Title:
Expandable and contractible food storage container
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A container bottom and container cover both have horizontally moving asymmetrical accordion pleats. The container and cover expands and contracts horizontally to adjust the size of the container the container opening. The cover correspondingly adjusts to fit the container opening to allow for different shapes, sizes, and volumes of food or other matter stored therein. Each accordion pleat has a pair of accordion walls hinged together of two different widths. Upon compression of the container and cover each accordion pleat collapses separately by a larger width wall forcing the narrower width wall to bend back behind an adjacent accordion wall.



Inventors:
Carmona, Michael B. (Agoura Hills, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/141654
Publication Date:
11/30/2006
Filing Date:
05/31/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D6/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
MCKINLEY, CHRISTOPHER BRIAN
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Donald W. Meeker (Newport Beach, CA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A transformable storage device which changes the size and shape of a container, a container opening and a mating container cover, the device comprising: a container comprising a bottom, side walls, and a top opening defined by a common top edge of the side walls, a portion of a horizontal section of the bottom and two opposing side walls formed of a series of container accordion pleats expansible and contractible in a horizontal direction to transform the horizontal size and shape of the container and horizontal size and shape of the top opening in the container to accommodate a variety of sizes and shapes of external items through the top opening into the container for storage therein; a cover comprising a top surface and a peripheral edge of the top surface connectable to the top opening of the container to close the container, a portion of a horizontal section of the top surface and two opposing sides of the peripheral edge formed of a series of cover accordion pleats expansible and contractible in a horizontal direction in conformity with the container accordion pleats to transform the horizontal size and shape of the peripheral edge of the cover to mate with the top opening in the container to close the container for any size and shape of the container and any size and shape of the top opening of the container.

2. The device of claim 1 wherein each of the container accordion pleats comprises a pair of container accordion walls hinged together, comprising a first container accordion wall and a second container accordion wall, the first container accordion wall wider than the second container accordion wall so that upon compression, each of the container accordion pleats is separately collapsible with the first container accordion wall of each of the pleats forcing the second container accordion wall to snap backward internally overlapping the adjacent first container accordion wall, thereby collapsing the container accordion pleat and locking the container accordion pleat in a closed position and shortening a horizontal length of the container by a difference in width between the expanded container accordion pleat and the contracted container accordion pleat.

3. The device of claim 2 wherein the container is expansible and contractible to any desired length in increments of the difference in width of each of the container accordion pleats between the expanded and contracted position and changing the number of container accordion pleats changes the size of contraction and expansion of the container.

4. The device of claim 2 wherein each of the cover accordion pleats comprises a pair of accordion walls hinged together, comprising a first cover accordion wall and a second cover accordion wall, the first cover accordion wall wider than the second cover accordion wall so that upon compression, each of the cover accordion pleats is separately collapsible with the first cover accordion wall of each of the pleats forcing the second cover accordion wall to-snap backward internally overlapping the adjacent cover accordion wall, thereby collapsing the cover accordion pleat and locking the cover accordion pleat in a closed position and shortening a horizontal length of the cover by a difference in width between the expanded cover accordion pleat and the contracted cover accordion pleat.

5. The device of claim 4 wherein the cover accordion walls are structurally less rigid than the container accordion walls so that contracting and expanding the container accordion pleats causes the contracting and expanding of the cover accordion pleats with the cover in place on the container to maintain the cover to be the same size as the top opening of the container.

6. The device of claim 4 wherein the cover is expansible and contractible to any desired length in increments of the difference in width of each of the cover accordion pleats between the expanded and contracted position and changing the number of cover accordion pleats changes the size of contraction and expansion of the cover.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to collapsible storage containers and particularly to a horizontally expandable and collapsible plastic food storage container comprising a container bottom and container cover having horizontally moving asymmetrical accordion pleats in both the container bottom and cover whereby the container may be horizontally expanded or contracted to adjust the size of the container and the size and shape of the container opening and the cover correspondingly adjusting to fit the container opening to allow for different sizes, shapes, and volumes of food or other matter stored therein.

2. Description of the Prior Art

Variable volume containers are well known, including vertically moving accordion or bellow-type collapsible walls with non-transformable covers resting on top of the prior art containers which expand and contract vertically to change the volume of the container for storing varying quantities of liquid with minimal air and minimal size of overall container for the amount of contents with the cover attachable to a non-changeable opening.

Often in a refrigerator or other storage compartments there is a problem with fitting everything in that requires storage. Adjusting the horizontal size of containers to fit is just as important as and often more important than adjusting vertical size of containers. Prior art patents do not adequately address the problem. None of the prior art devices provide a horizontally shape and size transformable container opening and correspondingly changeable cover to accommodate variously sized and shaped items to be placed in the container for storage.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,911,338, issued Jun. 15, 1999 to Miller, is for an adjustable container for providing a storage container whose volume may be adjusted to suit the size and amount of items held therein. The inventive device includes a base with a perimeter side wall extending around the base outer perimeter to define an interior space. The perimeter side wall has a height (defined between the terminal edge of the perimeter side wall and the base) which is adjustably extendible to increase or decrease the volume of the interior space. A removable lid is provided for substantially covering the opening into the interior space.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,584,413, issued Dec. 17, 1996 to Jung, is for a pleated plastic container which is foldable and stored in a minimum space. The container comprises a foldable container body having a bottom protrusion, a mouth for being closed by a plug and for being fittingly engaged with said bottom protrusion, an outwardly directed concave recess formed at a neck portion of said mouth, and a lateral protrusion formed on the periphery of said bottom protrusion for fittingly engaging with said concave recess.

U.S. Pat. No. 3,301,293, issued Jan. 31, 1967 to Santelli, shows an accordian pleated bottle with interlocking pleats to lock in place at different heights of the bottle.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,240,130, issued Aug. 31, 1993 to Osbakk, provides a compressible body comprising a container and a flexible annular wall member, and the container, in turn, includes a cylindrical side wall and a prestressed locking member. The side wall of the container forms an upper edge and defines a cylindrical space having a given circumference, and the locking member of the container is mounted on the upper edge of the side wall and is inherently biased radially inwardly toward a position inward of that given circumference. The wall member of the bottle is mounted inside the container of the bottle, and that wall member has extended and compressed positions. In the extended position, the wall member extends upward from the container; and in the compressed position, the wall member is at least substantially contained within the container and the upper portion of the wall member is below the locking member of the container. Moreover, when the wall member is compressed into its compressed position, the locking member moves radially inwardly, due to is inherent resiliency, to a locking position in which the locking member extends directly over the upper portion of the wall member and locks that wall member inside the container.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,573,129, issued Nov. 12, 1996 to Nagata et al., describes a container formed for a liquid. In order to reduce a volume of the container for a liquid after use thereof, a bellows portion is provided at an axial direction portion of a container main body. A lid member is removed, and liquid within the container for a liquid is discharged from an opening portion. The bellows portion is contracted so that head space can be adjusted and so that a volume of the container main body can be reduced. Further, because the head space can be adjusted, an interior of the container for a liquid is always substantially filled with the liquid so that oxidation of the liquid can be prevented. When the liquid is poured, the bellows portion automatically expands and contracts so that the liquid flows quickly and so that little air is drawn in. Further, if a certain amount or more of the liquid in the interior is discharged, the volume can be reduced, and a volume-reduced state can be maintained by tightly screwing the lid member; When the bellows portion is expanded, the container for a liquid is easy to hold as there are convex and concave portions at the bellows portion.

U.S. Pat. No. 6,105,815, issued Aug. 22, 2000 to Mazda, describes a contraction-controlled bellows container (1) is disclosed, which can retain half or fully contracted configurations of the bellows ridges (2) whose upper walls (21) and/or lower walls (22) have at least one circumferential indentation (3) adjacent the corresponding outer hinges (23) and/or inner hinges (24). The indentations utilize the pressure applied onto the container effectively and get depressed further into the corresponding bellows ridges prior to the corresponding portions of the other walls, reducing the total pressure requirement. The indentations bring together the walls in which the indentations are provided into the bellows ridges (2). These walls are gradually turned in shape to lose their shape restoration thanks to their generally protruding configuration. Adjustment of the sizes of the indentations makes it possible to selectively contract the bellows ridges.

U.S. Pat. No. 3,083,877, issued Apr. 2, 1963 to Gash, provides a collapsible container with corrugations in the walls.

U.S. Pat. No. 6,412,652, issued Jul. 2, 2002 to Woram et al., discloses a collapsible storage container having a displaceable access opening for tracking and providing proximate access to said diapers stored within. Said collapsible container further includes a rigid non-collapsible portion at the top separated into two separate portions, the first portion being the top of said collapsible diaper storage area and the second portion being a discrete independent separate storage area for containing treated or medicated diaper wipes. Said second diaper wipe area having its own separate access area including a hinge and a depression or tab to access the sheets of said diaper wipes.

U.S. Pat. No. D342,674, issued Dec. 28, 1993 to Schollen et al., is a design for an expansible container with accordion pleat sides.

What is needed is a size-changeable storage container, container opening, and mating size-changeable cover to expand and contract horizontally to change the storage space inside to optimize the interior space and minimize the exterior size of the container to accommodate various quantities of food or other substances inside the container while taking up the least amount of horizontal storage space by the container and with a minimal amount of air inside the container in contact with the food or other substances.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

An object of the present invention is to provide a series of horizontally acting pleats to form a bellows section of both a horizontally size and shape changeable storage container with a size and shape changeable container opening and a mating size and shape changeable cover which both expand and contract horizontally to change the opening to accommodate variously sized and shaped objects and change the storage space inside to optimize the interior space and minimize the exterior size of the container to accommodate various quantities of food or other substances inside the container while taking up the least amount of horizontal storage space by the container and with a minimal amount of air inside the container in contact with the food or other substances.

Another related object of the present invention is to provide accordion pleats over mating sections of both the container and the cover, each accordion pleat having a different width pair of accordion walls hinged together so that upon compression each of the accordion pleats is separately collapsible with the wider width wall of each of the pleats forcing the narrower width wall to snap backward internally overlapping the adjacent accordion wall, thereby collapsing the accordion pleat and locking the accordion pleat in a closed position and shortening the horizontal length of the container or cover by the difference in width between the expanded accordion pleat and the contracted accordion pleat.

In brief, a plastic food storage container comprises a container bottom and container cover having mating sections of horizontally acting individually asymmetrical locking accordion pleats whereby the container may be horizontally expanded or collapsed to adjust the size of the container and the container opening to allow for different sizes and shapes and volumes of food or other matter stored therein. The present size and shape changeable storage container with size and shape changeable top opening and mating size and shape changeable cover expand and contract horizontally to change the opening and storage space inside to optimize the interior space and minimize the exterior size of the container to accommodate various sizes, shapes, and quantities of food or other substances inside the container while taking up the least amount of horizontal storage space by the container and with a minimal amount of air inside the container in contact with the food or other substances.

The horizontally acting accordion pleats of both the container and the cover of the present invention each have a different width pair of accordion walls hinged together by a living hinge so that upon compression each of the accordion pleats is separately contracted snapping into a closed position and upon pulling apart expanded snapping into an open position thereby shortening and lengthening the horizontal length of the container, container opening, and mating cover by the difference in width between the expanded accordion pleat and the contracted accordion pleat. The container may be expanded to any desired length in increments of the difference in width of each accordion pleat between the expanded and contracted position. Many accordion pleats creates greater expansion and contraction capability.

The accordion pleats of the cover are thinner and more responsive to contraction and expansion pressure so that the cover will respond to changes in the size of the container and container opening so that the cover fits securely over the container opening at any of the incremental lengths of the container and container opening.

An advantage of the present invention is that it provides a storage container which expands and contracts horizontally.

Another advantage of the present invention is that it can receive and retain any desired volume over a range of volumes and any desired size and shape object over a range of shapes based on the size of the accordion pleat section of the container and cover and the size of each of the accordion pleats.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

These and other details of my invention will be described in connection with the accompanying drawings, which are furnished only by way of illustration and not in limitation of the invention, and in which drawings:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the expansible and contractible storage container and cover of the present invention with the cover aligned for placement on the container;

FIG. 2 is a side elevational view of the storage container of FIG. 1 showing the accordion pleats in a contracted state including a cross-sectional view of one of the contracted accordion pleats with the storage container cover of FIG. 1 aligned for placement on the container;

FIG. 3 is a side elevational view of the storage container and cover of FIG. 1 showing a number of the accordion pleats in an expanded state with the storage container cover of FIG. 1 aligned for placement on the container.

BEST MODE FOR CARRYING OUT THE INVENTION

In FIGS. 1-3, a size transformable storage device 20 enables horizontally expanding and contracting the size and shape of a container 23, a container opening 30, and a mating container cover 21.

In FIG. 1, a container 23 comprises a bottom 28, side walls 29, and a top opening defined by a common top edge 27 of the side walls, and a portion of a horizontal section of the bottom and two opposing side walls formed of a series of container accordion pleats 22B expansible and contractible in a horizontal direction to transform the horizontal size and shape of the container and horizontal size and shape of the top opening 30 in the container to accommodate a variety of sizes and shapes of external items through the top opening into the container for storage therein.

The cover 21 comprises a top surface 19 and a peripheral edge 26 of the top surface connectable to the top opening 30 securable to the top edge 27 of the walls of the container to close the container. A portion of a horizontal section of the top surface and two opposing sides of the peripheral edge formed of a series of cover accordion pleats 22T expansible and contractible in a horizontal direction in conformity with the container accordion pleats 22B to transform the horizontal size and shape of the peripheral edge 26 of the cover to mate with the top edge 27 of the walls over the opening 30 in the container to close the container for any size and shape of the container and any size and shape of the top opening of the container.

In FIGS. 1-3, each of the container accordion pleats 22A and 22B of both the cover 21 and the container 23 each comprise a pair of container accordion walls hinged together by a living hinge or pair of living hinges, comprising a first container accordion wall 25A and a second container accordion wall 25B. The first container accordion wall 25A is wider than the second container accordion wall 25B so that upon compression, each of the container accordion pleats is separately collapsible with the first container accordion wall 25A of each of the pleats forcing the second container accordion wall 25B to snap backward internally, as shown in the small cross-sectional portion of FIG. 2, overlapping the adjacent first container accordion wall 25A, thereby collapsing the container accordion pleat and locking the container accordion pleat in a closed position and shortening a horizontal length of the container by a difference in width between the expanded container accordion pleat and the contracted container accordion pleat. In FIGS. 1 and 2 the accordion pleats 22A and 22B are all in a compressed state with the container and cover compressed in size. In FIG. 2, four of the container pleats on the left of the container pleat section 22B and four of the cover pleats on the left of the cover pleat section 22A are expanded to lengthen the container by the added difference between each of the expanded and contracted pleats.

The container 23 and cover 21 are expansible and contractible to any desired length in increments of the difference in width of each of the container accordion pleats between the expanded and contracted position. Changing the number of container accordion pleats changes the size of contraction and expansion of the container.

The cover accordion walls are structurally less rigid than the container accordion walls, because of differences in wall thickness or differences in hinge thickness, so that contracting and expanding the container accordion pleats causes the contracting and expanding of the cover accordion pleats with the cover in place on the container to maintain the cover to be the same size as the top opening of the container.

In use, the covered container cannot be air-tight, otherwise it could not contract. There may be an air hole in the lid somewhere. To wash the container and cover, they should be fully extended. To secure the cover 21 on the container 23, the container is fully extended with the cover on and secured, and both cover 21 and container 23 contracted as a single unit.

It is understood that the preceding description is given merely by way of illustration and not in limitation of the invention and that various modifications may be made thereto without departing from the spirit of the invention as claimed.