Title:
Containers having distinctive tabs with laser etching and void forming a promotional image
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An end for a can, such as a can containing a beverage or other consumer product, includes a tab with a tab surface containing a promotional image formed therein. The promotional image may be a logo or other symbol. The promotional image is formed as a combination of a void stamped in the tab surface and laser etching of the tab surface, such as by burning off a colored finish applied to the tab surface in a predetermined pattern. The combination of the void and the laser etching results in a distinctive container end. The end may also include a colored panel which cooperates with the colored tab stock to result in a distinctive appearance to the container end.



Inventors:
Rohr, Rainer (Dortmund, DE)
Verrac, Nathalie (Lons, FR)
Thibaut, Michel (Lescar, FR)
Application Number:
10/652770
Publication Date:
03/03/2005
Filing Date:
08/28/2003
Assignee:
ROHR RAINER
VERRAC NATHALIE
THIBAUT MICHEL
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D17/32; B65D17/34; (IPC1-7): B65D17/34
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20050127077Method of manufacturing an aluminum receptacle with threaded outsertJune, 2005Chupak
20070045325Disposal bag and system for disposing of sanitary productsMarch, 2007Jackson et al.
20060118566Metal trashcanJune, 2006Lin
20040217118Portable liquid storage tankNovember, 2004Nash
20060070993Containment pondApril, 2006Chaput et al.
20080169298Temporary paint can rim coverJuly, 2008Rattmann
20060006134Cap and straw combinationJanuary, 2006Luo
20030201268Garbage bin with lid and bufferOctober, 2003Lin
20090294451Residential Recycling BinDecember, 2009Martheenal
20100084410THERMAL PACKING CONTAINERApril, 2010Tran
20030116576Reusable sleeve for beverage containersJune, 2003Lang-boecker



Primary Examiner:
ELOSHWAY, NIKI MARINA
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MCDONNELL BOEHNEN HULBERT & BERGHOFF (Chicago, IL, US)
Claims:
1. A can, comprising: a can body comprising a side wall and a base and defining an interior region for containing a product; an end for said can body having a scored portion for defining an opening in said end; and a manually manipulable tab secured to said end and having a first end portion and a second end portion and first and second opposite sides, wherein said tab further comprises a tab surface extending across said tab between said first and second sides, said tab surface having a promotional or decorative image formed therein, said promotional or decorative image formed as a combination of a void formed in the tab surface and adjacent laser etching of one or more features on said tab surface adjacent to said void.

2. The can of claim 1, wherein a first color is applied to said tab surface and said laser etching removes color from said tab surface to reveal the base color of the tab material, the first color, revealed base color and void forming a distinctive tab appearance.

3. The can of claim 2, wherein said end comprises a base material and a color applied to said base material, and wherein said color applied to said base material of said can end is different from the color applied to said tab surface, whereby said can end presents three colors to a viewer: said color applied to said can end, said color applied to said tab surface, and the color of the base tab material.

4. The can of claim 1, wherein said can comprises a can for containing a human or animal food product.

5. The can of claim 1, wherein said can comprises a metal beverage can.

6. The can of claim 1, wherein said promotional image comprises a logo.

7. The can of claim 1, wherein said promotional image comprises a promotional image associated with the manufacturer of the contents of said can.

8. An end for a can body, comprising: a scored portion for defining a frangible portion in said end; and a manually manipulable tab secured to said end and having a first end portion and a second end portion and first and second opposite sides, wherein said tab further comprises a tab surface extending across said tab between said first and second sides, said tab surface having a promotional image formed therein, said promotion image formed as a combination of a void formed in the tab surface and adjacent laser etching of one ore more features adjacent to said void in said tab surface.

9. The end of claim 8, wherein a first color is applied to said tab surface and said laser etching removes color from said tab surface to reveal the base color of the tab material, the first color, revealed base color and void forming a distinctive tab appearance.

10. The end of claim 9, wherein said end comprises a base material and a color applied to said base material, and wherein said color applied to said base material of said can end is different from the color applied to said tab surface, whereby said can end presents three colors to a viewer: said color applied to said can end, said color applied to said tab surface, and the color of the base tab material.

11. The end of claim 8, wherein said can comprises a can for containing a human or animal food product.

12. The end of claim 8, wherein said can comprises a metal beverage can.

13. The end of claim 8, wherein said promotional or decorative image comprises a logo.

14. The end of claim 8, wherein said promotional or decorative image comprises a promotional image associated with the manufacturer of the contents of said can.

15. The can of claim 1, further comprising a three-dimensional decorative feature in combination with said void said etched feature.

16. The end of claim 8, further comprising a three-dimensional decorative feature in combination with said void said etched feature.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

This invention relates generally to the subject of containers, for example metal or plastic containers for consumer products such as food and beverages. More particularly, the invention relates to a cans and can ends having a manually manipulable tab used for opening such a container that contains a promotional or decorative image.

2. Description of Related Art

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a conventional prior art beverage can 10. The can 10 is formed from a one-piece drawn and ironed cup. The cup walls are stretched in a can body making station to form the side wall 12 of the can. A neck 14 is formed on the upper portion of the can by a set of necking stations, such as described in the patent to Caleffi et al., U.S. Pat. No. 4,774,839 or Tung et al., U.S. Pat. No. 5,755,130. After the neck 14 is formed on the upper portion 16 of the can 10, the can is sent to a flanging station where a flange is formed around the upper peripheral edge of the can. The flange is seamed to the peripheral edge of a can end 18 after the can is filled, in accordance with well-known techniques.

Referring to FIG. 2, the can end 18 includes a generally flat center panel 19, integrally connected to a circumferential countersink which is surrounded by a peripheral flange or curl. The center panel includes score lines which defines a panel, which when opened, allows the contents of the can to be removed.

The scored portion 20 cooperates with a manually manipulable tab 22 so as to enable the user to either remove, for example, most of the center panel, such as in a full panel easy open end that is used for cans containing cat food, snacks or other foods, or to remove or open the pour panel of a beverage can.

On a typical beverage can, such as shown in FIG. 2, the score 20 defines a pour panel 21 which, after opening, remains attached to the center panel by a hinge (not shown). The pour panel is opened by the tab 22. Tab 22 is secured to the center panel 19 by a rivet 32. The user inserts a finger underneath the tab 22 and lifts the tab up, causing the rivet 32 to pull up, which initiates the pop or initial fracture of the score line 20. Further lifting of the tab 22 further propagates the severing of the score to complete the opening of the can. At that point the user may pour the contents out of the can or drink from the can.

Prior art references describing ornamental, promotional, or other similar features for beverage containers include the patents to Goodwin, U.S. Pat. No. 4,203,240; Januchowski, U.S. Pat. No. 1,257,710; Park, U.S. Pat. No. Des. 365,021; and Rheingold, U.S. Pat. No. 1,878,541. U.S. Pat. No. 4,557,505 to Schaefer et al. describes a stress-opacifying tamper indicating tape that is applied to the openings of containers, in which a visible message is displayed in the tape indicative of whether the seal has been opened or tampered with. Minder, U.S. Pat. No. 3,822,496 shows a can with a detachable display plate or button that is affixed to a pull-ring of a can. Additionally, beverage cans have been previously sold in the United States with alpha-numeric characters formed on the tab with ink-jet printing. Published PCT application PCT/GB00/00463, publication no. WO 00/47487 published Aug. 17, 2000 discloses methods and apparatus for printing on tabs and various features for promotional containers and container ends.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

An end for a can, such as a can containing food or beverages for human consumption, is provided that includes a scored portion forming a frangible portion in the end. A manually manipulable tab secured to the end is provided and has a first end portion and a second end portion and first and second opposite sides. The first end portion cooperates with the scored portion to open the end when the second end portion is lifted up with the user's finger or other implement. The tab further comprises a tab surface extending across the tab between the first and second sides. In accordance with the invention, the tab surface is distinctively decorated, as by forming a promotional or decorative image in the tab. The promotional image is formed as a combination of a void in the tab and laser etching of the tab surface in the region adjacent to the void. In preferred embodiment, the tab is colored and laser etching burns the color off the tab to reveal the base color of the tab material. The combination of the void, colored tab material, and laser etching of the color material to reveal the color of the base tab material (i.e., silver for an aluminum tab stock), with possible color applied to the end itself, results in a highly distinctive container.

In a preferred embodiment, the promotion image is formed by applying a layer of a color agent to the tab surface (such as by applying a lacquer containing a color agent to the tab), feeding the tab material to a laser station where a portion of the color agent is burned off revealing the silver aluminum color below the color agent, then feeding the tab into a press where the tab features are formed. The press includes a stamping tool that forms the void forming part of the promotional or decorative image.

The end in accordance with the invention can be provided for any suitable can, for example a can for containing a human or animal food product. In a preferred embodiment, the can comprises an aluminum beverage can, but cans for snack foods (e.g., peanuts), or other types of products can be used with the inventive ends and tab. The end may be a full panel easy open end, in which full panel is removed, or an end in which the tab is used to open a pour panel in the end to provide a means of access to the contents of the can.

The promotional or decorative image may be a logo or trademark of the manufacturer of the contents of the can, or other a promotional or fanciful image associated with the manufacturer of the contents of the can. Other examples of promotional images would be letters, numbers, symbols, or fanciful shapes.

These, and other advantages, features and improvements of the invention will be more apparent from the following detailed description of the invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Presently preferred embodiments of the invention are described below in conjunction with the drawings, in which like reference numerals refer to like elements in the various views, and in which:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a prior art beverage can;

FIG. 2 is a plan view of a prior art beverage can end and manually manipulable tab for the beverage can of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a plan view of an inventive end for the beverage can of FIG. 1 showing a promotional or decorative image formed as a void on the surface of the tab in combination with adjacent laser etching of the tab.

FIG. 3A is an alternative arrangement of the tab of FIG. 3.

FIGS. 4 and 5 show two alternative decorative or promotional images formed in the tab surface.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION

FIG. 3 is a plan view of an inventive end 18 for the can 10 of FIG. 1. The end 18 has a scored portion 20 for defining an opening in the end, and a manually manipulable tab 22 having the promotional or decorative image 30 formed therein.

The tab 22 is secured to the end 18 by a rivet 32 or other suitable structure that allows the tab 22 to remain fixed to the end 18 when the tab is manipulated by the user to open the can 10. The tab 22 has a first end portion 34 and a second end portion 36 and first and second opposite sides 38 and 40, respectively. The first end portion 34 is forced into the region 37 bounded by the scored portion 20 to open the end when the second end portion 36 is lifted up with the user's finger or other implement.

The tab further comprises a tab surface 41 extending across the tab 22 between the first and second sides 38 and 40. As shown in FIG. 3, the tab surface 41 has a promotional or decorative image 30 formed therein. In the example of FIG. 3, the tab is coated with a lacquer or other pigment to form a colored tab (e.g., black, red or blue), and the promotional image 30 is formed by forming a void 50 in the tab and laser etching of the color adjacent the void in a predetermined pattern or arrangement 52 to reveal the base metal (aluminum). The combination of the void 50, which reveals the color of the end panel 19 (which may be colored, e.g., gold, or uncolored, i.e., silver), plus color tab surface 41, plus laser etching at 52 forms a distinctive container end. Thus, it is possible to present to the consumer or viewer at least three colors: (1) the color of the end panel 19, which would also be viewed through the void 50 in the tab, (2) the color applied to the tab surface 41, and the color of the base tab material (silver for an aluminum tab) in the region 52 where the laser has burned off the color.

The particular image shown in FIG. 3 is a promotional or decorative image in the shape of the star. The star has a circular punched hole 50 and the points 52 of the star consist of areas where the laser has burned off the color or coating applied to the tab surface. Consider for example an end with a gold colored panel 19, the void 50 reveals the gold color, and the silver points 52 against the black tab background in the tab surface 41 forms a highly distinctive arrangement. Moreover, the resulting star presents no sharp surfaces to the user which could possible injure the user when the can is opened. The combination of void feature and laser etching opens many new possibilities for decoration of tabs for cans.

Two more examples are shown in FIGS. 4 and 5. FIG. 4 shows a decorative image in the form of the letter ā€œlā€ with the bar 50 formed as a void and the base and upper left hand portions of the number formed as laser etchings of the tab surface to burn off color that is applied to the tab. Alternatively, the tab has no color and the laser etching burns off the coating to the aluminum base stock, which may result in a darkening of the tab color in the area 52. In the example of FIG. 5, the promotional or decorative image consists of the letter ā€œPā€ and is formed from a void 50 and a laser etching in region 52. The laser etching and void could be reversed in the examples of FIGS. 4 and 5, of course.

Various types of promotional or decorative images 30 may be formed in the tab surface, such as logos, sports team logos, trademarks, an image of a product or feature suggesting the contents of the can, letters, numbers, symbols of various kinds, arbitrary designs, and so on.

In one preferred embodiment, the promotional image 30 is formed in the tab 22 by first applying a layer of a color agent or lacquer containing a color agent to the tab surface, or by buying pre-coated tab stock, and then removing a portion of the color agent in predetermined locations using a laser. The tab stock is then introduced into a tab forming press (such as press from Dayton Reliable Tool). The tab is then formed in the press. One of the operations of the press includes a stamping operation wherein the void 50 is stamped out of the tab surface. The void will normally be formed immediately adjacent to where the color etching has occurred, so that the laser etching and the void together form a single unitary image. Consider, for example, a logo in the shape of a bull's head. The laser etching is performed to etch out the shape of the horns, ears and nose of the bull, revealing these features in the base material color. The remainder of the tab surface is colored tab material. An inverted triangle is stamped from the tab surface to form the basic head shape.

In an alternative and less preferred embodiment, the laser etching of the tab surface 41 in region 52 could be performed after the tabs have been formed and affixed to the end in a shell conversion press. With this embodiment, precise positioning of the end relative to the laser would have to be maintained in order to insure that the etching is performed at the correct locations.

Other embodiments are contemplated. It is possible that an uncolored tab could be used and the promotion image could be formed by the void in addition to other etched features, such as patterns, or other features, in the tab surface adjacent to the void.

Still further embodiments would introduce three-dimensional shapes to the tab from embossing or debossing, in addition to the etching and void forming features described herein. In these embodiments, the metal in the tab surface 41 is either pressed down (towards the end panel 19) or raised.

The techniques of the invention can be applied to various types of ends for containers, and representative examples include ends for can for food, beverage and other types of products.

FIG. 3A is an alternative arrangement of the embodiment of FIG. 3, in which the laser etching is applied to trace a circular outline 52A and the outline 52B of the points of the star feature, showing the color of the panel 19 showing through the void 50.

Variation from the particular embodiments described above is contemplated and within the scope of the invention. This true scope of the invention is defined by the appended claims, to be interpreted in light of the foregoing specification.