Title:
Convertible box
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Described here are convertible storage containers and methods of making and using them. These storage containers may be useful for packing goods, particularly packing fresh fruit and vegetables. The convertible storage containers typically comprise a plurality of non-convertible sides which assemble to form a storage cavity, a convertible side, and a plurality of conversion connectors that may secure the convertible side in a first position or a second position. When the convertible side is secured in the first position, the convertible storage container is a box having an attached top. When the convertible side is secured in the second position, the convertible storage container is an open-top display box. The convertible side may be secured by a self-securing conversion connector. Further, these convertible storage containers may be stackable, and may comprise alignment guides. Methods of making convertible storage containers are also described.



Inventors:
Sexton, David G. (Kingsburg, CA, US)
Flaming, Max L. (Fresno, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/046122
Publication Date:
08/03/2006
Filing Date:
01/28/2005
Assignee:
Maxco Supply, Inc.
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
229/143
International Classes:
B65D5/32; B65D5/12
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
DEMEREE, CHRISTOPHER R
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MORRISON & FOERSTER LLP (PALO ALTO, CA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A convertible storage container convertible between a storage container with a lid and a storage container with an opening into a storage cavity, the convertible storage container comprising: a plurality of non-convertible sides, wherein the non-convertible sides form a storage cavity; a convertible side connected to a non-convertible side; and a plurality of conversion connectors for securing the convertible side in a first position, wherein the convertible side is secured across the opening into the storage cavity, or a second position, wherein the convertible side is secured adjacent to a non-convertible side.

2. The convertible storage container of claim 1, wherein the convertible side further comprises a scored end region which may be bent along the scoring when the convertible side is secured in the second position by tucking the convertible side into the storage cavity.

3. The convertible storage container of claim 1, wherein the non-convertible sides and the convertible side comprise a corrugated paper material.

4. The convertible storage container of claim 1, wherein at least one of said conversion connectors comprise a self-securing connector.

5. The convertible storage container of claim 1, further comprising an alignment guide for securing the storage container to an adjacent storage container.

6. The convertible storage container of claim 5, which is stackable, wherein the alignment guide projects vertically to mate with an alignment mate on another convertible storage container.

7. The convertible storage container of claim 1, further comprising an alignment mate for mating with an alignment connector from another convertible storage container.

8. The convertible storage container of claim 1, further comprising a ventilation passage.

9. An unassembled convertible storage container comprising: a plurality of non-convertible sides wherein the non-convertible sides may be assembled to form a storage cavity; and a convertible side having a first secured position, wherein the convertible side may be secured across the opening of the assembled storage cavity by one or more conversion connectors, the convertible side further having a second secured position, wherein the convertible side may be secured adjacent to one of the non-convertible sides by one or more conversion connectors.

10. A method of making a convertible storage container comprising: cutting a container pattern, said container pattern comprising: a plurality of non-convertible sides wherein the non-convertible sides may be assembled to form a storage cavity; and a convertible side having a first secured position, wherein the convertible side may be secured across the opening of the assembled storage cavity by one or more conversion connectors, the convertible side further having a second secured position, wherein the convertible side may be secured adjacent to one of the non-convertible sides by one or more conversion connectors.

11. The method of claim 10, further comprising cutting a ventilation passage in the container pattern so that the assembled convertible storage container will comprise a ventilation passage.

12. The method of claim 10, wherein the step of cutting comprises die cutting.

13. The method of claim 10, wherein the step of cutting comprises water cutting.

14. The method of claim 10, further comprising the step of scoring the container pattern so that the container pattern may be folded along at least some of the scoring during assembly or use.

15. The method of claim 10, further comprising creasing the container pattern so that the container pattern may be folded along the creases during assembly or use.

16. The method of claim 10, wherein said container pattern comprises a wrap portion, and two separated non-convertible sides, wherein the wrap portion comprises a plurality of attached non-convertible sides and a convertible side.

17. The method of claim 10, further comprising securing adjacent non-convertible sides to each other to form a storage cavity.

18. The method of claim 17, wherein the step of securing comprises gluing.

19. A convertible storage container convertible between a storage container with a lid and a storage container with an opening into a storage cavity, the convertible storage container comprising: five non-convertible sides, wherein the non-convertible sides assemble to form a storage cavity; two convertible sides, each convertible side having a first secured position wherein the convertible side is secured across the opening into the storage cavity, and a second secured position, wherein the convertible side is secured adjacent to one of the non-convertible sides; a plurality of self-securing conversion connectors for securing each convertible side in the first secured position or the second secured position, wherein at least one of the conversion connectors is an alignment guide for securing the storage container to another storage container having an alignment mate; a plurality of alignment mates; and a plurality of ventilation passages through one or more of the non-convertible sides.

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD

The convertible storage containers and methods of making and assembling them described herein relate generally to the field of packaging. These storage containers may be useful as storage containers that may be converted between different storage container styles. Furthermore, the convertible storage containers may be securely stacked, and may be used to store sensitive and perishable goods, such as fruit and vegetables.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Different styles of storage containers are employed in the packing industry. For example, many different container styles with different sizes and shapes may be used for packing perishable goods such as fresh fruit and fresh vegetables. Perishable goods may be packaged for shipping, storage, and sale. The type or style of storage container chosen may depend on the intended use for the storage container and the goods to be packaged. Two examples of container styles commonly used include open-top display boxes and boxes with lids or covers.

Open-top display boxes are often used for packing goods that may be displayed directly from the box by the seller. In many cases, open-top display boxes hold goods that have also been packaged into consumer-sized containers, such “clam shells” (e.g., small plastic containers that have attached lids that may be opened and re-closed). Thus, open-top display boxes should provide an attractive display, and allow consumers to view and remove the packaged goods.

Boxes with lids or covers may be used to package goods. These boxes are particularly useful when the goods to be packaged are loose, or irregularly shaped. The lid may keep the packaged goods in the confines of the box. For example, boxes with lids or covers may be used with bagged products (e.g. potatoes, grapes, etc.). Typically, boxes with lids may have a flap or foldable lid that may be secured over the box once it has been packed with goods. Although an attached lid may be cut off of a box with a lid to create a makeshift open-top display box, this procedure is undesirable because it may damage the packaged goods (e.g., during the cutting) and may result in an unattractive box. Furthermore, the resulting box may be less structurally sound.

A user typically selects a style of storage container in advance, even though the user may not know which type of storage container will be needed. For example, a packer may not know what style of storage container their customer will require until the sales department tells them their packing requirement. Thus, the user may be required to stock different styles of storage containers, requiring excess inventory. This increases the burden on users when the storage containers are used in the field (e.g., to package picked fruit), since a packer may not know what style of storage containers to use ahead of time. Thus, different styles of storage container (in adequate amounts) must be transported to the packing site. Further, boxes that do not get used may have to be moved to a different location or stored for later use. A user may therefore have to transport multiple styles of storage containers to different locations, and maintain adequate stocks of different styles of containers.

It would therefore be desirable to have storage containers that could readily convert between different styles or types of storage containers.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Convertible storage containers, and methods of making convertible storage containers, are described herein. These convertible storage containers may be provided to a user either assembled or unassembled. The user may assemble the convertible storage container into various styles of storage containers. For example, a convertible storage container may be configured as an open-top display box, or as a box with a secured cover. In this example, the convertible storage container is converted between these two styles by securing one or more convertible sides in either a first position (forming a box with a secured cover) or a second position (forming an open-top display box). The convertible side of the storage box may be secured with a self-securing connector that holds the convertible side in place.

Described herein are convertible storage containers convertible between a storage container with a lid and a storage container with an opening into a storage cavity. The convertible storage container comprises: a plurality of non-convertible sides wherein the non-convertible sides form a storage cavity; a convertible side connected to a non-convertible side; and a plurality of conversion connectors for securing the convertible side in a first position or a second position. In the first position, the convertible side is secured across the opening into the storage cavity. In the second position, the convertible side is secured adjacent to a non-convertible side.

The convertible side of the convertible storage container may further comprise a scored end region which may be bent along the scoring when the convertible side is secured in the second position adjacent to a non-convertible side by tucking the convertible side into the storage cavity. In some versions, the non-convertible sides and convertible sides comprise a corrugated paper material. The conversion connectors may comprise self-securing connectors.

The convertible storage container may further comprise an alignment guide for securing the storage container to an adjacent storage container. In some versions, the adjacent storage container has an alignment mate for mating with the alignment guide. The convertible storage container may be stackable. For example, an alignment guide may project vertically to mate with an alignment mate from another convertible storage container stacked thereon.

The convertible storage container may further comprise an alignment mate for mating with an alignment connector. The convertible storage container may also comprise one or more ventilation passages.

Also described herein are unassembled convertible storage containers comprising: a plurality of non-convertible sides that may be assembled to form a storage cavity; and a convertible side having a first secured position and a second secured position. In the first secured position, the convertible side may be secured across the opening of the assembled storage cavity by one or more conversion connectors. In the second secured position, the convertible side may be secured adjacent to one of the non-convertible sides by one or more conversion connectors.

Also described herein are methods of making convertible storage containers comprising cutting a container pattern. The container pattern may comprise: a plurality of non-convertible sides that may be assembled to form a storage cavity; and a convertible side having a first secured position and a second secured position. In the first secured position, the convertible side may be secured across the opening of the assembled storage cavity by one or more conversion connectors. In the second secured position, the convertible side may be secured adjacent to one of the non-convertible sides by one or more conversion connectors.

In some versions, the method may further comprise cutting a ventilation passage in the container pattern so that the assembled convertible storage container will comprise a ventilation passage. The container pattern may be cut by die cutting, water cutting, or the like. The method of making convertible storage containers may also comprise scoring the container pattern so that the container pattern may be folded along at least some of the scoring during assembly or use. The method may also comprise creasing the container pattern so that the container pattern may be folded along the creases during assembly or use.

In some versions, the container pattern that is cut out may comprise a wrap portion, and two separated non-convertible sides. The wrap portion may comprise a plurality of attached non-convertible sides and a convertible side.

The method of making a convertible storage container may also comprise securing adjacent non-convertible sides to each other to form a storage cavity. This step of securing adjacent non-convertible sides to each other may comprise gluing the adjacent non-convertible sides to each other, for example.

Also described herein are convertible storage containers that comprise: five non-convertible sides, wherein the non-convertible sides assemble to form a storage cavity; two convertible sides, where each convertible side has a first secured position and a second secured position; a plurality of self-securing conversion connectors for securing each convertible side in the first secured position or the second secured position, where at least one of the self-securing conversion connectors acts as an alignment guide for securing the storage container to another storage container having an alignment mate; a plurality of alignment mates; and a plurality of ventilation passages through one or more of the non-convertible sides. In the first secured position, the convertible sides are secured across the opening into the storage cavity. In the second secured position, each convertible side is secured adjacent to one of the non-convertible sides.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a convertible storage container as described herein, with two convertible sides shown open.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the storage container of FIG. 1 shown with the convertible sides secured in the closed position.

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the storage container of FIG. 1 shown with the convertible sides secured as reinforcement sides.

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of the storage container shown in FIG. 1, where the container is unassembled.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Described herein are convertible storage containers which may be used to store goods. These convertible storage containers may be referred to as “boxes.” The storage containers described herein may also be stackable (e.g. with other storage containers, particularly similar storage containers), and may be otherwise adapted, including the addition of ventilation passages (e.g., for cooling or airing), additional structural supports, and the like.

Although the examples herein describe mostly storage containers appropriate for produce, particularly fresh fruit and fresh vegetables, the convertible storage containers described herein may be used with any appropriate goods, and are not limited to produce. Further, the convertible storage containers and methods for assembling them discussed are not limited to the particular embodiments described. Variations of the particular embodiments may be made and still fall within the scope of the appended claims. It is also to be understood that the examples and described are not intended to be limiting. Instead, the scope of the present invention will be established by the appended claims.

Convertible Storage Container

The convertible storage containers described herein generally comprise a plurality of non-convertible sides, and at least one convertible side. One of the non-convertible sides may be configured as a “bottom” of the convertible storage container. The sides may be connected to form an enclosed structure having at least one cavity into which objects (e.g., goods) may be inserted. The convertible side allows the storage container to assume different conformations. For example, when the convertible side is secured in a first position, the storage container is a lidded box, and the convertible side encloses the cavity formed by the non-convertible sides and the bottom of the storage container. The storage container may be converted to an open-top display box by moving the convertible side to a second position, where it is secured adjacent to one or more of the non-convertible sides, so that the convertible side may reinforce the non-convertible side of the storage container.

The bottom of the storage container described herein may provide a surface onto which any objects placed in the convertible storage container will sit. Thus, a non-convertible side of the storage container configured as a bottom may provide structural support to bear the weight of whatever is packaged in the storage container. The bottom of the storage container may be adapted to increase the strength of the storage container, particularly the strength of the bottom. For example, the bottom of the storage container may comprise a stiff material or may include a support (or supports). Furthermore, the bottom of the storage container may comprise a single piece or may comprise a number of pieces (e.g. multiple non-convertible sides) that have been secured together.

The non-convertible sides are generally “flat” structures, meaning that they have planar surfaces. However the bottom and non-convertible sides may also comprise non-planar surfaces or surfaces having other shapes and textures. In some versions, the bottom and/or non-convertible sides may comprise a surface texture (e.g. to improve gripping, etc.). In some versions, the bottom and/or non-convertible sides may be curved.

The inside of this storage container may be further partitioned or adapted. For example, the inside of the storage container may comprise cushioning material (e.g. packing material), or may be sectioned off into different regions by the addition of internal walls. These internal walls may be integral to the sides (e.g. the non-convertible sides) of the storage container, or may be added after assembly of the storage container. The storage container (e.g., the inner and outer surfaces of the storage container) may also comprise a coating. For example, the storage container may comprise a water resistant (e.g., wax, plastic, etc.) coating, or a mildew resistant (e.g., fungicide, mildewcide, etc.). The storage container may also comprise a liner. The storage container may comprise any appropriate label or writing, or may comprise a surface allowing writing or labeling.

The non-convertible sides of the storage container may be lateral walls of the container. A plurality of non-convertible sides may be used to define the walls of the convertible storage container. The non-convertible sides of the storage container may be similar in shape and/or size. In some versions, the non-convertible sides of the storage container each comprise a different shape and/or size, although pairs of the non-convertible sides of the storage container (e.g. opposable pairs) may be similarly shaped and/or sized as well. For example, if the convertible storage container is shaped as a rectangular box having an opening on the upper face of the storage container, then the non-convertible sides of the storage container may comprise two pairs of non-convertible sides having different shapes and a non-convertible side configured as a bottom. An example of such a convertible box is shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 1 shows an example of a convertible storage container 100 as described herein, in which the storage container comprises five non-convertible sides 105, 105′ (one configured as a bottom 110), and two convertible sides 130. This storage container is stackable, and comprises a plurality of ventilation passages 120 on some of the non-convertible and convertible sides. Any suitable number of ventilation passages may be used, as will be described in more detail below. In FIG. 1, the bottom 110 of the storage container is attached to the other non-convertible sides 105, 105′ of the storage container to form an inner cavity that may be at least partly enclosed by the convertible sides 130.

The non-convertible and convertible sides of the storage container may also comprise attachment regions that may secure the non-convertible sides of the storage container in place. For example, in FIG. 1, the bottom 110 and two other non-convertible sides 105 are shown having attachment regions 107, 109, that are continuous with the bottom and these non-convertible sides may be used to secure the bottom and the other non-convertible sides to each other. In some versions, these attachment regions are glued into position, however, any suitable method of atachent may be used (e.g., staples, clips, fasteners, etc.). These attachment regions may be separate pieces that secure the adjacent non-convertible sides of the storage container in place.

Convertible Sides

The storage container shown in FIG. 1 has two convertible sides 130 that are shown connected to two non-convertible sides 105 along an edge. Thus, a user may move a convertible side about a non-convertible side to which the convertible side is attached. Generally, a convertible side of a storage container comprises a side configured to be secured in two or more positions, thereby changing the conformation of the box. In the examples described herein, the convertible side of a storage container may be converted between a position in which it functions as a top enclosing the storage container, and a position in which the convertible side functions as a support wall that is secured adjacent to one or more of the non-convertible sides of the storage container. A user may select the position of the convertible side to convert the storage container between an open-top display box and a box having a lid.

FIGS. 2 and 3 show different configurations of the convertible box 100 shown in FIG. 1. In FIG. 2, the convertible sides 130 act as lids, and are secured in a first position enclosing the storage container. While lids formed by the convertible sides shown in FIG. 2 do not cover the entire opening of the storage container, other configurations are possible. For example, the convertible side may be configured to span the entire opening. In some versions, the storage container comprises more than one convertible side, however the storage container may comprise only one convertible side, as well.

FIG. 3 shows a storage container configured as an open-top display box. In FIG. 3, the convertible sides 130 reinforce two of the non-convertible sides 105. The two convertible sides are secured in position so that they are adjacent to two of the non-convertible sides.

In some versions, the convertible side is approximately the same shape as the non-convertible side to which it is attached. Thus, the convertible side may be secured adjacent to the non-convertible sides (e.g., by folding), so that the two sides form a thicker container wall, as shown in FIG. 3. The convertible side may have different dimensions (e.g. larger) than the non-convertible side that it is attached to. The convertible side may comprise scoring and/or creasing that permits folding of the convertible side so that at least a portion of the convertible side may be secured adjacent to one of the non-convertible sides.

FIG. 3 shows two convertible sides 130 secured adjacent to two of the non-convertible sides 105. The convertible sides have been tucked into the cavity of the storage container and secured in place. The storage container may also be converted into an open-top display box by securing the convertible sides on the outside of the storage container cavity.

When a convertible side is secured adjacent to a non-convertible side, as shown in FIG. 3, the convertible side may reinforce the non-convertible side of the container. Thus, when the storage container is converted into an open-top display box, the sides of the storage container may be able to support more weight than they would if the convertible sides were not secured adjacent to non-convertible sides, and the container may be more durable. The convertible side may be configured to further enhance the strength of the container and the non-convertible side. For example, if the convertible side comprises a corrugated paper material, the direction of the corrugations may be along an axis that maximizes the strength of the box when the box is under compression (e.g. when stacking the storage containers). Furthermore, the manner in which the convertible side is secured in position may also enhance the strength of the container.

Conversion Connectors for Securing the Convertible Side

Converting the storage container between different conformations may involve securing the convertible sides in different positions, as shown in FIGS. 1 to 3 using conversion connectors 150, 155, 201, 190. The conversion connectors may be used to secure the convertible side in position permanently or releasably. The conversion connector may be any suitable connector. A connector for securing a convertible side may be a mechanical connector (e.g., tab, grip, button, hook, tie, latch, Velcro, etc.), a chemical connector (e.g., adhesive, etc.), or a structural connector (e.g., pressure or friction between regions of the convertible side and other component or regions of the assembled storage container), or any combination thereof. The conversion connector may comprise different parts, such as an inserter (e.g., tab, button, hook, etc.) and a receiver (e.g., a tab mate, slot, loop, etc.), which act together to secure the convertible side into predetermined positions. The different components of the conversion connector may be located in different positions on the convertible storage container. For example, an inserter portion (e.g. a tab) of the conversion connector may be located on a non-convertible side, while the receiver portion (e.g. a slot) that can mate with the inserter portion may be located on a convertible side. Thus, the convertible side may be secured in position by mating the inserter with the receiver, securing the conversion connector and holding the convertible side in position. The conversion connector may be located in any appropriate position allowing it to secure the convertible side in the appropriate position. More than one conversion connector may be used to secure the convertible side in the same position. Further, different connectors may be used to secure a convertible side in different positions, and components of the same conversion connector may be used to secure the convertible side in different positions. For example, a convertible side may comprise a conversion connector inserter that may mate with different conversion connector receivers in different positions of the convertible storage container.

A conversion connector securing a convertible side of a storage container may comprise a self-locking or self-securing connector. Self-securing connectors (e.g., tabs and slots, Velcro, etc.) do not require additional securing (e.g., adhesive, etc.) or connectors to hold a convertible side of a storage container in the position. For example, a self-securing conversion connector may secure the convertible side in position by snapping into place. In one version, the conversion connector secures a convertible side by partially deforming until the connector reaches a state in which it can deform into a more relaxed state, preventing unintended “unlatching” of the connector. An example of a conversion connector comprising a tab which mates with a slot is shown in FIG. 2.

In FIG. 2, the convertible storage container 100 is configured as a box with a lid. Two convertible sides 130 act as tops or lids of the storage container, and are secured to two of the non-convertible sides 105 of the storage container by self-securing conversion connectors. Thus, each convertible side is secured by a pair of conversion connectors. The inserter portion of these conversion connectors are tabs 201 that project from each of the non-convertible sides 105. Each inserter portion mates with a conversion connector receiver (shown as a slot in FIG. 1 190), located on the convertible sides. This self-securing conversion connector secures the convertible side of the storage container over the opening of the storage container. The same connector (or a portion of the conversion connector such as the inserter portion) may also be used to secure the storage container to another storage container. For example, the inserter portion of the conversion connector 201 that projects from two of the non-convertible sides 105 may also act as part of an alignment connector for stacking the storage containers, as described below.

In FIG. 3, the convertible storage container is configured as an open-top display box. Each convertible side is secured adjacent to a non-convertible side by a second pair of conversion connectors. The second pair of conversion connectors are also tab/slot type connectors. The inserter portion of the conversion connector 150 is located at the edge of the convertible side, and the slot region 155 is located at the interface between two of the non-convertible sides. The inserter tabs may mate with the receiver 155 to secure the convertible side adjacent to a non-convertible side, as shown. These conversion connectors are also self-locking conversion connectors. When the convertible side is tucked into the cavity formed by the non-convertible sides, the conversion connector inserter (tab 150) may deform slightly as it approaches the conversion connector receiver (slot 155), until the inserter mates with the receiver, and then the conversion connector is secured. After the inserter portion of the conversion connector mates with the receiver portion of the conversion connector, the inserter portion of the conversion connector returns to a relaxed position in the receiver portion of the conversion connector, as shown in FIG. 3. In this figure, the conversion connectors (or portions of the connectors) may also be used as part of other connectors, or for other purposes. For example, the receiver portion of the conversion connector (slot 155) may also be a ventilation passage or drainage passage as described below.

The convertible side 130 shown in FIG. 1 is slightly larger than the length of the inside of the storage container. Thus, the convertible side of the storage container has two edge regions that may be bent or folded so that the convertible side can fit within the cavity of the storage container 170. A crease (which may be scored) may allow the region to be controllably bent. When these two edge regions are folded so that the convertible side may be tucked into the cavity of the storage container, these edge regions help secure the convertible side so that it is adjacent to a non-convertible side of the storage container. The tightness of the fit of the convertible side within the storage container cavity may also help secure the convertible side in a predetermined position.

Dimensions of the Convertible Storage Container

The convertible storage containers described herein may be any appropriate shape, and any appropriate size. In the exemplary storage container shown in FIGS. 1-4, the storage container is assembled into a rectangular box. When this storage container is configured as a box with a closed lid, the storage container has six walls (e.g., FIG. 2). Storage containers may have four or more walls, and may convert between storage containers having more walls or fewer walls.

Generally, the assembled shape and size of the convertible storage container may be selected depending on the intended use for the storage container. In particular, factors such as the weight of the load (e.g., the goods) intended to be packed in the storage container, the size of the goods to be packed, and the amount of goods intended to be delivered using the storage container may help determine the appropriate size and shape of the storage container.

The convertible and non-convertible sides of the storage container may have any appropriate thickness. In some versions, at least some of the non-convertible sides a formed of a corrugated material (e.g., paper), as described below. Multiple layers of corrugated material may be used. The sides of the convertible storage container may be a uniform thickness, or may be a variable thickness. For example, the walls of the storage container may be reinforced with supports. Thus, the thickness, shape, and/or size of the sides of the storage container may be selected by the manufacturer depending upon the desired durability and structural integrity of the storage container.

In one version of the storage container, the storage container may be used to package fruit such as grapes. For example, a convertible storage container may form a storage cavity that is cubic, comprising sides that are between about 2-48 inches. In these embodiments, the height, width, and thickness of the storage cavity (formed by the non-convertible walls) may be of different dimensions. In one version, a convertible storage container may have a non-convertible side configured as a bottom that is about 24 inches by about 16 inches and two pairs of additional non-convertible sides that are about 24 inches by about 5.25 inches and about 16 inches by about 5.25 inches. Thus, the storage container may have a broad base, and be relatively shallow. The materials used to construct the storage container may also be considered in choosing an appropriate size of the storage container.

Materials

The convertible box may comprise any appropriate material or materials. Examples of appropriate materials include paper products and plastics. The storage containers may be disposable. Thus, the storage container may comprise biodegradable materials. For example, corrugated paperboard or fiberboard may be used. Adhesives (e.g., hot melt glue) may be used to secure the non-convertible sides and the bottom of the storage container in place.

Different portions of the storage container may comprise different materials. For example, the bottom of the storage container may comprise a different material than the sides, including the convertible sides (e.g., the bottom may comprise a coating).

When the storage container comprises a corrugated material (e.g., cardboard or paper), the orientation of the corrugations may be selected to optimize the structural properties (e.g., strength) of the storage container. For example, if the storage containers will be stacked, it may be desirable to have the corrugations of the non-convertible sides (e.g., the sides defining vertical walls of the storage container) run in the vertical direction, rather than a more horizontal direction.

Securing to Other Storage Containers

The storage containers described herein may be connected to each other with an alignment guide. The alignment guide may help align convertible storage containers relative to each other, and may also help to maintain the arrangement of adjacent storage containers. The alignment guide may comprise a connector (e.g., such as a conversion connector), or a portion of a connector, as previously described. Thus, an alignment guide may comprise a tab which projects from the assembled convertible storage container. The alignment guide may also comprise an alignment mate, which mates with an alignment guide to secure the convertible storage container in an aligned position. For example, in FIG. 2 and FIG. 3, the inserter portion of the connector 201 is also configured as an alignment guide that mates with an alignment mate 212.

The convertible storage containers may be stackable. FIG. 2 illustrates tabs 201 that are alignment guides. The alignment guides in FIG. 2 may mate with alignment mates 212 to link stacked storage containers together. When a second storage container is stacked onto a first storage container, the second container may be secured onto the first storage container if the second storage container has alignment mates 212 that may mate with alignment guides 201 projecting from the top of a first storage container. Storage containers of different sizes and shapes may be connected together in this manner, so long as the alignment guides and alignment mates align.

A storage container may comprise one or more alignment guides and one or more alignment mates. Further, a storage container may comprise only alignment guides. Alignment guides may not require separate alignment mates. For example, an alignment guide may comprise a sharp or pointed projection that may penetrate a region of another storage container. An alignment guide may also comprise a structural connector. For example, an alignment guide may be a textured or specially shaped surface.

Alignment guides may be self-securing connectors, and may be releasable or permanent connectors. Thus, alignment guides may lock (e.g., as a tab/slot), or an alignment guide may removably sit in an alignment mate. The alignment guides shown in FIGS. 1 to 3 are located on the upper edges of non-convertible sides of the assembled storage container 201. Alignment guides (and corresponding mates) may be located in any appropriate location on the convertible storage container (e.g. non-convertible sides, convertible sides, bottom), and may extend in any direction. For example, alignment guides may be used to align adjacent boxes.

The alignment guides 201 illustrated in FIG. 2 are blunt projections, however any appropriate shape and style of alignment guide (and mate) may be used. For example, an alignment guide may comprise a tab having a narrower base and a broad “head” so that it may be securely locked into a mate.

Ventilation Passage

Storage containers may further comprise ventilation passages 120. Ventilation passages may comprise holes or passages through a region of the storage container for venting the interior of the storage device (e.g., for cooling, airing, etc.). Any number of suitable passages may be used. Ventilation passages may be located on any appropriate region or regions of the storage container, and may comprise any appropriate shape and size. For example, ventilation passages may be located through one or more non-convertible sides, or though a convertible side. FIGS. 1 to 3 show ventilation passages 120 located generally near the top of the non-convertible sides of the storage container. A drainage passage 126, 155 is another type of ventilation passage shown in FIGS. 1 to 3.

A convertible side of a storage container may also comprise ventilation passages 120. The ventilation passages on the convertible side may be located so that they correspond to ventilation passages through other regions of the storage container. For example, in FIG. 3, the ventilation passages 120 in the convertible sides of the storage container are shown aligning to ventilation passages on the non-convertible sides of the storage container 120. Thus, when the storage container is converted into an open-top display box by securing the convertible side adjacent to a non-convertible side, the ventilation passages line up, preserving this ventilation access. In some versions, the convertible side of the storage container may obstruct ventilation passages on the storage container.

Methods of Making Convertible Storage Containers

FIG. 4 shows a perspective view of an unassembled convertible storage container 100. This exploded view shows the pattern of the storage container, including the bottom, non-convertible sides, and convertible sides. The storage container may be produced as a flat pattern that can be assembled by a user, or at a manufacturing plant. Thus, the storage container may be fabricated, and shipped to a user as a flat pattern that can be assembled by the user as needed. The term “pattern” refers to the unassembled storage container.

All or some of the components of the storage container may be integrally connected, and assembled by folding and/or securing (e.g. gluing) in place during assembly. In one version, the storage container is manufactured as a tray, in which the entire storage container pattern is a single piece that may be assembled to form a storage container having a storage cavity. In one version, the storage container is manufactured as a bliss having three pieces (2 end pieces and a wrap piece). In some versions, the components of the storage container may be individual pieces that are assembled to form the storage container. In FIG. 4, an unassembled storage container comprises a foldable “wrap” 401 and two end pieces 405 that may be assembled into a storage container as shown in FIGS. 1 to 3. The wrap 401 comprises a non-convertible side configured as a bottom 110, two other non-convertible sides 105, and two convertible sides 130. FIG. 4 also shows two end pieces 405 that are not part of the wrap. When assembling the storage container from this pattern, the wrap is “wrapped” around the two separate end pieces and secured in place (e.g., by adhesive).

In general, a convertible storage container may be made by first cutting a storage container pattern comprising, for example, a bottom, two other non-convertible sides, and convertible side. The pattern may be cut from any appropriate material, such as corrugated cardboard. Passages or openings (e.g., ventilation passages, drainage passages, connectors, etc.) may also be cut. The storage container pattern may be cut by any appropriate method. For example, the storage container pattern may be cut from corrugated paper by die cutting or water cutting. When the storage container pattern comprises a wrap (e.g. components that are connected together and may be assembled by folding), the storage container pattern maybe scored to create regions which may be separated (e.g., by cutting or tearing along the scoring) or folded. Further, the storage container pattern may be creased to help with assembly (e.g., folding). In some versions, the convertible storage container pattern may be fabricated without cutting. For example, the components of the storage container may be molded or extruded.

Once the storage container pattern has been formed, the storage container may be assembled by the storage container manufacturer, or by the user. For example, the storage container wrap may be folded into the appropriate shape by bending the wrap to position the bottom and the non-convertible sides. The bottom and non-convertible sides may be secured into position relative to each other. For example, the bottom and non-convertible sides may be secured adjacent to each other to form the cavity of the storage container. In one version, a wrap comprising a bottom and two other non-convertible sides of a storage container are folded around two non-convertible sides (end pieces), and secured in position by hot melt glue. The user may convert the box into an open-top display box or a box with a lid by securing the convertible side, as described above.

Use of the Convertible Storage Container.

A user may convert the convertible storage container into a style of packing container best suited to the user's needs. In one version of the convertible storage container, the user has the choice of packing goods in a container having top flaps that self-secure across the storage container opening, or packing goods in an open-top display box. Thus, these storage containers are convertible between these different styles.

Further, a user may convert a storage container into a desired packing style after the box has been assembled. For example, a box may be assembled on a box former and shipped to the user. If the user is packing bags or grapes, the user may choose to use a box style having a lid to protect the fruit. If the same user later gets an order to pack fruit in clam shells, the user may convert these boxes into open-top display boxes appropriate for packing and displaying clam shells containing fruit. The convertible storage container may accommodate both box styles using a single storage container.

While the invention has been described in terms of particular embodiments and illustrative figures, those of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that the invention is not limited to the embodiments or figures described. Furthermore, the figures provided are merely representational and may not be drawn to scale. Certain proportions thereof may be exaggerated, while others may be minimized. The figures are intended to illustrate various implementations of the invention that can be understood and appropriately carried out by those of ordinary skill in the art. The description is not intended to be exhaustive or to limit the invention to the precise form disclosed. It should be understood that the invention can be practiced with modification and alteration and that the invention be limited only by the claims and the equivalents thereof.