Title:
Protective insert for commercial packaging of fragile stackable items
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A one-piece protective insert comprising a plurality of laterally-aligned chambers each configured to fit a stack of fragile items, such as edible cones. Each chamber is formed by the union of a first sidewall, a second sidewall, a back wall and a top wall. A top flange and side flanges may be connected to the protective insert. In packaging multiple cone stacks, a protective insert is placed in between a first row of cone stacks and a second row of cone stacks, such that the top wall of each chamber of the protective insert is positioned above the open end of the cone stacks in the second row and each of the cone stacks in the second row fits within one of the chambers of the protective insert. This packing method is repeated for all successive rows of cone stacks within the container.



Inventors:
Autler, Henry (Lawrenceville, GA, US)
Meier, Carl (Conyers, GA, US)
Application Number:
10/198543
Publication Date:
01/22/2004
Filing Date:
07/17/2002
Assignee:
AUTLER HENRY
MEIER CARL
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
206/592, 206/588
International Classes:
B65D5/49; B65D5/50; B65D81/133; (IPC1-7): B65D21/00; B65D81/02
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
MOHANDESI, JILA M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
KING & SPALDING (ATLANTA, GA, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. A protective insert for use in packaging a plurality of edible cones comprising: a plurality of laterally-aligned chambers each formed by a union of a first sidewall, a second sidewall and a back wall, each chamber configured to fit a stack of edible cones; a top wall extending at least partially over each of the plurality of chambers; and wherein the plurality of chambers and the top wall comprise a unitary construction.

2. The protective insert of claim 1, wherein the top wall has a length and a width, the length being substantially equal to a lateral distance across the plurality of chambers; and wherein the protective insert further comprises a top flange connected to the top wall and extending length-wise at least partially along the length of the top wall.

3. The protective insert of claim 2, wherein the width of the top wall is bounded by a front edge and a back edge, the back edge being a location where the back wall of each chamber the joins the top wall; and wherein the top flange is connected to the front edge of the top wall and extends width-wise beyond the back edge of the top wall.

4. The protective insert of claim 2, wherein the plurality of chambers comprises a first end chamber, a second end chamber and a plurality of middle chambers positioned between the first end chamber and the second end chamber; and wherein the protective insert further comprises a first side flange connected to the first side wall of the first end chamber and a second side flange connected to the second side wall of the second end chamber.

5. The protective insert of claim 1, wherein the plurality of chambers comprises a first end chamber, a second end chamber and a plurality of middle chambers positioned between the first end chamber and the second end chamber; and wherein the protective insert further comprises a first side flange connected to the first side wall of the first end chamber and a second side flange connected to the second side wall of the second end chamber.

6. The protective insert of claim 1, wherein the unitary construction is made from foam.

7. The protective insert of claim 1, wherein the unitary construction is made from plastic.

8. The protective insert of claim 1, wherein the unitary construction is formed using a molding process.

9. The protective insert of claim 1, wherein each of the plurality of chambers is substantially semi-cylindrical in shape.

10. The protective insert of claim 1, wherein the plurality of chambers comprises five chambers.

11. A protective insert for use in packaging a plurality of edible cones comprising: a plurality of laterally-aligned chambers each formed by a union of a first sidewall, a second sidewall, a back wall and a top wall, each chamber configured to fit a stack of edible cones; a top flange extending at least partially over each top wall of the plurality of chambers; and wherein the plurality of chambers and the top flange comprise a unitary construction.

12. The protective insert of claim 11, wherein each top wall has a width that is bounded by a front edge and a back edge, the back edge being a location where the back wall joins the top wall; and wherein the top flange is connected to the front edge of each top wall and extends width-wise beyond the back edge of each top wall.

13. The protective insert of claim 12, wherein the plurality of chambers comprises a first end chamber, a second end chamber and a plurality of middle chambers positioned between the first end chamber and the second end chamber; and wherein the protective insert further comprises a first side flange connected to the first sidewall of the first end chamber and a second side flange connected to the second sidewall of the second end chamber.

14. The protective insert of claim 11, wherein the plurality of chambers comprises a first end chamber, a second end chamber and a plurality of middle chambers positioned between the first end chamber and the second end chamber; and wherein the protective insert further comprises a first side flange connected to the first side wall of the first end chamber and a second side flange connected to the second side wall of the second end chamber.

15. The protective insert of claim 11, wherein the unitary construction is made from foam.

16. The protective insert of claim 11, wherein the unitary construction is made from plastic.

17. The protective insert of claim 11, wherein the unitary construction is formed using a molding process.

18. The protective insert of claim 11, wherein each of the plurality of chambers is substantially semi-cylindrical in shape.

19. The protective insert of claim 11, wherein the plurality of chambers comprises five chambers.

20. A method of packaging a plurality of cone stacks using protective inserts, each protective insert comprising a plurality of laterally-aligned chambers each formed by a union of a first sidewall, a second sidewall, a back wall and a top wall, each chamber configured to fit an cone stack, each cone stack having a pointed end and an open end, the method comprising: placing a cone holder into a container having a bottom and a top, the cone holder being placed near the bottom of the container and being configured to receive the pointed end of each of the plurality of cone stacks; placing a first row of cone stacks into the container such that the pointed end of each cone stack in the first row is received by the cone holder; placing a second row of edible cones into the container such that the pointed end of each cone stack in the second row is received by the cone holder; and placing a protective insert between the first row of cone stacks and the second row of cone stacks, such that the top wall of each chamber of the protective insert is positioned above the open end of the cone stacks in the second row and each of the cone stacks in the second row fits within one of the chambers of the protective insert.

21. The method of claim 20, wherein the first row of cones is substantially near a side of the box; and wherein the method further comprises placing a second protective insert between the side of the container and the first row of cones, such that the top wall of each chamber of the second protective insert is positioned above the open end of the cone stacks in the first row and each of the cone stacks in the first row fits within one of the chambers of the second protective insert.

22. The method of claim 20, wherein the protective insert is made from foam.

23. The method of claim 20, wherein the protective insert is made from plastic.

24. The method of claim 20, wherein each of the chambers of the protective insert is substantially semi-cylindrical in shape.

25. The method of claim 20, wherein the protective insert further comprises a top flange extending at least partially over each top wall of the plurality of chambers; wherein each top wall of the plurality of chambers has a width that is bounded by a front edge and a back edge, the back edge being a location where the back wall joins the top wall; wherein the top flange is connected to the front edge of each top wall and extends width-wise beyond the back edge of each top wall; and wherein the protective insert is placed in the container such that the top flange extends at least partially above the first row of cones.

26. A package of edible cones comprising: a container; a plurality of rows of cone stacks disposed within the container, each cone stack having a pointed end and an open end; and a plurality of protective inserts disposed within the container, each protective insert comprising a plurality of laterally-aligned chambers each formed by a union of a first sidewall, a second sidewall, a back wall and a top wall, each protective insert positioned behind one of the rows of cone stacks such that each of the cone stacks fits within one of the chambers of the protective insert.

27. The package of edible cones recited in claim 26, wherein the protective insert further comprises a top flange extending at least partially over each top wall of the plurality of chambers.

28. The package of edible cones recited in claim 27, wherein each top wall of the plurality of chambers has a width that is bounded by a front edge and a back edge, the back edge being a location where the back wall joins the top wall; wherein the top flange is connected to the front edge of each top wall and extends width-wise beyond the back edge of each top wall; and wherein the protective insert is positioned such that the top flange extends at least partially above the row of cones.

29. The package of edible cones recited in claim 26, wherein the plurality of chambers comprises a first end chamber, a second end chamber and a plurality of middle chambers positioned between the first end chamber and the second end chamber; and wherein the protective insert further comprises a first side flange connected to the first side wall of the first end chamber and a second side flange connected to the second side wall of the second end chamber.

30. The package of edible cones recited in claim 26, wherein the protective insert is made from foam.

32. The package of edible cones recited in claim 26, wherein the protective insert is made from plastic.

33. The package of edible cones recited in claim 26, wherein the protective insert is formed using a molding process.

34. The package of edible cones recited in claim 26, wherein each of the plurality of chambers is substantially semi-cylindrical in shape.

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD

[0001] The present invention relates to packaging of fragile stackable items, such as edible cones and the like. More particularly, the present invention relates to a protective insert for separating, supporting and protecting fragile stackable items stacked within a container.

BACKGROUND OD THE INVENTION

[0002] As shown in FIGS. 1A-1C, large quantities of edible cones 102 (e.g. 300 ct.) are typically packaged in a substantially rectangular container 100 (e.g., a box) when sold for commercial use. Edible cones 102 are placed within each other to form a cone stack 104. A plurality of rows of cone stacks 104 are placed within the container 100. A cone holder 106 is typically used to hold the cone stacks 104 at spaced intervals. The cone holder 106 is often a piece of cardboard, paperboard or plastic supported a distance above the bottom of the container 100 and having a number of openings 108 configured to receive the pointed ends of the cone stacks 104.

[0003] With reference to FIGS. 2A-2C, in order to further support the cone stacks 104 within the container 100 and to protect the edible cones 102 against breakage during transport, corrugated paperboard 200 is typically used as a protective insert. The corrugated paperboard 200 may be folded so as to form multiple three-walled chambers 202, each having a first side wall 204, a second side wall 206 and a back wall 208. The sidewalls 204 &206 of the chambers 202 may be positioned between the cone stacks 104 of a row of cone stacks 104 to ensure that the cone stacks 104 do not touch each other. However, the three-walled chambers 202 of the folded corrugated paperboard 200 do not cover the open end (i.e., the top) of the cone stacks 104 and therefore do not provide a protective layer between the edible cones 102 and the top of the box 100.

[0004] Folded corrugated paperboard 200 has been the protective insert of choice for packaging edible cones 102 because it is an inexpensive commodity. However, in high-volume cone packaging facilities, the use of folded corrugated paperboard 200 as a packaging insert has drawbacks. In particular, the act of folding the corrugated paperboard 200 and holding it in the proper three-walled configuration while inserting it between cone stacks 104 is time consuming and thus limits the number of containers 100 of edible cones 102 that can be packaged during a given time period. In addition, constant repetition of the folding action has been found to trigger carpel-tunnel syndrome in line-workers. Workers suffering from carpel-tunnel syndrome may work more slowly, miss work more often and possibly file workers compensation claims. Furthermore, corrugated paperboard 220 is not all that strong or shock-absorbent, which leads to more breakage of edible cones 102 than is necessary.

[0005] Accordingly, there remains a need for an improved protective insert for use in bulk packaging of edible cones 102 for shipment to commercial establishments. The improved protective insert should not require repetitive folding or assembly actions and should provide superior protection against edible cone breakage.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0006] The present invention meets the above-described need by providing a protective insert for use in packaging a plurality of fragile stackable items, such as edible cones. The protective insert comprises a plurality of laterally-aligned chambers that are configured to fit a stack of edible cones. In one embodiment, each chamber is formed by the union of a first sidewall, a second sidewall, a back wall and a top wall. The chambers are each configured to fit a stack of edible cones and may be substantially semi-cylindrical in shape. The protective insert comprises a unitary construction that may be made from foam, plastic or any other suitable material.

[0007] In certain embodiments, a top flange may be connected to the top wall of the protective insert. The top flange may extend length-wise at least partially along the length of the protective insert. The top flange may be connected to the front edge of the top walls and may extend width-wise beyond the back edge of the top walls. The plurality of chambers comprises a first end chamber, a second end chamber and a plurality of middle chambers positioned between the first end chamber and the second end chamber. A first side flange may be connected to the first side wall of the first end chamber and a second side flange may be connected to the second side wall of the second end chamber.

[0008] Another aspect of the invention provides a method of packaging a plurality of cone stacks using the inventive protective inserts. The method comprises optionally placing a cone holder into a container near the bottom of the container. The cone holder is configured to receive the pointed end of each of the cone stacks. A first row of cone stacks is placed into the container such that the pointed end of each cone stack is received by the cone holder. A second row of edible cones is also placed into the container such that the pointed end of each cone stack in the second row is received by the cone holder. A protective insert is placed in between the first row of cone stacks and the second row of cone stacks, such that the top wall of each chamber of the protective insert is positioned above the open end of the cone stacks in the second row and each of the cone stacks in the second row fits within one of the chambers of the protective insert. This packing method is repeated until all intended cone stacks and protective inserts are placed within the container.

[0009] These and other aspects, features and embodiments of the invention will become apparent from the following detailed description of certain exemplary embodiments, the appended drawings and the claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0010] The invention is illustrated by the accompanying drawings in which like numerals represent like elements and in which:

[0011] FIG. 1A is a perspective view of an exemplary prior art package of edible cones;

[0012] FIG. 1B is a sectional view of an exemplary prior art package of edible cones;

[0013] FIG. 1C is a perspective view of an exemplary prior art cone holder typically used within a package of edible cones;

[0014] FIG. 2, comprising FIG. 2A, FIG. 2B and FIG. 2C, is an illustration of an exemplary piece of corrugated paperboard used as a packaging insert for packaging edible cones;

[0015] FIG. 3, comprising FIG. 3A, FIG. 3B and FIG. 3C, illustrates various view of an exemplary protective insert of the present invention;

[0016] FIG. 4, comprising FIG. 4A, FIG. 4B, FIG. 4C and FIG. 4D, illustrates an exemplary package for shipping edible cones in accordance with the present invention; and

[0017] FIG. 5 illustrates an alternative embodiment of the present invention wherein two inventive protective inserts may be used to surround a cone stack from all sides.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION EXEMPLARY EMBODIMENTS

[0018] The present invention provides an improved protective insert for bulk packaging of fragile stackable items for delivery to commercial establishments. The protective insert of the present invention is a one-piece, pre-formed construction, meaning that no assembly or preparation is required by the packager. The protective insert comprises a plurality of laterally-aligned chambers that are designed to shield multiple sides, including the tops, of cone stacks 104 within a container 100. The protective insert may be made from a foam material (e.g., polystyrene, etc.), plastic or any other suitable material. In certain embodiments the one-piece protective insert is formed using a molding process. For example, the one-piece protective insert may be made from extruded material and thermo-formed using a mold.

[0019] Exemplary embodiments of the inventive protective insert will be described herein with respect to packaging of edible cones 102, such as ice cream cones. Those skilled in the art will appreciate, however, that the protective insert may be adapted for use in packaging other fragile stackable items, such as cups, bowls, novelty items, etc. As mentioned above, FIGS. 1A-1C illustrate certain aspects of a typical commercial-grade package of edible cones 102. A number of edible cones 102 are typically placed within each other to form a cone stack 104. A plurality of rows of cone stacks 104 are placed within the container 100 and are usually supported at spaced intervals by a cone holder 106. The cone holder 106 may be a piece of cardboard, paperboard, plastic or other suitable lightweight material that is supported a distance above the bottom of the container 100 and has a number of openings 108 configured to receive the pointed ends of the cone stacks 104.

[0020] An exemplary embodiment of the protective insert of the present invention is shown and described with reference to FIGS. 3A-3E. FIGS. 3A-3B show a front, back and sectional view, respectively, of an exemplary protective insert 300. The protective insert 300 comprises a plurality of laterally-aligned chambers 302A-E. Each chamber 302A-E is formed by the union of multiple walls. In particular, a first chamber 302A is formed by the union of a first sidewall 304A, a second sidewall 306A, a back wall 308A and a top wall 310A; a second chamber 302B is formed by the union of a first sidewall 304B, a second sidewall 306B, a back wall 308A and a top wall 310B; a third chamber 302C is formed by the union of a first sidewall 304C, a second sidewall 306C, a back wall 308C and a top wall 310C; a fourth chamber 302D is formed by the union of a first sidewall 304D, a second sidewall 306D, a back wall 308D and a top wall 310D; a fifth chamber 302E is formed by the union of a first sidewall 304E, a second sidewall 306E, a back wall 308E and a top wall 310E. As illustrated in FIG. 3A, the chambers 302A-E do not include a bottom wall.

[0021] The chambers 302A-E of an exemplary inventive protective insert 300 are described herein as having distinct chamber walls, i.e., each chamber 302A-E has its own first sidewall 304A-E, its own second sidewall 306A-E, its own back wall 308A-E, and its own top wall 310A-E. Those skilled in the art will appreciate, however, that the unitary (one-piece) construction of the protective insert 300 may mean that certain of such walls are distinct as a conceptual matter only. As a practical matter, for example, a single top wall 310 may extend substantially across all chambers 302A-E. In addition, adjacent chambers (e.g., 302A and 302B) may share a common sidewall (e.g., the second side wall 306A of one chamber 302A may also serve as the first sidewall 304B of another chamber 302B). Accordingly, any description of distinct chamber walls is meant only to clearly illustrate exemplary embodiments of the present invention and is not intended to limit the scope thereof.

[0022] The chambers 302A-E are each configured to shield multiple sides of a cone stack 104 and may thus have a cross-section that is similar in shape and size to that of an edible cone 102. In a preferred embodiment, the chambers 302A-E are substantially semi-cylindrical in shape (i.e., semi-circular in cross-section) and have a diameter that is slightly larger than that of a typical edible cone. Of course, the chambers 302A-E may alternatively be formed to have a circular cross-section (resulting in a sleeve-like structure that encircles a cone stack 104), a semi-square or square crosssection, a semi-polygonal or polygonal cross-section, or any other shape cross-section. The overall protective insert 300 is preferably substantially rectangular in shape, so as to fit neatly within a typical container 100 (e.g., a box), as shown in the sectional views of an edible cone package of FIGS. 3D-E. The dimensions of the protective insert 300 may be varied to fit containers 100 of varying sizes. The inventive protective insert 300 may alternatively be formed into other any suitable shape to fit within any particular container 100 configuration.

[0023] Each top wall 310A-E of each chamber 302A-E has a length and a width. The length of each top wall 310A-E is substantially equal to a lateral distance across the associated chamber 302A-E. The width of each top wall 310A-E is bounded by a front edge 312A-E (shown in FIG. 3A) and a back edge 314A-E (shown in FIG. 3B). Each back edge 314A-E is the location where a back wall 308A-E joins a top wall 310A-E.

[0024] In certain embodiments, a top flange 316 may be connected to the top walls 310A-E of each chamber 302A-E. The top flange 316 may extend length-wise at least partially along the length of the protective insert 300. The top flange 316 may be connected to the front edges 312A-E of each top wall 310A-E and may extend widthwise, possibly beyond the back edges 314A-E of each top wall 310A-E. The top flange 316 may alternatively be connected to the top wall 310A-E of each chamber 302A-E in any other suitable manner. The plurality of chambers 302A-E comprises a first end chamber 302A, a second end chamber 302E and a plurality of middle chambers 302B-D. A first side flange 318A may be connected to the first side wall 304A of the first end chamber 302A and a second side flange 318B may be connected to the second side wall 306E of the second end chamber 302E. The side flange 316 may also extend widthwise, possibly beyond the back edges 314A-E of each top wall 310A-E. A lip 320 may extend substantially perpendicularly from the top flange 316 and/or the side flanges 318A&B. The lip 320, which may vary in size and shape, may help the protective insert to fit more snugly within a container 100.

[0025] FIGS. 3D-E illustrate front and back sectional views, respectively, of an exemplary protective insert 300 positioned within a container 100 of edible cones 102. As shown, the protective insert 300 is positioned within the container 100 so as to be behind (relatively speaking) a row of cone stacks 104. Each cone stack 104 in the row fits within one of the chambers 302A-E of the protective insert 300. The top flange 316 and side flanges 318A&B provide an additional layer of shock-absorbent material between the container 100 and the edible cones 102 and may also provide for a more snug fit within the container 100.

[0026] The exemplary protective inset 300 is shown as having a height that causes the bottom of the protective insert 300 to rest on or near the cone holder 106 within the container 100. Those skilled in the art will appreciate, however, that it is not necessary for the protective insert 300 to rest on or near the cone holder 106. The height of the protective insert 300 may be such that at least some, if not most or all, of the edible cones 102 within a cone stack 104 are shielded by a chamber 302A-E. As mentioned above, the dimensions of the protective insert 300 may be varied depending on the size and configuration of the container 100 (which may be dictated by the size and configuration of the cone stacks 104.) It may be desirable to minimize the height of the protective insert 300 in order to reduce the material costs and shipping weight.

[0027] FIGS. 4A-D illustrate an exemplary package 400 for shipping edible cones 102 in accordance with the present invention. The exemplary package 400 comprises the container 100 having disposed therein a number of rows of cone stacks 104. Each cone stack 104 has a pointed end (i.e., bottom) and an open end (i.e., top). The cone stacks 104 may be supported at spaced intervals by a cone holder 106. A protective insert 300 of the present invention is inserted behind (relatively speaking) each row of cone stacks 104. With such an arrangement, a protective insert 300 is positioned between each successive row of cone stacks 104. The chambers 302A-E of each protective insert 300 shield a row of cone stacks 104 from behind, on each side and from the top. The front side of a row of cone stacks 104 is protected by the back wall 308 (and optionally by the top flange 316 and side flanges 318A&B) of the protective insert 300 that is positioned in front of that row of cone stacks 104 (i.e., the protective insert that is positioned behind the next successive row of cone stacks 104).

[0028] According to another aspect of the invention, a method of packaging edible cones 102 using the inventive protective inserts 300 is provided. The method optionally comprises placing a cone holder 106 into a container 100 near the bottom of the container 100. The cone holder 106 may be configured to receive the pointed end of each of the cone stacks 104 that are to be placed in the container 100. A first row of cone stacks 104 is placed into the container 100 such that the pointed end of each cone stack 104 is received by the cone holder 106. A second row of cone stacks 104 is also placed into the container 100 such that the pointed end of each cone stack 104 in the second row is received by the cone holder. This process is repeated until the container is filled with the desired number of rows of cone stacks 104.

[0029] A protective insert 300 may then be placed in between the first row of cone stacks 104 and the second row of cone stacks 104, such that the top wall 310A-E of each chamber 302A-E of the protective insert 300 is positioned above the open end of the cone stacks 104 in the second row and each of the cone stacks 104 in the second row fits within one of the chambers 302A-E of the protective insert 300. The first row of edible cones 104 may be substantially near a side of the container 100 and a second protective insert 300 may be placed between the side of the container 100 and the first row of cones 104, such that the top wall 310A-E of each chamber 302A-E of the second protective insert 300 is positioned above the open end of the cone stacks 104 in the first row and each of the cone stacks 104 in the first row fits within one of the chambers 302A-E of the second protective insert 300. In a like fashion, additional protective inserts 300 may be placed between each two successive rows of cone stacks 104.

[0030] Cone stacks 104 may be placed into the container 100 by an automated packing machine. As each row of cone stacks 104 is placed into the container 100, a line-worker may manually insert a protective insert 300 into the container 100 behind the row of cone stacks 104. Alternatively, the line-worker may wait until all rows of cone stacks 104 are placed within the container 100 before inserting the protective inserts 300.

[0031] In an alternative embodiment, shown by way of example in FIG. 5, two protective inserts 300 of the present invention may be used to surround a cone stack 104 from all sides. The two protective inserts 300 may be positioned on opposite sides of the cone stack 104, each having its chambers 302 facing each other. This configuration create a sleeve-like structure that surrounds the cone stack 104. As mentioned previously, such an alternative configuration may be accomplished using one protective insert 300 that is designed with chambers 302A-E having for example a circular crosssection, as opposed to two protective inserts 300 each designed with chambers 302A-E having a semi-circular cross-section.

[0032] Although the present invention has been described with reference to certain exemplary embodiments thereof, those skilled in the art will recognize that changes may be made thereto in form and detail without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. Features and aspects of the present invention have been described and/or depicted by way of example only and are therefore not intended to be interpreted as required or essential elements of the invention. The specific embodiments described herein are thus given by way of example only. The invention is to be limited only as defined by the following claims.