Title:
CARTON WITH CONFIGURABLE DISPENSER
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A carton with a configurable dispenser that can be opened while resting on its side or on its bottom wall and that can dispense articles one at a time, in groups, or in a wholesale fashion. A restricted opening is formed by at least partial detachment of a dispensing flap, which permits limited access and side dispensing. An access opening is formed by at least partially detaching an unloading flap, which enhances the degree to which articles can be accessed and is useful for top unloading. The dispensing flap and the unloading flap are defined by two pairs of severance lines that diverge from a hand hold, dust flap or other tear initiation means and toward the side walls. The tear initiation means is off center, being positioned closer to one of the side walls of the carton than the other. Retention flaps cooperate with the remaining one of the dispensing flap and the unloading flap to restrain articles, particularly when the articles are dispensed while the carton rests on its side. Alternatively, both the dispensing flap and the unloading flap can be at least partially detached to enhance access to the articles for top unloading. Access can be maximized by detaching the retention flaps as well.



Inventors:
Holley Jr., John M. (Lawrewnceville, GA, US)
Application Number:
11/742247
Publication Date:
01/10/2008
Filing Date:
04/30/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D17/28
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
ELKINS, GARY E
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
WESTROCK COMPANY (Richmond, VA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A carton for enclosing a plurality of articles arranged in rows, comprising: a top wall and a pair of side walls each hingedly connected along one of a pair of opposed side edges of said top wall; a hand hold formed in said top wall, said hand hold being off center with respect said pair of opposed side edges; and a dispenser formed in said top wall, said dispenser being defined by a first pair of severance lines and a second pair of severance lines, each of said first and said second pairs of severance lines diverging from said hand hold to one of said pair of opposed side edges.

2. The carton of claim 1, wherein said first pair of severance lines defines a dispensing flap that is capable of being at least partially detached along said first pair of severance lines to form a restrictive opening.

3. The carton of claim 2, wherein said restrictive opening is capable of limiting access to the articles to at least some of the articles in a row that extends along one of said pair of side walls.

4. The carton of claim 2, wherein said second pair of severance lines defines an unloading flap that is capable of being at least partially detached along said second pair of severance lines to form an access opening.

5. The carton of claim 4, wherein said access opening is capable of exposing articles in more than one row of the carton.

6. The carton of claim 4, further comprising: a pair of end walls, each hingedly connected along an end edge of said top wall and an end edge of each of said pair of side walls; and a first retention flap defined by one of said first pair of severance lines and one of said second lines, and hingedly connected to one of said end walls.

7. The carton of claim 6, wherein said first retention flap is capable of restraining at least some of said articles when one of said dispensing flap and said unloading flap is at least partially detached.

8. The carton of claim 6, further comprising a second retention flap defined by the other of said first pair of severance lines and the other of said second pair of severance lines, said second retention flap being hingedly connected to the other of said end walls.

9. A carton for enclosing a plurality of articles, comprising: a top wall, a bottom wall, and a pair of opposed side walls hingedly connected to said top wall and to said bottom wall; a dispenser formed in said top wall, comprising: a dispensing flap that is at least partially detachable to form a restrictive opening that is for dispensing articles when said carton rests on one of said pair of side walls; and an unloading flap that is at least partially detachable to form an access opening for unloading articles when said carton rests on said bottom wall.

10. The carton of claim 9, further comprising tear initiation means formed in said top wall, said tear initiation means being positioned off center with respect to said pair of side walls; wherein said tear initiation means is capable of enabling a user to grasp said dispensing flap and said unloading flap for at least partially detachment from said carton.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority to U.S. Application No. 60/795,713, filed Apr. 28, 2006, the entirety of which is incorporated herein by reference.

TECHNICAL FIELD

The present invention relates to cartons for use in packaging articles, and particularly, to a carton with a dispenser that is configurable to provide different options for accessing the articles within.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Cartons for encasing multiple articles such as bottles or cans are useful, for example, to enable retailers to stock and sell groups of the articles to consumers, who then wish to transport the articles. At the point of use, the consumer typically removes the articles from the carton.

Depending upon the circumstances, the consumer may wish to remove all of the articles from the carton in a wholesale fashion—that is, all at once. Alternatively, the articles may be removed in smaller groups or one at a time. Thus, it can be appreciated that it would be desirable to have a carton with an opening feature that facilitates the removal of articles from the carton in these various ways.

Carton dispensers are commonly usable when the carton is oriented in a certain way, lest the articles undesirably escape. For example, articles must be removed through the top walls of certain cartons, while certain other cartons will only permit access to the articles through end or side walls. Such inflexibility does not take into account the consumer's individual circumstances, including how the consumer intends to store and dispense the articles.

Clearly, it would be advantageous to provide a carton that allows for different orientation of a multipack for opening and dispensing, and that facilitates dispensing single articles, small groups of articles, or all of the articles at once.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The various embodiments of the present invention address the shortcomings of the prior art by providing an innovative, ergonomic opening feature for a carton that allows for different orientations while opening the loaded carton, and selectively facilitates dispensing or bulk unloading.

The carton includes a top wall, a bottom wall, a pair of side walls, and a pair of end walls, all hingedly interconnected to form an enclosure for articles disposed in rows aligned with the side walls. A dispenser is formed in the top wall. The dispenser includes at least two flaps—a dispensing flap that provides limited access to dispense articles when the carton rests on its side, and an unloading flap that enables unloading of articles in masse when the carton rests on the bottom wall. The dispensing flap can also be used when the carton rests on the bottom wall, when limited access is nonetheless desirable.

The dispensing flap and the unloading flap are defined in part by two pairs of severance lines that each extend divergingly toward one of the side walls. A tear initiation means including elements such as a hand hold aperture is provided, and because the dispensing flap and the unloading flap differ in size, the tear initiation means is positioned off center—that is, closer to one side wall than the other. The tear initiation means provides or exposes a grip for the user to grasp one or both of the dispensing and unloading flaps in order to at least partially detach them from the carton. In the exemplary embodiments the dispensing and unloading flaps may remain hingedly connected to the side walls or may be completely detached, and the tear initiation means includes a hand hold and/or a a dust flap. The divergent pairs of severance lines diverge from the tear initiation means toward the side walls, and may extend to the corners of the top wall.

The first pair of severance lines defines the dispensing flap that is at least partially detachable to form a restrictive opening. The restrictive opening is so named because it restricts access to the articles preferably to articles in an end most row extending directly along the adjacent side wall, although exposure of at least some articles in the next end most row is contemplated as well. This restrictive opening allows the user to turn the carton on its side as he or she opens the carton via the dispensing flap such that articles can be singly dispensed without an avalanche of articles escaping the carton.

The second pair of severance lines defines the unloading flap that is at least partially detachable to form an access opening. The access opening is so named because, upon detachment of the unloading flap, a much larger expanse of articles are exposed for removal from the carton. This access opening is best utilized when the carton rests on the bottom wall.

In the exemplary embodiments, a pair of retention flaps are provided. Each retention flap is hingedly connected to an end wall and may be further connected to the side walls along the side edges of the top wall. One of the severance lines from each pair of severance lines defines each retention flaps, which cooperate to retain articles with the remaining one after one of the dispensing flap and the unloading flap has been at least partially detached.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

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

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the carton formed from the blank of FIG. 1, with the configurable dispenser shown in its closed condition.

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the carton of FIG. 2, showing partial detachment of the dispensing flap of the carton.

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of the carton of FIG. 3, further showing partial detachment of the unloading flap of the carton.

FIG. 5 is a plan view of a second embodiment of a blank for forming a carton according to the present invention.

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of the carton formed from the blank of FIG. 5, with the configurable dispenser shown in its closed condition.

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of the carton of FIG. 6, shown in a side dispensing configuration with the carton oriented on its side with its dispensing flap partially detached.

FIG. 8 is a perspective view of the carton of FIG. 6, shown in a top dispensing configuration with the carton oriented on its bottom with its unloading flap partially detached.

FIG. 9 is a perspective view of the carton of FIG. 6, shown in a top dispensing configuration with the carton oriented on its bottom with its nonlimiting dispensing flap completely removed.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Detailed embodiments of the present invention are disclosed herein. It is understood that the disclosed embodiments are merely examples to illustrate aspects of the invention that may be embodied in various and alternative forms. 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 to avoid obscuring the present invention. Therefore, specific structural and functional details disclosed herein are not to be interpreted as limiting, but as a basis for the claims and for teaching one skilled in the art to variously employ the present invention.

Referring now to the drawings in which like numerals indicate like elements throughout views, the drawings illustrate various aspects of exemplary embodiments of an erected carton 200 (best shown in FIG. 2), including an opening feature according to the present invention. In the embodiments described herein, the carton 200 encloses articles such as beverage bottles B (shown in FIGS. 4 and 5).

The carton 200 is formed from a blank 100, an exemplary embodiment of which shown in FIG. 1. Generally described, the blank 100 is constructed from a unitary piece of preferably foldable sheet material such as paperboard, cardboard, corrugated board, plastic, or the like, although construction from multiple pieces of sheet material is contemplated. The blank 100 includes primary panels that are substantially rectangular and hingedly connected to one another. An edge flap 101 is hingedly connected to a bottom panel 102, which in turn is hingedly connected to a first side panel 104, which is hingedly connected to a top panel 106, which is hingedly connected to a second side panel 108. The edge flap 101 and the primary panels 102, 104, 106, 108 are connected along transverse fold lines 110, 112, 114, 116, respectively.

The carton 200 includes an opening feature that defines a dispenser D. Specifically, the top panel 106 is divisible into four sections including flaps 118, 120, 122, 124 to form the dispenser D, as will be described below. To facilitate opening the dispenser D, the flaps 118, 120, 122, 124 are defined with respect to one another by severance lines 126, 128, 130, 132, which extend from a handhold 134 that is spaced apart from the edges of the top panel 106.

The blank 100 also includes end flaps that are hingedly connected to the primary panels 102, 104, 106, 108 along end edges defined by longitudinally extending fold lines that are substantially perpendicular to the transverse fold lines 112, 114, 116 that interconnect the primary panels 102, 104, 106, 108. Accordingly, the blank 100 is substantially symmetrical along its longitudinal axis; like references have been used with a suffix “a” or “b” affixed to distinguish one end of the blank 100 from the other. It follows that the description of an element or group of elements having a suffix “a” is suitable for a like-numbered element or group of elements having a suffix “b”. In certain instances, for clarity, only one of the like referenced elements is described unless a description of the other or both of the like referenced elements is useful for teaching purposes.

Specifically, a pair of bottom end flaps 136a, 136b is hingedly connected along opposite end edges of the bottom panel 102 along fold lines 138a, 138b, respectively. Similarly, a pair of side end flaps 140a, 140b is hingedly connected along opposite end edges of the first side panel 104 along fold lines 142a, 142b, respectively. A notch 144a is struck from the side end flap 140a and likewise a notch 144b is struck from the side end flap 140b. Each side end flap 140a, 140b includes a reinforcing flap 146a, 146b hingedly connected along a fold line 148a, 148b that defines its upper transverse edge. The length of each reinforcing flap 146a, 146b, as measured from the fold line 148a, 148b to its distal edge, is substantially equal to the distance from the fold line 148a, 148b to the notch 144a, 144b. The distal edge of the reinforcing flap 146a, 146b is foldable into reinforcing alignment with the weight bearing upper edge of the notch 144a, 144b.

A pair of top end flaps 150a, 150b is hingedly connected along the opposite end edges of the top panel 106 along fold lines 152a, 152b. Each top end flap 150a, 150b includes a handle aperture 154a, 154b, which in the exemplary embodiment is elongated and spaced apart from the top panel 106.

Certain elements of the blank 100 cooperate to form a suitable known, or yet to be developed handle H to allow the user to carry the carton. Here, the completed carton 200 includes a handle H that is reinforced by elements formed in the side end flaps 140a, 140b. As mentioned above, each side end flap 140a, 140b, 160a, 160b includes a notch 144a, 144b, 164a, 164b that conforms in position, orientation and size to the handle aperture 154a, 154b after the carton 200 is erected. Additionally, reinforcing flaps 146a, 146b, 166a, 166b are hingedly connected along fold lines 148a, 148b, 168a, 168b to what will become the upper edges of the side end flaps 140a, 140b. When the carton 200 is erected as will be described below, the notches 144a, 164a come into registry with the handle apertures 154a, 154b formed in the top end flaps 150a, 150b to reinforce the handle H.

It is envisaged that the exemplary embodiments of the carton of the present invention can be formed in a conventional manner by a series of sequential folding and gluing operations, which can be formed on a straight-line machine so that the carton is not required to be rotated or inverted to complete its construction. The folding process, including the order and inclusion of the steps, is not limited to that described below and can be altered according to particular manufacturing or user requirements.

To erect the carton 200, a series of steps can be performed in two phases, the first phase including prefolding and pregluing steps that configure the carton 200 into a tubular sleeve-like structure that can be flattened for shipping, for example, to a bottling facility for loading, and the second phase including erecting the flattened structure, loading articles B therein, and sealing the ends of the tubular structure to securely enclose the articles.

In the first phase, each reinforcing flap 146a, 146b, 166a, 166b is folded over along the associated fold line 148a, 148b, 168a, 168b and secured to lie in flat-face contact with the inside surface (not shown) of the respective side end flap 140a, 140b, 160a, 160b. Thereby, the distal edge of each reinforcing flap 146a, 146b, 166a, 166b aligns with the weight bearing edge of the handle aperture 154a, 154b. Adhesive is applied to the outside surface of the edge flap 101, and the edge flap 101 is folded over until its inside surface (not shown) lies in flat-face contact with the bottom wall 102. Then, the blank 100 is folded over along the fold line 114 or along a nonworking score as known in the art to bring the edge flap 101 into an at least partially overlapping arrangement with the second side panel 108, such that the bottom panel 102 is effectively hingedly connected to the second side panel 108, thereby forming the tubular structure.

The second phase, including erecting and loading the carton 200, can be completed manually or using an automatic packaging machine as is known in the art. The tubular structure (the carton 200 is not shown in this condition) is loaded from either or both ends, and the end walls 202, 204 are formed by folding the side end flaps 140a, 140b, 160a, 160b inward, folding the bottom end flaps 136a, 136b upward, and folding the top end flaps 150a, 150b downward and securing the flaps 136a, 136b, 140a, 140b, 150a, 150b, 160a, 160b in at least partially overlapping arrangements. In this fashion, top end flap 150a, the bottom end flap 136a, and the side end flaps 140a, 150a, 160a form composite end wall 204. In addition, the top end flap 150b, bottom end flap 136b, and side ends 140b, 150b, 160b form composite end wall 202. The panels of the blank 100 can be secured by glue or other means known in the art to form the erected carton 200. The erected carton 200 is then in a set up and loaded condition shown in FIGS. 2, 3 and 4.

In the top panel 106, an opening feature is defined that includes an arrangement of severance lines and tear initiation means, such as the exemplary hand hold 134. Advantageously, the tear initiation means, here—the elongated “racetrack” shaped hand hold 134, is off center with respect to the top panel 106.

That is, the hand hold 134 is positioned closer to one side edge of the top panel 106 than the other side edge, the side edges being defined by the fold lines 114, 116 connecting the top panel 106 to the side panels 104, 108. The hand hold 134 can also be off center with respect to the end edges of the top panel 106, with the same objective of obtaining an opening feature that defines two disparate openings O1 and O2 as described below.

Two pairs of severance lines 126, 128, 130, 132 extend from either side of hand hold 134. The first pair 126, 132 extends divergently from the hand hold 134 to the side edge defined by fold line 114. The second pair of severance lines 128, 130 extends divergently from the hand hold 134 and substantially to two corners of top panel 106, the corners being defined by the intersections of the fold lines 152a, 152b and fold line 116. In this embodiment, the severance lines 128 and 130 are substantially straight, while the severance lines 126 and 132 are slightly curved. In alternative embodiments, such as that shown in FIG. 5, the first and second pairs of severance lines may include segments that are straight, curved or otherwise contoured.

The top panel 106 includes tear initiation means for facilitating opening of the dispenser D. In the exemplary embodiment, the tear initiation means includes the hand hold 134 struck from the top dispensing panel 106. As stated previously the hand hold 134 is an aperture that permits insertion of at least a finger or two to tear the flaps of the dispenser D apart. In the alternative embodiment of FIG. 5, the hand hold 334 is covered by a dust flap 335 which blocks light and dust from entering the carton 200 prior to opening the dispenser D.

The severance lines 126, 128, 130, 132 at least partially define the flaps of the dispenser D formed in the top panel 106. More specifically, a dispensing flap 118 is defined by the severance lines 126, 132, a first retention flap 120 is defined by slightly curved severance line 126 and substantially straight severance line 128, an unloading flap 122 is defined by the severance lines 128, 130, and a second retention flap 124 is defined by substantially straight severance tear line 130 and slightly curved severance line 132. The flaps 108, 113, 110, 112 are detached from one another to access articles contained by the carton 200 (best shown in FIG. 3), which will be described in more detail below. In the embodiment shown, a handle H is disposed in each of the side wall panels 202 and 204.

FIGS. 2-4 illustrate a series of steps that can be used to access articles in the carton 200 via the dispenser D, when the carton 200 is oriented for a top dispensing application. First, as shown in FIG. 2, the carton is placed on its bottom wall 212, which is defined by the bottom panel 102. Referring to FIG. 3, if the user wants to dispense only a few articles B at a time, the user inserts a finger in the aperture defined by hand hold 134 and partially or completely detaches the dispensing flap 118 by pulling it toward the side wall 208. The dispensing flap, therefore, is detached from the remaining panels of the carton 200 along severance lines 126, 132 and may remain hingedly connected along the fold line 114 or may be completely detached along the fold line 114. In any event, a restrictive opening O1 is defined, through which the user now has access to articles that are exposed by at least partial detachment of the dispensing flap 118. The user can simply tilt the carton 200 if necessary to move additional articles B into view as the most easily accessible articles B are removed via the first opening O1. The opending O1 is restrictive in that access to articles B through the opening O1 is limited, so as to control the number of articles that can be removed, and that could accidentally escape through the opening O1.

If the user subsequently wishes to more quickly unload the carton 200, a much more access opening O2 can be defined by partially or completely detaching the unloading flap 122 by pulling it toward the side wall 206. The unloading flap 122 is detached from the remaining panels along the severance lines 128, 130 and may be similarly completed detached along the fold line 116 or may remain connected hingedly to the side wall 206.

It is noted that either the dispensing flap 118 or the unloading flap 122 can be opened first when the carton 200 is in the top dispensing configuration, because the carton 200 rests on its bottom wall 102, so there is no risk of the articles B unintentionally falling out of the carton 200. To maximize access to the articles B, both the dispensing flap 118 and the unloading flap 122 can be detached at once, and further, the retention flaps 110, 124 can be partially detached along the fold line 114 or completely detached along the fold line 114 and the fold line 152a, 152b, respectively.

The foregoing demonstrates the configurability of the exemplary carton 200 with respect to controlling degree of access to articles B by selectively detaching the more restrictive dispensing flap 118 or the unloading flap 122 and potentially by detaching the retention flaps 120, 124 as well. The carton 200 is also configurable to be opened while resting on either one of its side walls 206, 208 as will be demonstrated below with respect to a second embodiment of a configurable carton in accordance with the teachings of the present invention.

The second embodiment includes many elements that are substantially identical to those of the first embodiment, and thus, such elements are identified using the same numbering convention, except that the 100 series numbers used in describing the blank 100 are converted to 300 series numbers in the blank 300, and the 200 series numbers used in describing the carton 200 are converted to 400 series numbers in the carton 400. Furthermore, only those elements of the second embodiment that differ substantially will be described.

Referring now to FIG. 5, a blank 300 for forming a carton 400 is shown. The blank 300 differs from the blank 100 in certain aspects of the top panel 306.

The shapes and relative sizes of the restrictive dispensing flap 318, access flap 322, and the retention flaps 320, 324 as defined by the severance lines 326, 328, 330, 332 differ, as shown in FIG. 6. In addition, the open hand hold 134 is replaced with the dust flap 335 to protect the articles before the carton 400 is opened. The dust flap 335 is defined in part by a fold line 337 that hingedly connects the dust flap 335 can be connected to the dispensing flap 318 instead.

With particular reference to FIG. 7, it can be seen that the dispensing flap 318 is configured to limit removal of articles therethrough such that only articles B aligned against the side wall 306 are accessible. This configuration is particularly useful when the carton 400 is oriented as shown in the figure for a side dispensing application. There, the bottom most row of articles is accessible by grasping the neck of an article and pulling the article B out through the restrictive opening O1.

The restrictive opening O1 alternatively can be used in a top dispensing application as shown in FIG. 8, if the user wants to preserve the option to switch back to a side dispensing application. It should be noted that side dispensing can be performed with the carton 400 resting on either side wall 406, 408, by removing the articles in the bottom most row if the carton 400 rests on the side wall 408 or from the top most row if the carton 400 rests on the side wall 406. In the side dispensing orientation, the retention flaps 320, 324 are instrumental in ensuring that articles do not escape from the carton 400 unintentionally.

In the top dispensing orientation, the articles B in the carton 400, as with the carton 200, can be easily and quickly removed in larger numbers by utilizing the access opening O2 defined by at least partial detachment of the unloading flap 322.

To open the carton 400, the user presses down on the dust flap 335. The dust flap may be weakly connected along a severance line 339 to the top panel 306, so the pressure is preferably sufficient to break the frangible connection.

The dust flap 335 is preferably positioned with respect to the rows of articles B with such that as the dust flap 335 is driven inwardly and pivotably along the fold line 337, its distal edge clears the topes of the articles so that the dust flap flolds under unloading flap 322 to cushion the user's hand if the user wishes to remove the unloading flap 322. Its larger size makes such an arrangement advantageous, as the dust flap 335 cushions and provides a better grip for the more extensive tear that the user must perform.

If the user does not wish to detach the unloading flap first, then the user presses down on the dust flap 335 to break the frangible severance line 339 and thereby to expose the distal edge of the dispensing flap 318. Then, the user grasps the dispensing flap 318 and at least partially detaches it to define the restrictive opening 1.

It should be noted that the severance lines 326, 328, 330, 332 substantially diverge from the hand hold 334, although as shown in FIGS. 6-9, the severance lines 326, 332 may in certain embodiments include parallel end segments that square off the ends of the restrictive opening O1.

The present invention has been illustrated in relation to particular embodiments which are intended in all respects to be illustrated rather than restrictive. Those skilled in the art will recognize that the present invention is capable of many modifications and variations without departing from the scope of the invention. For example, as used herein, directional references such as “top”, “base”, “bottom”, “end”, “side”, “inner”, “outer”, “upper”, “middle”, “lower”, “front” and “rear” do not limit the respective walls of the carton to such orientation, but merely serve to distinguish these walls from one another. Any reference to hinged connection should not be construed as necessarily referring to a junction including a single hinge only; indeed, it is envisaged that hinged connection can be formed from one or more potentially disparate means for hingedly connecting materials.

Additionally, as used herein, the term severance line refers to any means for defining the optimal location of or facilitating controlled separation of the sheet material in which the severance line is formed, including, but not limited to, printed lines, perforations, a line of perforations, a line of short slits, a line of half cuts, a single half cut, any combination of perforations, slits, and half cuts, short score lines, or the equivalent. Double or triple lines of perforations, slits, cuts, and/or scores may also be used.

Alternative tear initiation means contemplated include push or pull tabs, embedded cords, tear strips, and the like.

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