Title:
Plastic container with improved handling formation and method
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A plastic container is provided that includes a hollow body portion that extends vertically and has upper and lower extremities; a lower freestanding base that closes the lower extremity of the body portion; an upper dispensing end located above the upper extremity of the body portion and including a shoulder portion, a dispensing opening, and a radially outwardly projecting formation positioned above the shoulder portion and below the dispensing opening; wherein at least a portion of the outwardly projecting formation extends radially above and outwardly over the shoulder portion adjacent to the formation to form a recessed portion therebetween and the outer periphery of the formation includes one or more projected segments to facilitate rotational handling of the container. If desired, the container may be microwavable. A method for producing a container in accordance with the principles of the invention is also disclosed.



Inventors:
Clements, David B. (Medina, OH, US)
Dorn, James C. (Norton, OH, US)
Eppinga, Timothy J. (Elmhurst, IL, US)
Dean, Greg N. (Canton, MI, US)
Application Number:
09/922817
Publication Date:
02/14/2002
Filing Date:
08/06/2001
Assignee:
Plastipak Packaging, Inc.
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
215/40
International Classes:
B29C49/04; B65D1/10; B65D1/40; B65D81/34; (IPC1-7): B65B43/38; B65D1/02
View Patent Images:
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20070221605Plastic closure for containersSeptember, 2007Pugne et al.
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20010035387Universal baby bottle capNovember, 2001Sutcliffe-noyd
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20060186082Hot fill container with restricted corner radius vacuum panelsAugust, 2006Gatewood et al.
20080099422Feeding BottleMay, 2008Rees



Primary Examiner:
MAI, TRI M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
FISHMAN STEWART PLLC (TROY, MI, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. A plastic container comprising: a hollow body portion that extends vertically and has upper and lower extremities; a lower freestanding base that closes the lower extremity of the body portion; an upper dispensing end located above the upper extremity of the body portion and including a shoulder portion, a dispensing opening, and a radially outwardly projecting formation positioned vertically above the shoulder portion and below the dispensing opening; wherein the radially outwardly projecting formation includes upper and lower segments and the shoulder portion includes a top segment; wherein at least a portion of the lower segment of the formation extends vertically above and radially outwardly over the shoulder portion to form a recessed portion therebetween; and further wherein the formation includes one or more projected segments to facilitate rotational handling of the container.

2. A container as recited in claim 1, wherein the container formed from a microwavable plastic.

3. A container as recited in claim 1, wherein the upper dispensing end includes a closure-receiving member.

4. A container as recited in claim 1, wherein a portion of the outwardly projecting formation is ergonomically designed to facilitate handling by a user.

5. A container as recited in claim 1, wherein the angle formed by and between a lower segment of the formation and a top segment of the shoulder is less than 90 degrees.

6. A container as recited in claim 1, wherein the angle formed by and between an upper and lower segment of a portion of the outwardly projecting formation is less than 70 degrees.

7. A container as recited in claim 1, wherein the thickness of the walls of the formation are about 1.0 to 3.0 times the thickness of the walls of the body portion.

8. A container as recited in claim 7, wherein the thickness of the walls of the formation are about 1.5 to 2.0 times the thickness of the walls of the body portion

9. A container as recited in claim 1, wherein the container is blow molded.

10. A container as recited in claim 9, wherein the formation is formed by blow molding.

11. A container as recited in claim 9, wherein the formation is formed by injection molding

12. A container as recited in claim 1, wherein the radial horizontal distance from an outer radial edge of the formation to a most radially inward portion of the recessed portion is greater than about 0.5 inches.

13. A container as recited in claim 1, wherein the container is multi-layered.

14. A method for forming a plastic container, including the steps of: extruding a plastic material; enclosing the plastic material in a set of molds; blow molding the plastic material to form a container having a hollow body portion that extends vertically and has upper and lower extremities; a lower freestanding base that closes the lower extremity of the body portion; an upper dispensing end located above the upper extremity of the body portion and including a shoulder portion, a dispensing opening, and a radially outwardly projecting formation positioned vertically above the shoulder portion and below the dispensing opening; wherein the radially outwardly projecting formation includes upper and lower segments and the shoulder portion includes a top segment; wherein at least a portion of the lower segment of the formation extends vertically above and radially outwardly over the shoulder portion to form a recessed portion therebetween; and further wherein the formation includes one or more projected segments to facilitate rotational handling of the container.

15. A method for forming a plastic container, including the steps of: providing a plastic preform including a substantially solid radially outwardly projecting formation; and blow molding the preform to form a container having a hollow body portion that extends vertically and has upper and lower extremities; a lower freestanding base that closes the lower extremity of the body portion; an upper dispensing end located above the upper extremity of the body portion and including a shoulder portion, a dispensing opening, and a substantially solid radially outwardly projecting formation positioned vertically above the shoulder portion and below the dispensing opening; wherein the radially outwardly projecting formation includes upper and lower segments and the shoulder portion includes a top segment; wherein at least a portion of the lower segment of the formation extends vertically above and radially outwardly over the shoulder portion to form a recessed portion therebetween; and further wherein the formation includes one or more projected segments to facilitate rotational handling of the container.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0001] The present invention relates generally to a plastic container that includes a novel handling formation and, further, a plastic container suitable for use in the microwave heating of items that includes an improved handling formation. A method for producing a container in accordance with the principles of the invention is also disclosed.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] Plastic containers having handling formations, including those that are useful in the microwave heating of items, such as foodstuffs, are known in the art. Moreover, such containers may include multiple layers or shells that are used for heating control (e.g., an outer shell that remains relatively cool to the touch after being microwaved) and/or certain types of rims or flanges to impart structural stability for handling.

[0003] Designers of plastic containers face a challenge to provide a plastic container that: (a) includes improved handling features, (b) can be produced using conventional forming equipment, (c) can be produced in an efficient and cost-effective manner, and (d) if desired, can be used to microwave items such as foodstuffs. This invention provides a container that generally addresses the above challenges and a method for producing such a container.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0004] The present invention recognizes the aforementioned challenges and the limitations associated with the handling of conventional plastic containers, including those that can be used in a microwave environment.

[0005] In accordance with an embodiment of the invention, a plastic container is provided that includes an improved handling formation and, if desired, may be suitable for use in connection with microwave heating applications. The container includes a hollow body portion that extends vertically and has upper and lower extremities; a lower freestanding base that closes the lower extremity of the body portion; and an upper dispensing end located above the upper extremity of the body portion and including a shoulder portion, a dispensing opening, and a radially outwardly projecting formation positioned above the shoulder portion and below the dispensing opening. The upper dispensing end preferably includes a closure-receiving member for securing a separate closure, such as a snap-on or threaded cap. At least a portion of the outwardly projecting formation extends radially above and outwardly over the shoulder portion adjacent to the formation to form a recessed portion 28 therebetween. Preferably, the outer periphery of the formation includes one or more projected segments to facilitate rotational handling of the container. A method for forming a container in accordance with the principles of the invention is also disclosed.

BRIEF DESCRIPTIONS OF THE DRAWINGS

[0006] The features and inventive aspects of the present invention will become more apparent upon reading the following detailed description, claims, and drawings, of which the following is a brief description:

[0007] FIG. 1 shows a front elevational view of a container constructed in accordance with the principles of the present invention.

[0008] FIG. 2 shows an isolated top plan view of an outwardly projecting formation such as illustrated in FIG. 1.

[0009] FIG. 3 shows a partial sectional view of the upper dispensing end and upper extremity of the body portion of an embodiment of the present invention.

[0010] FIG. 4 shows a partial sectional view of the upper dispensing end and upper extremity of the body portion of another embodiment of the present invention.

[0011] FIG. 5 shows a cross sectional view of an embodiment of a multi-layered container formed in accordance with the principles of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

[0012] FIG. 1 illustrates an embodiment of a container 10 constructed in accordance with the teachings of the present invention. The container 10 includes a lower freestanding base 12, a hollow body portion 14, and an upper dispensing end 16.

[0013] The hollow body portion 14 extends vertically and has upper and lower extremities 18, 20. The body portion 14 is preferably cylindrical, but the present invention is not dependent upon the shape of the body portion and the container may instead generally embody, without limitation, an oval, square, rectangular or circular form.

[0014] The lower freestanding base 12 closes the lower extremity 20 of the body portion 14 and provides support for the container. If desired, the freestanding base 12 may include a plurality of alternating ribs and feet and/or a variety of strength enhancing formations, such as ribs and/or other structural features as are known in the plastic container art.

[0015] The upper dispensing end 16 is located above the upper extremity 18 of the body portion 14 and includes a shoulder portion 22, a dispensing opening 24, and a radially outwardly projecting formation 26 that is preferably positioned above the shoulder portion 22 and below the dispensing opening 24. In a preferred embodiment of the present invention, at least a portion of the formation 26 extends radially above and outwardly over the shoulder portion 22 in proximity to the formation 26 to form a recessed portion 28 therebetween.

[0016] Further, in a preferred construction, the upper dispensing end 16 includes a closure-receiving member or retaining formation 29 such as a set of external threads 29. Generally, the formation 26 is blow molded and “hollow.” However, for some applications, the formation 26 can be formed as a solid structural feature (such as later discussed in connection with FIG. 4) and the formation can be formed in the same manner as a threaded portion of a conventional preform.

[0017] To facilitate handling of the container 10, such as when being gripped or pulled toward the user, the recessed portion 28 is preferably recessed to form an indented portion or cavity that extends radially inwardly to accommodate the insertion or entry of a user's finger or fingertip underneath a lower segment 36 of the formation 26 but above a top segment 38 of the shoulder portion 22. While not specifically limited, in a preferred construction, the recessed portion has a recessed radial distance D that is about 0.5 to 3.0 inches. As illustrated in connection with FIG. 3, the recessed radial distance D is generally the radial horizontal distance from the outer radial or peripheral edge 34 of the formation 26 to the most radially inward portion 27 of recessed portion 28.

[0018] Further, as illustrated in FIG. 2, the outer periphery of an isolated formation 26 preferably includes one or more projected segments 30. The projected segment or segments 30 are coordinated and ergonomically designed to facilitate rotational handling and/or orientation of the container 10, for example, by providing a useful surface for use as a brace. In a preferred embodiment, the projected segments are ergonomically designed to accommodate an average user's fingers or fingertips, such as when their hand is positioned about or around a portion of the formation 26. By way of example, but without limitation, a user may place their palm on the body portion 14 or above the shoulder 22 of the container 10 and place one or more fingers upwardly over the formation 26 so as to brace against one or more projected segments 30.

[0019] As shown in the embodiment of FIG. 2, the formation 26 may be comprised of a plurality of alternating curved or “petal-like” projected segments 30 and finger-receiving segments 32. In a preferred embodiment, the container 10 includes at least one finger-receiving segment 32 with a generally semicircular, curved shape having a radius R that is slightly larger than the radius of a user's finger. However, the present invention is not limited to such a specific formation and is further not limited to an annular formation that circumscribes the entire container 10.

[0020] In a preferred construction of the present invention, the thickness of the walls of the formation 26 will be about 1.0 to 3.0 times the thickness of the body portion 14 of the container 10. More preferably, the thickness of the walls of the formation will be within the range of 1.5 to 2.0 times the thickness of body portion 14. Likewise, the thickness of the walls of the formation 26 are preferably—but not necessarily—less than the thickness of portion including a closure-receiving member, if such a feature is present.

[0021] FIG. 3 is a representation of a partial sectional view of an embodiment of the present invention wherein the formation 26 is blow molded and is generally “hollow,” or not substantially solid. In contrast, FIG. 4 represents another embodiment of the present invention in which the formation is not “hollow,” but rather is formed as a substantially “solid” formation, such as when formed by an injection molding process as part of a preform or blank. As illustrated in FIG. 3, the angle a, which is generally formed by and between lower segment 36 of formation 26 and top segment 38 of shoulder portion 22, is preferably less than 90 degrees. More preferably angle α is between 25 and 60 degrees. As further illustrated in FIG. 4, the angle β, which is generally formed by and between the lower and upper segments 36, 40 of formation 26, is preferably less than 70 degrees. More preferably, angle β is between 10 and 45 degrees, and is yet more preferably between 15 and 30 degrees. Moreover, for structural and user functional purposes, the transition portions T1 and T2 between lower segment 36 of formation 26 and top segment 38 of shoulder portion 22 and the lower and upper segments 36, 40 of formation 26, respectively, are preferably curved or rounded.

[0022] The container 10 itself is preferably formed from a plastic material, such as polypropylene. However, other plastic materials are well known to those skilled in the plastic container art and—depending upon the intended environment for its use—the container can be comprised of various combinations of such plastics. In cases in which the container is intended for use in a microwave environment, such as for heating the contents, the container 10 must be made from a microwavable plastic (such as polypropylene or high-density polyethylene (HDPE)) or combination of plastics and/or other materials that are appropriate for use in the intended environment.

[0023] In a preferred embodiment, the container 10 is formed using mold halves and conventional injection blow molding equipment and techniques. In a preferred embodiment, a desired plastic material is extruded. The extruded material is enclosed in a mold set and blow molded to form a container as described above.

[0024] However, the present invention is not limited to such an extrusion-blow molding process and a container of the type disclosure in accordance with the present invention can be formed using other conventional manufacturing techniques. By way of example, and without limitation, such a container could also be formed using fairly conventional two-stage blow molding techniques. With the two-stage forming operation, an injection-molded preform is provided, which may or may not include a substantially solid radially outwardly projecting formation. The preform is blow molded to provide a resultant container in accordance with the principles of the present invention.

[0025] Moreover, the container 10 can be formed to have a monolayer or multi-layer construction. An example of a preferred multi-layer container 60 formed in accordance with the principles of the present invention is illustrated in FIG. 5. The multi-layer container 60 includes an outer layer 62 and an inner layer 64. However, the invention is not limited to a container 60 of the type shown in FIG. 5. By way of example, and without limitation, the inner layer 64 may (i) solely extend along all or just a segment of the body portion of the container, (ii) may not extend vertically upwardly into and/or throughout the upper dispensing end of the container, and/or (iii) may not extend vertically downwardly into and/or throughout the base portion. Further, the inner layer 64 may include one or more layers designed to provide a desired function, such as providing a heat-resistant layer and/or an oxygen-barrier layer.

[0026] Although certain preferred embodiments of the present invention have been described, the invention is not limited to the illustrations described and shown herein, which are deemed to be merely illustrative of the best modes of carrying out the invention. A person of ordinary skill in the art will realize that certain modifications and variations will come within the teachings of this invention and that such variations and modifications are within its spirit and the scope as defined by the claims.