Title:
Carton for Multiples of Tapered Containers
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A tubular carton is configured to be erected to a first pre-load height, and then to a second post-load height. This carton comprises a top wall, a bottom wall, and a pair of opposed side walls. The walls define a void of a first height for receiving articles, such as tapered bottles. In addition, this carton includes a structure that funnels the articles into the void, such that the articles force the carton to flex along a score line and at least a portion of one or more walls to retract inwardly, thereby increasing the height of the void from a first height to a second greater height. The funneling structure may be connected to one of the walls and, after loading of the articles, is arranged to seal the carton.



Inventors:
Cargile Jr., John W. (Decatur, GA, US)
Application Number:
11/277076
Publication Date:
11/16/2006
Filing Date:
03/21/2006
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
53/456
International Classes:
B65D65/00; B65B43/08; B65D75/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
BUI, LUAN KIM
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
WESTROCK COMPANY (Richmond, VA, US)
Claims:
1. A carton configured to be erected to a first pre-load height and then to a second post-load height; comprising: a first wall defining opposite edges and opposite ends; a pair of opposed side walls, defining opposite ends and upper and lower edges, said opposed side walls connected along said lower edges to respective edges of said first wall; a second wall defining opposite edges and opposite ends, comprising at least one score line, said second wall connected along said edges to respective upper edges of said opposed side walls, said walls defining a void for receiving articles, said second wall being spaced apart from said first wall by said first height; at least one means for funneling said articles into said void such that said articles apply a force to said second wall to displace at least a portion of said second wall such that the portion of said second wall is spaced apart from said first wall by a second height, said score line for facilitating said displacement, said means for funneling connected to at least one of said walls; and, at least one end wall structure comprising said means for funneling.

2. The carton of claim 1, wherein said second post-load height is greater than said first pre-load height.

3. The carton of claim 1 wherein at least one of said side walls includes a fold line for facilitating displacement of said second wall.

4. The carton of claim 1 wherein said first height is defined by the height of one of said side walls.

5. The carton of claim 1, wherein said first pre-load height is greater than said second post-load height.

6. The carton of claim 1, wherein said second wall includes a fold line for facilitating displacement of said second wall.

7. A carton configured to be erected to a first pre-load height and then to a second post-load height; comprising: a first wall defining opposite edges and opposite ends; a pair of opposed side walls defining opposite ends and upper and lower edges, said side walls connected along said lower edges to opposite edges of said first wall and to one another along said respective upper edges to define a void of a first height for receiving articles; at least one score line located on at least one of said walls; at least one means for funneling said articles into said void such that said articles apply a force to at least one of said walls such that said at least one score line facilitates a change in the height of said void from said first height to said second height, said means for funneling connected to at least one of said walls; and, at least one end wall structure comprising said means for funneling.

8. A package, comprising: a plurality of containers and a carton enclosing said containers, the carton comprising: a plurality of walls, each hingedly connected to at least one other wall, defining a void of a first configuration to receive said containers; a means for funneling said containers into said void, said means for funneling connected to at least one of said walls; wherein said void is reconfigured in response to receiving said containers; and, an end wall structure comprising said means for funneling.

9. The package of claim 8, wherein said containers comprise a first body portion of a first dimension and a second body portion of a second dimension;

10. A method for loading articles of a first height into a carton of an initial lesser height, comprising: providing a tubular carton comprising a first void defined by a plurality of walls and at least one open end; scoring at least one of said walls; configuring said open end to form a means for funneling; pushing said articles through said means for funneling toward said void; directing at least one of said articles to apply a force to at least one of said scored walls; and, displacing at least one of said scored walls to move from a first position to a second position under said force, thereby converting said first void to a second void.

11. The method of claim 10, further comprising loading said articles into said second void.

12. The method of claim 10, further comprising reconfiguring said means for funneling into an end wall structure.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority to U.S. Application No. 60/664,326, filed Mar. 21, 2005, the entirety of which is incorporated herein by reference.

TECHNICAL FIELD

The invention taught herein relates generally to cartons for packaging tapered containers such as bottles or other vessels with necks, and more particularly, to special shaped cartons formed by side-loading vertically-oriented articles of a first height into open-ended tubular cartons of a different initial height.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Utility cartons for encasing and transporting groups of tapered articles are known. For example tapered articles include conventional glass or plastic beverage bottles, beverage bottles with spill-resistant tops, fluid dispensing containers that include a shoulder area and a neck, and containers of all shapes wherein the body is wider than an end. The conventional utility carton for such applications is the ubiquitous square or rectangular cardboard box used to pack and ship bottles that are loaded from the top before the top flaps are sealed and the carton is shipped. An increasingly common utility carton is the side-loaded square or rectangular paperboard carton, wherein a column or multiple columns of tapered articles are loaded from the side before the end flaps are sealed and the carton is shipped.

The present utility cartons that are used for encasing and transporting groups of tapered articles share common inadequacies. For example, because the typical tapered article is narrower at its top than its bottom, the typical utility carton has, proportionally speaking, a great deal of air space within the upper portion. That is, from about the shoulder of an article to its top, the article is surrounded by substantial volumes of space. This particular inadequacy yields a number of problems. First, all else being equal, a carton with substantial volumes of space is a weakened carton susceptible to damage during transportation. This problem is apparent by observing cartons with crushed corners or caved top panel, readily visible in the local grocery or liquor store. Second, the typical remedy to eliminate wasted volume—filling the space with packing material in an attempt to strengthen the carton and prevent damage, wastes material and increases the cost of manufacturing. Third, a carton with substantial volumes of space creates an unfavorable impression with potential consumers that sometimes results in lost sales. For example, a consumer may falsely assume that articles are damaged because they shift within the carton. Similarly a consumer may falsely assume the carton is partially empty of articles when the consumer feels or hears the looseness of the articles within the carton. Under these and similar circumstances, the consumer sometimes avoids purchasing otherwise satisfactory products.

Solutions have been developed that attempt to overcome the problems associated with conventional cartons. Frequently attempted solutions focus on providing extraneous packing material between or around the articles. Examples of well-known packing material include saw dust, wood shavings, crumbled paper, cloth, dividers, foam, packing peanuts, bumpers of various materials and shapes, and air-filled bladders of various configurations including bubble wrap. While these solutions attempt to protect the articles and/or strengthen the carton, the most consistent result appears to be the increase in cost. For example, the increased cost may include the cost of the packing materials, the cost of labor to place the packing material, the cost to ship cartons with additional weight, and the cost to dispose of the packing material.

Improved packing materials include thermo-formed stackable plastic trays. These solutions have found application with breakable food products such as cookies and soft candies. The typical manufacturer places fragile products into specially formed stackable plastic trays that receive and store the individual products in spaced apart sections. While useful under certain conditions, such solutions have the same short-comings with regard to tapered articles as other packing materials.

Other attempts to solve the problem of shipping tapered products include eliminating the top portion of a carton and wrapping a group of articles in layers of plastic film. While this solution does eliminate the problem of damaged cartons since it eliminates all but the short base portion of a carton, it creates its own problems. For example, this solution is generally limited to plastic articles and is not generally suitable for glass articles. Further, the articles are no longer protected from damage as they are when surrounded by the walls and top of a carton. In addition, the product information space that is available of the exterior surface of the cartons is eliminated. This is typically undesirable as most manufacturers rely on that area to provide point of purchase advertisement.

A survey of the packaging arts confirms that there remains a need for an improved apparatus and/or method for encasing and transporting groups of tapered articles. Such improvements would provide a stronger carton, reduce or eliminate the need for packing materials, improve the fit of the articles, improve the feel of the carton, and improve or at least maintain the advertising space typically provided on the exterior of utility cartons. In addition, to the extent the improved carton is of unique shape then the unique shape may provide the manufacturer or distributor an opportunity to create brand awareness through the unique packaging shape.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention with its various embodiments overcomes the shortcomings of the prior art by providing easily constructed cartons of special shapes. Such cartons require less material to construct, reduce or eliminate the need for extraneous packing materials, improve the fit of the articles, improve the feel of the carton, increase the strength of the package as a whole, and allow the manufacturer and or distributor a new flexibility with regard to advertising and branding.

One embodiment of the present invention includes a blank for making a carton. The blank includes at least five primary panels: a bottom panel, a first side panel, a second side panel, a top panel, and an edge panel. These panels are hingedly connected to one another. Each of the panels is also hingedly connected to opposing end flaps or end wall panels. When the carton is erected it takes the shape of a tubular carton with the end flaps and end wall panels cooperating to form end walls or end closure structures.

In this embodiment, the top panel includes scores or score lines that divide the panel into three sections including two top panel edge portions and a top panel center portion. The blank further includes frangible severance lines comprising severance line segments, which, when the carton is erected, define removable portions known as tear panels. With regard to the severance lines in this embodiment, severance line segments extend from one end wall panel across the side panels and top panel before terminating at the end of another end wall panel. When the carton is erected, severance line segments cooperate to form a substantially continuous frangible severance line.

Another five panel blank embodiment includes an outer top panel, a first side panel, a bottom panel, a second side panel, and an inner top panel that are hingedly connected to one another. Each of the panels is also hingedly connected to opposing end flaps or end wall panels. When the carton is erected it takes the shape of a tubular carton with the top panels attached in an overlapping fashion to form a composite top wall, and the end flaps and end wall panels cooperate to form end walls or end closure structures.

Other embodiments of blanks include less than five panels. For example, a tubular carton with a triangular cross-section. In one embodiment of a triangular carton, the triangular carton does not have a top panel in the pre-load configuration, but may have a top panel in the post-load configuration. In another embodiment, the edge panel is eliminated in favor of a two-pieced bottom panel.

Still other embodiments of blanks include five or more panels, such as those including a compound top panel. A compound top panel provides for at least a first pre-load height and at least a second post-load height. In addition, any of the panels may include scores used to configure the void of a carton to a special shape.

In one embodiment, a tubular carton is configured to be erected to a first pre-load height, and then to a second post-load height. This embodiment comprises a top wall with at least one score, opposite edges and opposite ends, and a pair of opposed side walls. The sidewalls define upper and lower edges and opposite ends, and are connected along their upper edges to the opposite edges of the top wall. This embodiment also includes a bottom wall with opposite edges and opposite ends, connected to the sidewalls along the lower edges and spaced apart from the top wall. The walls define a void of a first height for receiving articles, such as tapered bottles. In addition, this embodiment includes a structure that funnels the articles into the void such that the articles force the carton to flex along the score line and at least a portion of one or more sidewalls to retract inwardly, thereby increasing the height of the void from a first height to a second greater height. The funneling structure may be connected to at least one of the ends of at least one of the walls and, after loading of the articles, is arranged to seal the carton.

Exemplary embodiments of the present invention include packages. One embodiment of a package includes containers and a carton. The containers are uniformly tapered or have various body shapes, such as a neck portion that is smaller than the largest body portion. The carton comprises four walls in the pre-load configuration, each wall hingedly connected to at least one other wall. As used herein, the term “wall” will be understood to include individual panels, parts of individual panels, and configurations of panels, flaps, or parts thereof that form an exterior surface of an erected or partially erected carton. That carton further includes a configuration of end wall flaps and/or panels that permit funneling of the containers into the void. In this embodiment, at least one of the walls becomes reconfigured under the pressure of loading the containers to create a post-load carton configuration comprising no less than five walls. After reconfiguring and loading the end wall flaps and panels are closed to seal the package. Other embodiments comprise post-load carton profiles of different wall configurations and counts.

The present invention includes exemplary methods for loading articles of a first dimension into a carton of a second dimension. In one embodiment, the method of loading comprises a number of the following steps: providing a tubular carton that includes a plurality of walls, includes at least one open end, and defines a first void; scoring at least one of the walls; configuring the open end to form a means for funneling; pushing the articles through the means for funneling toward the void; directing at least one of the articles to apply a force to the scored wall; displacing the scored wall to move from a first position to a second position under the force, thereby converting said first void to a second void; loading the articles into said second void; and, reconfiguring the funnel to be an end wall structure.

The exemplary methods of loading are best performed with severance lines that do not fail or substantially separate during loading. Further, the exemplary methods of loading are best performed with a handle that that does not fail or substantially separate during loading. Rather, the severance lines flex and otherwise cooperate with the various fold lines and scores without failing or substantially separating during the reconfiguration of a carton from one shape to another.

The foregoing has broadly outlined some of the aspects and features of the present invention, which should be construed to be merely illustrative of various embodiments of the invention. Other beneficial results can be obtained by combining various aspects of the disclosed embodiments. Accordingly, other aspects and a more comprehensive understanding of the invention may be obtained by referring to the detailed description of the exemplary embodiments taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in addition to the scope of the invention defined by the claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a plan view of an embodiment of a blank for forming an embodiment of a carton, according to the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a partially erected carton formed from the blank of FIG. 1, the carton show in a pre-load configuration.

FIG. 3 is an end elevation view of a cross-section of the partially erected carton of FIG. 2, the carton shown in a pre-load configuration.

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of the partially erected carton of FIG. 2, the carton shown in a post-load configuration.

FIG. 5 is an end elevation view of a cross-section of the partially erected carton of FIG. 2, the carton shown in a post-load configuration.

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of an embodiment of package formed from the blank of FIG. 1, according to the present invention.

FIGS. 7 and 8 show the pre-load and post-load configurations of an embodiment of a carton, according to the present invention.

FIGS. 9 and 10 show the pre-load and post-load configurations of an embodiment of a carton, according to the present invention.

FIGS. 11 and 12 show the pre-load and post-load configurations of an embodiment of a carton, according to the present invention.

FIG. 13 is a plan view of an alternative embodiment of a blank for forming an embodiment of a carton, according to the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

As required, detailed embodiments of the present invention are disclosed herein. It must be understood that the disclosed embodiments are merely exemplary of the invention that may be embodied in various and alternative forms, and combinations thereof. As used herein, the word “exemplary” is used expansively to refer to embodiments that serve as an illustration, specimen, model or pattern. The figures are not necessarily to scale and some features may be exaggerated or minimized to show details of particular components. In other instances, well-known components, systems, materials, or methods have not been described in detail in order to avoid obscuring the present invention. Therefore, specific structural and functional details disclosed herein are not to be interpreted as limiting, but merely as a basis for the claims and as a representative basis for teaching one skilled in the art to variously employ the present invention.

Referring now to the drawings in which like numerals indicate like elements throughout the several views, the drawings illustrate certain of the various aspects of an exemplary embodiment of a carton according to the present invention. In the embodiments described herein, the carton of the present invention is for enclosing, shipping, storing, displaying, carrying, and dispensing tapered articles, such as conventional beverage bottles. Generally described, the carton is formed from a foldable sheet material such as paperboard, corrugated board, plastic, combinations thereof, and the like.

FIG. 1 is a plan view of an exemplary embodiment of a blank 100 for forming a carton 200, best shown in FIGS. 2, 3, 4, and 5. The paperboard blank 100 includes at least four primary panels for forming the carton 200: a bottom panel 102, a first side panel 104, a second side panel 106, a top panel 108, and an edge panel 110. The panels 102, 104, 106, 108, and 110 are hingedly connected to one another. The bottom panel 102 is hingedly connected to the first side panel 104 by fold line 112. The first side panel 104 is hingedly connected to the top panel 108 by fold line 114. The second side panel 106 is hingedly connected to the top panel 108 by fold line 116. The edge panel 110 is hingedly connected to the bottom panel 102 by fold line 118. In the illustrated embodiments, a unitary blank is used to form a single carton although it should be recognized that two or more blanks may be employed. For example, two or more blanks may be employed to provide the structure described in more detail below.

The blank 100 includes end flaps or end wall panels that are hingedly connected to opposite edges of each of the panels 102, 104, 106, and 108 along transverse fold lines. When the carton 200 is erected, the end flaps and end wall panels cooperate to form end walls or end closure structures (best shown in FIG. 6). In the embodiment illustrated, each end closure structure is sufficiently identical that like references have been used, with “a” or “b” affixed to distinguish one end of the carton from the other. With continued reference to FIG. 1, bottom panel 102 is hingedly connected to end flaps 120a, 120b along a fold lines 122a, 122b, respectively. First side panel 104 is hingedly connected to end wall panels 124a, 124b along fold lines 126a, 126b, respectively. Second side panel 106 is hingedly connected to end wall panels 128a, 128b along fold lines 130a, 130b, respectively. Top panel 108 is hingedly connected to end flaps 132a, 132b along fold lines 134a, 134b, respectively.

In the exemplary embodiment, the top panel 108 includes scores 136, 138 that divide the top panel 108 into three sections: top panel edge portions 140, 142 and top panel center portion 144. End flaps 132a, 132b include recesses 146a, 146b, respectively. The relationship between the scores 136, 138 and the recesses 146a, 146b are likewise described below with regard to closing the carton after loading.

Blank 100 further includes mirror image frangible severance lines 150. Each frangible severance line 150 includes severance line segments 152, 154, and 156, which, when the carton is erected, defines mirror image removable portions shown as tear panels T in FIGS. 2, 4 and 6. Turning momentarily to FIG. 6, tear panel T comprises side wall panel sections 160, 162, top panel section 164, and end wall section 166. Because of the mirror configuration of the tear panels T, the following description is provided regarding one tear panel T at one side of the blank 100 only, the other tear panel T being substantially identical. Of course, as will be understood by those skilled in the art, in alternative embodiments the tear panels T are not necessarily mirror configurations but of any configuration that permits access to the articles within the carton 200.

Returning again to FIG. 1 with regard to severance line 150, the severance line segment 152 extends from the distal edge of end wall panel 128a, 128b toward and across the second side panel 106 before arching toward fold line 116, where it joins the severance line segment 154. Severance line segment 154 extends from the fold line 116, across top panel edge portion 142, and crosses score 136 before passing proximate to a finger access cutout 170 that is located on the top panel center portion 144. Continuing across top panel center portion 144 severance line segment 154 crosses score 138 and extends across top panel edge portion 140 toward fold line 114. Severance line segment 156 joins severance line segment 154 at fold line 114. From that point the line segment 156 extends across the first side panel 104 and arches toward the end wall panel 124a, 124b before terminating at the distal edge of end wall panel 124a, 124b. When the carton is erected, severance line segments 152, 154, and 156 cooperate to form continuous frangible severance line 150. It is contemplated that the frangible severance line 150 includes, but is not limited to, perforations, a line of perforations, a line of short slits, a line of half cuts, a single half cut, any combination of perforations, slits, and half cuts, short score lines, or the equivalent that separate to facilitate the opening of the carton.

The blank 100 may also include a suitable known handle H to allow the user to carry the carton 200. With regard to the formation of the illustrated handle H, finger access cutouts 170 having the shape of an ellipse are provided within top panel 108. Each cutout 170 is proximate to but spaced apart from severance line segment 154. Handle severance lines 172 extend from the major axis of each elliptical cutout 170 and may follow the arc of elliptical cutout 170 before veering toward scores 136, 138 and terminating at the approximate intersection of severance line segments 154 and fold lines 114, 116.

Handle tabs 174 are defined by the severance line segments 154 and the handle severance lines 172. Turning briefly to FIG. 4, when the carton 200 is erected the handle H is formed by a user grasping one or both finger cutouts 170 and squeezing with sufficient pressure to break handle severance lines 172. The breaking of handle severance lines 172 will allow one or more handle tabs 174 to fold inwardly to create additional support for the handle H and comfort for the user.

Like the severance line 150, the handle severance line 172 includes, but is not limited to, perforations, a line of perforations, a line of short slits, a line of half cuts, a single half cut, any combination of perforations, slits, and half cuts, short score lines, or the equivalent. The exemplary methods of loading are best performed with severance lines 150, 172 that do not fail or substantially separate during loading. Further, the exemplary methods of loading are best performed with a handle H that that does not fail or substantially separate during loading. Rather, the severance lines 150, 172 flex or otherwise cooperate with the various fold lines 114, 116 and scores 136, 138, without failing or substantially separating during the reconfiguration of a carton from one shape to another, as will now be described.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a partially erected carton 200 formed from the blank of FIG. 1. To erect the illustrated carton 200 to a first pre-load height, edge panel 110 is glued or otherwise secured to second side panel 106 to form the open-end tubular carton 200. The carton 200 is adapted to hold a group of similarly dimensioned, preferably tapered, articles. For example, the group of articles may include cans or bottles with shoulders arranged in one or more columns. The articles in each column are disposed vertically on their bottoms, preferably in a side-by-side parallel fashion. As shown in FIG. 3, side walls 104 and 106 are disposed along the side walls of the articles of the group.

When the carton 200 is erected to its pre-load height, a configuration best shown in FIG. 2, it is understood that this height is determined by the height of the sidewalls 104, 106. The configuration of the carton 200 is shown as it may appear when located on a conveyor immediately prior to being side-loaded with the articles. FIG. 3 shows the contrast between the initial height of the carton 200 and the height of articles B to be loaded. As shown, the articles B are clearly taller than the sidewalls 104, 106 and rise above the height level of the top panel 108.

FIG. 3 also illustrates the various locations a score, such as scores 136, 138, may be positioned with relation to the tapered article B. In some embodiments the score may be proximate to a fold line 116, 114 or proximate to the articles, as shown with regard to the dimension W1. In other embodiments the score may be far away from a fold line or articles, as shown with regard to dimension W2. As used herein, the terms “score”, “score line”, and “fold line” may be used interchangeably to reference a line or line segment about which the plane of a panel or wall is angled. Accordingly, a carton of a special shape as taught herein that is constructed of all fold lines is the equivalent of a carton of a special shape as taught herein with reference to both fold lines and score lines.

Before describing one method of side-loading vertically oriented articles of a first height into an open-ended tubular container with an initial lesser height, remember that top panel 108 comprises two substantially parallel edge portions 140 and 142 spaced apart by a center portion 144. More specifically, edge portion 140 is defined longitudinally by fold line 114 and score 138, edge portion 142 is defined longitudinally by fold line 116 and score 136, and center portion 144 is defined longitudinally by scores 136, 138. One skilled in the art will recognize that although scores 136, 138 are shown straight and parallel to each other as well as their respective adjacent fold lines, scores 136, 138 are not limited to such a configuration or number, and may indeed be of different and differing configurations and numbers as required to form the special shape desired.

Those skilled in the art will further recognize that a force directed to center portion 144 will cause the top panel 108 to fold along scores 136, 138 as well as adjacent fold lines 114, 116 to create three walls from the top wall. For example, with regard to the embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 3, 5 and not by way of limitation, the vertical force F exerted against the inner or back surface of center portion 144 will cause top panel 108 to extend upwardly so that the cross-section of carton 200 reconfigures from the rectangle shown in FIG. 3 to the polyhedron shown in FIG. 5. A carton of this configuration may be referred to as a tapered top carton.

One embodiment of a tapered top carton may be defined by exterior walls formed by panels or panel portions 102, 104, 140, 144, 142, and 106. Another embodiment may be defined by exterior walls formed by panels or panel portions 102, 104, 140, 144, 142, and 106, wherein side panels 104, 106 include scores S (shown in FIGS. 3 and 5) that are located proximate to the shoulder of the tapered article such that a portion of the side 104′, 106′ panels may be substantially coplanar with the edge portions 140, 142 when the carton 200 is configured as a tapered top carton. In some embodiments, the side panels 104, 106 may bow when the carton 200 is configured as a tapered top carton. For another example, assuming the top panel 108 is defined by fold lines 114, 116 and comprises a single score that is parallel and equidistant to the fold lines, a single vertical force F exerted proximate to the score from the inner or back side will reconfigure the carton 200 from a rectangular cross-section to that of a pentahedron. A carton of this configuration may be referred to as a gable top carton.

Turning now to describe a method of side-loading vertically oriented articles of a first height into an open-ended tubular container of an initial lesser second height, reference will be made to FIGS. 2, 3, 4 and 5. As understood by one skilled in the art, in preparation of loading articles into the carton 200, the carton 200 is typically transported through a series of stations via a conveyor associated with a packaging machine. Articles to be loaded into the carton 200, such as bottles, are positioned adjacent to and directed toward the open ends of the carton 200. The loading direction is represented by the arrows A shown in FIG. 2. In addition, machine guides hold adjacent end wall panels 124a, 128a and 124b, 128b, and end flaps 120a, 132a and 120b, 132b back or open so that the loading of the articles is not restricted or otherwise hampered by any parts of the carton structure.

Further, in conventional side loading procedures where articles of a first height are directed into a carton of a second greater height, the articles are directed into the carton using a means for loading. Means for loading include moving individual or groups of articles downstream by way of back pressure. That is, the upstream articles exert a force on the downstream articles thereby pushing the downstream articles forward and into cartons, as also represented by the arrows A. Means for loading also include plungers located behind defined groups of articles pushing those articles forward into cartons, as also represented by the arrows A. In whatever manner articles are transported, delivered, pushed, or otherwise directed toward and into the carton, the articles may be side-loaded using a means for loading from either or both end openings.

In the illustrated embodiments articles of a first height are directed into a carton of a second lesser height. That is, as best shown in FIG. 3 the articles B to be loaded are taller than the height of the plane defined by the top panel 108 and upper edges of the side walls 104, 106. Methods of loading vertically oriented articles of a first height into an open-end tubular container of an initial lesser second height include allowing the articles to be used as a mandrel. Such methods of loading are facilitated by scores, such as scores 136, 138. One advantage of using the articles as mandrels is to create cartons of special shapes. Cartons of special shapes may be configured to use less material, reduce interior volume, eliminate extraneous packing material, provide better protection for the articles, and improve the performance characteristics of the carton including its tensile and burst strength. Another advantage of using the articles as mandrels is to create cartons of special shapes without the use of special equipment.

For the purposes of teaching and not limitation, an exemplary method of loading articles of a first height into a carton of a second lesser height will now be described. Further, for purposes of teaching and not limitation, the description is directed to filled and sealed bottles B to be loaded into a carton dimensioned for a group of articles arranged in a 2×6 array. It will be understood by those skilled in the art that the principles taught herein are applicable to tubular cartons of all dimensions.

Closure structure elements such as end wall panels 124a, 124b, 128a, 128b and end flaps 120a, 120b, 132a, 132b may be guided to an open position that creates a funnel. In alternative embodiments a means for funneling includes both the end wall panels and end flaps guided to an open position, only the end wall panels guided to an open position, only the end flaps guided to an open position, and, some combination of end wall panels and end flaps guided to an open position.

Directing the bottles toward the means for funneling will allow the tops of a first row of bottles B to brush against the inner surface of an end flap 132a, 132b. In brushing against the inner surface of the end flap 132a, 132b, the end flap 132a, 132b lifts sufficiently to allow the tops of the bottles B to forceably slide toward and under the respective fold line 134a, 134b. In forceably sliding under the fold lines 134a, 134b, the bottles lift the leading edge of the top panel 108 sufficiently that the top panel 108 begins to fold along the scores 136, 138. In folding along the scores 136,138 the top panel 108 begins its reconfigured from the rectangular cross-section, best shown in FIG. 3, to the polyhedron cross-section, best shown in FIG. 5.

Continuing to direct, load, or otherwise push the bottles into the carton 200 permits the bottles to exert a force F upwardly against the back of top panel 108. The magnitude of the force F is dependant upon a number of factors, including the height relationship between the bottles and the carton, the coefficient of friction between the carton and the bottles, the composition of the carton material, and the position and depth of the scores. In the illustrated embodiments, the vertical force F is of a magnitude at least sufficient to push upwardly on top panel center portion 144 so as to fold top panel 108 along scores 136, 138 but not of a magnitude great enough to overcome the horizontal force of loading. Stated another way, a sufficient force is that force which is great enough to permit the bottles to act as moving mandrels to fold or unfold panels to create a special shape without being wedged in the carton 200 before reconfiguring and loading is successfully completed.

After sliding under the fold lines 134a, 134b and lifting the top panel center portion 144 such that top panel 108 begins to unfold along scores 136, 138, the bottles B continue to load into the carton 200. As the bottles are directed into the carton 200 by a means for loading, the bottles continue to exert a force F against top panel center portion 144, which in turn continues to cause top panel 108 to fold along scores 136, 138. This sequence of directing the bottles, exerting a force, and folding the carton 200 is one method of loading articles of a first height into a carton of a lesser second height and in doing so increasing the height of the carton to at least the first height. One result of this method is the reconfiguring of a carton of substantially rectangular cross-section, best shown in FIG. 3, to the special shaped carton of polyhedron cross-section, best shown in FIG. 5.

In one embodiment of a method of loading, the width W1 of the top panel edge portion 140, 142, between fold line 114, 116 and respective score 138, 136, is approximately the same as the distance from the outside edge of the container top to the furthest outside edge of the container sidewall along the same transverse plane. This relationship is best shown in FIG. 3. There each bottle exerts a force proximate to the scores 136, 138 that causes the center panel 144 to lift and the top panel edge portion 140, 142 to rotate or fold about the respective score 136, 138 and fold line 114, 116. This configuration may be used with, by way of example and not limitation, a container that comprises a shoulder and neck portion such as conventional beverage bottles, automotive oil containers with built-in spouts, liquid detergent containers with built-in pouring features, and decorative jars containing food products.

In another embodiment of a method of loading, the width W1 of the top panel edge portion 140, 142, from respective fold line 114, 116 to respective score 138, 136, is approximately the same as the distance from the center-line of a bottle cap to the furthest outside edge of the bottle along the same transverse plane. There, the bottle exerts a force directly under the score which causes the top panel edge portion to rotate or fold about the respective score and fold line. This configuration may be used with, by way of example and not limitation, a container that comprises a shoulder and neck portion that further includes a raised or severely tapered top such as the pop-up type dispenser found on sport drink products or the spray feature found on many articles.

Turning to FIG. 6, after the articles are grouped and loaded through either or both of the open ends of the carton 200, the end flaps 120a, 132a and end wall panels 124a, 128a are folded and secured together to form end closure structures 202a, 202b. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 6, end wall panels 124a and 128a are first folded inwardly, followed by folding end flap 120a upwardly then folding end flap 132a downwardly to overlap end flap 120a. End wall panels 124a, 128a may be secured to one or both of end flaps 120a, 132a and end flaps 120a, 132a may be secured to each other. In contrast, end wall 202a may be formed by a different sequence of folding and securing the end wall panels 124a, 128a and end flaps 120a, 132a. The end flaps 120b, 132b and end wall panels 124b, 128b cooperate similarly to form the opposing end closure structure 202b. Also shown here is the recess 146a, formed to reflect the profile of the end closure structure. As shown, the recess 146a reflects the post-load position of top panel edges 140, 142 in order to form a carton of low profile. Alternatively, the recess 146a, 146b may be configured so that some portion of end flap 132a, 132b protrudes beyond the post-load position as part of a special shaped carton.

Other end closure structures and means for structure closure include partial end wall panels or end flaps that may be secured, end wall panels or end flaps that do not overlap, end wall panels or end flaps in the form of hoods or cowlings that may be folded and locked on themselves or each other, caps—for example, shaped in the form of the carton profile—that may be fastened to the open end of the carton, and similar means for closing the carton.

Cartons of various shapes and configures will be readily apparent based on the description provided herein, including multi-faceted cartons with a transverse cross-section of five or more exterior surfaces. By way of example and not limitation one pentahedron embodiment includes a bottom panel, two side panels, and two top panel edge portions, while another polyhedron embodiment includes a bottom panel, two side panels each bisected longitudinally by a score, a top panel comprising a plurality of sets of scores, and a plurality of top panel portions. Those skilled in the art will understand that various embodiments of special shaped cartons, including those wherein one or more scores and or fold lines are on either or both sides of a container top, are taught and claimed herein.

The blank 100 preferably includes one or more means for tear initiation, shown in FIG. 1. The means for tear initiation includes the combination of the finger access cutout 170, the handle severance line 172, and the severance line segment 154. FIG. 6 is a perspective view of an embodiment of a carton after the removal of one of the detachable tear panels T. Here, by way of example and not limitation, the removal of tear panel T was initiated by breaking the handle severance line 172, followed by the breaking of severance line segments 152, 156, and the removal of the end wall section 166. Finger access cutout 170 and the panel top section 164 cooperate to create a convenient configuration for a user to grasp the edge of the tear panel T with one or fingers and begin tearing the handle severance line 172. After the handle severance line 172 is broken the user may move to breaking severance lines 152, 156. In the embodiment shown, the finger hole is defined by an elliptical cutout dimensioned to allow at least one finger to penetrate the carton 200 and begin breaking the handle severance line 172. Those skilled in the art will recognize that various known or yet to be developed means for tear initiation can be adapted for implementation in conjunction with the embodiments of the present invention, including but not limited to a push tab, pull tab, flap, or loop; any combination of tabs, loops, or flaps; or an equivalent structure for gripping a small detached portion of a relatively larger attached structure.

With the panel T removed, a user has access to the articles contained in carton 200. In the illustrated embodiment of FIG. 6, a single removed panel T permits access to six bottles B. Naturally, the remaining six bottles are accessible after the remaining panel T is removed. As understood by those skilled in the art, other removable panel configurations are possible as are other removable panel configurations that provide a special dispenser. By way of example and not limitation, severance line segments such as 152, 154, 156 may course, undulate, and otherwise meander across some or all of the panels comprising a carton such as 104, 106, 108, 120, 124, 128, 132, to produce a removal panel or panels T of any configuration. It is further contemplated that a removal panel may or may not leave the handle H intact. Accordingly, side wall panel sections 160, 162 may be of various depths and designs, as may end wall panel section 166, according to the design considerations of the special shapes.

FIGS. 7 and 8 illustrate the pre-load and post-load configurations of an embodiment of the present invention. Panels 102, 104 and 106 are joined to form a pre-load tubular carton with a substantially triangular cross-section. Scores 138 define panel portions 140, 142 and end closure 202a restrains the items, in a manner similar to that described above. The post-load configuration, after the items have been inserted and used as mandrels to reshape the carton, differs from the pre-load configuration. Here, the items are in two columns, with the pre-load height being taller than the post-load height.

FIGS. 9 and 10 illustrate the pre-load and post-load configurations of an embodiment of the present invention. Panels 102, 104, 106, and 108 are joined to form a pre-load tubular carton with a square or rectangular cross-section. Scores 138 define panel portions 140, 142 and end closure 202a restrains the items, in a manner similar to that described above. The post-load configuration, after the items have been inserted and used as mandrels to reshape the carton, differs from the pre-load configuration. Here, the items are in three columns, with the items in the center column being taller than the items in the adjacent side columns.

FIGS. 11 and 12 illustrate the pre-load and post-load configurations of an embodiment of the present invention. Panels 102, 104, 106, and 108 are joined to form a pre-load tubular carton with a square or rectangular cross-section. Scores 138 define panel portions 140, 142, 164 and end closure 202a restrains the items, in a manner similar to that described above. The post-load configuration, after the items have been inserted and used as mandrels to reshape the carton, differs from the pre-load configuration. Here, the items are in four columns, with the items in the two center columns being taller than the items in the adjacent side columns.

Turning now to FIG. 13, with an eye toward FIG. 1, we see an alternative embodiment of a blank 300 for forming a carton according to the present invention. Aspects of the blank 300 in FIG. 13, correspond to the blank 100 illustrated in FIG. 1. Therefore, the majority of elements in FIG. 13 have been identified with a corresponding number that may be found in a substantially similar element of FIG. 1, the difference being that the element prefix number “1” has been substituted for the element prefix number “3”. For example, the bottom panel 102 of FIG. 1 corresponds to the bottom panel 302 of FIG. 13. Here, the primary distinction is that rather than forming a tubular carton by attaching the edge panel 110 to the bottom panel 102 as described with reference to FIG. 1, with reference to FIG. 13 a tubular carton is formed by attaching the inner top panel 308a to the outer top panel 308b in an overlapping manner to form a composite top wall 308. The outer top wall 308b further includes end panels 333a, 333b. Otherwise, in the majority of respects, the details of composition and method of assembly of the second carton 300 are identical to those of the first carton 100 described above.

The present invention has been illustrated in relation to various particular embodiments which is intended in all respects to be illustrative rather than restrictive. Those skilled in the art will recognize that the present invention is capable of many modifications and variations without departing from the scope of the claims. For example, as used herein, directional references such as “top”, “base”, “bottom”, “end” “side”, “inner”, “outer”, “upper”, “middle”, “lower”, “front” and “rear” do not limit the respective panels, walls, or articles to such orientation, but merely serve to distinguish these elements from one another. Any reference to hinged connection should not be construed as necessarily referring to a single fold line or score line only; indeed, it is envisaged that hinged connection can be formed from one or more of one of the following, a score line, a frangible line or a fold line, without departing from the scope of the claims. Also, the shapes and sizes of the end flaps and end wall panels are only examples of the various end wall structures that will be suitable for implementation of the various embodiments of the invention. For example, the end wall structures may likewise be tapered and the end wall structures need not entirely seal the open ends.

It should be understood that various changes may be made within the scope of the claims, for example, the size and shape of the panels and apertures may be adjusted to accommodate articles of differing size or shape, and alternative end wall structures may be used. The carton may accommodate more than one article in different arrangements, and articles of various heights, including a group of articles in three or more horizontally arranged columns. Although the severance lines 150 of FIGS. 1 and 4 are shown symmetrically, the removable panels T and handle H may have any suitable shape.

The above-described embodiments are merely exemplary illustrations of implementations set forth for a clear understanding of the principles of the invention. Variations, modifications, and combinations may be made to the above-described embodiments without departing from the scope of the claims. All such variations, modifications, and combinations are included herein by the scope of this disclosure and the following claims.