Title:
TRAY FOR CONTAINERS
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A thermoformed tray includes a base wall and a plurality of side walls curving upwardly from a periphery of the base wall. A guide rail projects downward from the periphery of the base wall.



Inventors:
Barbalho, Daniel (Atlanta, GA, US)
Meers, Ryan C. (Los Angeles, CA, US)
Ogburn, Sean T. (Hoschton, GA, US)
Manuel, Nathan (Redondo Beach, CA, US)
Application Number:
12/145932
Publication Date:
12/25/2008
Filing Date:
06/25/2008
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
206/562, 206/564, 206/432
International Classes:
B65D75/00; B65D1/34; B65D65/00
View Patent Images:
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20090242444CARTON WITH ADVERTISING MEANSOctober, 2009Lebras
20080119879DEVICES, SYSTEMS AND METHODS FOR CREATION OF A PERIPHERALLY LOCATED FISTULAMay, 2008Brenneman et al.
20090206088CRATE FOR CONTAINERSAugust, 2009Ogburn
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Primary Examiner:
ORTIZ, RAFAEL ALFREDO
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
CARLSON, GASKEY & OLDS, P.C. (400 WEST MAPLE ROAD, SUITE 350, BIRMINGHAM, MI, 48009, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A thermoformed tray comprising: a base wall; a plurality of side walls curving upwardly from a periphery of the base wall; and a guide rail projecting downward from the periphery of the base wall.

2. The thermoformed tray of claim 1 further including a recess on an upper surface of the base wall corresponding to the guide rail.

3. The thermoformed tray of claim 2 wherein the guide rail includes alternating inwardly-curved and outwardly-curved portions.

4. The thermoformed tray of claim 3 further including a plurality of vertical projections upwardly from the base wall between the side walls, a plurality of pockets defined between the plurality of vertical projections and the side walls.

5. The thermoformed tray of claim 4 wherein the inwardly-curved portions are aligned with the vertical projections and the outwardly-curved portions are aligned between the vertical projections.

6. The thermoformed tray of claim 5 wherein the base wall, side walls vertical projections and guide rail are thermoformed from a single sheet.

7. The thermoformed tray of claim 1 further including at least one handle integrally formed with the tray.

8. The thermoformed tray of claim 7 wherein the at least one handle extends upwardly from one of the side walls.

9. The thermoformed tray of claim 1 further including a plurality of bottles in the plurality of pockets.

10. The thermoformed tray of claim 9 further including plastic wrap securing the bottles to the tray.

11. The thermoformed tray of claim 1 wherein at least one of the plurality of side walls includes a plurality of curved portions that are curved in a plane generally parallel to the base wall to partially define pockets.

12. The thermoformed tray of claim 11 wherein the guide rail includes alternating inwardly-curved and outwardly-curved portions, the outwardly-curved portions generally aligned with the pockets.

13. A thermoformed tray comprising: a base wall a plurality of side walls curving upwardly from a periphery of the base wall; a plurality of vertical projections upwardly from the base wall between the side walls, a plurality of pockets defined between the plurality of vertical projections and the side walls; and alternating inwardly and outwardly positioned rail portions projecting downward from the periphery of the base wall and having corresponding recessed portions on an upper surface of the base wall.

14. The thermoformed tray of claim 13 wherein the inwardly-projecting portions are aligned with the vertical projections and the outwardly-projecting portions are aligned between the vertical projections.

15. The thermoformed tray of claim 13 further including at least one handle integrally formed with the tray.

16. The thermoformed tray of claim 15 wherein the at least one handle extends upwardly from one of the side walls.

17. The thermoformed tray of claim 13 further including a plurality of bottles in the plurality of pockets.

18. The thermoformed tray and bottles of claim 17 wherein the plurality of bottles contact one another in the tray.

19. A method of forming a tray for beverage containers including the steps of: a) thermoforming a polymer sheet to include a base wall; b) thermoforming a plurality of side walls extending upwardly from a periphery of the base wall; c) thermoforming a plurality of vertical projections upwardly from the base wall between the side walls, a plurality of pockets defined between the plurality of vertical projections and the side walls; and d) thermoforming guide portions projecting downward from the periphery of the base wall.

20. The method of claim 18 wherein the guide portions include alternating inwardly and outwardly projecting rail portions projecting downward from the periphery of the base wall.

21. The method of claim 19 wherein the guide portions have corresponding recessed portions on an upper surface of the base wall.

22. A thermoformed tray comprising: a base wall; and a plurality of side walls curving upwardly from a periphery of the base wall, at least one of the plurality of side walls including a plurality of curved portions that are curved in a plane generally parallel to the base wall to partially define pockets.

23. The thermoformed tray of claim 21 further including alternating inwardly and outwardly positioned rail portions projecting downward from the periphery of the base wall and having corresponding recessed portions on an upper surface of the base wall.

Description:

This application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/946,041, filed Jun. 25, 2007.

BACKGROUND

The present invention relates generally to a tray for use in retaining and transporting beverage bottles or other containers.

Plastic soft drink bottles, such as twenty-ounce or one-liter PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles, are often packaged in injection molded plastic crates for storage and shipment to stores. Another common packaging for soft drink bottles is corrugated cardboard which is light and inexpensive, but not reusable.

SUMMARY

A tray according to one embodiment of the present invention includes a base wall and a plurality of side walls curving upwardly from a periphery of the base wall. A guide rail projects downward from the periphery of the base wall. The tray may be thermoformed economically and recycled.

In one embodiment, a plurality of vertical projections project upwardly from the base wall between the side walls, defining a plurality of pockets between the plurality of vertical projections and the side walls.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the tray according to one embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a bottom perspective view of the tray of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a top view of the tray of FIG. 1.

FIG. 4 is a bottom view of the tray of FIG. 1.

FIG. 5A is a side view of the tray of FIG. 1.

FIG. 5B is a section view taken along line 5B-5B of FIG. 3.

FIG. 5C is an enlarged view of Area C of FIG. 5B.

FIG. 6A is a front view of the tray of FIG. 1.

FIG. 6B is a section view taken along line 6B-6B of FIG. 3.

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of the tray of FIG. 1 loaded with bottles.

FIG. 8 is a perspective view of the tray of FIG. 7 stacked on a similar loaded tray.

FIG. 8A illustrates the trays of FIG. 8 with plastic wrap around the trays and bottles.

FIG. 9 is a bottom perspective view of the tray of FIG. 8.

FIG. 10 is a section view of the trays of FIG. 8.

FIG. 10A is a section view illustrating a process for forming the tray of FIGS. 1-10.

FIG. 10B is a section view illustrating an alternate process for forming the tray of FIGS. 1-10.

FIG. 11 is a perspective view of a tray according to a second embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 12 is a bottom perspective view of the tray of FIG. 11.

FIG. 13 is a top view of the tray of FIG. 11.

FIG. 14 is a bottom view of the tray of FIG. 11.

FIG. 15A is a side view of the tray of FIG. 11.

FIG. 15B is a section view taken along line 15B-15B of FIG. 13.

FIG. 15C is an enlarged view of Area C of FIG. 15B.

FIG. 16A is a front view of the tray of FIG. 13.

FIG. 16B is a section view taken along line 16B-16B of FIG. 13.

FIG. 17 is a perspective view of a tray according to a third embodiment.

FIG. 18 is a bottom perspective view of the tray of FIG. 17.

FIG. 19 is a perspective view of the tray of FIG. 17 loaded with a plurality of bottles.

FIG. 20 is a top view of the tray and bottles of FIG. 19.

FIG. 21 is a perspective view of a tray according to a fourth embodiment.

FIG. 22 is a bottom perspective view of the tray of FIG. 21.

FIG. 23 is a perspective view of the tray of FIG. 21 loaded with a plurality of bottles.

FIG. 24 is a top view of the tray and bottles of FIG. 23.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

A tray 10 according to a first embodiment of the present invention is shown in FIG. 1. The tray 10 is a single thermoformed sheet having a plurality of bottle-receiving pockets 12. The plurality of bottle-receiving pockets 12 are defined by a combination of a bottom wall 14, a generally curved side wall 16, and a plurality of vertical projections 18. The pockets 12 are open to each other through a plurality of openings 20. The pockets 12 are separated by a plurality of vertical projections 18 to form a four-by-six arrangement of pockets. Although other arrangements may be utilized, the four-by-six arrangement has been generally found to be convenient for single-serving (e.g. twenty-ounce, twenty-four ounce or one-liter) bottles.

Referring to FIG. 1, the four corner pockets 12 are defined by the bottom wall 14, a generally concave corner 22, and the vertical projection 18. The concave corner 22 extends upwardly from the periphery of the bottom wall 14 and connects the generally curved side walls 16 to each other. The remaining pockets 12 located around the perimeter are defined by the bottom wall 14, the generally curved side wall 16 and the vertical projections 18. The interior pockets 12 are defined by the bottom wall 14 and the vertical projections 18.

Referring to FIG. 1, the vertical projections 18 include a generally flat portion 30 with a generally rounded top lip 24 that connects the generally flat portion 30 to a plurality of substantially vertical but tapered concave portion 28. A rounded base portion 26 connects the plurality of substantially vertical concave portions 28 to the bottom wall 14. A substantially vertical rounded corner 25 connects the substantially vertical concave portions 28 to each other.

FIG. 2 is a bottom perspective view of the tray 10 of FIG. 1. A guide rail 32 protrudes from the bottom wall 14. The guide rail 32 has an inwardly facing surface 33 that engages a vertical portion 39 of a bottle cap 38 of a bottle 40 (FIGS. 5C, 9) when in a stacked position. A plurality of generally flat portions 36 on the bottom wall 14 contact the bottle caps 38 when in a stacked position. A plurality of recesses 34 on the bottom wall 14 correspond to the plurality of vertical projections 18 on the top of the tray 10 as shown in FIG. 1. A plurality of bridges 44 connect the flat portions 36 to each other.

FIG. 3 is a top view of the tray 10. A channel 31 on the top of the tray 10 corresponds to the guide rail 32 protruding from the bottom wall 14.

FIG. 4 is a bottom view of the tray 10. The guide rail 32 protrudes from the bottom wall 14 in a particular pattern as shown in FIG. 4. The guide rail 32 curves alternately inwardly and outwardly as it circumscribes the bottom wall 14, forming inwardly-curving portions in areas adjacent a recess 34 and outwardly-curving portions adjacent the flat portions 36. The vertical projections 18 (FIG. 3) have corresponding recesses 34 on the underside of the tray 10.

FIG. 5A is a side view of the tray 10 of FIG. 1 and FIG. 5B is a section view taken along line 5B-5B of FIG. 3. FIG. 6A shows a front view of the tray of FIG. 1 and FIG. 6B is a section view taken along line 6B-6B of FIG. 3.

FIG. 5C is an enlarged view of Area C of the tray 10 of FIG. 5B. The inwardly facing surface 33 of the guide rail 32 engages the vertical portion 39 of the bottle cap 38. The inwardly facing surface 33 extends downwardly from the bottom wall 14.

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of the tray 10 loaded with bottles 40, which in this example are twenty-ounce PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles 40. The bottles 40 fit snugly in the pockets 12 of the tray 10 and contact each other to provide strength when moving the tray. The bottles 40 are in contact with a combination of several of following portions of the tray: the side walls 16, the bottom wall 14, the corner portion 22, one or more of the vertical projections 18 and adjacent other bottles 40. The bottles 40 fit snugly inside the tray 10 which gives the tray 10 and the bottles 40 as a unit the necessary stiffness for handling and stacking.

FIG. 8 is a perspective view of the loaded tray 10 of FIG. 7 stacked on a similarly loaded tray 10′. FIG. 8A illustrates the trays 10, 10′ of FIG. 8 with plastic wrap, such as shrink wrap 50, securing the trays 10, 10′ to the bottles 40. The shrink wrap 50 extends from a narrower upper portion of the bottles 40 down over a portion of the curved side walls 16.

FIG. 9 is a bottom perspective view of the loaded tray 10 of FIG. 7 stacked on a similar loaded tray 10′. The bottle caps 38 of the bottles 40 are contacted by the flat portions 36 of the upper tray 10. The vertical portions 39 of the bottle caps 38 engage the inwardly facing surface 33 of the guide rail 32 to improve the stability of the stacked trays.

FIG. 10 is a section view through the trays 10 and 10′ of FIG. 8. The contours of the side wall 16 match a bottom portion 42 of the bottles 40. The bottles 40 are in close proximity to one another over the bridges 44. The vertical projections 18 has contours that are complementary to the bottom portion 42 of the bottles 40. The vertical portion 39 of the peripheral bottle caps 38 engage the inwardly facing surface 33 (not visible in FIG. 10) of the guide rail 32 to increase the stability of the bottles 40 when in the stacked position. The flat portions 36 rest on the bottles caps 38 of the bottles 40 when in the stacked position.

FIG. 10A is a section view illustrating a process for forming the tray 10 of FIGS. 1-10. The tray 10 is formed by placing a polymer sheet 52 onto a thermoforming mold 54 and drawing the sheet 52 into the shape of the tray 10, according to known thermoforming techniques. FIG. 10B shows that the tray 10 can be alternatively formed in the alternate orientation on a complementary mold 56. On either mold 54, 56, different materials and different thickness sheets 52 can be used as appropriate for a particular application. A thicker sheet 52 can be used to form a tray 10 that is stronger and stiffer and possibly reusable, while a thinner sheet 52 can be used to form a more lightweight tray 10. FIGS. 10A, 10B are largely schematic, as the thermoforming processes are well-known.

FIG. 11 is a perspective view of a tray 110 according to a second embodiment of the present invention. The tray 110 is a single thermoformed sheet having a plurality of bottle-receiving positions 112 defined by a combination of a bottom wall 114, a substantially vertical side wall 116, a substantially vertical rounded corner 122, and a plurality of vertical projections 118. The bottle-receiving positions 112 are open to one another and the bottle-receiving positions 112 are in a four-by-six arrangement. Although other arrangements may be utilized, the four-by-six arrangement has been generally found to be convenient for single-serving bottles.

Referring to FIG. 11, four corner positions 112 are defined by the bottom wall 114, the substantially vertical rounded corner 122, and the vertical projection 118. The remaining positions 112 are bounded by the bottom wall 114 and either the vertical projection 118, the vertical side wall 116 or both.

Referring to FIG. 11, the vertical projections 118 include a generally flat portion 130 with a generally rounded top lip 124 that connects the generally flat portion 130 to a plurality of substantially vertical concave portion 128. A substantially vertical rounded corner 125 connects the substantially vertical concave portions 128 to each other.

The tray 110 has a plurality of handles 150 integrally formed with the vertical side walls 116 at opposing locations as shown in FIG. 11. The handles 150 are formed by the protruding portions 152 and the gripping portion 154 contiguous with the vertical side wall 116. The gripping portion 154 has a contoured portion 156 to aid the user in handling the tray.

FIG. 12 is a bottom perspective view of the tray 110 of FIG. 11. A guide rail 132 protrudes from the bottom wall 114. A plurality of recesses 134 correspond to the plurality of vertical projections 118 (FIG. 11).

FIG. 13 is a top view of the tray 110 of FIG. 11. The pockets 112, receive a bottom portion 42 of the bottle 40. A channel 131 on the top of the tray 110 corresponds to the guide rail 132 protruding from the bottom wall 114.

FIG. 14 is a bottom view of the create 110 of FIG. 11. The guide rail 132 protrudes from the bottom wall 114 in a particular pattern in order to engage the bottle caps 38 of the bottles 40 when in a stacked position. The plurality of flat portions 136 on the bottom wall 114 receive the bottle caps 38 of the bottles 40 in a stacked position.

FIG. 15A shows a side view of the tray 110 of FIG. 11 and FIG. 15B is a section view taken along the line 15B-15B of FIG. 13. FIG. 16A is a front view of the tray 110 of the FIG. 11 and FIG. 16B is a section view taken along line 16B-16B of FIG. 13. Referring to FIGS. 15A, 15B, 16A, and 16B, the bottle caps 38 of the bottles 40 are engaged by the guide rail 132 on the bottom wall 114 of the tray 110.

FIG. 15C is a cut away view of the tray 110 of FIG. 15B. The guide rail 132 includes the inwardly facing portion 133. The inwardly facing portion 133 extends downwardly from the bottom wall 114.

FIG. 17 is a perspective view of a tray 210 according to a third embodiment. The tray 210 is also thermoformed from a single sheet of plastic to include a base wall 214 and side walls 216. The side walls 216 curve upwardly from the base wall 214 and include curved portions 217 that are curved in the horizontal plane so that each forms a pocket 212. A groove or channel 231 extends around the periphery of the base wall 214 to define a guide rail 232 on the bottom of the base wall 214 as shown in FIG. 18. The guide rail 232 has an inner surface 233 for contacting bottle caps of bottles on which the tray 210 is stacked. The guide rail 232 includes curved portions 246 aligned with the curved portions 217 of the side walls 216 and straight portions 248 in between (straight portions 248 could alternatively be inwardly-curved portions).

FIG. 19 is a perspective view of the tray of FIG. 17 loaded with a plurality of bottles 240. The bottles 240 have a different shape than those in the first two embodiments, but the trays in any of the embodiments would be adapted to particular bottles. The bottles 240 each have a rounded, reduced-diameter bottom portion 242 that is received in the tray 210. Peripheral bottles 240 are received in pockets defined by the curved portions 217 of the side walls 216. The bottles 240 may be retained in the tray 210 by optional plastic shrink wrap 50 (shown in broken lines). As shown in FIG. 20, the bottles 240 contact one another so that the bottles 240 and tray 210 form a single sturdy unit.

FIGS. 21-24 illustrate a tray 310 according to a fourth embodiment. The tray 310 is similar to that of FIGS. 17-20, the description of which is incorporated by reference, with corresponding parts having similar reference numerals having a leading “3” instead of “2.” The tray 310 further has the following two changes relative to the tray 210 of FIGS. 17-20. First, there are a plurality of vertical projections 318 projecting up from the base wall 214 between the side walls 316 (similar to the first and second embodiments). Second, the longer side walls 316a are generally straight in the horizontal plane (although still curving upwardly from the base wall 314), while the shorter side walls 316b include the curved portions 317. Any combination of straight side walls or side walls with curved portions, and a base wall with or without vertical projections could be used.

As before, a guide rail 332 projects downward from the periphery to form curved portions 346 and straight portions 348. The guide rail 332 includes an inner surface for contacting bottle caps. A groove or channel 331 is formed on the upper surface corresponding to the guide rail 332. Recesses 334 on the bottom of the tray 310 correspond to the vertical projections 318 on the upper surface of the tray 310. As before, the tray 310 may be thermoformed.

The described invention provides a tray that is less expensive, lighter and smaller than the current reusable trays, but unlike the cardboard packaging, it is also recyclable and can be made from 100% recycled beverage bottle material. The tray includes a single sheet that may be thermoformed to include pockets or have positions for receiving twenty-ounce bottles. The tray is not sufficiently strong and stiff by itself to independently support the bottles when stacked. Rather, tight tolerances between bottles and the walls of the pockets and the interaction of the hoop strength of the peripheral wall with the bottles makes the tray and bottles as a unit sufficiently strong and stiff for stacking, carrying, and shipping without the need for added reinforcement to the tray.

Although a first and second embodiment have been disclosed, a worker of ordinary skill in this art would recognize that certain modifications would come within the scope of this invention.