Title:
Container having a smooth finish
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A container defines a longitudinal axis, and comprises a neck, and a finish merging with the neck. The finish comprises a first lip, a second lip spaced apart from the first lip in a direction that is substantially parallel to the longitudinal axis, and a curved portion connecting the first lip with the second lip.



Inventors:
Perez, Gilles (Vourles, FR)
Cargile, David W. (Lancaster, PA, US)
Stoolmaker, Bob (York, PA, US)
Application Number:
11/453258
Publication Date:
12/21/2006
Filing Date:
06/15/2006
Assignee:
Graham Packaging Company, LP (York, PA, US)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
215/321
International Classes:
B65D41/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
WEAVER, SUE A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
THE PATENTWISE GROUP, LLC (Wallingford, PA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A container defining a longitudinal axis, the container comprising: a neck; a finish merging with said neck, said finish comprising: a first lip; a second lip spaced apart from said first lip in a direction that is substantially parallel to the longitudinal axis; and a curved portion connecting said first lip with said second lip.

2. The container according to claim 1, further comprising: a sidewall merging with said neck; and a base merging with said sidewall.

3. The container according to claim 1, wherein said second lip comprises an edge, and said neck is positioned at a first radial distance from the longitudinal axis, and the edge of said second lip is positioned at a second radial distance from the longitudinal axis.

4. The container according to claim 3, wherein the second radial distance is greater than or equal to the first radial distance.

5. The container according to claim 3, wherein the second radial distance is less than the first radial distance.

6. The container according to claim 1, wherein said second lip collapses towards said first lip while thermosealing a lid to the container.

7. The container according to claim 6, wherein said first and second lips each comprise an inner portion and wherein the inner portion of said second lip touches the inner portion of said first lip when said second lip collapses towards said first lip.

8. The container according to claim 6, wherein said first lip comprises an inner portion and said second lip comprises an inner portion and wherein the edge of said second lip touches the inner portion of said first lip when said second lip collapses towards said first lip.

9. A sealed container made by the method of: providing a container according to claim 1; and thermosealing a lid to said container.

10. The container according to claim 9, wherein said first and second lips each comprise an inner portion and wherein the inner portion of said second lip touches the inner portion of said first lip when said second lip collapses towards said first lip during said thermosealing.

11. The container according to claim 9, wherein said first lip comprises an inner portion and said second lip comprises an inner portion and wherein the edge of said second lip touches the inner portion of said first lip when said second lip collapses towards said first lip during said thermosealing.

12. A method for sealing a container, comprising: providing a container defining a longitudinal axis and having a neck, a finish merging with said neck, said finish comprising a first lip connected to said neck, a second lip spaced apart from said first lip in a direction substantially parallel to the longitudinal axis, and a curved portion connecting said first lip with said second lip; and thermosealing a lid to the container.

13. The method according to claim 12, wherein said first and second lips each comprise an inner portion and wherein the inner portion of said second lip touches the inner portion of said first lip when said second lip collapses towards said first lip during said thermosealing.

14. The container according to claim 12, wherein said first lip comprises an inner portion and said second lip comprises an inner portion and wherein the edge of said second lip touches the inner portion of said first lip when said second lip collapses towards said first lip during said thermosealing.

15. A finish for a plastic container defining a longitudinal axis, said finish comprising: a first lip; a second lip spaced apart from said first lip in a direction that is substantially parallel to the longitudinal axis; and a curved portion connecting said first lip with said second lip.

16. The finish according to claim 15, wherein said first and second lips each comprise an inner portion and wherein the inner portion of said second lip touches the inner portion of said first lip when said second lip collapses towards said first lip when a heat or pressure is applied to the container.

17. The finish according to claim 15, wherein said first lip comprises an inner portion and said second lip comprises an inner portion and wherein the edge of said second lip touches the inner portion of said first lip when said second lip collapses towards said first lip when heat is applied to the container.

18. A plastic container comprising: a finish according to claim 15; a container sidewall merging with said finish; and a base merging with said sidewall.

19. The finish according to claim 15, wherein said second lip comprises an edge, and said neck is positioned at a first radial distance from the longitudinal axis, and the edge of said second lip is positioned at a second radial distance from the longitudinal axis.

20. The container according to claim 19, wherein the second radial distance is greater than or equal to the first radial distance.

21. The container according to claim 19, wherein said second lip collapses towards said first lip while thermosealing a lid to the container.

22. The container according to claim 19, wherein the second radial distance is less than the first radial distance.

23. The container according to claim 1, wherein said second lip has a thickness of between 0.1 and 1.0 mm.

24. The finish according to claim 15, wherein said second lip has a thickness of between 0.1 and 1.0.

25. A container defining a longitudinal axis, the container comprising: an upper portion including a finish, said finish comprising: a first lip extending about the longitudinal axis and defining a first inner radial distance from the longitudinal axis; and a second lip interconnected with said first lip, said second lip extending about the longitudinal axis and defining a second inner radial distance from the longitudinal axis, said second inner radial distance being larger than said first inner radial distance; wherein said second lip is spaced apart from said first lip in a direction substantially parallel to said longitudinal axis.

26. The container according to claim 25, wherein said second lip comprises an inner edge that defines said second inner radial distance.

27. The container according to claim 26, wherein said inner edge is formed during a container trimming operation.

28. The container according to claim 25, wherein said first lip comprises a curved wall portion of said finish, and said curved wall portion defines said first inner radial distance.

29. The container according to claim 28, wherein said curved wall portion is formed during molding of the container.

30. The container according to claim 25, further comprising: a sidewall merging with said upper portion; and a base merging with said sidewall.

31. The container according to claim 25, wherein said second lip collapses toward said first lip while thermosealing a lid to the container.

32. A sealed container made by the method of: providing a container according to claim 25; and thermosealing a lid to said second finish.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is a continuation-in-part of co-pending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/015,645, filed Dec. 20, 2004, the entire content of which is incorporated herein by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates generally to a finish for a plastic container, and more particularly, to a smooth, user-friendly finish for a plastic container.

2. Related Art

Plastic containers, such as polyolefin or PET containers, may be used for packaging food, dairy, and other drinkable products. Such containers can be sealed at the opening in the neck using a conventional closure such as a screw-on or push-on lid. Additionally or alternatively, these containers can be thermosealed with a suitable lid, for example, a foil lid. A thermosealed lid is designed to be pulled off to allow access to the contents of the container. Once opened, the contents can be, for example, drank directly from the container or, in the case of larger containers, spooned, poured, or grasped from the container.

In designing plastic containers, the integrity of the lip of the container may be critical in obtaining a good seal with the closure. This is most commonly accomplished by increasing the thickness of the lip. Additionally, lip thickness may assist in improving the top-loading capabilities of the container. Another issue that can arise with container lip design is that the inner edge of the lip (which is usually formed by a trimming operation) can present a sharp edge. This sharp edge can be uncomfortable and/or dangerous to the consumer, whether they are drinking directly from the container, or grasping product located within the container.

Therefore, there remains a need in the art for a plastic container and/or a container finish that overcomes these and other shortcomings of the prior art.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

According to one exemplary embodiment of the present invention, a container defines a longitudinal axis, and comprises a neck, a finish merging with said neck, said finish comprising a first lip, a second lip spaced apart from said first lip in a direction that is substantially parallel to the longitudinal axis, and a curved portion connecting said first lip with said second lip.

According to another exemplary embodiment of the present invention, a method for sealing a container comprises providing a container defining a longitudinal axis and having a neck and a finish merging with said neck, the finish comprising a first lip connected to said neck, a second lip spaced apart from said first lip in a direction substantially parallel to the longitudinal axis, and a curved portion connecting said first lip with said second lip; and thermosealing a lid to the container.

According to yet another exemplary embodiment of the present invention, a finish for a plastic container defining a longitudinal axis comprises a first lip, a second lip spaced apart from said first lip in a direction that is substantially parallel to the longitudinal axis, and a curved portion connecting said first lip with said second lip.

According to still another exemplary embodiment of the present invention, a container defining a longitudinal axis comprises an upper portion including a finish, said finish comprising a first lip extending about the longitudinal axis and defining a first inner radial distance from the longitudinal axis, and a second lip interconnected with said first lip, said second lip extending about the longitudinal axis and defining a second inner radial distance from the longitudinal axis, said second inner radial distance being larger than said first inner radial distance. The second lip is spaced apart from said first lip in a direction substantially parallel to said longitudinal axis.

Further objectives and advantages, as well as the structure and function of preferred embodiments will become apparent from a consideration of the description, drawings, and examples.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The foregoing and other features and advantages of the invention will be apparent from the following, more particular description of a preferred embodiment of the invention, as illustrated in the accompanying drawings wherein like reference numbers generally indicate identical, functionally similar, and/or structurally similar elements.

FIG. 1 depicts an exemplary embodiment of a prior art container according to the present invention;

FIG. 2 depicts an exemplary embodiment of a prior art container according to the present invention;

FIG. 3a depicts an exemplary embodiment of a container according to the present invention before sealing;

FIG. 3b depicts an exemplary embodiment of a container according to the present invention after sealing;

FIG. 4a depicts an exemplary embodiment of a container according to the present invention before sealing;

FIG. 4b depicts an exemplary embodiment of a container according to the present invention after sealing;

FIG. 5 depicts an exemplary embodiment of a container according to the present invention;

FIG. 6 depicts a side, cross-sectional view of a portion of the container of FIG. 5;

FIG. 7 depicts an enlarged portion of the cross-section of FIG. 6; and

FIG. 8 depicts an exemplary embodiment of the container of FIGS. 5-7 after sealing.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Embodiments of the invention are discussed in detail below. In describing embodiments, specific terminology is employed for the sake of clarity. However, the invention is not intended to be limited to the specific terminology so selected. While specific exemplary embodiments are discussed, it should be understood that this is done for illustration purposes only. A person skilled in the relevant art will recognize that other components and configurations can be used without parting from the spirit and scope of the invention. All references cited herein are incorporated by reference as if each had been individually incorporated.

Exemplary embodiments of the present invention provide a plastic container, such as a polyolefin or PET container. Exemplary containers according to the present invention can include a very thin lip that is adapted for thermosealing at high sealing temperatures without undesirable deformation. In an exemplary embodiment of the invention, two lips of the neck of a container may stick together to give a strong resistance to lip deformation. Additionally or alternatively, exemplary containers according to the present invention can include features for attaching a lid to the container, such as threads or press-on features. Additionally or alternatively, the container finish can include two or more lips of varying inner radii in order to present the consumer with smoothly contoured contact surface when consuming products from the container.

FIG. 1 depicts an embodiment of a prior art container 100 having a sealing lip 101 for receiving a thermosealed lid (not shown). Container 100 has a neck 102 that includes a neck flange 103 that merges with the sealing lip 101. When thermosealing container 100, sealing lip 101 must be thick enough so that the sealing temperature doesn't soften the plastic and cause the sealing lip 101 to sink into the container before foil sealing. When softening occurs, the top surface of the sealing lip 101 can bend and the edge 104 can curl into the interior of the container. As a result, the top surface, where the seal would be formed, is curved and thus has less surface area for bonding to the foil seal. As a result, the seal can fail resulting in a rejected container. To prevent the sealing lip 101 from sinking into container 100, the lip is typically 0.5 to 1.0 mm thick, for example. Such a thickness, however, results in an increase in the amount of plastic used to make the container, which, in turn, causes the container to be heavier and more expensive to construct.

The flange 103 serves several purposes in such a container. First, it provides a contact point for support on a filling line. Second, the flange provides top load strength for storing and stacking containers. However, the flange adds weight to the container that is not necessarily required for structural support of the container itself. Another disadvantage of the flange 103 is that it creates a concave inner surface in which the contained product can become entrapped during storage or use, or can be hard to remove when poured from the container.

FIG. 2 depicts an embodiment of a prior art container 200 having a sealing lip 201 and a neck 202 merging with sealing lip 201. Although the container 200 avoids the weight of an added flange, the design of the lip 201 and edge 204 suffers the same drawbacks as container 100 with lid 101 and edge 104. As similarly discussed above with respect to container 100, when thermosealing container 200, sealing lip 201 must be thick enough so that the sealing temperature doesn't soften the plastic and cause the sealing lip 201 to sink into the container before foil sealing. To prevent the sealing lip 121 from sinking into container 200, the lip must be, for example, 0.5 to 1.0 mm thick. Such a thickness, however, results in an increase in the amount of plastic used to make the container, which, in turn, causes the container to be heavier and more expensive to construct.

The sealing lips 101, 201 in these prior art containers suffer several drawbacks. For example, the edge 104, 204 can be relatively sharp, causing discomfort when a consumer drinks from the container. The sharpness of the edge 104, 204 can also be increased during the thermosealing process as the lip 101, 201 softens during sealing. Additionally, as previously mentioned, the edge 104, 204 of the lip 101, 201 can curl downward during thermosealing, resulting in an incompetent seal and a leaking container. Although making the lips thicker results in a more competent seal and less curling, it does not typically prevent sharpening of the edge 104, 204, and adds undesirable weight to the container. A finish having a lip according to the present invention avoids these and other drawbacks of known lips.

FIG. 3a depicts an exemplary embodiment of a thermosealable container 300 according to an embodiment of the present invention. Container 300 can have a finish 308 that includes an upper lip 301, a lower lip 302, a curved portion 303, a neck 304. Container 300 also includes a sidewall 305. As shown in FIG. 3a, neck 304 merges with sidewall 305; lower lip 302 merges with neck 304; curved portion 303 merges with lower lip 302; and upper lip 301 merges with curved portion 303. In such an embodiment, upper lip 301 and lower lip 302 are substantially horizontal such that the upper lip is spaced apart at a distance S from the lower lip in a direction that is substantially perpendicular to the lower lip. In an exemplary embodiment of the invention, upper lip and lower lip may be from 0.1 mm to 0.5 mm thick. In an exemplary embodiment of the invention, the distance S can be about 0.5 to 5.0 mm.

As shown in FIG. 3a, upper lip 301 has an edge 306 that may be a sharp edge prior to thermosealing container 300 with a foil seal, for example. Further, container 300 has a longitudinal axis A that extends substantially through the center of container 300. In an exemplary embodiment of the invention, neck 304 be located at a distance D1, measured radially from longitudinal axis A and edge 306 can be located at a distance D2 measured radially from longitudinal axis A. In such an embodiment, distance D2 may be greater than or equal to D1.

FIG. 3b depicts container 300 after it has been thermosealed. As shown in FIG. 3b, when heat is applied during thermosealing, the plastic softens and upper lip 301 can collapse towards lower lip 302. In an exemplary embodiment of the invention, edge 306 may contact lower lip 302, effectively removing the sharpness of edge 306 and creating a “soft” edge from the curve that connects the neck 304 with the lower lip 302. Because upper lip 301 and lower lip 302 are both substantially horizontal, when heat is applied during sealing, the degree to which the upper lip sinks into the container is limited by the lower lip 302. Instead of bending excessively, the upper lip 301 can contact lower lip 302 and, due to softening that occurs during sealing, the upper lip 301 and lower lip 302 can adhere to one another to give a strong lip resistance. Such a container may also provide a lightweight, thin lip that remains top-load resistant.

As shown in FIG. 3b, after thermosealing, the resulting sealed lip 301, 302 can have a substantially flat surface for sealing. Contrary to the prior art lips, which after thermosealing can have a curved surface, container 300 provides a flat surface 307 for thermosealing that provides more surface area for sealing the foil to the upper lip 301. In an exemplary embodiment of the invention, to create this flat surface 307, for example, heat may be applied during thermosealing reaches the finish of container 300, softening upper lip 301 and curved portion 303. When the upper lip 301 is heated during sealing, space S may act as an insulator between upper lip 301 and lower lip 302, so that lower lip 302 does not soften excessively, maintaining the integrity and structure of the lower lip and maintaining a substantially flat surface for accepting the seal. When this happens, upper lip 301 and curve 303 may collapse towards lower lip 302 and cause upper lip 301 to stick to lower lip 302.

The resulting container 300, as shown in FIG. 3b, provides other advantages over the prior art containers shown in FIGS. 1 and 2. For example, in container 300, no product becomes trapped because container 300 does not have a neck flange or some other welled area for trapping product. Additionally, the sharp edge is eliminated because edge 306 merges into lower lip 302, while at the same time, a flat surface 307 for thermosealing is maintained.

In a further exemplary embodiment of the invention, distance D2 may be less than D1. In such an embodiment, the upper lip of the container must be sufficiently bendable so as to prevent a sharp edge. FIG. 4a depicts an exemplary embodiment of a thermosealable container 400 according to an embodiment of the present invention. Container 400 can have a finish 408 that includes an upper lip 401, a lower lip 402, a curved portion 403, a neck 404. Container 400 also includes a sidewall 405. As shown in FIG. 4a, neck 404 merges with sidewall 405; lower lip 402 merges with neck 404; curved portion 403 merges with lower lip 402; and upper lip 401 merges with curved portion 402.

In such an embodiment, upper lip 401 and lower lip 402 are substantially horizontal such that the upper lip is spaced apart at a distance S from the lower lip in a direction that is substantially perpendicular to the lower lip. In an exemplary embodiment of the invention, upper lip and lower lip may be from 0.1 mm to 0.5 mm thick. In an exemplary embodiment of the invention, the distance S can be about 0.5 to 5.0 mm.

As shown in FIG. 4a, upper lip 401 has an edge 406 that may be a sharp edge prior to thermosealing container 400 with a foil seal, for example. Further, container 400 has a longitudinal axis A that extends substantially through the center of container 400. In an exemplary embodiment of the invention, neck 404 be located at a distance D1, measured radially from longitudinal axis A and edge 406 can be located at a distance D2 measured radially from longitudinal axis A. In such an embodiment, distance D2 may be less than D1.

FIG. 4b depicts container 400 after it has been thermosealed. Prior to thermosealing, a distance D2 may be less than D1 as described with respect to FIG. 4a. As shown in FIG. 4b, when heat is applied during thermosealing, the plastic softens and upper lip 401 can collapse towards lower lip 402. Substantially at about the same time, edge 406 of container 400 can bend into container 400 and extend down into the container. The resulting container 400, as shown in FIG. 4b includes a flat edge 407 for thermosealing and eliminates the problems caused by having sharp edge because the upper lip bends into the container in such a manner that the edge will not be touched by the mouth of a consumer.

Referring to FIGS. 5-8, another exemplary embodiment of a container according to the present invention is shown. The container 500 of FIGS. 5-8 can be used with a thermosealed lid, as described above in connection with previous embodiments, or alternatively, can be used with screw-on, press-on, or other known lid types. As shown in FIG. 5, container 500 can include a sidewall 505 having a base 550 attached at its lower end. Container 500 can also include an upper portion including a neck 504 and a finish 508. Container 500 can define a longitudinal axis A.

Referring to FIGS. 6 and 7, the upper portion of container 500 is shown in cross-section. As shown, the finish 508 can include an upper lip 501 and a lower lip 502. The upper lip 501 can comprise a generally horizontal surface that extends about the longitudinal axis A and terminates in an inner edge 506. Upper lip 501 and/or inner edge 506 can be formed, for example, when the container is trimmed, for example, using a trim blade, reamer, or other device, however, other methods for forming these parts are also possible. The lower lip 502 can comprise a radially-inward projection formed by an inwardly curved wall portion of the finish 508. This curved wall portion can be formed, for example, during molding of the container (e.g., blow molding or injection molding), however, other methods for forming this part are also possible. As shown, the upper lip 501 and the lower lip 502 are interconnected, for example, by an integral curved portion 509. The upper lip 501 can be spaced apart from the lower lip 502 substantially along the longitudinal axis A.

Referring to FIG. 6, the finish 508 can include an optional neck flange 503. Alternatively or additionally, the finish 508 can include threads, ridges, or other known features for retaining a screw-on, press-on, or other type of closure to the container 500.

Referring in particular to FIG. 6, the inner edge 506 of the upper lip 501 can define a first inner radial distance X1 from the longitudinal axis A. The curved wall portion of the lower lip 502 can likewise define a second inner radial distance X2 from the longitudinal axis A. According to an exemplary embodiment, the second inner radial distance X2 can be smaller than the first inner radial distance X1. According to this exemplary embodiment, the relatively smooth, curved surface of the lower lip 502 defines a smaller diameter than the inner edge 506 of the upper lip 501, and can prevent a user from contacting inner edge 506 when dispensing products from container 500 (e.g., drinking a liquid from the container or grasping solid products from the container). This feature can also be beneficial when filling solid products into the container 500 (e.g., pickles), as it can prevent the solid products from being damaged. Thereby, the container 500 can present a user with a relatively smooth, curved surface defined by lower lip 502 when they are consuming products from container 500.

As discussed above, container 500 can be sealed by thermosealing a lid, such as a foil lid (not shown) to the upper lip 501. Further details on this process are provided above with respect to the embodiments of FIGS. 3-4, and apply equally to the embodiment of FIGS. 5-8. Additionally or alternatively, a screw-on or press-on lid may be provided for use with container 500.

Referring to FIG. 8, an exemplary embodiment of container 500 is shown after a lid (not shown) is thermosealed onto the finish 508. As discussed above with respect to the embodiments of FIGS. 3-4, the upper lip 501 can collapse down onto the lower lip 502 during thermosealing, to provide a stronger sealing surface for the lid, and/or to improve the top load capacity of the container 500. Additional details regarding this process are described above in connection with FIGS. 3-4. Also, one of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that the upper lip 501 and lower lip 502 can alternatively maintain the positions shown in FIGS. 5 and 6 during thermosealing and/or any other type of capping process that may be implemented.

Containers according to embodiments of the present invention may be manufactured using current blow molding equipment and does not require any adjustments to the blower or the demoiler, for example. All that is required is replacement of the neck region mold. For example, containers incorporating the structure of the present invention can be extrusion blow molded from a polyolefin material (e.g., polyethylene or polypropylene), PET, or other known materials. The material used to form the container can be single layered or multi-layered, as is known in the art. As is known, the containers can incorporate layers of different plastics, or additives in one or more layers, to improve the gas barrier properties of the container. Small lightweight containers can be formed in an end to end fashion, with the necks connected by a moil that is trimmed away in separating the containers. As will be appreciated by persons skilled in the art, materials or methods other than those described herein are encompassed by embodiments of the present invention.

Containers according to embodiments of the present invention can be filled and processed on the same equipment as prior art containers. For example, the lower lip 302 of container 300 can curve outwardly from the neck 304, providing a surface for support during filling operations. Also, top loading performance can be improved without the use of a flange. This is possible because the product can be filled closer to the top of the container which helps aid in support.

Lightweighting of containers according to exemplary embodiments of the invention can be significant. In an exemplary 100 cc container with a height of about 10 cm and a diameter of about 2-4 cm and having a flange, as shown in FIG. 1, for example, the weight of the container may be reduced from about 7 g to about 5 g, a reduction of about 28%. Similarly, in an exemplary 125 cc container with a height of about 5 cm and a diameter of about 6 cm, as shown in FIG. 2, for example, the weight of the container may be reduced from about 6 g to about 4.5 g, a reduction of about 25%. While weight reductions of 25-30% are possible, particularly for small lightweight containers, weight reductions of up to 10% or more, or even 20% or more can be realized with larger containers as well.

The embodiments illustrated and discussed in this specification are intended only to teach those skilled in the art the best way known to the inventors to make and use the invention. Nothing in this specification should be considered as limiting the scope of the present invention. All examples presented are representative and non-limiting. The above-described embodiments of the invention may be modified or varied, without departing from the invention, as appreciated by those skilled in the art in light of the above teachings. It is therefore to be understood that, within the scope of the claims and their equivalents, the invention may be practiced otherwise than as specifically described.





 
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