Title:
Small item dispenser with maze
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A dispenser for dispensing small items such as pieces of candy is disclosed herein. The dispenser includes a container having a first major side, a second major side, and a storage volume positioned between the first and second major sides. The dispenser includes a dispensing member for carrying the items from the storage volume to a dispensing opening. The dispenser also includes a maze structure within the container. At least one major side of the container includes transparent material to allow a user to view the items within the container as the user tries to move the items through the maze toward the dispensing member for discharging the items from the dispensing opening.



Inventors:
Bieger, Walter I. (St. Paul, MN, US)
Sandberg, Thom (Minneapolis, MN, US)
Application Number:
11/447221
Publication Date:
12/20/2007
Filing Date:
06/05/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A24F15/04
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
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20060000739Package containing a first compartment for storing unused disposable cleaning products and a second compartment for storing used disposable cleaning productsJanuary, 2006Kadish
20030075551Cloth dispenser systemApril, 2003Robert III
20060157494Disposable protective padsJuly, 2006Hayman
20050011803Personal dispenser device with audio features and clockJanuary, 2005Chafoulias
20050178778System and method for monitored delivery of productsAugust, 2005Berg et al.
20090145920TISSUE CASSETTE DISPENSING APPARATUSJune, 2009Kerrod et al.



Primary Examiner:
WAGGONER, TIMOTHY R
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MERCHANT & GOULD P.C. (MINNEAPOLIS, MN, US)
Claims:
We claim:

1. A dispenser comprising: a container including a first major side with a flat surface, a second major side with a flat surface, and a storage volume positioned between the first and second major sides; a dispensing opening; and a maze structure positioned within the storage volume, the maze structure defining at least one path of travel going from the storage volume to the dispensing opening.

2. The dispenser of claim 1, wherein one of at least the first major side and the second major side includes at least a portion of transparent material.

3. The dispenser of claim 1, wherein the maze structure defines at least one path of travel going from the storage volume to a dead end.

4. The dispenser of claim 1, further comprising a dispensing member for carrying items from the storage volume to the dispensing opening, the dispensing member including a pocket for receiving the items, the pocket having an open end positioned opposite from a closed end, and an open side positioned between the open and closed ends, the items being received into the pocket from the storage volume through the open end, and the items being delivered from the pocket to the dispensing opening through the open side of the pocket.

5. The dispenser of claim 1, wherein the dispenser includes a generally rectangular shape.

6. The dispenser of claim 1, wherein the maze structure includes walls defining channels.

7. The dispenser of claim 6, wherein the walls extend between the first and second major sides.

8. The dispenser of claim 1, wherein the first major side is generally parallel to the second major side.

9. A dispenser comprising: a container including a first side, a second side, and a storage volume positioned between the first and second sides; a dispensing opening defined through at least one of the first and second sides, one of at least the first and second sides including at least a portion of transparent material; and a fixed maze structure positioned within the storage volume, the maze structure defining at least one path of travel going from the storage volume to the dispensing opening and at least one path of travel going from the storage volume to a dead end.

10. The dispenser of claim 9, further comprising a dispensing member for carrying items from the storage volume to the dispensing opening, the dispensing member including a pocket for receiving the items, the pocket having an open end positioned opposite from a closed end, and an open side positioned between the open and closed ends, the items being received into the pocket from the storage volume through the open end, and the items being delivered from the pocket to the dispensing opening through the open side of the pocket.

11. The dispenser of claim 9, wherein the dispenser includes a generally rectangular shape.

12. The dispenser of claim 9, wherein the maze structure includes walls defining channels.

13. The dispenser of claim 12, wherein the walls extend between the first and second sides of the container.

14. The dispenser of claim 9, wherein the first side is generally parallel to the second side of the container.

15. A dispenser comprising: a container including a first major side with a flat surface, a second major side with a flat surface, and a storage volume positioned between the first and second major sides, one of at least the first major side and the second major side including at least a portion of transparent material; a dispensing opening defined through the first major side; and a maze structure positioned within the storage volume, the maze structure configured to guide items along a path of travel aligned along a plane, the dispensing opening having an axis aligned in a direction generally perpendicular to the plane.

16. The dispenser of claim 15, further comprising a dispensing member for carrying items from the storage volume to the dispensing opening, the dispensing member including a pocket for receiving the items, the pocket having an open end positioned opposite from a closed end, and an open side positioned between the open and closed ends, the items being received into the pocket from the storage volume through the open end, and the items being delivered from the pocket to the dispensing opening through the open side of the pocket.

17. The dispenser of claim 16, wherein the maze structure defines at least one path of travel going from the storage volume to a dead end and at least one path of travel going from the storage volume to the dispensing member.

18. The dispenser of claim 15, wherein the dispenser includes a generally rectangular shape.

19. The dispenser of claim 15, wherein the maze structure includes walls defining channels, the walls extending between the first and second sides of the container.

20. The dispenser of claim 15, wherein the first major side is generally parallel to the second major side of the container.

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD

The present invention relates generally to dispensers. More particularly, the present invention relates to dispensers for dispensing small items such as pieces of candy.

BACKGROUND

Containers for storing and dispensing small items such as tablets or pieces of candy are well known. Some examples of small item dispensers may include a removable screw top, a peelable seal, a slidable cover, or a snap-fit cap or opening. Once these closures are opened, the items within the containers may be freely poured from the container. One problem often encountered with the dispensers found in the art is that their designs do not allow the items to be individually dispensed from the container. A person wanting one tablet or a piece of candy often has a difficult time controlling the amount of items dispensed from the container and usually has to resort to discarding the unwanted pieces.

SUMMARY

One aspect of the present disclosure relates to a dispenser adapted for easily dispensing small items such as pieces of candy.

In one example embodiment, the dispenser includes a container for holding the items desired to be dispensed, an opening through a major side of the container for dispensing items from the container, and a dispensing member controlling the discharge of items from the dispensing opening.

In another example embodiment, the dispenser includes a maze structure within the container. At least one major side of the container is made of transparent material to allow a user to view the items within the container as the user tries to move the items through the maze toward the dispensing member for discharging the items from the dispensing opening.

Examples representative of a variety of inventive aspects are set forth in the description that follows. The inventive aspects relate to individual features as well as combinations of features. It is to be understood that both the forgoing general description and the following detailed description merely provide examples of how the inventive aspects may be put into practice, and are not intended to limit the broad spirit and scope of the inventive aspects.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a dispenser in accordance with the principles of the present disclosure;

FIG. 2 is a front view of the dispenser of FIG. 1 with a dispensing member shown in a first position;

FIG. 2a is a cross-sectional view taken along section line 2a-2a of FIG. 2;

FIG. 3 is a partial blown-up view of the front view of the dispenser of FIG. 1 with the dispensing member in a second position;

FIG. 4 is a top view of the dispenser of FIG. 1;

FIG. 5 is a bottom view of the dispenser of FIG. 1;

FIG. 6 is a left end view of the dispenser of FIG. 1;

FIG. 7 is a right end view of the dispenser of FIG. 1;

FIG. 8 is a plan view showing 2 half-shells of the dispenser of FIG. 1;

FIG. 9 is a cross sectional view taken along section line 9-9 of FIG. 8;

FIG. 10 is a plan view of a dispensing member used by the dispenser of FIG. 1;

FIG. 11 is an elevational view of the dispensing member of FIG. 10;

FIG. 12 is a perspective view of a second embodiment of a dispenser in accordance with the principles of the present disclosure;

FIG. 13 is a front view of the dispenser of FIG. 12 with a dispensing member shown in a first position;

FIG. 14 is a front view of the dispenser of FIG. 12 with the dispensing member shown in a second position;

FIG. 15 is a perspective view showing 2 half-shells of the dispenser of FIG. 12;

FIG. 16 is a perspective view of a dispensing member used by the dispenser of FIG. 12;

FIG. 17 is a perspective view of a third embodiment of a dispenser in accordance with the principles of the present disclosure; and

FIG. 18 is a front view of the dispenser of FIG. 17.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

FIG. 1 illustrates a dispenser 20 in accordance with the principles of the present disclosure. The dispenser 20 includes a container 22 including an interior storage volume 23 for holding a plurality of items 24. The container 22 includes an opening 26 (i.e., a dispensing opening) for dispensing the items 24 from the container 22. The dispenser 20 also includes a dispensing member 28 for carrying the items 24 from the storage volume 23 of the container 22 to the opening 26. The dispensing member 28 includes a pocket 30 for receiving the items 24. The dispensing member 28 is movable between a first position (shown in FIG. 2) and a second position (shown in FIG. 3). When the dispensing member 28 is in the position of FIG. 2, the pocket 30 is oriented to receive items 24 from the storage volume 23 of the container 22. When the dispensing member 28 is in the position of FIG. 3, the pocket 30 aligns with the opening 26 such that items 24 within the pocket 30 can be dispensed through the opening 26. By moving the pocket 30 back and forth between the positions of FIGS. 2 and 3, multiple items 24 can be removed from the storage volume 23 of the container 22 and dispensed through the opening 26.

It will be appreciated that a variety of different types of items can be dispensed from the dispenser 20. Preferred items include pieces of candy. In one embodiment, the pieces of a candy can include pieces of hard candy. In a preferred embodiment, the items can include liquid filled (e.g., mint filled) candy. In one example embodiment, the items can include balls or spheres of candy including outer gelatin coatings and an inner liquid candy filling (e.g., a mint filling).

Referring to FIGS. 1-7, the container 22 is depicted as being a relatively thin generally rectangular envelope having rounded corners 32. The dispensing member 28 is mounted adjacent one of the corners 32. As shown in FIGS. 8 and 9, the container 22 is defined by two generally rectangular half-shells 34a, 34b. Half-shell 34a includes four mounting posts 35 while half-shell 34b includes mounting post receivers 36. The half-shells 34a, 34b also include pivot posts 38 that fit within pivot bearings 40 of the dispensing member 28. To assemble the dispenser 20, the dispensing member 28 is mounted to one of the half-shells 34a, 34b (e.g., by inserting one of the pivot bearings 40 over the corresponding pivot post 38 of the half-shell 34a, 34b to which the dispensing member 28 is mounted). While the half-shells 34a, 34b are separated from one another, the items 24 desired to be dispensed can be loaded into the container 22. After loading the items 24 into the container, the two half-shells 34a, 34b are mounted together with the mounting posts 35 of the half-shell 34a received in the mounting post receivers 36 of the half-shell 34b. Also, the dispensing member 28 is captured between the half-shells 34a, 34b with the pivot bearings 40 positioned around the pivot posts 38. As assembled, outer edges 42 of the half-shells 34a, 34b contact one another to define a generally rectangular perimeter of the container 22.

Referring still to FIGS. 8 and 9, half-shell 34a includes a major side 44a and the half-shell 34b includes a major side 44b. When the container 22 is assembled (as shown at FIGS. 1-7), the major sides 44a, 44b oppose and are generally parallel to one another. In one embodiment, a relatively thin spacing S is provided between the major sides 44a, 44b. In one example embodiment, the spacing S is sized such that only a single layer of items 24 can be provided within the container 22. For example, in one embodiment, the spacing S is less than 2 times the diameter of the items (e.g., spheres) held within the container 22. In a preferred embodiment, the spacing S is only slightly larger than the diameter of the items held within the container 22. As defined herein, the term “major side” is a side having a larger surface area than the other sides of the container.

Referring now to FIGS. 2 and 3, the dispensing member 28 includes a knurled outer surface 46 having a circular curvature generally centered about the pivot bearings 40 of the dispensing member 28. The knurled outer surface 46 projects outwardly beyond the outer perimeter of the container 28 to provide ready finger access for pivoting the dispensing member 28. In the depicted embodiment, the pocket 30 of the dispensing member 28 is sized to hold only a single one of the items 24 at a time. Thus, the dispensing member 28 allows the items 24 to be individually dispensed from the container 22. The dispensing member 28 can also be referred to as a pivot member, a rotation member, a wheel, a dial, a carrier, or like terms.

Referring to FIGS. 10 and 11, the pocket 30 of the dispensing member 28 includes an open end 29 positioned opposite from a closed end 31. The pocket 30 also includes open sides 33 that extend between the open end 29 and the closed end 31.

Referring still to FIGS. 2 and 3, the container 22 also includes funnel members 48 and 50 positioned within the container 22. A gap 52 is defined between the funnel members 48, 50. When the dispensing member 28 is in the position of FIG. 2, the open end 29 of the pocket 30 aligns with the gap 52 such that an item 24 within the container 22 can be readily funneled through the gap 52 into the pocket 30 through the open end 29. When the dispensing member 28 is in the position of FIG. 3, a flat side 54 of the dispensing member 28 blocks the gap 52 to prevent items 24 from flowing through the gap 52, and one of the open sides 33 of the pocket 30 aligns with the dispensing opening 26 such that the item 24 within the pocket can exit the pocket through the open side 33 to be dispensed through the opening 26.

The dispenser 20 preferably includes positive stops for stopping the dispensing member 28 in the positions of FIGS. 2 and 3. For example, when the dispensing member 28 is in the position of FIG. 3, the flat side 54 of the dispensing member 28 engages one of the mounting post receivers 36 such that the mounting post receiver 36 functions as a positive stop. When the dispensing member 28 is in the position of FIG. 2, the flat side 54 engages the funnel member 50 such that the funnel member 50 functions as a positive stop. As shown at FIG. 2a, the funnel member 50 also includes a flexible latch 56 that engages a peripheral lip 58 of the dispensing member 28 to hold the dispensing member 28 in the position of FIG. 2. When a user moves the dispensing member 28 from the position of FIG. 2 toward the position of FIG. 3, the latch 56 flexes to allow clearance of the lip 58 and movement of the dispensing member 28.

As shown at FIG. 8, the opening 26 is defined through the major side 44b of the half-shell 34b. When an item 24 is carried by the dispensing member 28 from the position of FIG. 2 to the position of FIG. 3, the item 24 moves along a path of travel aligned along a plane P (see FIG. 7) that is generally parallel to the major sides 44a, 44b. When the item 24 is dispensed through the opening 26, the item 24 travels through the major side 44b and the open side 33 of the pocket 30 in a direction D that is generally perpendicular relative to the plane P.

FIG. 12 illustrates a second embodiment of a dispenser 120 in accordance with the principles of the present disclosure. The dispenser 120 includes features similar to the dispenser 20 shown in FIGS. 1-11, except that dispenser 120 includes a dispensing member 128 that is configured to slide, rather than rotate, within a container 122. The dispensing member 128 is slidably movable between a first position (shown in FIG. 13) and a second position (shown in FIG. 14).

Referring to FIGS. 12-15, the container 122 of the dispenser 120 is generally rectangular with a flat first end 123 and a slightly V-shaped second end 125. As in the dispenser 20, the dispenser 120 includes two half-shells 134a, 134b that are press-fit together to form the container 122. After being filled with items 124, the dispensing member 128 is captured between the two half-shells 134a, 134b. As depicted in FIG. 15, one of the half-shells may include guides 154 for slidably guiding the dispensing member 128 within the container 122. A dispensing opening 126 is defined on a major side 144a of the half-shell 134a. The dispensing opening 126 is located adjacent the V-shaped second end 125 of the container 122.

Referring to FIG. 16, the dispensing member 128, shown in isolation, includes a generally rectangular housing 140 with a first end 141 and a second end 142. The housing 140 includes a closed first side 170, an open second side 171, and a peripheral sidewall 172 extending between the closed side 170 and the open side 171. The peripheral sidewall 172 along with the closed first side 170 defines an interior storage volume 123 for holding the plurality of items 124. The dispensing member 128 can also be referred to as a drawer. The housing 140 of the dispensing member 128 defines a pocket 143 at the first end 141 for receiving the items 124. An opening 145 is defined within the pocket 143 for dispensing the items 124. At the second end 142 of the housing 140 is provided a push-tab 146 for slidably moving the dispensing member within the container 122. The two half-shells 134a and 134b of the container 122 cooperatively form an opening at the first end 123 for accommodating the push-tab 146.

The dispensing member 128 defines biasing members 129 adjacent the first end 141 of the housing 140 for biasing the dispensing member 128 away from the dispensing position of FIG. 14. When the dispensing member 128 is in the position of FIG. 13, the pocket 143 is not aligned with the opening 126 of the container. When the dispensing member 128 is slidably pushed to the position of FIG. 14 via the push-tab 146, the opening 145 of the drawer 128 aligns with the opening 126 of the container 122 such that items 124 within the pocket 143 can be dispensed through the opening 126. The biasing members 129 bend against the V-shaped second end 125 of the container 122 when the dispensing member 128 is brought to position of FIG. 14. When the push-tab 146 is released, the biasing members 129 flex back against the V-shaped second end 125 to slidably move the drawer 128 back to the position of FIG. 14.

FIGS. 17 and 18 illustrate a third embodiment of a dispenser 220 in accordance with the principles of the present disclosure. The dispenser 220 is similar to the dispenser 20 of FIGS. 1-11, except that dispenser 220 additionally includes a maze (i.e., labyrinth) structure 201 within the container 222 for providing amusement to the user of the dispenser 220.

The maze structure 201 is formed by walls 202 that extend between the two major sides 244a, 244b of the container 222. In one embodiment, the walls 202 of the maze structure 201 may be formed integrally with one of the half-shells 234a, 234b of the container 222. In another embodiment, one of the half shells 234a, 234b may define a number of the walls 202 wherein the other of the half shells 234a, 234b may define the rest of the walls 202. In yet another embodiment, each half-shell 234a, 234b of the container 222 may form a portion of the thickness T of the walls 202, wherein, once the half shells 234a, 234b are assembled together, the entirety of the walls 202 may be formed.

The walls 202 define channels 203 of the maze 201. The channels 203 are configured such that the channels 203 define at least one path of travel 204 that leads to a dead-end 205 and at least one path of travel 206 that leads to the dispensing member 228. It should be noted that the design of the maze 201 depicted in FIGS. 17 and 18 simply includes one of many different configurations that can be used in configuring the maze structure. In other embodiments, other maze configurations may be used.

The user of the dispenser 220 can manipulate a small item 24 through the maze 201 by moving the dispenser 220 along the plane P (see FIG. 7) that is generally perpendicular to the dispensing direction D (along the axis of the dispensing opening). The small items 24 can be moved through the different paths defined by the channels 203 along the plane P, generally perpendicular to the dispensing direction D. Once the user has successfully moved a small item 24 through the paths of the maze 201 to the dispensing member 228, the item 24 is received within the pocket 230 of the dispensing member 228. By moving the pocket 230 of the dispensing member 228 back and forth as illustrated in FIGS. 2 and 3, the item 24 can be removed from the storage volume 223 of the container 222 and dispensed through the opening 226.

At least one of the major sides 244a, 244b of the dispenser 220 includes at least a portion of transparent material such that a user can either fully or partially view the items 24 and the maze 201 within the container 222 as the user tries to move the items 24 through the maze structure 201 toward the dispensing member 228. As in the embodiment of FIGS. 1-11, the half-shells 234a, 234b of the dispenser can be separated from each other to load or reload items 24 into the container 222.

The above specification provides examples of how certain inventive aspects may be put into practice. It will be appreciated that the inventive aspects can be practiced in other ways than those specifically shown and described herein without departing from the spirit and scope of the inventive aspects.