Title:
FOLD-OUT PENCIL CUP
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An instrument storage device comprises a first housing member, a second housing member, and at least one compartment. The second housing member is pivotally connected to the first housing member and adapted to be displaced between a closed position in close proximity to the first housing member and an open position spaced from the first housing member. The compartment is disposed between the first and second housing members and includes a flexible material such that the compartment is disposed in a collapsed state when the second housing member is in the closed position, and an expanded state when the second housing member is in the open position. The compartment comprises a continuous sidewall that defines a cavity for receiving and storing one or more instruments when in the expanded state.



Inventors:
Sweet, Chris (Cambridge City, IN, US)
Application Number:
12/105040
Publication Date:
10/22/2009
Filing Date:
04/17/2008
Assignee:
SANFORD, L.P. (Oak Brook, IL, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D85/28
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
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20080264818Pack Including a Flange Which Partially Covers a Group of ArticlesOctober, 2008Dubosq et al.
20020112972Device for containing and placing of prophylacticsAugust, 2002Vitali
20060006080Card assemblyJanuary, 2006Gustafsson et al.
20030221988Product dispenser with clipDecember, 2003Achatz et al.
20070199841DUAL COMPARTMENT STORAGE CONTAINERAugust, 2007Mesalic



Primary Examiner:
COLLINS, RAVEN
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MARSHALL, GERSTEIN & BORUN LLP (233 SOUTH WACKER DRIVE 6300 WILLIS TOWER, CHICAGO, IL, 60606-6357, US)
Claims:
What is claimed:

1. An instrument storage device, comprising: a first housing member; a second housing member pivotally connected to the first housing member and adapted to be displaced between a closed position in close proximity to the first housing member and an open position spaced from the first housing member; at least one compartment disposed between the first and second housing members, the compartment including a flexible material and comprising a continuous sidewall that defines a cavity for receiving and storing one or more instruments, the compartment disposed in a collapsed state when the second housing member is in the closed position, and an expanded state when the second housing member is in the open position.

2. The device of claim 1, wherein the cavity of the at least one compartment comprises a first volume when the at least one compartment occupies the collapsed state and a second volume when the at least one compartment occupies the expanded state, the second volume greater than the first volume.

3. The device of claim 1, wherein the at least one compartment further comprises at least one support member spanning a portion of the cavity and attached to the sidewall.

4. The device of claim 1, wherein the at least one compartment further comprises a support web spanning the cavity and attached to the sidewall, the support web defining a plurality of apertures, each aperture adapted to receive and store one or more instruments when the compartment is in the expanded state.

5. The device of claim 4, wherein the plurality of apertures have varying dimensions.

6. The device of claim 5, wherein the volume of the plurality of apertures increases with increased distance from an axis about which the second housing member pivots relative to the first housing member.

7. The device of claim 1, wherein the at least one compartment comprises a plurality of compartments circumferentially spaced between the first and second housing members.

8. The device of claim 1, wherein the flexible material of the at least one compartment further comprises a resilient material such that the at least one compartment is biased into the expanded state when the second housing member is in the open position.

9. The device of claim 1, wherein the at least one compartment is constructed of at least one of a rubber material and a silicon material.

10. An instrument storage device, comprising: a first housing member; a second housing member pivotally connected to the first housing member and adapted for displacement between a closed position in close proximity to the first housing member and an open position spaced from the first housing member; at least one compartment, each compartment including a flexible material and comprising at least one continuous sidewall defining a containment cavity, the at least one compartment fixed between the first and second housing members of the housing such that the containment cavity has a first volume when the second housing member is in the closed position, and a second volume that is greater than the first volume when the second housing member is in the open position.

11. The device of claim 10, wherein the at least one compartment further comprises at least one support member spanning a portion of the containment cavity and attached to the sidewall.

12. The device of claim 10, wherein the at least one compartment further comprises a support web spanning the containment cavity and attached to the sidewall, the support web defining a plurality of apertures, each aperture adapted to receive and store one or more instruments when the second housing member is in the open position.

13. The device of claim 12, wherein the plurality of apertures have varying dimensions.

14. The device of claim 13, wherein the volume of the plurality of apertures increases with increased distance from an axis about which the second housing member pivots relative to the first housing member.

15. The device of claim 10, wherein the at least one compartment comprises a plurality of compartments circumferentially spaced between the first and second housing members.

16. The device of claim 10, wherein the flexible material of the at least one compartment further comprises a resilient material such that the sidewall is biased to define the containment cavity as having the second volume when the second housing member is in the open position.

17. The device of claim 10, wherein the at least one compartment is constructed of at least one of a rubber material and a silicon material.

18. An instrument storage device, comprising: a first housing member; a second housing member pivotally connected to the first housing member and adapted for displacement between a closed position in close proximity to the first housing member and an open position spaced from the first housing member; a plurality of compartments circumferentially spaced between the first and second housing members, each compartment constructed of a flexible material and comprising: a continuous sidewall defining a containment cavity, and a support web spanning the containment cavity and attached to the continuous sidewall, the support web defining a plurality of apertures, each aperture for receiving and storing one or more instruments.

19. The device of claim 18, wherein the support web comprises a plurality of intersecting support members.

20. The device of claim 18, wherein the plurality of apertures have varying dimensions.

21. The device of claim 18, wherein each compartment is disposed in a collapsed state when the second housing member is in the closed position and an expanded state when the second housing member is in the open position.

22. The device of claim 18, wherein each containment cavity define a first volume when the compartments are disposed in the collapsed state, and a second volume that is greater than the first volume when the compartments are disposed in the expanded state.

23. The device of claim 18, wherein the flexible material of each compartment further comprises a resilient material such that each compartment is biased into the expanded state.

24. The device of claim 18, wherein each compartment is constructed of at least one of a rubber material and a silicon material.

Description:

FIELD OF THE DISCLOSURE

The present disclosure generally relates to a pencil cup, and more particularly, to a pencil cup adapted to be reconfigured for storage and/or transport.

BACKGROUND

Most commercially available pencil cups comprise rigid cup or box-shaped structures adapted to receive pens, pencils, paper-clips, or generally any other office or home supply, for example. Some pencil cups are of solid construction, while others are formed of a metal or plastic mesh providing the user the ability to view the contents of the cup. While such conventional pencil cups are available in a variety of shapes and sizes, their rigid structures can be rather cumbersome to store and/or transport because they do not fit easily into smaller storage compartments such as the accessory pockets of a school bag or briefcase, for example.

SUMMARY

One embodiment of the present disclosure includes an instrument storage device such as a fold-out pencil cup. The device includes a first housing member, a second housing member, and at least one container compartment. The second housing member is pivotally connected to the first housing member and adapted to be displaced between an open position and a closed position. In the closed position, the second housing member is disposed in close proximity to the first housing member. In the open position, the second housing member is spaced from the first housing member. The at least one container compartment is disposed between the first and second housing members and constructed of a flexible material. The container compartment includes a continuous sidewall that defines a cavity for receiving and storing one or more instruments such as pens and pencils, for example. The flexible material of the container compartment enables the compartment to occupy a collapsed state when the second housing member is in the closed position, and an expanded state when the second housing member is in the open position.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of one embodiment of a fold-out pencil cup constructed in accordance with the principles of the present disclosure and disposed in an open configuration;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the fold-out pencil cup of FIG. 1 disposed in a closed configuration;

FIG. 3 is a plan view of the fold-out pencil cup of FIGS. 1 and 2 disposed in an open configuration; and

FIG. 4 is an exploded perspective view of the fold-out pencil cup of FIGS. 1-3.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

The present disclosure provides an instrument storage device that is easily configurable between an open configuration for receiving and storing writing instruments, for example, and a closed configuration that is compact and simple to store and transport. One embodiment of the storage device is capable of storing instruments in either a generally vertical orientation, similar to a standard pencil cup, or, alternatively, in a horizontal orientation. Some users may find this horizontal storage orientation ergonomically friendly. Thus, a storage device constructed in accordance with the present disclosure is compact, versatile, and highly mobile.

FIG. 1 depicts one embodiment of an instrument storage device 10 (hereinafter referred to as a “storage device”) constructed in accordance with the principles of the present disclosure. In general, the storage device 10 comprises a foldable housing 12 and a plurality of container compartments 14a-14e. Each of the compartments 14a-14e is adapted to receive and store instruments 16a-16c, which are depicted as writing instruments in FIG. 1. It should be appreciated, however, that the compartments 14a-14e can store generally any type of instrument, knick-knack, article, or any other conceivable desk accessory or item of appropriate size. The housing 12 comprises a first housing member 12a and a second housing member 12b. The first and second housing members 12a, 12b are pivotally connected to each other with a pivot pin 18. For the sake of description, the first and second housing members 12a, 12b are adapted to be displaced relative to each other between an open position, which is illustrated in FIG. 1, and a closed position, which is illustrated in FIG. 2. When the housing members 12a, 12b are in the open position (FIG. 1), the compartments 14a-14e occupy an expanded state, as illustrated in FIG. 1. When in the expanded state, the compartments 14a-14e are suited to receive instruments. With the housing members 12a, 12b are disposed in the closed position, the compartments 14a-14e occupy a collapsed state, as illustrated in FIG. 2. When in the collapsed state, the compartments 14a-14e are not suited to receive instruments.

Still referring to FIG. 1 and also referring to FIG. 4, the first and second housing members 12a, 12b comprise rigid bodies of generally uniform thickness. In one embodiment, the first and second housing members 12a, 12b can be constructed a plastic material.

The first housing member 12a includes an inner surface 20a, an outer surface 22a, an end lip 24a, a tongue 26 (shown in FIG. 4), and opposing side edges 27. The tongue 26 includes a tubular member having a longitudinal dimension that is smaller than a width dimension of the first housing member 12a, as depicted in FIG. 4, for example. The second housing member 12b includes an inner surface 20b, an outer surface 22b, an end lip 24b, a yoke 28 (shown in FIG. 4), and opposing side edges 29. The yoke 28 includes a pair of tubular legs 28a, 28b (shown in FIG. 4) disposed on opposite sides of the second housing member 12b, as illustrated in FIG. 4. The yoke 28 of the second housing member 12b accommodates the tongue 26 of the first housing member 12a between the legs 28a, 28b. The pivot pin 18 extends through the tubular legs 28a, 28b of the yoke 28 of the second housing member 12b and the tongue 26 of the first housing member 12a, thereby pivotally connecting the first and second housing members 12a, 12b together.

In a particularly preferred embodiment, the first and second housing members 12a, 12b are curved such that the inner surfaces 20a, 20b comprise concave surfaces, and the outer surfaces 22a, 22b comprise convex surfaces. So configured, when the housing 12 is in the closed position, the end lips 24a, 24b of the first and second housing members 12a, 12b are disposed in contact with each other, with the first and second housing members 12a, 12b forming a shape generally resembling a clamshell, as illustrated in FIG. 2, such that the housing 12 defines a storage cavity 30 for storing the collapsed compartments 14a-14e. Moreover, as illustrated in FIG. 1, the curved housing members 12a, 12b assist in supporting the storage device 10 on a horizontal surface. That is, the curved housing members 12a, 12b provide a more stable geometry when stood on the side edges 27, 29.

As depicted in FIGS. 1-3, the plurality of container compartments 14a-14e of the presently disclosed embodiment of the storage device 10 comprises first through fifth compartments 14a-14e that are spaced circumferentially between the first and second housing members 12a, 12b when the housing 12 is in the open position. Each compartment 14a-14e includes a sidewall 32, a support web 34, and a pair of flanges 36 (shown in FIGS. 3 and 4). For the sake of clarity, only one flange 36 is expressly identified in FIG. 3. In one embodiment, the flanges 36 can be fixed into bores 37 formed in the tongue 26 of the first housing member 12a. The flanges 36 can be secured into the bores 37 with an adhesive, or some other means. In another embodiment, the storage device 10 can further comprise a flexible sleeve (not shown) integrally formed with and/or connected to the flanges 36 of the compartments 14a-14e, whereby the flexible sleeve can be snap-fit or glued onto the tongue 26 of the first housing member 12a, for example, thereby not requiring the bores 37. In still further embodiments, the flanges 36 can be fixed to the legs 28a, 28b of the yoke 28 of the second housing member 12b via bores or some other means, instead of being fixed to the tongue 26 of the first housing member 12a. Therefore, it should be appreciated that other means for fixing the compartments 14a-14e to the housing 12 are intended to be within the scope of the present application.

As illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 4, each sidewall 32 of the disclosed embodiment of the compartments 14a-14e is continuous and formed of a film-like structure to have a generally elliptical shape. For the sake of description, each sidewall 32 includes top and bottom edges 32a, 32b, as illustrated in FIG. 1, and first and second curved sidewall portions 33a, 33b, as illustrated in FIG. 3. So configured, each compartment 14a-14e includes a top opening 35a defined by the top edge 32a, a bottom opening 35b defined by the bottom edge 32b, and a containment cavity 40 disposed between the top and bottom openings 35a, 35b. Due to the elliptical shape of the sidewalls 32 of the presently disclosed embodiment, the top and bottom openings 35a, 35b are generally elliptical. Therefore, the containment cavities 40 are generally cylindrical with elliptical cross-sections. When the compartments 14a-14e occupy the expanded state illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 3, the containment cavities 40 have a fixed volume, which is defined herein as a “second volume.” In contrast, when the compartments 14a-14e occupy the collapsed state illustrated in FIG. 2, the containment cavities 40 have a fixed volume, which is defined herein as a “first volume.” The second volume is greater than the first volume.

Still referring to FIG. 3, each support web 34 of each compartment 14a-14e extends across, i.e., spans, the respective containment cavity 40 and is attached to the sidewall 32. In one embodiment, the support webs 34 are formed integrally, i.e., as one-piece, with the sidewalls 32 through an injection molding process, for example. Each support web 34 includes a plurality of support members 38 spanning various portions of the cavities 40 and constructed of a film-like material. The support members 38 intersect at various locations to define a plurality of apertures 42, only one of which is expressly identified with reference to the fourth compartment 14d in FIG. 4. The plurality of apertures 42 have varying dimensions, e.g., varying shapes and/or sizes, such that they are adapted to receive writing instruments or other articles of varying dimensions, e.g., varying shapes and/or sizes.

To facilitate orderly, aesthetic organization of various articles in the instrument storage device 10, the volumes of at least some of the apertures 42 of the compartments 14a-14e may vary generally proportionally with increased distance from an axis, e.g., the pivot pin, about which the first and second housing members 12a, 12b pivot relative to each other such that smaller diameter items, such as pens, pencils, or crayons, etc., may be stored closer to the pivot pin 18, while wider/thicker articles, such as hi-lighters, magic markers, etc., may be stored further away from the pivot pin 18. Moreover, as illustrated in FIG. 1, the support webs 34 can have a height dimension that is smaller than a height dimension of the sidewalls 32 of the compartments 14a-14e. For example, in FIG. 1, the support webs 34 are attached to the respective sidewalls 32 such that they extend from the bottom edges 32b of the sidewalls 32 to a location approximately halfway between the top and bottom edges 32a, 32b. So configured, the compartments 14a-14e are also advantageously designed to receive and store articles that are too large to be stored in the apertures 42 including, for example, stress balls, binder clips, erasers, etc. Such larger articles can rest directly on top of the support webs 34 above one or more apertures 42 and can be retained in the respective compartments 14a-14e by the sidewalls 32.

For the sake of description, the plurality of support members 38 can be subdivided into a plurality of major support members 44a-44d and a plurality of minor support members 46a-46d. For the sake of clarity, the major and minor support members 44a-44d, 46a-46d are only identified with reference to the second compartment 14b in FIG. 3. In the disclosed embodiment, the plurality of major support members 44a-44d includes first through fourth major support members 44a-44d, and the plurality of minor support members 46a-46d includes first through fourth minor support members 46a-46d. The major support members 44a-44d extend generally beside a major axis A1 (shown in FIG. 3) of the elliptically-shaped compartments 14a-14e. The minor support members 46a-46d extend generally beside a minor axis A2 (shown in FIG. 3) of the elliptically-shaped compartments 14a-14c.

In the disclosed embodiment, the major and minor support members 44a-44d, 46a-46d are shaped and configured to facilitate the transformation of the compartments 14a-14e between the expanded state depicted in FIGS. 1 and 3, and the collapsed state illustrated in FIG. 2. For example, as depicted in FIG. 3, when the compartments 14a-14e occupy the expanded state, the major support members 44a-44d curve away from the major axis A1 of the compartments 14a-14e. Moreover, in the disclosed embodiment, the first and fourth major support members 44a, 44d are mirror images of each other, and the second and third major support members 44b, 44c are mirror images of each other. As is also depicted in FIG. 3, the minor support members 46a-46d are also curved, but in a different manner. That is, the minor support members 46a-46d are each curved in generally the same direction and have an apex 47a-47d located on the major axis A1 of the compartments 14a-14e. This configuration, as mentioned above, facilitates transformation of the compartments 14a-14e between the expanded and collapsed states.

Specifically, to transform the storage device 10 from the open configuration depicted in FIGS. 1 and 3 to the closed configuration depicted in FIG. 2, a user pivots one of the first and second housing members 12a, 12b relative to the other such that the inner surfaces 20a, 20b move toward each other. For the sake of description, it can be assumed that the user pivots the second housing member 12b relative to the first housing member 12a. With reference to FIG. 3, as the second housing member 12b begins to pivot, its inner surface 20b engages the second curved sidewall portion 33b of the fifth compartment 14e. Continued pivoting of the second housing member 12b causes the fifth compartment 14e to collapse in a direction along its minor axis A2 such that the first and second curved sidewall portions 33a, 33b of the sidewall 32 move toward each other, thereby reducing the volume of the containment cavity 40. As the curved sidewall portions 33a, 33b move toward each other, they move toward a flattened state, which is illustrated in FIG. 2, for example. Additionally, as the curved sidewall portions 33a, 33b move toward each other, the major support members 44a-44d of the support web 34 move toward each other. As the major support members 44a-44d move toward each other, the minor support members 46a-46d fold approximately in half at their apexes 47a-47d such as to facilitate the total collapse of the fifth compartment 14e. Next, continued pivoting of the second housing member 12b causes the fifth compartment 14e to engage the second curved sidewall portion 33b of the sidewall 32 of the fourth compartment 14d. Further pivoting of the second housing member 12b causes the fourth compartment 14d to collapse in a manner identical to that described with reference to the fifth compartment 14e. The remaining third, second, and first compartments 14c, 14b, 14a also collapse with further pivoting of the second housing member 12b, until the end lip 24 of the second housing member 12b contacts the end lip 24 of the first housing member 12a and all of the compartments 14a-14e occupy the collapsed state and are disposed within the storage cavity 30 of the housing 12, as depicted in FIG. 2.

While the transformation of the storage device 10 from the open configuration to the closed configuration, and the compartments 14a-14e from the expanded state to the collapsed state, has just been described as including the compartments 14a-14e collapsing in reverse sequential order, for example, it should be appreciated that this description was merely for the sake of explanation. In actual practice, it should be understood that pivoting one of the first and second housing members 12a, 12b relative to the other could cause all of the compartments 14a-14e to collapse generally simultaneously, or in any other sequential or non-sequential order.

To further facilitate the transformation of the compartments 14a-14e between the expanded and collapsed states, one embodiment of the storage device 10 includes the compartments 14a-14e constructed of a flexible material. Specifically, in one embodiment the compartments 14a-14e may be constructed of a rubber material such as a silicon material, or a silicon rubber material. Moreover, in one embodiment, the compartments 14a-14e may be constructed of a flexible material that is also resilient such that the compartments 14a-14e would naturally return to the expanded states illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 3 when the first and second housing members 12a, 12b are moved from the closed position to the open position.

Furthermore, while the storage device 10 is illustrated in FIG. 1 as being horizontally oriented on a horizontal surface such that gravity retains the instruments 16a-16c within the containment cavities 40, the storage device 10 can also be vertically oriented as illustrated in FIG. 3. Specifically, as illustrated, because the first and second housing members 12a, 12b are curved, as described above, portions of the outer surfaces 22a, 22b of the first and second housing members 12a, 12b that are located adjacent the end lips 24a, 24b can engage a horizontal surface and support the storage device 10 in this vertical orientation. So oriented, instruments such as the writing instruments illustrated in FIG. 1, for example, can be disposed through the apertures 42 in the compartments 14a-14e and supported by the various support members 44a-44d, 46a-46d of the support web 34. Thus, this design provides a further degree of versatility.

Although not described above, in one embodiment, the pivot pin 18 may be sized such that it frictionally retains the first and second housing members 12a, 12b in a desired position relative to each other. For example, the pivot pin 18 may have an outer diameter that frictionally engages an inner diameter of the tubular legs 28a, 28b of the yoke 28 of the second housing member 12b and the tubular tongue 26 of the first housing member 12a. In another embodiment, the storage device 10 may include a torsion spring, for example, operably connecting the pivot pin 18 to either or both of the first and second housing members 12a, 12b. Such a torsion spring could bias the storage device 10 into one of the open (FIGS. 1 and 3) or closed configurations (FIG. 2). In the event such a torsion spring is designed to bias the housing 12 into the open position (FIGS. 1 and 3), the storage device 10 could further be equipped with a clasp, e.g., a latch, for securing the first and second housing members 12a, 12b together in the closed position (FIG. 2). In the event such a torsion spring is designed to bias the housing 12 into the closed position (FIG. 2), the storage device 10 could further be equipped with a clasp, e.g., a latch, for securing the first and second housing members 12a, 12b together in the open position (FIGS. 1 and 3).

Additionally, while the disclosed embodiment of the present disclosure has been described as including curved first and second housing members 12a, 12b, alternative embodiments of the storage device 10 may include any suitably-shaped housing members 12a, 12b, and the housing members 12a, 12b do not necessarily need to define a storage cavity 30 or resemble a clamshell when in the closed position.

Furthermore, while the storage device 10 has been described herein as including first through fifth compartments 14a-14e, alternative embodiments can include generally any number of compartments. For example, in one embodiment, the compartments 14a-14e can be all integrally formed together, i.e., as one-piece, thereby effectively including a single compartment.

Finally, while the compartments 14a-14e have been described herein as including flanges 36 attached to the tongue 26 of the first housing member 12a, in alternative embodiments, the compartments 14a-14e may be otherwise secured between the first and second housing members 12a, 12b. For example, in one alternative embodiment and with reference to FIG. 3, the compartments 14a-14e may be secured to the inner surfaces 20a, 20b of the first and second housing members 12a, 12b.

Specifically, the first curved sidewall portion 33a of the first compartment 14a may be secured to the inner wall 20a of the first housing member 12a and the second curved sidewall portion 33b of the fifth compartment 14e may be secured to the inner surface 20b of the second housing member 12b. Additionally, the first and second curved sidewall portions 33a, 33b of the second compartment 14b may be secured to the respective second and first curved sidewall portions 33a, 33b of the first and third compartments 14a, 14c; the first and second curved sidewall portions 33a, 33b of the third compartment 14c may be secured to the respective second and first curved sidewall portions 33a, 33b of the second and fourth compartments 14b, 14d; and the first and second curved sidewall portions 33a, 33b of the fourth compartment 14d can be secured to the respective second and first curved sidewall portions 33a, 33b of the third and fifth compartments 14c, 14e. Thus, it should be appreciated that the present disclosure is not limited by the specific means of attaching the compartments 14a-14e to the housing 12 expressly disclosed herein.

In light of the foregoing, it should be appreciated that an instrument storage device 10 constructed in accordance with the embodiments of the present disclosure advantageously provides a easily collapsible/expandable device that may be stored, transported, etc., while requiring only minimal space for doing so. While various details of embodiments of the storage device 10 have been described herein, the present disclosure is not limited to these details, but rather, is intended to be defined by the spirit and scope of the claims and all equivalents thereof.