Title:
ERGONOMIC SYSTEM FOR HANDLING A CONTAINER
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
In certain embodiments, a system for ergonomically handling a container comprises a container body having a container wall with an inside surface defining an internal cavity configured to receive material and an opposite external surface. Additionally, the system includes a handle having opposite first and second ends coupled to the external surface of the container wall, the handle being able to rest alongside the external surface. The system further includes a finger pocket defined in the container wall and adapted for receiving at least a portion of at least one of a user's fingers to assist in handling the container.



Inventors:
Temple, Stephen B. (Indianapolis, IN, US)
Application Number:
12/181752
Publication Date:
02/05/2009
Filing Date:
07/29/2008
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
220/752, 220/780, 53/485
International Classes:
B65D8/12; B65B7/28; B65D25/28; B65D41/16
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20080087675TRASH RECEPTACLE GUIDE AND PROTECTORApril, 2008Connor
20090302163OXYGEN EXCHANGE MANIFOLD, SYSTEMS AND METHODS FOR INERTING A VOLATILE ENVIRONMENTDecember, 2009Sanford
20050274741Cap for a bottleDecember, 2005Cho
20050284871Plastic accessory-holder flange for hollow thermoplastic bodyDecember, 2005Leonard et al.
20090095170MARINADE CONTAINERApril, 2009Hutzler et al.
20080302794Security Closure for a ContainerDecember, 2008Wagner et al.
20030226846Apparatus for covering refuse receptaclesDecember, 2003Horwath
20040084452Multifunctional drinking cup structureMay, 2004Hsieh
20080110899Dispensing container for two beveragesMay, 2008Gustafson
20060278600COVER CONCAVE WITH LASHES CURVED AND RETRACTILE AND IN ITS BASE WITH TWO RINGS OF SECURITYDecember, 2006Zavala
20090025417Sport fisherman's ice chest with integrated cutting boardJanuary, 2009Azzara



Primary Examiner:
GROSSO, HARRY A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
WOODARD, EMHARDT, HENRY, REEVES & WAGNER, LLP (111 MONUMENT CIRCLE, SUITE 3700, INDIANAPOLIS, IN, 46204-5137, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A system for ergonomically handling a container, comprising: a container body having a container wall with an inside surface defining an internal cavity configured to receive material and an opposite external surface; a handle having opposite first and second ends coupled to said external surface of said container wall, wherein said handle is able to rest alongside said external surface; a finger pocket defined in said container wall and adapted for receiving at least a portion of at least one of a user's fingers to assist in handling the container.

2. The system of claim 1, wherein said container wall defines a top opening in communication with said internal cavity to access said internal cavity.

3. The system of claim 2, further comprising a lid configured to join with a top surface of said container wall to cover said top opening.

4. The system of claim 1, wherein said container body further includes a flat or substantially flat bottom surface.

5. The system of claim 4, wherein said finger pocket is positioned adjacent to said bottom surface.

6. The system of claim 1, wherein said handle is flexible.

7. The system of claim 6, wherein said handle is comprised of a flexible plastic material.

8. The system of claim 1, wherein said finger pocket includes at least one finger pocket surface defining a finger pocket cavity, wherein said finger pocket cavity extends from said external surface inward toward said internal cavity of said container body.

9. The system of claim 1, wherein said external surface is cylindrical in shape.

10. The system of claim 1, wherein said container wall includes at least a top finger pocket surface defining said finger pocket for a user's fingers to contact to carry the container, and wherein said top finger pocket surface is at least partially textured to prevent the user's fingers from slipping along said top finger pocket surface.

11. The system of claim 10, wherein said container wall includes a bottom finger pocket surface defining said finger pocket.

12. The system of claim 1, wherein said finger pocket is substantially rectangular in cross-sectional shape.

13. A system for ergonomically handling a container, comprising: a container configured to carry an amount of material; a thumb handle attached to the container, wherein said thumb handle is flexible and conformable; a contoured palm grasping area of said container positioned below said thumb handle; a finger insertion cavity defined in the exterior of said container below said palm grasping area, said finger insertion cavity being adapted for insertion of at least a portion of one or more of a user's fingers to assist the user in handling the container.

14. The system of claim 13, wherein said thumb handle, said palm grasping area, and said finger insertion cavity are vertically aligned on said container.

15. The system of claim 13, wherein said container body includes a container wall with an inside surface defining an internal cavity configured to receive the material and an opposite external surface, wherein said handle is configured to rest alongside said external surface.

16. The system of claim 13, wherein said container includes a top finger cavity surface defining said finger insertion cavity for a user's fingers to contact to carry the container, wherein said top finger cavity surface is at least partially textured to prevent the user's fingers from slipping along said top finger cavity surface.

17. A container, comprising: a container body having a wall portion and a bottom portion, said container body defining an internal cavity configured to receive material, wherein said wall portion defines a top opening in communication with said internal cavity for a user to access said internal cavity; a lid configured to couple with said wall portion to close said top opening; a handle having opposite first and second ends coupled to said wall portion, wherein said handle is able to rest alongside said wall portion; a finger pocket defined at least in part by said wall portion, said finger pocket being configured for insertion of at least a portion of at least one of a user's fingers to assist in handling the container.

18. The container of claim 17, wherein said wall portion and said bottom portion are integrally molded such that said container body is a unitary, monolithic piece.

19. The container of claim 17, wherein said finger pocket is positioned adjacent said bottom portion.

20. A method for packaging a paint or coating product within an ergonomic paint can, comprising: providing an ergonomic paint can having a wall portion and a bottom portion, the container body defining an internal cavity configured to receive material wherein the wall portion defines a top opening in communication with the internal cavity for a user to access the internal cavity, wherein the ergonomic paint can includes a handle having opposite first and second ends coupled to the wall portion, the handle being able to rest alongside the wall portion, wherein the ergonomic paint can includes a finger pocket defined at least in part by the wall portion, the finger pocket being configured for insertion of at least a portion of at least one of a user's fingers to assist in handling the container; providing a paint or coating product; adding the paint or coating product to the internal cavity of the ergonomic paint can; providing a paint can lid; and coupling the paint can lid to the wall portion of the ergonomic paint can to close the top opening.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

The present application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/962,960 filed Aug. 2, 2007 entitled ERGONOMIC SYSTEM FOR HANDLING A BUCKET which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.

FIELD OF THE DISCLOSURE

The present invention relates generally to systems for handling containers, and more specifically to an ergonomically improved system of hand carrying and controlling containers.

BACKGROUND OF THE DISCLOSURE

Containers, such as standard paint buckets as an example, offer very little means for flexibility of use or ergonomic optimization of control. Among the difficulties presented by the standard container, such as a paint bucket, are limitations in how the container may be held. The standard bucket can generally only be held by the handle, with the handle positioned generally vertical and above the weight of the container. This offers no practical means of supporting the container from below or underneath with a single hand, since that hand is being used to carry the bucket via the handle positioned above the mass of the container.

Prior art devices have attempted to overcome some of these difficulties, but have not been completely successful as they yield varying levels of effectiveness relative to consumer acceptance and true ergonomic improvement. Many previous attempts have resulted in containers which may be difficult to use and manipulate, and may have limited market potential to either after-market applications (stand alone item typically purchased as ancillary assist tool) or as OEM (original equipment manufacturing) products sold directly to paint or coatings manufacturers to be filled with product, labeled and readied for sale. A typical OEM configuration may be a one gallon (or thereabouts) paint can filled with paint, labeled with appropriate information for the specific paint and brand, and intended for sale on retail shelves. An example of such a prior art OEM paint can is the “Twist & Pour Container” by Dutch Boy, a brand by Sherwin Williams. The Dutch Boy “Twist & Pour Container” is a plastic paint container having an integrally molded and defined side handle. This design has many disadvantages, including at least the inability to hold the container from above, the relatively small gripping area of the handle, and the inability of the container to function as a practical or marketable design for after-market sales.

An example of an after-market prior art container is the “Handy Paint Pail” manufactured by Bercom, Inc. which provides a side handle on the side exterior of the container. However, the Handy Paint Pail may not be practically adapted to OEM applications, and it does not incorporate product features which adequately address many important ergonomic issues and dynamics.

An improved ergonomic system for handling a container is desired for both OEM and after-market applications.

SUMMARY OF THE DISCLOSURE

In certain embodiments, a system for ergonomically handling a container comprises a container body having a container wall with an inside surface defining an internal cavity configured to receive material and an opposite external surface. Additionally, the system includes a handle having opposite first and second ends coupled to the external surface of the container wall, the handle being able to rest alongside the external surface. The system further includes a finger pocket defined in the container wall and adapted for receiving at least a portion of at least one of a user's fingers to assist in handling the container.

In certain embodiments, a system for ergonomically handling a container comprises a container configured to carry an amount of material, and a thumb handle attached to the container, the thumb handle being flexible and conformable. The system further includes a contoured palm grasping area of the container below the thumb handle and a finger insertion cavity defined in the exterior of the container below the palm grasping area. Additionally, the finger insertion cavity is adapted for insertion of at least a portion of one or more of a user's fingers to assist the user in handling the container.

In certain embodiments, a paint can comprises a container body having a wall portion and a bottom portion, the container body defining an internal cavity configured to receive material. The wall portion defines a top opening in communication with the internal cavity for a user to access the internal cavity. The paint can may further include a lid configured to couple with the wall portion to close the top opening and a handle having opposite first and second ends coupled to the wall portion, the handle being able to rest alongside the wall portion. Additionally, the paint can includes a finger pocket defined at least in part by the wall portion, the finger pocket being configured for insertion of at least a portion of at least one of a user's fingers to assist in handling the container.

In certain embodiments, a method for packaging a paint or coating product within an ergonomic paint can comprises providing an ergonomic paint can having a wall portion and a bottom portion, the container body defining an internal cavity configured to receive material. The wall portion defines a top opening in communication with the internal cavity for a user to access the internal cavity. Additionally, the ergonomic paint can includes a handle having opposite first and second ends coupled to the wall portion, the handle being able to rest alongside the wall portion. The ergonomic paint can also includes a finger pocket defined at least in part by the wall portion, the finger pocket being configured for insertion of at least a portion of at least one of a user's fingers to assist in handling the container. The method further comprises providing a paint or coating product and adding the paint or coating product to the internal cavity of the ergonomic paint can. Additionally, the method includes providing a paint can lid and coupling the paint can lid to the wall portion of the ergonomic paint can to close the top opening.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a container according to an embodiment of the present disclosure.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the handle of the container according to the embodiment of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the container body of the container according to the embodiment of FIG. 1.

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of a portion of the container according to the embodiment of FIG. 1.

FIG. 5 is another perspective view of the container body of the container according to the embodiment of FIG. 1.

DESCRIPTION OF THE VARIOUS EMBODIMENTS

For the purposes of promoting an understanding of the principles of the disclosure, reference will now be made to the embodiments illustrated in the drawings and specific language will be used to describe the same. It will nevertheless be understood that no limitation of the scope of the disclosure is thereby intended, such alterations and further modifications in the illustrated device, and such further applications of the principles of the disclosure as illustrated therein are contemplated as would normally occur to one skilled in the art to which the disclosure relates.

The present disclosure is generally directed to an ergonomic system for handling a container. In certain embodiments, the ergonomic system is a three-part system incorporating a flexible thumb handle, a contoured palm grasping area, and a finger pocket. The handle, palm grasping area and finger pocket may be substantially vertically aligned down the side of the exterior of the container. The different components of the presently disclosed system together function to distribute the weight of the container (and the material therein) across the user's hand, providing the user the ability to hold the container in an ergonomic and stable manner with one hand.

Referring generally to FIGS. 1 through 5, the three-part ergonomic system is applied to a container 10 having a container body 12, a handle 14, an optional lid 16, and a finger pocket 18 defined in the container body. Additionally, container 10 includes a contoured palm grasping area generally designated at numeral 20. For simplicity in illustrating the system according to the present disclosure, the illustrated container is a paint can configured to contain a paint product or a coatings can configured to contain a coating product such as stains, adhesives or sealants, as examples. However, it should be appreciated that the system may be applied to many other types of appropriate containers as would occur to one of ordinary skill in the art.

More specifically, container body 12 consists of a side wall 30 and a bottom 32. Side wall 30 includes an exterior surface 30a, an interior surface 30b, and a top surface 30c for coupling with lid 16 (see FIG. 3). Bottom 32 includes a top surface 32a and a bottom surface 32b (see FIGS. 3 and 5). In certain embodiments, top surface 32a may also be the bottom surface defining the finger pocket. Bottom surface 32b may be flat or substantially flat to allow the container to rest on a support surface. Additionally, side wall 30 and bottom 32 may be separate components joined together or may be integrally molded components to create a unitary, monolithic container body.

Side wall 30 defines a top opening 40 in communication with the interior cavity 42 defined by the container body (see FIG. 3). In certain embodiments, a combination of interior surface 30b and top surface 32a may define the interior cavity 42. The edges of lid 16 are configured to couple with at least top surface 30c of the side wall to close the top opening and substantially prevent access to the interior cavity. It should be appreciated that lid 16 may be engaged with the container body in a variety of appropriate manners as would generally occur to one skilled in the art.

In an alternative optional embodiment, the lid may be hingedly attached to the container body. In this way, the lid can be easily moved between open and closed positions. Additionally, flipping the lid to the closed position via the hinged connection may help to seal the container's contents from atmospheric conditions, to avoid effects such as skimming over of paint. In another alternative optional embodiment, the lid may be configured to be used as a stand for which to place the container body on. As such, the lid may be removed from the top of the container and coupled to the underside of the container to function as a stand. In yet another alternative optional embodiment, the lid may include one or more openings configured to receive a paint brush handle and hold or suspend the paint brush from the lid. In particular embodiments, the opening may include a perforated rubber or flexible plastic cover to engage the brush handle and hold it in the suspended position.

Container 10 includes handle attachment features 44 disposed on exterior surface 30a (see FIG. 3). In certain embodiments, handle attachment features 44 define holes 45 to engage with the ends of the handle. As illustrated in FIG. 2, handle 14 includes first and second ends 14a and 14b, each having a projection 46 configured to be received in holes 45 to engage the handle with the container body. Handle attachment features 44 may be diametrically opposite each other on the container body, or may be positioned closer together or farther apart about the container wall circumference as would generally occur to one skilled in the art. The illustrated engagement of the handle to the container body is just one example of numerous possible arrangements contemplated by the present disclosure.

In preferred embodiments, handle 14 is flexible and conformable. As an example, handle 14 may be comprised of a flexible plastic material 48, such as low density polyethylene. In alternative embodiments, handle 14 may be padded with a cushioning material wrapped around a flexible metal or plastic wire. Handle 14 is preferably sufficiently flexible such that it at least slightly molds or conforms to the user's thumb area. As illustrated in FIG. 1, handle 14 may be able to rest against exterior surface 30a. In such embodiments, projections 46 are moveable within holes 45 of handle attachment features 44 to move handle 14 through different positions. When transporting the container from one location to another, the ergonomic handle may be pulled upward in a substantially vertical position and used like a typical bucket carrying handle.

As best illustrated in FIGS. 4 and 5, finger pocket 18 is a cavity extending from exterior surface 30a inward toward the center of the container body. The finger pocket cavity may be sized, shaped and configured for insertion of at least a portion of at least one of the user's fingers therein. In the illustrated embodiment, the finger pocket is positioned adjacent and just above the bottom 32 of the container body. However, it should be appreciated that the finger pocket may be positioned at other appropriate locations as would occur to one skilled in the art. In the particular illustrated embodiment, finger pocket 18 includes a finger insertion interior cavity 60 defined by a plurality of finger pocket surfaces, including side surfaces 61, back surface 62, top surface 63, and bottom surface 64, with a side access opening 70 to access the cavity (see FIG. 4). Optionally, at least top surface 63 may include surface texturing to prevent a user's fingers from slipping along the top surface when handling the container and provide added stabilization to the user's control of the container. In certain embodiments, surface 64 may be aligned with top surface 32a of bottom 32. In some embodiments, surfaces 64 and 32a may be portions of the same surface. In other embodiments, surface 64 may be positioned slightly above or below surface 32a. In alternative embodiments, bottom surface 64 may be absent, such that only top, side and back surfaces define the finger pocket insertion cavity, with the cavity being open along the bottom thereof in addition to being open at the side. In the illustrated embodiment, finger pocket 18 is substantially rectangular in cross-sectional shape. However, it should be appreciated that in other embodiments the finger pocket can be shaped, sized and configured differently than as illustrated.

As best illustrated in FIG. 5, finger pocket 18 extends into interior cavity 42, but is not in communication therewith such that the material placed in the container is separated from and does not travel into the finger pocket. In other words, if a liquid or other flowable material is placed in the interior cavity 42 of the container body, the material will flow around the exterior surfaces of the finger pocket which extend into the interior cavity. In alternative embodiments, the top exterior surface of the finger pocket may extend across the interior cavity, creating a false floor or bottom of the interior of the container.

Palm grasping area 20 allows for a substantial portion of the user's palm to press securely against the side exterior of the container when the user is also utilizing the flexible thumb handle and the finger pocket. When used in this way, the palm of the user's hand acts as a stabilizing surface in the proximity of the container's center of gravity, which can aid in distributing evenly the weight of the material in the container throughout the user's hand. In preferred embodiments, the palm grasping area 20 is contoured for ease of gripping by the palm of the user's hand. As particular examples, area 20 may be curved or rounded. Accordingly, in certain embodiments, the container wall 30 is substantially cylindrical in shape with a circle cross-section along area 20. However, it is contemplated that in other embodiments the container wall and thus the container body may be shaped, sized and configured differently than as illustrated. As an example, in alternative embodiments, the container wall may be square in cross-sectional shape.

During use, a user may implement the three-part system to handle and control container 10. Accordingly, the user may grab handle 14 with their thumb, place the palm of their hand (and optionally one or more fingers) against exterior surface 30a in palm grasping area 20, and insert one or more fingers in the finger pocket 18 such that the fingers contact the top surface 63. More specifically, the handle is laid along the side exterior of the container and the user's thumb is inserted between the handle and the side exterior of the container and then at least slightly wrapped around the handle. The flexibility of the handle enables the user to wrap their thumb at least slightly around the top of the handle to provide a customized and secure fit against the side of the container.

Accordingly, the user may hold the container with one hand by distributing the weight of the container and the material in the container throughout the user's hand. In a particular embodiment, the user's palm, index finger, and middle finger are placed against the exterior surface and the user's ring finger and little (or pinky) finger are inserted in the finger pocket cavity. The presently disclosed system allows the user to hold the container in a stable and ergonomic manner with one hand. Additionally, the presently disclosed system allows the user to hold the container substantially from the bottom or from a position below the majority of the mass of the container, rather than holding the container from above via a handle or another mechanism. Further, the finger pocket allows the user to set the container down on a support surface without the fingers being disposed between the container and the surface, enabling a smoother transition without need for the user's other hand to assist in setting the container on the support surface.

Alternatively, it is contemplated that the system for handling a container according to the present disclosure may include only one or two of the three features described above as part of the three-part ergonomic system, with one or two of the other features being absent. For example, in one alternative embodiment, the container may include a finger pocket, but the palm grasping area and the thumb handle may be absent.

Additionally, it is contemplated that the containers according to the present disclosure may be designed and configured for use as after-market containers or OEM products. In an example embodiment in which the containers according to the present disclosure are paint cans, the containers may be after-market paint containers purchased in addition to paint provided in a typical or prior art paint can. In such embodiments, the paint may be poured into the containers and used as desired after purchasing the paint and the containers separately. In another example embodiment in which the containers according to the present disclosure are paint cans, the containers may be OEM (original equipment manufacturing) products which are sold to or otherwise provided to, or alternatively manufactured by, paint manufacturers, filled with paint products by the paint manufacturers, labeled with appropriate information identifying the specific paint and brand, and readied for sale.

While the disclosure has been illustrated and described in detail in the drawings and foregoing description, the same is to be considered as illustrative and not restrictive in character, it being understood that only the preferred embodiments have been shown and described and that all changes and modifications that come within the spirit of the disclosure are desired to be protected.