Title:
Foldable reusable shipping container
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An embodiment of the subject shipping container comprises a plurality of side panels, a pair of end panels, and a plurality of releasable fasteners securing the end panels 12 to the side panels 11. A hook and loop fastener such as Velcro™ is used to secure the end panels 12 to the side panels.



Inventors:
O'connell, Jake W. (Maple Plain, MN, US)
Application Number:
09/969604
Publication Date:
04/25/2002
Filing Date:
10/02/2001
Assignee:
O'CONNELL JAKE W.
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
229/125.37
International Classes:
B65D5/02; B65D5/12; B65D6/20; B65D6/22; (IPC1-7): B65D43/08; B65D43/22
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
MAI, TRI M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Jonar J. Tolentino (Minneapolis, MN, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. A reusable shipping container comprising: a plurality of side panels; an end panel cooperating with the side panels to define an interior space; and a fastener releasably and reusably securing the end panel to a side panel, each fastener extending through both the end panel and a side panel.

2. The container of claim 1, wherein concentric apertures extend through an end panel and a side panel, and wherein the fastener includes a grommet releasably disposed within the apertures.

3. The container of claim 1, wherein an end panel includes at least one flap extending therefrom, and wherein a fastener is secured to the flap.

4. The container of claim 3, wherein the fastener is a hook and loop fastener.

5. The container of claim 4, wherein the fastener includes a first portion with a distal end secured along an internal surface of a side panel, the first portion extending through the panel wall and a second portion having a distal end secured to an interior surface of the flap, the second portion extending through the flap, and wherein the first and second portion couples along an external surface of the flap.

6. The container of claim 4, wherein the fastener includes a first portion with a distal end secured along an internal surface of a side panel and a second portion having a distal end secured onto an interior surface of the flap, the second portion extending through the flap and a side panel to couple with the first portion along an internal surface of a side panel.

7. The container of claim 1, wherein each side panel defines a pair of side edges and a pair of end edges, and wherein the container is constructed of a one-piece blank comprising a plurality of side panels interconnected along adjacent side edges and wherein each end panel extends from an end edge.

8. The container of claim 1, wherein each side panel defines a pair of side edges and a pair of end edges, and wherein the container is made from a three-piece blank comprising a plurality of side panels interconnected along adjacent side edges and two separate end panels.

9. The container of claim 1, wherein each side panel defines a pair of side edges and a pair of end edges, and wherein the container is made from a two-piece blank comprising a plurality of side panels interconnected along adjacent side edges and a single side panel having end panels extending from opposite end edges.

10. The container of claim 1, wherein the container is made of a corrugated plastic material.

11. The container of claim 1 wherein the container is ultrasonically welded together.

12. The container of claim 1, and further comprising a bar code label attached along an external surface of a side panel, the bar code label containing a UCC ID, a UCC reusable carton ID and a serial number variable.

13. A method of constructing a reusable shipping container comprising: providing a blank comprising a pair of end panels, each with a flap extending therefrom, and a plurality of side panels; creating adjacent apertures in a side panel and a flap; securing a fastener to a side panel and an end panel, the fastener extending through the apertures;

14. The method of claim 13, wherein the fastener is a hook and loop fastener.

15. The method of claim 13, wherein the step of securing a fastener includes securing a distal end of a first portion of the fastener along an internal surface of a side panel, the first portion extending through the aperture in the side panel, securing a distal end of a second portion of the fastener to an internal surface of the flap, and extending the second portion through the aperture in the flap.

16. The method of claim 13, wherein the step of securing a fastener includes securing a first portion of the fastener to an internal surface of a side panel, securing a distal end of a second portion of the fastener along an internal surface of the flap, and extending the second portion through the apertures in the side and end panels.

17. The method of claim 13, wherein the apertures overlay each other, and wherein the step of securing a fastener includes inserting a grommet through the apertures, and securing a clip on a portion of the grommet intermediate to the side panel and flap.

18. The method of claim 13, wherein the blank is a one-piece blank comprising a plurality of side panels interconnected along adjacent side edges, and each end panel extending from an end edge.

19. The method of claim 13, wherein the blank is a two-piece blank comprising a plurality of side panels interconnected along and a single side panel having end panels extending from opposite end edges.

20. The method of claim 13, wherein the blank is a three-piece blank comprising a plurality of side panels interconnected along adjacent side edges and two separate end panels.

21. The method of claim 13, and further comprising the additional step of erecting the blank, and ultrasonically welding the erected blank together.

22. A reusable shipping container comprising: a plurality of side panels; a pair of end panels cooperating with the side panels to define an interior space, the end panel defining an end panel edge and including a flap extending from an end panel edge; and a hook and loop fastener extending through a flap and side panel.

23. The container of claim 22, wherein the container is made of a corrugated plastic material.

Description:

PRIOR HISTORY

[0001] This application claims priority from U.S. Provisional Application 60/237,804, filed on Oct. 4, 2000, the contents of which are hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.

TECHNICAL FIELD

[0002] The invention relates to a container for shipping freight or other materials, and a method of manufacture thereof. More specifically, the invention relates to a shipping container specifically designed to be reused multiple times and a method of manufacture thereof.

BACKGROUND

[0003] Corrugated cardboard boxes for shipping freight and other similar materials are well known. Lightweight and relatively rigid, these boxes are well suited for shipping freight. However, they are particularly susceptible to ruptures along its top and bottom. Unlike its sides, which are comprised of solid panels of cardboard, the top and bottom of these cardboard boxes are typically comprised of overlapped flaps of cardboard which are secured together by tape.

[0004] Common cardboard box design often rely on the tape/flap union to support most of the load bearing. The bottom of a cardboard box typically supports the weight of the freight therein, so it is critical that the bottom be strong enough to support the weight of the freight. The top is also particularly susceptible because boxes are often stacked one on top of the other, and often, the top is used to support other boxes. As such, ruptures can occur when the tape/flap union is incapable of supporting a load.

[0005] Typical cardboard boxes are also not particularly suited for repeated use, tending to lose their strength and rigidity quite quickly. Handling and exposure to moisture quickly degrades most cardboard boxes and so these containers are typically used only a few times and then is discarded.

[0006] Also, if the box needs to be sealed and resealed a number of times, the use of tape to secure the top and bottom of these boxes is particularly cumbersome and degrades the strength of the box. Repeated removal and addition of tape to the flap tend to remove layers of cardboard material from the flap area, degrading the flap and weakening the tape/flap union of subsequent applications of tape.

[0007] One improvement to the current box design is to have a solid panel comprise the top, bottom, and sides of a shipping container. Boxes of this design are known in the art. However, in order to ship boxes of this design, circular bands are typically needed to secure the tops and bottoms of the box. The necessity of using bands requires additional expense for a banding machine and for the bands themselves. Furthermore, the bands make sealing and resealing the box particularly difficult.

[0008] While known designs of shipping containers may work for its intended purposes, significant improvement can be achieved by providing a shipping container which is more capable of bearing loads and which does not degrade significantly after repeated use. This can be achieved by providing a shipping container having solid panels made of a lightweight corrugated plastic material comprising its top, bottom, and sides, and by providing the shipping container with releasable fasteners to secure the top and bottom of the shipping container.

SUMMARY

[0009] Accordingly, it is a general object of the invention to provide an improved shipping container which avoids the disadvantages of prior shipping containers, while affording additional structural and operating advantages. One feature of the subject invention is the provision of a cost effective shipping container which provides additional strength along the containers load bearing top and bottom portions. Another feature is the provision of a shipping container which is easily sealed and resealed.

[0010] Certain ones of these and other features of the invention may be attained by providing a shipping container having solid panels made of a lightweight corrugated plastic material comprising its top, bottom, and sides, and by providing the shipping container with releasable fasteners to secure the top and bottom of the shipping container to its sides.

[0011] The releasable fasteners can be of the hook and loop variety, such as Velcro™, or it can be a grommet having a C-clip to lock the grommet in place. The releasable fasteners extend through the side, top, and bottom of the container, providing the fastener additional rectilinear support

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0012] For the purpose of facilitating an understanding of the invention, there is illustrated the accompanying drawings, from an inspection of which, when considered in connection with the following description, the invention, its construction and operation, and many of its advantages should be readily understood and appreciated.

[0013] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an embodiment of a reusable shipping container in accordance with the subject invention.

[0014] FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the container of FIG. 1 with end panels partially detached.

[0015] FIG. 3 is an overhead planar view of one embodiment of a container blank used to construct the container of FIG. 1.

[0016] FIG. 4 is an overhead planar view of another embodiment of a container blank used to construct the container of FIG. 1.

[0017] FIG. 5 is an overhead planar view of yet another embodiment of a container blank used to construct the container of FIG. 1.

[0018] FIG. 6 is an enlarged, cross-sectional view of an embodiment of an upper fastener configuration for the container of FIG. 1.

[0019] FIG. 7 is an enlarged, cross-sectional view of an embodiment of a lower fastener configuration for the container of FIG. 1.

[0020] FIG. 8 is a cross-sectional view of another embodiment of a fastener configuration.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0021] The subject invention is a shipping container particularly adapted to be reused multiple times, and which includes a novel design which improves the strength of the shipping container. As shown in FIG. 1, an embodiment of the subject shipping container 10 comprising a plurality of side panels 11, a pair of end panels 12, and a plurality of reusable fasteners 14 securing the end panels 12 to the side panels 11. In this embodiment, a hook and loop fastener such as Velcro™ is used to secure the end panels 12 to the side panels 11.

[0022] As shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, the side panels 11 define side edges 20 and end edges 21. The side panels 11 are interconnected to each other along adjacent side edges 20 to define the container's perimeter. A first portion of the fastener 22 extends through upper and lower portions of a number of side panel 11.

[0023] End panels 12 cooperate with the side panels 11 to define an interior space wherein freight can be contained. In this embodiment, the end panel 12 defines end panel edges 23, and includes flaps 24 which extend from the end panel edges 23. The end panel edges 23 provide a hinged junction between the end panel and the flap, allowing independent movement of the flap 24 with respect to the end panel 12. A second portion of the fastener 25 extend through the flap 24. One flap 24 of each end panel 12 is secured to a side panel 11.

[0024] The side panels 1 land end panels 12 can be made of a relatively rigid, corrugated plastic material such as polypropylene or polyethylene. In addition to the strength and durability provided by the corrugated plastic material, the use of such materials allows the subject shipping container 10 to be ultrasonically welded together, providing even greater strength and stability to the shipping container 10. Ultrasonic welds 27 meld portions of the shipping container together.

[0025] As shown in FIG. 3, in one embodiment, the subject invention is formed from a one-piece blank. The side panels 11 are hingedly interconnected to each other along adjacent side edges 20. A first side panel 30 defines opposite end edges 21, from which, the end panels 12 extend. A side panel flap 31 extends from a side edge 20 of a second side panel 32. The container 10 is erected by positioning the side panel flap31 adjacent to the first side panel 30, causing the side panels 11 to define a perimeter. The side panel flap 31 is then ultrasonically welded to the first side panel 30 along weld joints 34, retaining the side panels 11 in place.

[0026] As shown in FIG. 4, in another embodiment, the shipping container is formed from a two-piece blank which includes a first blank portion 40 comprising a plurality of side panels 11 hingedly interconnected along adjacent side edges 20. Side panel flaps 31 extend along opposite ends of the first blank portion 40, the flaps extending along an adjacent side edge 20. A second blank piece 41 is comprised of a first side panel 30 and end panels 12,each end panel hingedly extending from opposite end edges 21. The container 10 is erected by positioning each flap31 adjacent to opposite side edges of the first side panel 30, causing the side panels 11 to define a perimeter. Each flap 31 is then ultrasonically welded to the first side panel 30 along weld joints 34, retaining the side panels 11 in place.

[0027] As shown in FIG. 5, in another embodiment, the shipping container is formed from a three-piece blank with a first blank portion 50 comprising a plurality of side panels 11 hingedly interconnected to each other along adjacent side edges 20. Second 51 and third 52 blank portions are comprised of individual end panels 12. A side panel flap 31extends from a side edge 20 of a second side panel 53. The second 51 and third 52 blank portions each define a plurality of end panel edges 23, and includes flaps 24 which hingedly extend from the end panel edges 23.

[0028] The container 10 is erected by positioning the flap 31 adjacent to the first side panel 54, causing the side panels 11 to define a perimeter. The flap 31 is ultrasonically welded to the first side panel 54 along weld joints 34, retaining the side panels 11 in place. The second 51 and third 52 blank portions are ultrasonically welded onto the first side panel 54 along its end edges 21. A flap 24 from each of the second and third 52 blank portions are ultrasonically welded onto the first side panel 54 along its respective weld joints 34.

[0029] While the embodiments disclosed in this application is typically ultrasonically welded in place, other means for attaching components of disassembled blanks together, such as adhesives, staples, and fasteners can also be readily used. Also, variations of the disclosed blanks may also be used in order to erect the subject shipping container 10.

[0030] As shown in FIG. 6, in one embodiment, the fastener 14 is a hook and loop fastener which includes a first fastener portion 22 having a distal end 61 secured along an internal surface 60 of the side panel 11. A second fastener portion 25 has a distal end 62 secured along an interior surface 63 of the flap 24. The second fastener portion extends through a first aperture 64 located on the flap 24 and a second aperture 65 located on the side panel 11. A proximal end 66 of the first fastener portion 22 and a proximal end 67 of the second fastener portion 25 is then mated, securing the end panel 12 to the side panel 11.

[0031] This embodiment is preferred for attaching an end panel 11 which will form the bottom of the shipping container 10. The flap 24 and the side panel 11 provide excellent rectilinear support for the second fastener portion, in the vertical direction, lessening the amount of shear forces working to uncouple the proximal ends of the first and second fastener portions 66,67.

[0032] As shown in FIG. 7, in another embodiment, the fastener 14 is a hook and loop fastener which includes a first fastener portion 22 having a distal end 71 secured along an internal surface 70 of the side panel 11. The first fastener portion 22 extends through a first aperture 74 located on the side panel 11. A second fastener portion 25 has a distal end 72 secured along an interior surface 73 of the flap 24. The second fastener portion 25 extends through a second aperture 75 located on the flap 24. A proximal end 76 of the first fastener portion 22 and a proximal end 77 of the second fastener portion 25 is then mated, securing the end panel 12 to the side panel 11.

[0033] As shown in FIG. 8, a grommet 80 can also be used to secure the side panel 11 to the end panel 12. Overlaying apertures 81, 82 are respectively created through the flap 24 and side panel 11. The grommet 80 can include a shaft 84 which extends through the apertures 81, 82 and a head 83 which is diametrically greater than the aperture 81 through the flap 24. The head 83 serves to prevent a distal portion 85 of the shaft 84 from entering the aperture 81. A retaining clip 86 engages a middle portion 87 of the shaft and prevents it from entering either apertures 81,82. The retaining clip 86 and the head 83 cooperate to retain the grommet within the apertures 81,82, and secures the end panel 12 to the side panel 11.

[0034] The configuration of the subject shipping container 10 makes it particularly suited for reusable use. The corrugated plastic material and the ultrasonic welding provide a construction which is not easily degraded by moisture or excessive handling. The releasable fasteners 14 allow for relatively easy access to the interior of the shipping container 10, while providing a secure seal. Furthermore, with its sides, top, and bottom, all comprised of a solid panel of material, the shipping container 10 provides improved protection against rupture, when compared to the commonly used cardboard box configuration. The box is ideally suited for use in situations wherein freight is reciprocally shipped between entities.

[0035] As such, each shipping container 10 can also include a bar code label attached to an external surface, identifying each box. The bar code label can contain a UCC ID, a UCC reusable carton ID, and a serial number variable. The bar code label can be used to track the location of the box, or signify an owner to whom the box should be returned.

[0036] While particular embodiments of the present invention have been shown and described, it will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that changes and modifications may be made without departing from the invention in its broader aspects. Therefore, the aim in the appended claims is to cover all such changes and modifications as fall within the true spirit and scope of the invention. The matter set forth in the foregoing description and accompanying drawings is offered by way of illustration only and not as a limitation. The actual scope of the invention is intended to be defined in the following claims when viewed in their proper perspective based on the prior art.