Title:
Box hand hole reinforcement and method of use
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A reinforcing member made of unitary construction is described. The reinforcing member has an outer face connected to an inner face by a middle frame. The inner face includes a first flange extending in a first direction from a first portion of the frame and a resiliently flexible second flange extending in an opposite direction from a flexible second portion of the frame. In use, an installer flexes the second flange and second frame portion so that the inner face will pass through the hand hole. Flexation may involve movement of the first flange toward the second flange, rotation of the second flange away from the outer face, or a combination of both. Once flexed, the inner face is inserted through the hand hole and the second flange is allowed to resume its unflexed position.



Inventors:
Johanson, James E. (Old Chatham, NY, US)
Keith Sr., Antal E. (Valatie, NY, US)
Rigney, Thomas J. (Valatie, NY, US)
Application Number:
10/461115
Publication Date:
01/15/2004
Filing Date:
06/13/2003
Assignee:
JOHANSON JAMES E.
ANTAL KEITH E.
RIGNEY THOMAS J.
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
229/117.16
International Classes:
B65D5/46; (IPC1-7): B65D5/42; B65D5/46
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Primary Examiner:
MAI, TRI M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Thomas J. Durling (Philadelphia, PA, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. A box hole reinforcement comprising: a reinforcing member of unitary construction having an outer face connected to an inner face by a middle frame, the inner face having a first flange extending in a first direction from a first portion of the frame and a resiliently flexible second flange extending in an opposite direction from a flexible second portion of the frame.

2. The reinforcement of claim 1 wherein the flexible second flange comprises one or more guide elements tending to urge the second flange toward the first flange when subjected to a force perpendicular to a plane of the second flange.

3. The reinforcement of claim 2 wherein the guide elements comprise ribs extending perpendicular from the plane of the second flange.

4. The reinforcement of claim 1 wherein the flexible second flange comprises one or more guide elements tending to rotate the second flange away from the outer face when subjected to a force perpendicular to a plane of the second flange.

5. The reinforcement of claim 4 wherein the guide elements comprise angled ribs extending perpendicular from the plane of the second flange.

6. The reinforcement of claim 1 wherein the flexible second flange comprises slits perpendicular to a long axis of the flange.

7. The reinforcement of claim 6 wherein the slits extend into the flexible second portion of the frame.

8. The reinforcement of claim 1 wherein the reinforcing member is substantially trapezoidal.

9. The reinforcement of claim 1 wherein the first flange and first portion of the frame are substantially rigid.

10. The reinforcement of claim 9 wherein the first flange, first portion of the frame and outer face together have a U shaped cross section.

11. A method of reinforcing a hand hole comprising: providing a reinforcing member of unitary construction having an outer face connected to an inner face by a middle frame, the inner face having a first flange extending in a first direction from a first portion of the frame and a flexible second flange extending in an opposite direction from a flexible second portion of the frame; flexing the second flange toward the first flange; inserting the inner face through the hand hole; and allowing the second flange to rotate back toward the outer face.

12. The method of claim 11 where the flexing step comprises the step of engaging guide member on the second flange with an edge of a wall that defines the hand hole.

13. The method of claim 11 wherein the flexing step comprises the step of rotating the second flange away from the outer face.

14. The method of claim 11 further comprising the step of inserting the first flange through the hole prior to the flexing step.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

[0001] The present application claims priority from U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/395,066, filed Jul. 11, 2002, which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0002] The invention relates to the reinforcement of hand holes in shipping and storage boxes, and particularly to a new reinforcing member of unitary construction. The invention further relates to a method of using the reinforcing member.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0003] It is well known that cardboard boxes can be awkward to handle due to their size and shape. Therefore, it has become common to provide convenient hand holes in two opposing sides of a box. Although effective in combating the awkwardness, hand holes lead to other well known problems. When a user lifts the box, his or her fingers exert localized forces on portions of the upper edge of the hand hole. These localized forces can be uncomfortable, if not painful, for the user. In addition, localized forces subject the relatively weak cardboard web to undue stress. It is, therefore, not surprising that the cardboard often tears under the localized forces if the box is laden with heavy contents. Tearing of such a box exposes the user and others nearby to a risk of serious injury because sudden tearing could cause the user to drop the box or heavy contents to spill out. The potential for tearing and the associated risk of injury become even more prevalent when the walls of the box are thinned to reduce the weight of the box and to reduce packaging costs.

[0004] Thus, hand hole reinforcing units have been proposed. However, the known reinforcing units are expensive, injection molded units having a body, a cover, and several hinges and snapping features. A first problem with the known units is that the mold required to make them is itself very expensive because it must have many complicated shut-offs. In addition, a great deal of ongoing maintenance is required to keep the shut-offs working properly. However, drawbacks to the known units do not end here.

[0005] Given the cost of producing the known reinforcing units, one would expect them to be easily installed. However, the contrary is true. To install the unit, a user must identify the top of the unit by locating an up arrow. The user then inserts the body of the unit through the hand hole and swings the cover portion into a snapping engagement with the body. If not careful, an installer may be painfully pinched during the process. Further, the units are generally symmetrical top to bottom so it is possible to install it upside down in the hand hole. If so installed, the user may regretfully find his or her knuckles caught on a square inside edge of the unit, causing pain and delays in further installations.

[0006] Therefore, a need exists for a hand hole reinforcement that is inexpensively produced, fast and easy to install, and improves the safety of the package.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0007] The invention solves this long felt need by providing a reinforcing member made of unitary construction. The reinforcing member has an outer face connected to an inner face by a middle frame. The inner face includes a first flange extending in a first direction from a first portion of the frame and a resiliently flexible second flange extending in an opposite direction from a resiliently flexible second portion of the frame.

[0008] In use, an installer flexes the second flange and second frame portion so that the inner face will pass through the hand hole. Flexation may involve movement of the first flange toward the second flange, rotation of the second flange away from the outer face, or a combination of both. Once flexed, the inner face is inserted through the hand hole and the second flange is allowed to resume its natural, unflexed position.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0009] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a hand hole reinforcing member from the front and right of the outer face, according to a first embodiment of the present invention.

[0010] FIG. 2 is a view of the hand hole reinforcing member of FIG. 1 from the front and above the outer face.

[0011] FIG. 3 is a view of the hand hole reinforcing member of FIG. 1 from the front and left of the outer face.

[0012] FIG. 4 is a view of the hand hole reinforcing member of FIG. 1 showing the inner face.

[0013] FIG. 5 is a view of the hand hole reinforcing member of FIG. 1 showing the right side.

[0014] FIG. 6 is a cross-sectional view of the hand hole reinforcing member taken along line 6-6 of FIG. 1, in association with a hand hole of a box.

[0015] FIG. 7 is the cross-sectional view of FIG. 6 with the hand hole reinforcement in a flexed state.

[0016] FIG. 8 is a perspective view of the outer face of a second embodiment of a hand hole reinforcement according to the present invention.

[0017] FIG. 9 is a perspective view of the inner face of the hand hole reinforcement of FIG. 8.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0018] For the purpose of illustrating the invention, there are shown in the Figures forms which are presently preferred; it being understood that this invention is not limited to the precise arrangements and instrumentalities shown.

[0019] FIG. 1 shows a first embodiment of a reinforcement for a box hand hole according to the present invention. The reinforcement is a reinforcing member 10 of unitary construction. As used herein, “unitary construction” means formed as a single part, not having distinct pieces that must be later assembled or otherwise connected together. The member 10 may be molded in a generally trapezoidal shape, shown from the front in FIG. 2, from a variety of flexible materials. Presently it is contemplated that the member 10 be formed from high density polyethylene or polypropylene. However, those skilled in the art will recognize that many other flexible plastics and other moldable materials can also be used.

[0020] The member 10 has an inner face 12 connected to an outer face 14 by a frame 16. These features are clearly shown in FIGS. 3, 4 and 5, which are views of the member 10 looking at the outer face 14, the inner face 12, and the right side (from the perspective of the outer face), respectively. The inner face 12 and outer face 14 are substantially disposed in parallel planes.

[0021] It is contemplated that the outer face 14 extends around the entire trapezoidal outer edge of the frame 16. Preferably, the corners of the outer face 14 are rounded, and the major sides are gently rounded to a widest point at the mid-section of each.

[0022] The inner face 12 includes a first flange 18 extending in a first direction from a first portion 20 of the frame 16. The first flange 18, first portion 20 of the frame 16 and outer face 14 together have a U shaped cross section, shown in FIG. 5. The first portion 20 is depicted in the drawings as the top of the frame, i.e. that portion which, in use, will engage the top edge of a hand hole in the side of a box and transmit upward force from a user's fingers to lift the box. Although it is preferred that the first portion 20 be the top of the frame 16, the invention can be carried out with the first portion 20 forming the bottom of the frame 16 as well.

[0023] The inner face 12 includes a resiliently flexible second flange 22 extending from a flexible second portion 24 of the frame 16. The flexible second flange 22 extends from the frame 16 in a direction opposite that of first flange 18. As shown in FIG. 4, flexible second flange 22 extends furthest from the frame at its mid-point, where maximum displacement occurs when the flange 22 is flexed. Preferably, the second portion 24 is the bottom of the frame 16, i.e. that which engages the bottom edge of a box hand hole when installed. There are a number of reasons why this arrangement is preferred. First, the member 10 of the first embodiment is preferably trapezoidal in shape, to be used with hand holes of a corresponding shape. Because the second flange 22 of the inner face and second portion 24 of the frame form the longer major side of the trapezoid, greater flexibility is inherent in these elements. (Material of constant rigidity has more flex if formed into a longer unit.) Second, when the flexible second flange 22 and flexible portion 24 are disposed at the bottom of the member 10, the top of the member 10, including first flange 18 and first portion 20 of the frame 16, can be made rigid. This is preferable because, in use, a rigid top portion will more evenly distribute the lifting force to the cardboard that forms the top edge of the hand hole of a box. Third, if desired, the first flange 18 and first portion 20 can be specially molded with comfortable gripping designs (not shown) without regard to flexibility. Fourth, the second flange 22 and second portion 24 may include functional guide and/or flex-enhancing elements that might be uncomfortable for a user to grasp while lifting the top portion of the member 10 to lift up the box. Thus, a rigid top portion of member 10 and flexible bottom portion, as shown in FIGS. 1-5 is preferred. However, it will become apparent that such an arrangement is not necessary to carry out the present invention in view of the second embodiment described below.

[0024] The second flange 22 of the inner face 12 preferably includes one or more guide elements which tend to urge the second flange in the direction of arrow A (FIG. 4) toward the first flange 18 when subjected to a force perpendicular to the plane of the second flange. The perpendicular force is provided by resistance of the cardboard box against the guide elements as explained below. Shown in FIGS. 4 and 5, the guide elements may be a series of ribs 26 extending perpendicular from the plane of the second flange 22. The guide elements are preferably designed to rotate the second flange 22 away from the outer face 14 when subjected to the force perpendicular to the plane of the second flange 18. The direction of rotation of the second flange 22 away from the outer face 14 is represented by arrow B in FIG. 5.

[0025] The flexible second flange 22 is also preferably provided with flex-enhancing elements perpendicular to the long axis of the second flange 22. The flex-enhancing elements are shown in FIG. 3 as a series of slits 28 disposed along the length of the flexible second flange 22. The slits 28 are disposed perpendicular to the long axis of the second flange 22 and may stretch most of the distance over which the flange 22 extends from second portion 24 of the frame 16. However, to eliminate sharp edges and enhance integrity of the second flange 22, it is preferred that the slits 28 do not extend the entire distance over which the flange 22 extends. It is also preferred that the slits 28 extend into the flexible second portion 24 of the frame 16 and partially into the outer face 14 as well.

[0026] FIG. 6 is a cross-sectional view of the reinforcing member 10 taken along line 66 of FIG. 1 through a rib 26, in association with the side of a box 30 having a hand hole 32. To install the member 10 into the hand hole 32, the first flange 18 is first inserted through the hole 32. The user pushes the outer face 14 in the direction of arrow C, causing ribs 26 to engage the box 30. Further pushing causes the ribs 26 to guide flexation of the second flange 22, rotating the second flange 22 away from the outer face 14 in the direction of arrow B and pushing the second flange 22 toward the first flange 18 in the direction of arrow A. Once flexed, adequate clearance is available for second flange 22 to move through the hole 32, as is shown in FIG. 7. Once through the hole 32, the second flange 22 resiliently flexes back to its natural shape, securely keeping the member 10 engaged with the hand hole 32.

[0027] In the embodiment of FIGS. 1-7, the first flange 18 and first portion 20 of the frame are substantially rigid. However, these elements may also be flexible, as is the case in a second embodiment of the reinforcing member 110, which is shown in FIGS. 8 and 9.

[0028] According to the second embodiment, the reinforcing member 110 includes an inner face 112 and an outer face 114. The inner and outer faces are disposed in substantially parallel planes and are connected to one another by a frame 116. The inner face includes first and second flanges, respectively labeled 118 and 122, connected to the frame 116 at opposite portions 120 and 124 thereof In the embodiment of FIGS. 7 and 8, the first and second flanges 118, 122 are very similar and both are flexible. The respective frame portions 120 and 124 are also similar and flexible. In addition, the general shape of the member 110 may be rectangular, rather than trapezoidal. Thus, the member 110 can be perfectly symmetrical about both major and minor axes. In this case, the member can be inserted into a rectangular hand hole of a box with either the first flange 118 or the second flange 122 oriented upwardly.

[0029] Because both the first and second flanges 118, 122 are flexible, they are shown with fewer guide and/or flex-enhancing elements than are shown in FIGS. 1-5. Specifically, each flange 118, 122 is shown with only three guide elements 126 and two flex-enhancing elements 128. Although fewer in number, the elements 126 and 128 function in substantially the same manner as the analogous elements 26 and 28. However, the differences between the second embodiment and that shown in FIGS. 1-5 allows for a slightly different method of insertion into a box hand hole. Rather than inserting the first flange 118 through the hand hole prior to flexation of the second flange 122, both flanges can be flexed and inserted through the hole simultaneously.

[0030] As noted above, a variety of modifications to the embodiments described will be apparent to those skilled in the art from the disclosure provided herein. Thus, the present invention may be embodied in other specific forms without departing from the spirit or essential attributes thereof and, accordingly, reference should be made to the appended claims, rather than to the foregoing specification, as indicating the scope of the invention.





 
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