Title:
Dispensing container with non-invasive exterior control of interior dispenser lift
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Containers having at least one container sidewall, such as with a tubular cylinder or tubular polygon shaped cross-section. An external operator applies force through the container wall using a non-contacting force coupling which transmits through the sidewalls. The non-contacting forces may be by magnetic coupling, electrostatic coupling, electromagnetic coupling or possibly other non-contacting force couplings. In manually powered units the magnetic coupling is currently preferred. The coupling in such embodiment uses a series of magnets positioned in the exterior operator and another set within an interior lift stage. The exterior operator is moved longitudinally to thus move the interior lift stage and lift product toward the mouth of the dispenser.



Inventors:
Sines, Randy D. (Spokane, WA, US)
Hirakawa Jr., Harold K. (Spokane, WA, US)
Application Number:
11/076386
Publication Date:
09/14/2006
Filing Date:
03/09/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65H1/08
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
COLLINS, MICHAEL
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Gregory IPL, P.C. (SPOKANE VALLEY, WA, US)
Claims:
I claim: Apparatuses

1. An apparatus forming a container for holding and dispensing contents, comprising: a container receptacle having an interior cavity, at least one sidewall, a closed end wall and an open end through which contents are dispensed therefrom; an interior lift movable within the interior cavity; an external operator which is adjacent the container receptacle and which is non-invasive of the container; said interior lift and said external operator being in a non-contacting coupled relationship using a non-contacting force therebetween such that the interior lift is caused to be moved by said external operator.

2. An apparatus according to claim 1 and further comprising a removable closure for revealing or sealing the open end of the container receptacle.

3. An apparatus according to claim 1 wherein the non-contacting force is a magnetic force.

4. An apparatus according to claim 1 wherein the non-contacting force is an electrostatic force.

5. An apparatus according to claim 1 wherein the non-contacting force is an electromagnetic force.

6. An apparatus according to claim 1 wherein the non-contacting force is provided by an operator which is mounted for controlled movement.

7. An apparatus according to claim 1 wherein the non-contacting force is provided by an operator which is controlled by a sensor which estimates the height of the stack.

8. An apparatus according to claim 1 wherein the non-contacting force is provided by an operator which is mounted for power operated controlled movement.

9. An apparatus according to claim 1 wherein the non-contacting force is provided by an operator which is mounted for controlled movement using an electric motor.

10. An apparatus according to claim 1 wherein the non-contacting force is provided by an operator which is mounted for controlled movement using a linear electric motor.

11. An apparatus forming a container for holding and dispensing contents, comprising: a container receptacle having an interior cavity, at least one sidewall, a first end and a second end having a mouth through which contents are dispensed therefrom; an interior stage movable within the interior cavity; an external operator which is non-invasive of the container and capable of applying non-contacting force to the interior stage to move the interior stage within the interior cavity and dispense contents through said mouth.

12. An apparatus according to claim 11 and further comprising a removable closure for revealing or sealing the mouth of the container receptacle.

13. An apparatus according to claim 11 wherein the non-contacting force is a magnetic force.

14. An apparatus according to claim 11 wherein the non-contacting force is an electrostatic force.

15. An apparatus according to claim 11 wherein the non-contacting force is an electromagnetic force.

16. An apparatus according to claim 11 wherein the non-contacting force is provided by an operator which is mounted for movement on the apparatus.

17. An apparatus according to claim 11 wherein the non-contacting force is provided by an operator which is mounted for controlled movement on the apparatus.

18. An apparatus according to claim 11 wherein the non-contacting force is provided by an operator which is controlled by a sensor which estimates the height of the stack.

19. An apparatus according to claim 11 wherein the non-contacting force is provided by an operator which is mounted for power controlled movement.

20. An apparatus according to claim 11 wherein the non-contacting force is provided by an operator which is mounted for controlled movement using an electric motor.

21. An apparatus according to claim 11 wherein the non-contacting force is provided by an operator which is mounted for controlled movement using a linear electric motor.

22. An apparatus forming a container having an interior cavity, at least one sidewall, a closed end and an open end having a mouth through which contents are dispensed, an interior lift movable within the interior cavity, an external lift operator on the apparatus which controls the position of the interior lift, and wherein the interior lift and external lift operator are non-invasive of the container.

23. An apparatus according to claim 22 and further comprising a removable closure for revealing or sealing said mouth of the container.

24. An apparatus according to claim 22 wherein the non-contacting force is a magnetic force.

25. An apparatus according to claim 22 wherein the non-contacting force is an electrostatic force.

26. An apparatus according to claim 22 wherein the non-contacting force is an electromagnetic force.

27. An apparatus according to claim 22 wherein the non-contacting force is provided by an operator which is mounted on the apparatus for controlled movement.

28. An apparatus according to claim 22 wherein the non-contacting force is provided by an operator which is controlled by a sensor which estimates the height of the stack.

29. An apparatus according to claim 22 wherein the non-contacting force is provided by an operator which is mounted for controlled movement.

30. An apparatus according to claim 22 wherein the non-contacting force is provided by an operator which is mounted for powered controlled movement.

31. An apparatus according to claim 22 wherein the non-contacting force is provided by an operator which is mounted for controlled movement using an electric motor.

32. An apparatus according to claim 22 wherein the non-contacting force is provided by an operator which is mounted for controlled movement using a linear electric motor. Methods

33. A method for dispensing contents of a container having an interior compartment with an open end with a mouth for dispensing contents therethrough using an interior slave stage which is magnetically coupled to an exterior operator positioned outside the container wall, comprising: moving the exterior operator; inducing movement of the interior slave stage by magnetic coupling between the exterior operator and the interior slave stage; dispensing contents to a desired level relative to the open end mouth.

34. A method according to claim 33 and further including sealing about the interior slave stage to reduce the volume wherein the product is maintained.

35. A method according to claim 33 closing the open end to seal the interior cavity wherein the product is maintained.

36. A method for dispensing contents of a container using an interior slave part which is movable within a container receptacle by using a non-invasive driver movable upon an exterior of the container receptacle.

37. A method according to claim 36 wherein said non-invasive driver includes at least one non-contacting force coupling.

38. A method according to claim 36 wherein said non-invasive driver is a magnetic coupling.

39. A method according to claim 36 and further including sealing about the interior slave stage to reduce the volume wherein the product is maintained as contents are dispensed.

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD

The field of this invention is dispensing containers having an interior lift which can be controlled by an exterior control actuator. The exterior actuator is non-invasive or non-intrusive of the container. The container preferably has an interior compartment with a mouth which can be resealed after opening and dispensing product therefrom.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

There are a number of different foodstuffs that are provided in sealed containers which have a removable cap that can be remounted to reseal the container. Some of these containers are used to contain manufactured potato chips. As many have experienced when eating various brands of potato chips which are packaged in this manner, the relatively small tubular size used to laterally contain the potato chips in a stacked configuration is relatively small in diameter and this makes it difficult to manually extract the chips after a portion have been previously removed.

Another problem many people encounter with containers is that as the chips are removed and the top chip recedes downwardly, the chips become increasingly difficult to grasp. This leads to breakage of the chips and then the broken chips are usually poured out onto one's hand and small pieces of the potato chips pass through the hand and onto the floor. This also requires the person eating the last of the chips to hold his or her hand to their mouth. Some might consider this poor etiquette or poor manners. Others just find it sloppy.

Such problems may also exist with other products to an extent that the tubular containers are not favored by the manufacturer. Such products might include corn chips, cookies, crackers, dough, other food items, or non-food items.

Thus, there has been a long-felt need in the container art for a dispensing container that provides better access to remove products or product pieces held in a tubular or other suitably shaped container. This need has been particularly acute where the contents are preferably removed by first removing a container cap which is used to seal the container and protect the sealed contents after contents have been dispensed.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Preferred forms or embodiments of the inventions are explained and characterized herein, often with reference to the accompanying drawings. The drawings also serve as part of the disclosure of the inventions of the current document. Features and aspects shown in the drawings may be described using language appropriate as used in the language or used in the specific art to which the inventions relate. Such drawings are briefly described below.

FIG. 1 is a perspective view showing a container having novel features according to the inventions taught herein. A portion of the container has been removed to show additional aspects and features of the inventions.

FIG. 2 is a side sectional view showing the interior lift at a medium position within the container.

FIG. 3 is a side sectional view similar to FIG. 2 showing the interior lift at a relatively higher position within the container.

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of an alternative embodiment according to the inventions described herein with portions broken away to better show interior features and aspects of the novel apparatuses.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Introductory Note

The readers of this document should understand that the embodiments described herein may rely on terminology used in any section of this document and other terms readily apparent from the drawings and language common therefor. This document is premised upon using one or more terms with one embodiment that a may also apply to other embodiments for similar structures, functions, features and aspects of the invention. Wording used in the claims and abstract are also descriptive of the invention and the text of the claims is incorporated by reference into the description entirely in the form of the claims as originally filed. Terminology used with one, some or all embodiments may be used for describing and defining the technology and exclusive rights associated herewith.

Container Generally

FIG. 1 shows in perspective a manually controlled container 10 according to preferred modes of the inventions taught herein. Container 10 has a bottom or closed end 16 and an open end or mouth over which cap 19 fits. Inside are positioned contents, such as a stack of potato chips 42.

A lift mechanism has an interior part 20 which moves in response to an exterior lift operator. The chips 42 rest upon the interior part 20 which can be moved upwardly toward the mouth to dispense chips when the cap 19 is removed.

Container Body and Receptacle

FIG. 1 shows a preferred manually controlled dispenser container 10 according to a number of aspects of the inventions. Container 10 includes one or more sidewalls 11. The sidewall or sidewalls in cross-section may be circular, polygonal or other suitable shape. In the most preferred versions, the sidewalls are substantially parallel to form a tubular container sidewall(s) having a cylindrical or polygonal interior compartment.

Container 10 also has a base or end wall 16 which is secured together in a tight, preferably sealed, relationship with the sidewall(s) 11. This connection may be accomplished in a number of different ways some of which are now known in the relevant art and other suitable connections which will be developed hereafter.

The combination of sidewall 11 or other styles of sidewalls and the end wall 16 forms a container receptacle. The container receptacle has an interior container compartment. Such container receptacle has a mouth or open end which as shown is at the upper end in the Figs.

In some containers the interior surface 13 may be metalized with a thin layer of aluminum or other suitable materials to enhance the retention of fresh flavor. The inside of the container sidewall 11 is termed core material herein. The core material may be constructed of various suitable materials. As shown in FIGS. 1-3 the core of the sidewall is made of paper, such as a paper board. In some constructions the paper board may be formed in a continuous helix configuration.

In addition to metalized or plasticized paperboard, the sidewalls may be made of many other suitable materials. examples of other materials believed suitable include various plastics. This may include polycarbonates (Lexan®) or others which are highly resistant to breakage. Other plastics are also usable and may be suitable. Further materials believed suitable are glass and various metals which do not alternate the driver force.

In some forms of the invention, the dispenser container may be made of paper and intended to be disposable. In other forms, the dispensers may be adapted for interior use and reuse. Such may be made of glass, plastic or suitable metals. In still further forms of the invention, the apparatuses may be adapted for sports or outside use and be made of any of the suitable materials, particularly light, strong plastics.

The outside of container wall 11 may be provided with an exterior layer or coating 15. The exterior layer is usually printed with product identification information (not shown). The coating may be selected to further impede air migration into the container interior and further restrict dissipation of flavors from the product 42 and interior through the sidewall.

Container Mouth and Removable Top

FIG. 1 also shows that the container 10 preferably includes a cap or mouth closure 19 that closes the mouth, open end or other dispenser at the mouth or dispensing end of the container. The cap 19 fits over the open end. Cap or closure 19 is advantageously made of a suitable plastic that remains flexible at ordinary ambient temperatures. This allows the cap to be placed into a closed or sealed condition closing the container adjacent the mouth. As shown, the cap includes a rim 17 which extends along the upper reaches of the container in a complementary relationship thereto, so as to provide a coherent relationship therebetween. The cap is peeled or otherwise removed from the upper reaches of the container near the mouth.

The cohesive retention and sealing of the cap may be aided by a sealing projection 12 which extends outward at or near the top edge or brim of the container. The projection 12 also reinforces the brim area using increased thickness about the container sidewall(s) adjacent to the mouth.

Immediately at the mouth is the rim, such as near or at seal 12, as illustrated. The cap and rim may alternatively have features which comprise a snap-fit between the cap and container rim.

Container Lift

The container 10 has a lift, elevator or other movement mechanisms. As shown, the lift mechanism is in the form of two movable stages, an interior stage and an exterior stage. The exterior stage acts an operator and the interior stage acts as a slave. As shown, the lift includes an interior part 20 or interior stage and an exterior part or operator 30 which serves as an exterior stage.

Interior part 20 is positioned and normally contained within the interior compartment of the container receptacle. Exterior operator 30 is positioned outside the container sidewalls and is preferably movable thereon. When the exterior operator is moved longitudinally a non-contacting force, such as magnetic force, serves as a non-contacting force coupling which acts through the sidewall of the container.

FIG. 1 shows one preferred lift according to the invention. The lift interior stage 20 has a plurality of magnets 26 arranged about the margin of the interior lift. As shown, this can be accomplished using a ring 22. Ring 22 is constructed in one form having interior ring segments 23. The ring segments having magnets 26 along the outside face adjacent to an interior surface 13.

The magnets may be poled to either be repelled or attracted by the external operator which controls the lift operation.

In another form of the inventions (not illustrated), the ring 22 may be partly or wholly of a magnetic material formed into a ring. The ring may be split at one point to allow some contraction and/or expansion for installation or removal from the interior compartment. The driver or operator may also have a similar but large ring. The magnetics can be poled so as to create an attractive force or repulsive force.

External Lift Operator or Control

FIGS. 1-3 show well a preferred and novel construction in accordance with the inventions taught herein. The exterior driver 30 is movable along the container. In this embodiment the exterior driver is manually adjusted with complementary induced action of the interior lift being accomplished by a non-intrusive force coupling.

As FIG. 1 shows, the exterior driver may be a ring 32 formed of any suitable material, such as paper, paper board, plastic, even some metals may be suitable material for the preferred ring-shaped frame of the exterior driver. Mounted in the ring 32 are a plurality of magnets 33 or ferro-magnetic or other magnetic affected elements or other materials.

The force coupling relationship between the interior stage elements 26 and the exterior stage elements 33 may be achieved in a number of different ways for magnetic couplings. The interior and exterior may be magnets having opposing force poles of the magnets directed at each other. This configuration may induce the interior stage to move as the exterior stage moves. Another configuration conceived for use herein is to have one of the interior or exterior elements be a magnetic reactive (attractive or repulsive) material, such as iron or steel, and the other opposing element being magnetic.

Force Coupling

In addition to magnetic force coupling, it is also believed possible to use electrostatic coupling and electromagnetic coupling, all in either a repelling or attracting relationship similar to magnetic force coupling. It is also believed that electromagnet fields may be generated using either mains current or inverted or oscillated from a direct current supply, such as a battery.

Second Embodiment

FIG. 4 shows another embodiment according to aspects of the inventions shown or described and taught herein. The powered model 100 has an interior stage 120 similar to stage 20 and such description is incorporated hereat.

Similarly, FIG. 4 also shows a closed end wall 170 and a removable cap 19 having rim 17 which extends over a complementary brim formed on the upper reaches of the container.

Second embodiment 100 shows the exterior operator 130 held by exterior operator positioning devices 150. The positioning devices may be of various forms and types of construction. They may be small mechanical extension and contraction units. They may alternatively be linear electric motors that support operator ring 130. Any other suitable operator may be used.

FIG. 4 shows diagrammatically that A-C mains current may be tapped by plug 162 and transferred to longitudinal operators 150, or to provide an electromagnetic force on the force coupling operator 130 which may act upon magnetic elements or ferro-magnetic materials and the like. Alternatively, the longitudinal operators may be of a wide variety of types, but electric seems to have ease of use as a strong advantage. FIG. 4 shows a control knob at the lower left which may be used to control the longitudinal operators. Additionally, there may be a control (not additionally shown) which may be used to strengthen electrostatic or electromagnetic field configurations to a desired level for the contents involved.

FIG. 4 also diagrammatically shows a D-C power source 160 carried to the operators 150 and/or 130 to provide powered operation. D-C power source 160 may be inverted to provide A-C for electromagnetic force coupling.

The automated dispenser 100 also may have a peripheral seal along the interior stage outer periphery. FIG. 1 best illustrates the use of a peripheral seal 28 which seals against the interior surface 13 and thus provides a continuously decreasing contained product space. This improves flavor retention.

The apparatus of FIG. 4 may also be fitted with a suitable sensor (not illustrated) which senses the height of the contents within the container interior. This information then allows the level of the contents to be made constant such as at hotel functions and the like. The units could be brought in with caps 19 covering the contents compartment and preventing spillage or contamination. Similar use can be made at interior and exterior social functions.

Methods of Use and Operation

Methods according to the inventions taught herein are directed to dispensing contents from a container by controlled actuation using a non-contacting force coupling which passes through the sidewalls of the container without any invasive effect on the container to thus maintain the integrity of the container and present the contents of the container into a more convenient position and manner of serving and with improved containment efficiency while allowing storage in a fully contained condition.

Such methods may also be described as having a container with an interior compartment having a mouth. The mouth can be left open to allow transfer of contents therethrough. The transfer of contents, for example crackers, cookies, potato chips, is preferably done by dispensing the contents upwardly to facilitate grasping of the cracker or other article or contents near or at the dispensary opening.

The container may be covered by covering the mouth with a cap or other closure for containment and to prevent contamination. The closure is preferably capable of a low rate of air transfer thereacross. As shown, the container may be put into a closed condition by sealing the mouth opening. This may be done by capping the open end or mouth. It may also be possible to use other types of closures which work relative to the inside or outside of the container mouth.

Methods according hereto may also include moving the exterior operator. This movement causing or inducing movement of the interior slave stage by force coupling, such as the magnetic coupling described herein.

The moving of the exterior operator may be done manually or by powered movement as explained with respect to the second embodiment of FIG. 4. The powered movement may be controlled by being based upon a sensed condition of the contents of the container interior compartment, such as contents' height, weight or other sensed parameters.

Manner of Making

Methods according to the current inventions may include making or providing a suitable container. The container may be molded, such as in plastic, glass and appropriate metals according to known techniques. They may also be fabricated from these and other materials indicated above and equivalents thereof.

The making processes also include positioning a movable slave stage in the interior of the container. Further, the manner of making may include connecting an external drive or operator to the outside of the container which has a force coupling relationship with the movable slave stage. This configuration allows controlled moving of the exterior operator to thus provide forcing or inducing the slave stage into moving by moving of the exterior operator.

The slave stage may be made by forming a ring of magnetic or other suitable elements that will demonstrate the various coupling types set out elsewhere in this document.

Similarly, the exterior operator may be made by placing a plurality of elements which are capable of developing a force coupling by nature of by stimulation from an energy source, such as electricity.

Further Aspects and Features

The above description has set out various features and aspects of the invention and the preferred structural and function embodiments thereof. Such aspects and features may further be defined according to the following claims which may individually or in various combinations use the various features and aspects of the invention described any where within this document. The novel combinations of features, functions, steps and other aspects shown and described are not limited to the specific embodiments shown or the particular processes described.

Interpretation Note

The invention has been described in language directed to the current embodiments shown and described with regard to various structural and methodological features. The scope of protection as defined by the claims is not intended to be necessarily limited to the specific features shown and described. Other forms and equivalents for implementing the inventions can be made without departing from the scope of concepts properly protected hereby.