Title:
Carton with handle reinforcement structure
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A carton with a handle opening formed in an end wall includes one or more inserts—each being hingedly connected to a handle panel structure for reinforcing and improving the ergonomics of the handle opening. Each handle panel structure includes a reinforcing portion that reinforces the weight-bearing edge of the handle opening. In certain embodiments, this reinforcing portion is formed by folding the multiple panels of the handle panel structure into a hollow box beam shape with a handle edge that reinforcingly aligns with the weight-bearing edge of the handle opening to provide structural integrity. In certain other embodiments, the reinforcing portion is the outermost edge of the handle panel structure, which similarly aligns to support the integrity of the handle opening. The handle opening is further cushioned and reinforced by a punchout flap that folds inward through the handle opening and wraps around the handle panel structure.



Inventors:
Suzuki, Tsugihiko (Duluth, GA, US)
Bates, Aaron (Powder Springs, GA, US)
Knotts, James (Roswell, GA, US)
Application Number:
11/232309
Publication Date:
01/11/2007
Filing Date:
09/21/2005
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
229/242
International Classes:
B65D5/46; B65D17/00
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
DEMEREE, CHRISTOPHER R
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
WESTROCK COMPANY (Richmond, VA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A carton, comprising: an outer top panel; first and second side walls hingedly connected said outer top panel; a bottom wall hingedly connected to said first side panel and secured to said second side panel; an end wall, comprising: a top end panel hingedly connected to said outer top panel and including a handle opening having a weight bearing portion; first and second side end panels hingedly connected to said first and second side walls, respectively; and a bottom end panel hingedly connected to said bottom panel; and an insert blank, comprising: an inner top panel defined by side edges and end edges; and a handle structure panel hingedly connected to said inner top panel along one of said end edges; wherein a reinforcing portion of said handle structure panel is aligned with and in reinforcing proximity to said weight bearing portion of said handle opening.

2. The carton of claim 1, wherein: said handle structure panel comprises: a first handle structure section; a handle edge hingedly connected to said first handle structure section; a second handle structure section hingedly connected to said handle edge; and a handle attachment section hingedly connected to said second handle structure section and secured to said inner top panel; and said reinforcing portion comprises the hinged connection between said first handle structure section and said handle edge.

3. The carton of claim 1, wherein: said reinforcing portion of said handle structure panel comprises an end edge; and each side end flap comprises a cutout having dimensions complementary to the dimensions of at least part of the handle opening.

4. A carton, comprising: an outer top panel; first and second side walls hingedly connected said outer top panel; a bottom wall hingedly connected to said first side panel and secured to said second side panel; an end wall, comprising: a top end panel hingedly connected to said outer top panel and including a handle opening having a weight bearing portion; first and second side end panels hingedly connected to said first and second side walls, respectively; and a bottom end panel hingedly connected to said bottom panel; an insert blank, comprising: an inner top panel defined by side edges and end edges; a handle structure panel hingedly connected to said inner top panel along one of said end edges.

5. The carton of claim 4, said handle structure panel comprising: a first handle structure section; a handle edge hingedly connected to said first handle structure section; a second handle structure section hingedly connected to said handle edge; and a handle attachment section hingedly connected to said second handle structure section and secured to said inner top panel; a hinged connection between said first handle structure section and said handle edge.

6. The carton of claim 4, wherein the inner top panel extends the length of the carton.

7. The carton of claim 4 wherein the inner to panel is further hingedly connected to a second handle structure panel.

8. A carton, comprising: a plurality of panels that cooperate to form the top, sidewalls, bottom, and ends of said carton; an inner top panel defined by side edges and end edges; a handle structure panel hingedly connected to said inner top panel along one of said edges, wherein said handle structure panel comprises a first handle structure section; a first handle edge hingedly connected to said first handle structure section; a second handle structure section hingedly connected to said first handle edge; and a handle attachment section hingedly connected to said second handle structure section and secured to said inner top panel.

9. The carton of claim 8, further comprising an outer top panel defined by side edge and end edges, positioned adjacent to said inner top panel.

10. The carton of claim 9, wherein said outer top panel further comprises a second handle edge and a handle punchout.

11. The carton of claim 10, wherein said out top panel is folded such that said second handle edge is positioned proximate to said first handle edge and said punchout is positioned proximate to said second handle structure.

12. A carton, comprising: a plurality of panels that cooperate to form the top, sidewalls, bottom, and ends of said carton; a top panel defined by side edges and end edges; a handle structure panel hingedly connected to said top panel along one of said edges, wherein said handle structure panel comprises a first handle structure section; a first handle edge hingedly connected to said first handle structure section; a second handle structure section hingedly connected to said handle edge; and a handle attachment section hingedly connected to said second handle structure section and secured to said top panel.

13. The carton of claim 12, further comprising a bottom panel defined by side edge and end edges, positioned opposite said top panel.

14. The carton of claim 13, further comprising a bottom end panel hingedly connected to said bottom panel.

15. The carton of claim 14, wherein said bottom end panel further comprises a second handle edge and a handle punchout.

16. The carton of claim 15, wherein said bottom end panel is folded to position said second handle edge proximate to said first handle edge and said punchout proximate to said second handle structure.

17. A carton, comprising: a plurality of panels that cooperate to form the top, sidewalls, bottom, and ends of said carton; a top panel defined by side edges and end edges and hingedly connected to one of said plurality of panels; a handle structure panel hingedly connected to said top panel along one of said edges, wherein said handle structure panel comprises a reinforcing portion that is aligned with and in reinforcing proximity to said weight bearing portion of the said handle opening.

18. The carton of claim 17, further comprising a bottom panel defined by side edge and end edges, positioned opposite said top panel.

19. The carton of claim 18, further comprising a bottom end panel hingedly connected to said bottom panel.

20. The carton of claim 19, wherein said bottom end panel further comprises a second handle edge and a handle punchout.

21. The carton of claim 20, wherein said bottom end panel is folded to position said second handle edge proximate to said first handle edge and said punchout proximate to said second handle structure.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATION

This application claims the benefit of the filing date of U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/696,792, entitled “Carton with Handle Reinforcement Structure,” filed on Jul. 6, 2005 under 35 U.S.C. §111(b), the entirety of which is incorporated herein by reference.

TECHNICAL FIELD

This invention relates generally to a carton having a reinforced handle in an end wall, and particularly, to a carton having a handle opening reinforced by a handle structure panel that allows the carton to be used to carry heavier loads.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Cartons for encasing and dispensing multiple articles such as beverage bottles or cans are useful for enabling consumers to transport, store, and access the articles for consumption. To facilitate carrying such cartons, carton it is desirable to include handles that are sufficiently strong to withstand the stress generated by the weight of articles enclosed. Handles are typically integral to or attached to a wall of the carton. The handles should also be ergonomic—distributing the weight of heavy articles if needed to minimize the user's fatigue, and preventing undue pressure or stress on any portion of the user's hand that engages the handle.

Another challenge arises when the burst strength of the material comprising the adjacent wall is insufficient to avoid detaching the handle or tearing the wall itself. One potential solution is to construct the carton from a stronger material, such as corrugated board, or from sheet material having a relatively higher caliper. As fully enclosed cartons typically are formed from a single sheet of material, and cost tends to increase according to the strength and thickness of material used to construct the carton walls, this approach is expensive because it effectively amounts to reinforcing all six walls (top, sides, bottom, and ends) of the carton irrespective of the relative magnitude of the forces borne by each wall.

According to another approach, an additional layer of sheet material is used as an insert that that reinforces the integrity of a handle as well as that of the end wall. For instance, a handle opening in an end flap of an end wall of a carton may be reinforced by overlaying an insert over the handle opening and securing the insert to the end flap. To avoid obstructing the handle opening, the insert must have a similar or somewhat larger opening that is aligned with the handle opening to reinforce its edges. Similarly, additional apertures or cutouts are often required in side flaps to prevent overlapping or obstructing the handle aperture. However, handle openings reinforced using this approach have exposed edges that are relatively keen, which may produce discomfort for the user who inserts fingers into the handle opening to lift the carton. Moreover, by overlaying an insert over an endless edged handle opening, the entire periphery is reinforced even though only the weight bearing portion of the handle opening needs such reinforcement. Furthermore, precise alignment of the apertures and cutouts in the side end flaps with the handle opening and the insert opening is difficult to accomplish on high-speed out plant equipment (OPE) such as at a bottling facility, as part of the process of erecting and loading the cartons.

What is needed is a carton that has a reinforced end handle that accommodates heavier loads without failing and is ergonomic and comfortable to use, where the carton walls are efficiently constructed without wasting expensive material in carton walls that are less likely to fail or by reinforcing portions of the handle that do not bear weight.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The various embodiments of the present invention overcome the shortcomings of the prior art by providing a carton formed from a single sheet of paperboard or other foldable sheet material, the carton having a handle opening disposed in at least one end wall, wherein at least the weight bearing portion of the handle opening is reinforced by an insert that includes a handle structure panel formed from the same or an additional sheet of material as the carton. All or a portion of the insert including the handle structure panel is secured to the top and/or the end wall, and a reinforcing portion of the handle structure panel is aligned in reinforcing proximity to the weight-bearing edge of the handle opening. Advantageously, the handle structure panel can be assembled and secured within the carton in alignment with the weight-bearing portion of handle opening prior to the carton being loaded into a packaging machine to be erected and loaded. As another advantage, the configuration provides a multi-ply hand engaging surface that is more comfortable for the user, particularly in combination with a hand cushioning flap or a hollow core arrangement.

More specifically, the exemplary carton incorporating the various aspects of the invention is formed from a carton blank that includes a bottom panel, a first side panel hingedly connected to the bottom panel, an outer top panel hingedly connected to the first side panel, a second side panel hingedly connected to the outer top panel. When the carton is erected, these panels become the top, bottom, and side walls of the carton. The carton blank also includes several end panels that form at least one end wall structure. Each end wall structure is formed from a bottom end panel hingedly connected to the bottom panel and a top end flap hingedly connected to the outer top panel. The top end flap includes a handle opening disposed therethrough. The handle opening is formed by partially detaching a handle punchout by tearing, cutting, punching out or otherwise partially excising a section of the carton blank along a handle severance line. The end wall structure also includes side end flaps hingedly connected to the first and second side panels respectively, each side end flap having dimensions tailored to avoid interfering with or overlapping the handle opening.

In certain embodiments of the invention, the insert is formed from an insert blank that includes an inner top panel to which a handle structure panel is hingedly connected along each of its opposing end edges. The reinforcing portion of the handle structure panel includes an end edge that is aligned with and in reinforcing proximity to the weight bearing portion of the said handle opening. Each handle structure panel is foldable, preferably via in-plant equipment (IPE). The IPE also places the outside surface of the top inner panel in face contacting arrangement with the inside surface of the outer top panel, aligning the hinged connections between the inner top panel and each handle structure panel with the fold line that hingedly connects the outer top panel to the respective top end flap. The outside surface of the handle structure panel is secured to the inside surface of the top end flap in alignment with and proximity to the weight bearing portion of the handle opening in the top end flap. Alternatively, instead of a single inner top panel, dual inserts are positioned near either end of the carton, with each insert including a handle structure panel as described above.

In addition, each side end flap includes a cutout having dimensions that are complementary to the dimensions of at least part of the handle opening. The bottom panel is secured to the second side panel to place the partially erected carton into a collapsed tubular configuration.

When the carton is erected, preferably via out-plant equipment such as a packaging machine, the walls of the collapsed tubular carton are pulled apart and the side end flaps are folded toward the interior of the carton. The bottom and top end flaps are folded toward the interior of the carton as well. The top end flap forms the outermost ply of the reinforced composite handle.

In a certain alternative embodiments, the handle structure panel includes a first handle structure section that is defined from the inner top panel by a hinged connection and is made easily foldable, with respect to the inner top panel, by a succession of spaced fold apertures or fold lines, or a combination of spaced apertures and fold lines. A handle edge is hingedly connected along a fold line to the first handle structure section. The handle edge is hingedly connected along a fold line to second handle structure section, which is hingedly connected along a fold line to a handle structure attachment. Each handle structure panel is foldable, preferably via in-plant equipment (IPE), into a collapsed hollow core structure which can be held in place by securing the inside surface of handle structure attachment to the inside surface of inner top panel. The IPE also places the outside surface of the top inner panel in face contacting arrangement with the inside surface of the outer top panel, aligning the hinged connections between the inner top panel and each first handle structure with the fold line that hingedly connects the outer top panel to the respective top end flap. The outside surface of the first handle structure is secured to the inside surface of the top end flap in alignment with and proximity to the weight bearing portion of the handle opening in the top end flap. The bottom panel is secured to the second side panel to place the partially erected carton into a collapsed tubular configuration.

When the carton is erected, preferably via out-plant equipment such as a packaging machine, the walls of the collapsed tubular carton are pulled apart and the side end flaps are folded toward the interior of the carton. The bottom end flaps are folded toward the interior of the carton as well. When the top end flaps are folded toward the interior of the carton, the collapsed hollow core structure is forced into the shape of a box beam, with the handle edge forming the lower edge of the box beam shape, and the first and second handle structure sections forming the sides of the box beam shape. The first and second handle structures are substantially parallel to the top end panel, creating the intermediate plies of the reinforced composite handle. The top end flap forms the outermost ply of the reinforced composite handle.

The box beam shape provides additional structural integrity to the weight bearing portion of the handle opening in addition to the additional layers of sheet material. However, other hollow core configurations are contemplated as well, including but not limited to, a beam having semicircular or triangular cross section with one surface of the beam being secured to the top end flap in alignment with the weight bearing portion of the handle opening.

According to one aspect of the invention, the handle structure panel may be just long enough to reinforce the weight bearing portion of the handle opening, or may extend along the top end flap as long as the entire width of the outer panel, which may be co-extensive with the width of the end wall of the carton.

According to another aspect of the invention, the handle punchout that is partially detached to form the handle opening is foldable into the interior of the carton to wrap around the reinforcing portion of the handle panel structure, forming the innermost ply of the reinforced composite handle. A handle edge portion of the handle punchout further reinforces and cushions the hand-engaging portion as it is placed in registry with the reinforcing portion of the handle structure panel.

According to yet another aspect of the invention, the insert blank may be integral to the carton blank. More to the point, the outer top panel is hingedly connected along a fold line to the first side panel, which is hingedly connected along a fold line to the bottom panel, which is hingedly connected along a fold line to the second side panel, which is hingedly connected along a fold line to the insert blank. The handle structure panel is assembled as described with respect to the embodiments described above, and the carton is configured in a collapsed tubular state by securing the insert blank to the outer top panel in a face contacting arrangement as described above.

In another alternative embodiment, the insert blank is substituted for the outer top panel, with the handle structure panels replacing the top end flaps, and the handle openings being disposed through bottom end flaps, which are extended in length. Thus, the first side panel is hingedly connected along a fold line to the top panel, which comprises the insert blank. The top panel is hingedly connected along a fold line to the second side panel, which is hingedly connected along a fold line to the bottom panel. The handle structure panel is assembled and secured as described above, and the carton is configured in a collapsed tubular state by securing the bottom panel to the first side panel. To erect the carton, each collapsed hollow core structure is erected as it is folded toward the interior of the carton, and the corresponding bottom end flap is folded and secured thereto in overlapping relationship. The handle edge of the hollow core structure is aligned with and in reinforcing proximity to the weight bearing portion of the handle opening.

Certain of the embodiments include a dispenser formed at least in part from the top wall of the carton, which may extend onto the side walls as well. The dispenser is formed by at least partially removing a detachable portion that is defined by a tear line that can be easily broken by tear initiation means, such as push tabs, tear tabs, or tear strips, or any combination thereof. The carton is opened by breaking the tear lines and removing the detachable portion to access the articles within the carton. In embodiments having an inner top panel, a means for carton access is formed in the inner top panel, which may be defined by at least a second tear line and a second detachable portion or portions that are fully or partially detachable from the carton. In these embodiments, the carton is opened by removing the first detachable portion and then by breaking the second set of tear lines to gain access to the articles within.

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 illustrates embodiments of carton blanks, according to the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a longitudinal cross-section of an erected carton according to the present invention, formed from the blanks of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of an embodiment of an erected carton, according to the present invention.

FIG. 4 is a plan view of another embodiment of a carton blank, according to the present invention.

FIG. 5 is a plan view of another embodiment of a carton blank, according to the present invention.

FIG. 6 is a plan view of another embodiment of a carton blank, according to the present invention.

FIG. 7 is a plan view of another embodiment of a carton blank, 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. 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 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 limited but serve as a basis for the claims, and for teaching one skilled in the art to variously employ the present invention.

With regard to the drawings, wherein like numerals indicate like elements throughout the several views, the drawings illustrate several exemplary embodiments of a carton that is particularly useful for enclosing and carrying relatively heavy articles such as large glass bottles. Generally speaking, the exemplary cartons are formed from any foldable material, but preferably foldable sheet material such as paperboard, corrugated board, plastic, combinations or laminates of these materials, and the like. Each of the exemplary cartons includes an insert or other reinforcing panel including a handle structure panel that reinforces a handle opening formed in an end wall of the carton. The reinforcing portion of the handle structure panel aligns with the weight bearing portion of the handle opening.

Referring now to FIG. 1, there is shown an embodiment of a carton blank 100 and an insert blank 150, according to the present invention. The carton blank 100 includes at least four primary panels for forming the carton 200 shown in FIG. 2. The panels of the carton blank 100 include an edge panel 102, a bottom panel 104, a first side panel 106, an outer top panel 108, and a second side panel 110. The panels 102, 104, 106, 108, 110, inclusive, are hingedly connected one to the next. More specifically, the edge panel 102 is hingedly connected to the bottom panel 104 along fold line 112. The bottom panel 104 is hingedly connected to the first side panel 106 along fold line 114. The first side panel 106 is hingedly connected to the outer top panel 108 along fold line 116. And the outer top panel 108 is hingedly connected to the second side panel 110 along fold line 118. In FIG. I a unitary blank 100 is shown; those skilled in the art will understand that two or more blanks may be used to form the illustrated blank 100 as well as all the blanks taught and claimed herein.

Each of the panels 104, 106, 108, 110 is connected to opposing and preferably symmetric end panels, defined in part by fold lines that extend transversely—with respect to the orientation shown in the figure—along opposite transverse edges of the respective panel 104, 106, 108, 110. When erected, the end panels along each edge of the blank cooperate to form a respective end closure structure. In the embodiments illustrated throughout, each pair of end panels and end closure structures are sufficiently identical that like references have been used, with “a” or “b” affixed to distinguish the components of one end of the carton from the other. In other words, with regard to the illustrated embodiments, typically what applies to the elements designated with an “a” reference applies equally to those elements designated with a “b” reference. Accordingly, for the sake of clarity, the present teaching and description will refer to only those elements with the “a” reference unless a clear understanding of the illustrated embodiments requires a discussion of an element with a “b” reference.

The bottom panel 104 is hingedly connected to bottom end panel 120a along a fold line 130a. The first side panel 106 is hingedly connected to a first side end panel 122a along a fold line 132a. The outer top panel 108 is hingedly connected to an outer top end panel 124a along a fold line 134a. The second side panel 110 is hingedly connected to a second side end panel 126a along a fold line 136a.

The blank 100 further includes a tear line 140 and means for tear initiation 142. The tear line 140 may be a severance line or any other weakened line that facilitates access to the interior of a carton according to the present invention. It is contemplated that both the tear line 140 and means for tear initiation 142 include, but are not limited to, a line of perforations, a line of short slits, a line of half cuts, a single half cut, pull tape, rip cords, and any combination of perforations, slits, score lines, half cuts, tape, cord, or the equivalent. As understood by those skilled in the art, the tear line 140 and means for tear initiation 142 assist the user with opening the carton and accessing the articles therein. As further understood by one skilled in the art, here the curvature, shape, and/or orientation of the tear line 140 and means for tear initiation 142 are merely design choices. Hence, the tear line 140 and means for tear initiation 142 elements are merely illustrative and not limiting.

The outer top panel end flap 124a further includes elements that partially define a handle. These elements include a first handle edge fold line 144a adjacent to one side of a handle edge 145a, and second handle edge fold line 146a adjacent to a distal side of the handle edge 145a. Preferably, but not necessarily so, the fold lines 144a, 146a are substantially straight and parallel to each other. A handle cut line 148a defines the remainder of the handle. Here the handle is illustrated as a sinuous shape, believed to be comfortable to the user, but all handle shapes are contemplated and included in the scope of the claims. When folded along the fold lines 144a, 146a as described below with reference to the erection of the carton 200, handle punchout 149a rests within the erected carton.

Continuing with reference to FIG. 1, there is shown an embodiment of a carton insert blank 150 according to the present invention. The illustrated insert blank 150 includes three panels for forming, together with the carton blank 100, the carton 200. The panels of the insert blank 150 include an inner top panel 151, and two handle structure panels 152a, 152b. Similar to the carton blank 100 explained herein, the illustrated insert blank 150 is symmetric and the opposite sides are substantially identical. Accordingly, substantially identical elements are designated “a” or “b” and the present discussion will be with reference only to the elements designated “a” unless otherwise required.

Each handle structure panel 152a further includes four panels for reinforcing the improved handle structure. The illustrated four panels are a first handle structure section 154a, a handle edge 156a, a second handle structure section 158a, and a handle structure attachment 160a. The first handle structure section 154a is hingedly connected to the handle edge 156a along fold line 162a. The handle edge 156a is hingedly connected to the second handle structure section 158a along fold line 164a. And the second handle structure section 158a is hingedly connected to the handle structure attachment 160a along fold line 166a.

The insert blank 150 further includes several preferable but alternatively optional elements, namely, fold apertures 170a and fold lines 172a. Inner panel 151 is hingedly connected to handle structure panel 152a along fold apertures 170a. As understood by those skilled in the art, fold apertures 170a reduce the bulk along a folded carton edge as well as the resistance of layered panels to folding. Similarly, fold lines 172a positioned between or in lieu of the fold apertures 170a may increase the ease of folding. The insert blank 150 further includes an optional means for carton access 174. Means for carton access 174 includes at least one tear line and an optional means for tear initiation, as described above with regard to the carton blank 100.

With reference now to FIGS. 2 and 1, one method of erecting the illustrated carton 200 includes folding and then connecting or otherwise securing the edge panel 102 to the second side panel 110. To form a partially erected open ended tubular carton, the edge panel 102 is secured to the second side 110; preferably such that the fold line 112 is immediately adjacent to the free edge of the second side panel 110. The insert blank 150 is then inserted through the tubular carton and positioned adjacent to the top panel 108. In the illustrated embodiments, the inner top panel 151 is connected or otherwise secured to the top panel 108, but such attachment is not required. For the purpose of positioning the insert 150, the optional fold apertures 170a or optional fold line 172a may be aligned with and placed immediately adjacent to the top panel fold line 134a. Next, the handle panel structure 152a is folded to create a hollow core handle by folding the handle structure section 154a inwardly along the fold apertures 170a and/or fold lines 172a, the handle edge 156a inwardly along the fold line 162a, the second handle edge 158a inwardly along the fold line 164a, and the handle structure attachment 160a outwardly along the fold line 166a before connecting or otherwise securing the attachment 160a to the inner panel 151. Fold line 162a is aligned substantially with fold line 144a so as to reinforce the weight bearing edge of the handle opening. Thus, the reinforcing portion of the handle structure panel 152a includes fold line 162a and handle edge 156a. As used herein, hollow is defined broadly beyond having a space or cavity inside to include not being attached so that a space or cavity could exist if adjacent structure sections were parted.

Alternatively, the insert blank 150 may be attached to the top panel 108 at different times during a sequence of erecting the tubular carton. In an alternative method of erecting, the handle panel structure 152a is folded to create the hollow core handle described herein before being attached to the top panel 108. Thereafter, the insert blank 150 with erected handle may be connected or secured to the top panel 108 before or after the edge panel 102 is connected or secured to the second side panel 110 to form the tubular carton.

As best shown in FIG. 2, the handle panel structure 152a is folded and attached to the inner panel 151 to form a hollow core handle of substantially parallel sides which, in cross-section, resembles the shape of a box beam. Alternative hollow core handle shapes are contemplated herein, including those with an angled cross-section and those with a curved cross-section. In addition, alternative handle edges are contemplated herein, including those comprising only the edge of a single fold line such as 162a or 164a, and those comprising a curved surface.

Upon erecting the handle structure panel 152a and positioning the top inner panel 151 adjacent to the top outer panel 108 of the tubular carton, the handle structure panel 152a and top end panel 124a may resemble the partially folded carton end wall configuration represented by the dashed lines of FIG. 2. There the handle structure panel 152a, which may or may not be connected or otherwise secured to the top end panel 124a, is poised to allow loading of the articles 202. Here, the articles to be loaded are beverage containers such as glass bottles. After the articles are grouped and loaded through either or both of the open ends of the carton 200, the side end panels 122a and 126a, the bottom end panel 120a, the handle structure panel 152a, and the top end panel 124a are fully folded and secured together to form the end wall structure. Thereafter, handle punchout 149a may be pushed inwardly and upwardly to partially wrap the erected handle panel structure along the first handle section 154a, the handle edge 156a, and second handle section 158a. When fully erected, the illustrated handle structure comprises a hollow core defined by handle panel sections 154a, 158a and a handle edge 156a, which provides a carton handle of improved performance and structure integrity. As understood by those skilled in the art, the hollow core handle structure is created by the configuration of the material rather than the composition of the material.

As shown in FIG. 2, the handle structure panel 152a is erected as the top end panel 124a is fully folded and secured to form the end wall structure. In the exemplary embodiment, cutouts C (shown in FIG. 1) in the side end panels 122a, 126a remove material such that the at least partially formed handle structure panel 152a is not obstructed by the side end panels 122a, 126a as the top end panel 124a is fully folded and secured to form the end wall structure. The shape and dimensions of the cutouts C are otherwise merely design choices. For example, the cutouts C may be made such that a pointed section remains in the side end panels 122a, 126a as shown in FIG. 1 or, alternatively, the cutouts C may be made such that the pointed section does not remain as in shown in FIG. 4 for the side end panels 322a, 325a. An additional example of a cutout C is shown in FIG. 6.

FIG. 3 introduces an alternative erected carton 210 that includes one or more insert blanks 212. Here, the insert blank 212 comprises the same handle structure panel 152a as the insert blank 150 described in FIGS. 1 and 2. Further, the assembly and erection of the carton 210 is substantially identical to the assembly and erection of the carton 200 so it is not necessary to teach again the erecting or assembling of this carton 210, except to point out that the notable difference between the respective cartons 200, 210 is that the insert blank 212 only partially spans the top panel 108. Accordingly, alternative inserts may be of different lengths or widths, and may or may not include elements described with reference to the insert blank 150, best shown in FIG. 1. For example, the insert 212 does not include means for carton access. In addition, the insert 212 may or may not be connected or secured to the top panel 108 or the top end panel 124a. Further, an insert 212 may be located at each end wall structure or, alternatively, only one insert 212 may be positioned at any location of the carton for purposes of providing an improved handle.

Referring now to FIG. 4, there is shown an alternative embodiment of a unitary carton blank according to the present invention. This blank 300 includes four primary panels for forming the walls of a carton including an outer top panel 304, a first side panel 306, a bottom panel 308, a second side panel 310, as well as an inner top panel 311 for reinforcing the outer top panel 304. The panels 304, 306, 308, 310, 311, inclusive, are hingedly connected one to the next. More specifically, the outside top panel 304 is hingedly connected to the first side panel 306 along fold line 312. The first side panel 306 is hingedly connected to the bottom panel 308 along fold line 314. The bottom panel 308 is hingedly connected to the second side panel 310 along fold line 316. The second side panel 310 is hingedly connected to the inner top panel 311 along fold line 318. In FIG. 4, a unitary blank 300 is shown; those skilled in the art will understand that two or more blanks may be used to form the illustrated blank 300.

Each of the panels 304, 306, 308, 310, 311, inclusive, in hingedly connected to opposing preferably symmetric end panels defined in part by transverse fold lines disposed along opposite transverse edges of the respective 304, 306, 308, 310, 311. When erected, the end panels along each edge of the blank 300 cooperate to form a respective end closure structure. Similar to the carton blank 100 taught above, the present illustrated blank 300 is symmetric and the opposite sides are substantially identical. Accordingly, substantially identical elements are designated “a” or “b” and the present discussion will continue with reference to the elements designated “a” unless otherwise required.

The outer top panel 304 is hingedly connected to outer top end panel 320a along fold line 330a. The first side panel 306 is hingedly connected to a first side end panel 322a along fold line 332a. The bottom panel 308 is hingedly connected to a bottom end panel 324a along fold line 334a. The second side panel 310 is hingedly connected to a second side end panel 325a along fold line 336a. The inner top panel 311 is hingedly connected to a handle structure section 326a. The handle structure section 326a further comprises a handle edge 327a, a second handle section 328a, and a handle structure 329a. The handle structure section 326a is hingedly connected to the handle edge 327a along a fold line 337a. The handle edge 327a is hingedly connected to the second handle section 328a along fold line 338a. The second handle section 328a is hingedly connected to the handle structure attachment 329a along fold line 339a.

The blank 300 further includes two tear lines 340a, 340b and means for tear initiation 342, similar to the tear line 140 and means for tear initiation 142, respectively, taught above with regard to the blank 100. As the respective tear lines 140, 340a, 340b and means for tear initiation 142, 342 are substantially similar; no new discussion is required here. The inner top panel 311 further includes several preferable but alternatively optional elements, namely, fold apertures 346a and fold lines 348a. Finally, the illustrated handle structure section 326a is hingedly connected to the top inner panel 311 along the fold apertures 346a and fold lines 348a.

The outer top panel end flap 320a further includes elements that partially define a handle. These elements include a first handle edge fold line 350a adjacent to one side of a handle edge 352a, and a second handle edge fold line 354a adjacent to a distal side of the handle edge 352a. Preferably, but not necessarily, the fold lines 350a, 354a are substantially straight and parallel to each other. A handle cut line 356a defines the remainder of the handle. Here the handle is illustrated as a sinuous shape, believed to be comfortable to the user, but all handle shapes are contemplated and included in the scope of the claims. When folded along the fold lines 350a, 354a as taught above with reference to the erection of the carton 200, handle punchout 358a rests within the erected carton.

One method of erecting an open ended tubular carton formed from the blank 300, includes folding and then connecting or otherwise securing the inner top panel 311 to the inner side of the outer top panel 304, preferably such that the free edge of the inner top panel is immediately adjacent to the top panel fold line 312. The remainder of the present method will be easily understood by those skilled in the art who read the method taught herein with regard to the erection of the cartons 200, 210, shown in FIGS. 2 and 3.

Referring now to FIG. 5, there is shown another alternative embodiment of a unitary carton blank according to the present invention. This blank 400 includes four primary panels for forming an open end tubular carton. The panels of this blank 400 include a first side panel 402, a top panel 404, a second side panel 406, a bottom panel 408, and an edge panel 410. The panels 402, 406, 408, 410, inclusive, are hingedly connected together. More specifically, the first side panel 402 is hingedly connected to the top panel 404 along a fold line 412. The top panel 404 is hingedly connected to the second side panel 406 along a fold line 414. The second side panel 406 is hingedly connected to the bottom panel 408 along a fold line 416. The bottom panel 408 is hingedly connected to the edge panel 410 along a fold line 418. In FIG. 5 a unitary blank 400 is shown; those skilled in the art will understand that two or more blanks may be used to form the illustrated blank 400.

Each of the illustrated panels 402, 406, 408, 410, inclusive, include opposing and preferably symmetrical end panels defined in part by transverse fold lines disposed along opposite transverse edges of the panels 402, 406, 408, 410. When erected, the end panels along each edge of the blank cooperate to form a respective end closure structure. Similar to the carton blank 100 explained above, the present illustrated blank 400 is symmetric and the opposite sides are substantially identical. Accordingly, substantially identical elements are designated “a” or “b” and the present discussion will continue with reference to the elements designated “a” unless otherwise required.

The first side panel 402 is hingedly connected to first side end panel 420a along a fold line 430a. The top panel 404 is hingedly connected to a top end panel 422a along a fold line 432a. The second side panel 406 is hingedly connected to a second side panel 424a along a fold line 434a. The bottom panel 408 is hingedly connected to a bottom end panel 426a along a fold line 436a.

The illustrated bottom end panel 426a further comprises elements that define a handle. These elements include a first handle edge fold line 440a adjacent to one side of a handle edge 442a, and a second handle edge fold line 444a adjacent to a distal side of the handle edge 442a. Preferably, but not necessarily so, the fold lines 440a, 444a are substantially straight and parallel to each other. A handle cut line 446a defines the remainder of the handle. Here the handle is illustrated as a sinuous shape, believed to be comfortable to the user, but all handle shapes are contemplated and included in the scope of the claims. When folded along the fold lines 440a, 444a, as taught above with reference to the erection of the carton 200, handle punchout 448a rests within the erected carton.

The illustrated top end panel 422a further includes four panels for forming an improved handle structure. Those panels include a first handle structure section 454a, a handle edge 456a, a second handle structure section 458a, and a handle structure attachment 460a. The first handle structure section 454a is hingedly connected to the handle edge 456a along fold line 462a. The handle edge 456a is hingedly connected to the second handle structure section 458a along fold line 464a. And the second handle structure section 458a is hingedly connected to the handle structure attachment 460a along fold line 466a. In some embodiments, the handle punchout 448a is attached or otherwise secured to the second handle structure 458a.

The illustrated blank 400 further includes tear line 470 and means for tear initiation 472, similar to the tear line 140 and means for tear initiation 142 taught above with regard to the blank 100. As the respective tear lines 140, 470 and means for tear initiation 142, 472 are substantially similar, no new discussion is required here.

One method of erecting an open ended tubular carton formed from the blank 400 includes folding and then connecting or otherwise securing the edge panel 410 to the first side panel 402, preferably such that the free edge of the first side panel is immediately adjacent to the edge panel fold line 418. The remainder of the present method will be understood by those skilled in the art who read the method taught herein with regard to the erection of the cartons 200, 212, shown in FIGS. 2 and 3.

Referring now to FIG. 6, there is shown another alternative embodiment of carton blanks according to the present invention. The carton blank 500 and the carton insert blank 550 are somewhat similar to the carton blank 100 and the carton insert blank 150, respectively, as described above. Accordingly, certain differences between the carton blanks 100, 500 and between the carton insert blanks 150, 550 will be described below. A top inner panel 551 and the handle structure panels 552a, 552b of the carton insert blank 550 are substantially as wide as the outer top panel 508 of the carton blank 500. Further, each of the side end panels 522a, 522b, 526a, 526b includes a tab T. The carton blank 500 and carton insert blank 550 are folded and secured to form a carton (not shown) somewhat as described above for the carton blank 100 and carton blank insert 150 where each tab T may be captured by or inserted into a respective end of the hollow box beam portion of an erected handle structure panel 552a, 552b to provide additional stability or to otherwise prevent bowing of the top or side walls of the carton when the carton is lifted.

It is contemplated that the maximum width of the carton blank insert 550 may be the same or less than that of the outer top panel 508 and that the width of the top inner panel 551 may be the same, more, or less than that of the handle structure panels 552a, 552b. As the width of the top inner panel 551 and the handle structure panels 552a, 552b near the width of the outer top panel 508, the top panel of the carton becomes stiffer and the area above the handle is further strengthened. As the width of the outer top inner panel 551 and the handle structure panels 552a, 552b are reduced, the amount of material and associated cost is reduced.

Referring now to FIG. 7, there is shown another alternative embodiment of carton blanks according to the present invention. The carton blank 600 and the carton insert blank 650 are somewhat similar to the carton blank 100 and the carton insert blank 150, respectively, as described above. Accordingly, certain differences between the carton blanks 100, 600 and between the carton insert blanks 150, 650 will be described. The handle reinforcing portion of the carton insert blank 650 include the outermost edges E of handle structure panels 654a, 654b. The carton blank 600 is erected to form a carton (not shown) substantially as described above for the carton blank 100 and carton insert blank 650 is folded and secured inside the carton in a similar manner as described with respect to the carton blank insert 150. More specifically, the carton insert blank 650 is secured to the carton such that the top inner panel 651 is secured to the outer top panel 608 and the handle structure panels 654a, 654b are secured to or otherwise disposed in a face contacting arrangement with the area above the handle openings on the top end panels 624a, 624b. Outermost edges E of the handle structure panels 654a, 654b are reinforcingly aligned with the fold line 644a. The thickness or caliper of carton insert blank 650 may correspond to the distance between fold line 644a and 646a, such that when the carton is erected and the punchout 649a is folded inwardly into the carton, a cushioning surface is formed by handle edge 645a.

However, it is preferred that the thickness of each handle structure panel 654a, 654b is limited so that the handle structure panel 654a, 654b does not impede the respective top end panels 624a, 624b from overlapping or otherwise being secured to the inside or outside surface of a respective pair of side end panels 622a, 624a and 622b, 624b, in a face contacting arrangement. Rather than requiring the cutouts C to avoid the handle structure panels 654a, 654b, the side end panels 622a, 622b, 624a, 624b include cutouts C that are shaped and positioned to be complementary to the handle openings of the carton such that the side end panels 622a, 622b, 624a, 624b at least partially reinforce the thickness of the handle opening in respective side wall of the carton. Thus, the weight-bearing portion of each handle opening is reinforced at least in part by the reinforcing portion, edge E, of each handle structure panel 654a, 654b and by the cutouts C formed in the side end panels 622a, 622b, 624a, 624b.

It must be emphasized that the law does not require and it is economically prohibitive to illustrate and teach every possible embodiment of the present claims. Hence, 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. For example, any of the embodiments described herein may be implemented with a single insert that extends the entire length of the top wall, or with an individual insert that is disposed at or near either or both ends of the carton, as shown in FIG. 3. All such variations, modifications, and combinations are included herein by the scope of this disclosure and the following claims.