for example a burr fastener, sliding clasp fastener or another form of fastening. The fastening may be covered by a flap to provide a neat outward appearance.

Preferably there is also provided a further fastening device such as a clip and/or strap to enable the case to be attached to another object such as bag, belt, bike, car.

One or both of the inner wall or the outer wall may be adapted to receive a coolant or coolant device such as a freezer gel.

Throughout the specification, unless the context requires otherwise, the word “comprise” or variations such as “comprises” or “comprising”, will be understood to imply the inclusion of a stated integer or group of integers but not the exclusion of any other integer or group of integers. Likewise the word “preferably” or variations such as “preferred”, will be understood to imply that a stated integer or group of integers is desirable but not essential to the working of the invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The nature of the invention will be better understood from the following detailed description of preferred embodiments of the inflatable carrier case, given by way of example only, with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:

FIG. 1 is a schematic perspective view of a first embodiment of an inflatable carrier case according to the invention, upon closure after inflation;

FIG. 2 is a schematic perspective view of the inflatable case of FIG. 1 prior to closure, in a semi-inflated condition;

FIG. 3 is a schematic side elevation of the inflatable case of FIG. 2;

FIG. 4 is a schematic plan view of a second embodiment of an inflatable carrier case upon closure after inflation;

FIG. 5 is a schematic plan view of the inflatable carrier case of FIG. 4 prior to closure, in a semi-inflated condition;

FIG. 6 is a schematic perspective view of a third embodiment of an inflatable carrier case according to the invention;

FIG. 7 is a schematic perspective view of a fourth embodiment of an inflatable carrier case according to the invention prior to closure, in a semi-inflated condition; and,

FIG. 8 is a schematic perspective view of the inflatable case of FIG. 7 upon closure after inflation.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

A first embodiment of an inflatable food/fruit carrier case 10, as depicted schematically in the FIGS. 1 to 3 of the accompanying drawings, is preferably formed of plastics materials such as PVC or other food contact-safe materials. The plastics material might be opaque or light-transmissive or translucent or transparent. The carrier case 10 comprises an outer wall 11a and an inner wall 11b arranged to form an inflatable air chamber which, when inflated, provides protection for the food within the carrier case. Walls 11a and 11b are typically plastics-welded onto another specially formulated rim or structure 12. A semi-rigid material may be inserted inside the rim or structure 12 to provide a degree of structural rigidity to the rim or body of the case 10.

The walls 11 may be made in different shapes and sizes to suit the object(s) and for individual design. In this embodiment, the walls 11 of the case 10 are designed to accommodate a single piece of fruit, for example, an apple or an orange (not shown). The case 10 comprises two halves 13a and 13b joined together by a hinge 16. Each half 13 includes an inflatable air chamber which is configured to form a hemispherical internal cavity. Preferably the inflatable chambers in the respective halves 13a and 13b are in fluid communication via air inlets/outlets extending across the hinge 16, to allow air to flow between the air chambers.

As shown in FIG. 1, a flap 14 is provided around the top half 13a to facilitate closure of the case 10 and to provide a neat finish. The flap 14 is closed or secured by means of hook and loop fastener 15 or another form of fastening

A hook, loop, clasp or similar device 17 is fixed to the top half 13a of the case 10, and attached thereto is a clip, hook or strap 17a or other means of attachment to enable the case 10 to be secured to a bag, belt or other object.

Air can be blown into the air chambers formed between the inner and outer walls via a valve 18 to create an air cushion around the piece of fruit.

In use, a piece of fruit (not shown) is inserted into the cavity formed in the lower half 13b of the case 10, preferably while it is in a semi-inflated condition as shown in FIG. 2. The carrier case 10 is then closed by bringing the top half 13a over the top of the piece of fruit, and the securing it to the lower half 13b by means of flap 14 and the hook and loop fastener 15. One then blows air into the air chambers via the air valve 18 to create a secure fit around the enclosed piece of fruit.

The inflatable food/fruit carrier case 10 can be carried loose, placed directly into a school bag or other carrying device, or secured by way of a hook, clip, or strap 17a or other means to a bag, belt, bike, dashboard or other object. The piece of fruit can be safely carried in the case 10 without being bruised or otherwise spoiled in transit. After use the case 10 can be deflated for ease of transportation and storage.

A second embodiment of an inflatable food/fruit carrier case 20 is depicted schematically in the FIGS. 4 and 5 of the accompanying drawings. This embodiment is made from similar materials to the first embodiment and is specifically designed to carry a banana 22 therein. The carrier case 20 comprises an outer wall 24a and an inner wall 24b arranged to form an inflatable air chamber which, when inflated, provides protection for the food within the carrier case. Walls 24a and 24b are typically plastics-welded onto another specially formulated rim or structure 26. A semi-rigid material may be inserted inside the rim or structure 26 to provide a degree of structural rigidity to the rim or body of the case 20, however this is optional.

The case 20 comprises two halves 28a and 28b joined together by a hinge 30. Each half 28 includes an inflatable air chamber which is configured to form a banana-shaped internal cavity. Preferably the inflatable chambers in the respective halves 28a and 28b are in fluid communication via air inlets/outlets extending across the hinge 30, to allow air to flow between the air chambers. A valve 32 is provided to allow the air chambers to be inflated.

Flaps 34 are provided on the edge of top half 28a to facilitate closure of the case 20. The flaps 34 are closed or secured by means of hook and loop fastener 36 or another form of fastening. This embodiment of the carrier case 20 is used in a similar manner to the first embodiment described above.

A third embodiment of an inflatable food carrier case 40 is depicted schematically in FIG. 6 of the accompanying drawings. This embodiment may be made from similar materials to the previous embodiments and is specifically designed to carry a pot of yoghurt, fromage frais or similar food product therein (not shown). The carrier case 40 comprises an outer wall 42a and an inner wall 42b arranged to form an inflatable air chamber therebetween which, when inflated, provides protection for the food within the carrier case.

In this embodiment the walls 42 are arranged in a cylindrical configuration to form a cavity adapted to receive a pot of yoghurt or other food product therein. A lid 44 is preferably connected to the walls 42 via a hinge 46 and may also be inflatable. If so, the air chamber formed in the lid 44 is preferably in fluid communication with the cylindrical air chamber formed in the walls 42 via air inlets/outlets or channels provided in the hinge 46.

The inner wall may be adapted to receive a coolant such as a freezer gel pack. As shown in FIG. 6, the inner wall 42b may be formed with one of more internal pockets 48 adapted to receive freezer gel packs therein to help keep the food product cool during transport. An external pocket 50 may be provided for a spoon or other utensil.

The lid 44 is provided with a flap 52 to facilitate closure of the carrier case 40 once the pot of yoghurt is received therein. Lid 44 may be formed with a zip fastener or other suitable fastener to secure the lid to the top edge of the walls 42 of the case 40. A clip 54 may optionally be provided to enable the carrier case 40 to be carried on the belt or attached to some other object. The air chambers within the walls 42 and lid 44 is filled with air after the pot of yoghurt or other food product is received in the case 40, by blowing in a valve 56 provided for that purpose. It will be appreciated that in this embodiment the air chambers in the case 40 primarily protect the food product by providing thermal insulation and keeping the food product cool.

A fourth embodiment of an inflatable food carrier case 60 is depicted schematically in FIGS. 7 and 8 of the accompanying drawings. This embodiment may be made from similar materials to the previous embodiments and is specifically designed to carry multiple pieces of a food product, such as fruit, therein (not shown). The carrier case 60 comprises two halves 62a and 62b, each half being formed with an outer wall 64a and an inner wall 64b arranged to form an inflatable air chamber therebetween which, when inflated, provides protection for the food products within the carrier case.

Each half 62 of the case 60 is in the form of a tray, which is connected to the other half by a hinge 66. The inner wall 64b of each tray is formed with a plurality of cavities 68, adapted to receive a respective piece of fruit therein. A valve (not visible) is provided for inflating the air chambers in the respective halves of the carrier case 60. Preferably the hinge 66 is provided with an air channel therethrough that provides fluid communication between the air chambers in the respective halves 62 of the case.

The top half 62a is in the form of a lid for the carrier case 60, which is provided with a flap 68 that may be closed by means of a suitable fastener 70. A strap 72 or optionally a clip 74 may be used to carry the carrier case 60 and/or attach it to another object.

Now that preferred embodiments of the inflatable carrier case have been described in detail, it will be apparent that it provides a number of advantages over the prior art, including the following:

(i) It provides an effective means of protecting the food product from damage or deterioration in quality.
(ii) It is attractive to use, especially for children.
(iii) It is cost-effective to manufacture and purchase.
(iv) It can be designed in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and configurations to suit numerous applications.

It will be readily apparent to persons skilled in the relevant arts that various modifications and improvements may be made to the foregoing embodiments, in addition to those already described, without departing from the basic inventive concepts of the present invention. For example, it is not necessary for the food product to be in the form of a solid. The carrier case may take the form of an inflatable drink bottle for a liquid food product. Therefore, it will be appreciated that the scope of the invention is not limited to the specific embodiments described and is to be determined from the appended claims.