Title:
Holding tray for dispensing rollable containers from end opening container cartons
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An apparatus is described for supporting a carton having cylindrical or other rollable containers therein and an end discharge opening for dispensing the containers. The apparatus is configured to be useful for holding a dispensing carton between shelves in a refrigerator. The apparatus includes an elongated tray body having marginal walls that form a dam to retain liquids. The top edges of the marginal walls define an upwardly open carton receptacle. An inclined support surface is disposed below the top edges and above the bottom wall to receive and support a carton at an inclined angle. One or more wells are provided to form a catch basin to retain liquids and position the carton above the liquids to prevent weakening of the carton.



Inventors:
Simpson, Robert C. (Lewistown, MT, US)
Simpson, Avis Y. (Lewistown, MT, US)
Application Number:
11/903497
Publication Date:
05/08/2008
Filing Date:
09/21/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47F1/04
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
NOVOSAD, JENNIFER ELEANORE
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Gregory IPL, P.C. (SPOKANE VALLEY, WA, US)
Claims:
I claim:

1. An apparatus forming an upwardly open container carton tray, comprising: a bottom wall which is capable of holding liquids; marginal walls connected to the bottom wall and extending upwardly therefrom to form a perimeter dam which retains liquids within a tray interior, said marginal walls being sufficiently low to form an upwardly open receptacle into which a container carton having plural rollable containers may be rested by setting the container carton upon the carton tray; an abutment along one of said marginal walls; at least one inclined support within the tray interior upon which the container carton rests at an inclined angle, said inclined support serving to incline and gravitate rollable containers within the container carton toward said abutment; at least one recessed well formed within the tray interior for collecting liquids therein below said inclined support to maintain the container carton dry above any collected liquids held in said at least one recessed well.

2. An apparatus according to claim 1 wherein the inclined support comprises: at least one longitudinal support member; at least one transverse rib support member which extends transversely relative to the at least one longitudinal support member.

3. An apparatus according to claim 1 wherein the bottom wall, marginal walls and inclined support are integrally formed.

4. An apparatus according to claim 1 wherein the bottom wall, marginal walls and inclined support are integrally formed by a vacuum forming process.

5. An apparatus according to claim 1 wherein the inclined support comprises: at least one longitudinal support member; at least one transverse rib support member which extends transversely relative to the at least one longitudinal support member; and, wherein the bottom wall, marginal walls and inclined support are integrally formed by a vacuum forming process.

6. An apparatus according to claim 1 and further comprising at least one hold for facilitating handling of the apparatus.

7. An apparatus according to claim 1 and further comprising at least one hand hold formed at the rear of the apparatus for facilitating handling of the apparatus.

8. An apparatus according to claim 1 and further comprising at least one hand hold formed at the rear of the apparatus for facilitating handling of the apparatus, said hand hold having an upper surface forming part of said at least one inclined support.

9. An apparatus according to claim 1 wherein said at least one recessed well comprises a plurality of recessed wells.

10. An apparatus formed to support a beverage carton, comprising: an elongated tray body formed by a bottom wall and marginal walls that extend upwardly from the bottom wall; wherein the marginal walls terminate along peripheral top edges; wherein the bottom and marginal walls define an upwardly open beverage carton receiving receptacle that is configured to receive the beverage carton with a portion of the beverage carton exposed above the peripheral top edges; a support surface below the peripheral top edges and above the bottom wall, and formed to receive and support a carton at an inclined angle with respect to the bottom wall; wherein the bottom and marginal walls further define a catch basin below at least a portion of the support surface.

11. An apparatus according to claim 10 wherein the support surface is formed as an integral part of the bottom wall.

12. An apparatus according to claim 10 wherein the catch basin is comprised of a plurality of individual beverage receiving wells formed along the bottom wall and between the marginal walls.

13. An apparatus according to claim 10 wherein the peripheral top edges are continuous and lie in a plane that is substantially parallel to the bottom wall.

14. An apparatus according to claim 10 wherein the marginal walls include opposed forward and rearward end walls and further comprising a finger grip surface formed in the tray body adjacent the rearward end wall.

15. An apparatus according to claim 10 wherein the support surface includes reinforcing ribs disposed within the beverage carton receiving receptacle and wherein the reinforcing ribs include top rib surfaces that are coplanar and inclined with respect to the bottom wall.

16. An apparatus according to claim 10 wherein the peripheral top edges are substantially coplanar.

17. An apparatus according to claim 10 wherein the support surface includes reinforcing ribs within the beverage carton receiving receptacle with top rib surfaces that are coplanar, and wherein the peripheral top edges are at least substantially coplanar and parallel to the bottom wall.

18. An apparatus forming a dispenser for reception between adjacent elevationally spaced shelves of a refrigerator and supporting a carton containing at least partially cylindrical beverage containers that are capable of rolling on an inclined surface, and wherein the carton includes a height dimension and a tear away closure that is removable to expose a container discharge and a container stop wall below the container discharge, the apparatus comprising: an elongated tray body formed by a bottom wall and marginal walls that include a front wall with a top edge spaced above the bottom wall; wherein the marginal walls define an upwardly open beverage carton receiving receptacle that is configured to receive and support the beverage carton with the tear away closure removed and with the container discharge exposed upwardly adjacent to the top edge of the front wall and with the front wall abutting with and bracing the container stop wall against collapse; and a support surface below the peripheral top edges, configured to receive and support the carton within the space between shelves of a refrigerator and at an inclined angle with respect to the bottom wall to induce rolling motion of containers within the carton toward the forward wall.

19. An apparatus according to claim 18 further comprising a beverage receiving catch basin between the bottom wall and marginal walls.

20. An apparatus according to claim 18 wherein the support surface is comprised of at least one longitudinal part and at least one rib intersecting with the longitudinal part and wherein the at least one longitudinal part and said at least one rib define a support surface which lies along an inclined support plane above the bottom wall.

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD

The present invention relates to trays for holding and dispensing rollable containers, such as beverage cans, from end opening cartons.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Beverages are supplied in a variety of carton configurations for storage and shipping. Some cartons are provided with removable end parts that allow beverage or other containers to be removed through an end opening. The removable end part may be perforated to facilitate removal.

After the removable end part has been removed, the carton converts from a fully enclosed carton to a container dispensing carton. Such an end dispensing carton typically uses a cylindrical can or other rollable container which facilitates the ability of individual successive containers to be removed.

A problem with the end dispensing cartons is that the cartons may become distorted and allow the containers to freely roll from the carton. This is particularly disadvantageous when the carton has been placed into a refrigerator and the containers become free to roll from the carton when the refrigerator door is opened.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Preferred embodiments of the invention are described below with reference to the following accompanying drawings.

FIG. 1 is a perspective view showing a beverage carton tray according to the invention.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view showing an exemplary beverage carton with a tear away end closure shown on the carton and diagrammatically removed therefrom.

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of an exemplary rollable container.

FIG. 4 is a schematic side elevation of a refrigerator with the apparatus and a carton positioned between spaced shelves.

FIG. 5 is a longitudinal sectional view taken substantially along line 5-5 in FIG. 1.

FIG. 6 is a transverse sectional view similar to FIG. 5 also showing a carton mounted on the apparatus.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Introductory Note

The readers of this document should understand that the embodiments described herein may rely on terminology used in any section of this document and other terms readily apparent from the drawings and language common therefor. This document is premised upon using one or more terms with one embodiment that will in general apply to other embodiments for similar structures, functions, features and aspects of the invention. Wording used in the claims as filed is also descriptive of the invention. Terminology used with one, some or all embodiments may be used for describing and defining the technology and exclusive rights associated herewith.

General Configuration

A preferred apparatus according to the invention is generally identified by numeral 10 in the drawings. Apparatus 10 is designed to receive and support a case or carton 12 that holds cylindrical containers 11 or other rollable containers. The preferred use is with end opening cases or cartons that hold beverage cans or similar containers.

Details of the Preferred Container and Carton with which the Tray is Used

A preferred use of tray 10 is with exemplary containers 11 and an end opening carton 12. The preferred end opening carton 12 can contain two rows of six containers each. The containers may be provided in the carton in a hexagonal close pack relationship or this relationship may be assumed by the containers after opening the carton and removing one or more containers therefrom. This type of carton with enclosed containers is sometimes referred to as a “2×6” carton configuration. The upper row is positioned rearwardly relative to the end opening. The bottom row is positioned against the front of the carton. Other carton configurations may also be suitable for use with the novel tray 10 according to this invention.

In a typical commercially used configuration the exemplary carton is made from heavy paper or paperboard. Carton 12 includes a front wall 12a, a rear wall 12b, a top wall 12c, a bottom wall 12d and side walls 12e. Carton 12 may sometimes also be provided with a tear away closure 13 that includes part of the front end wall 12a. The removable closure 13 may also have portions which extend along side walls 12e. Further the removable closure may also extend along a portion of the carton top wall 12c. The closure 13 can be removed from the carton 12, leaving a container discharge or discharge opening O. In some carton configurations there may be a stop wall 12f that extends partially upward from the bottom wall 12d. When a stop wall is provided, the stop wall 12f has a top edge T which is at a height G from the bottom of the carton. The height G may be approximately the radius of a container 11.

The provision of a stop wall 12f is intended to prevent containers from rolling out the discharge O. Unfortunately, the stop wall is sometimes unable to sustain the force of the containers which are arranged behind the stop wall within the interior of the carton 12.

Still further, the exemplary carton 12 used with tray 10 may include a width dimension W, a height dimension H, and a length dimension L. The dimensions and carton or container configurations can vary and the current apparatus 10 may be constructed with complimentary dimensions to accommodate a variety of carton sizes and configurations.

Tray Apparatus

Tray apparatus 10 is shown in FIGS. 1 and 4-6 in a preferred form. The apparatus may be made to support a beverage carton 12 in such a manner that containers within the carton 12 will roll in a forward direction as by an inclined plane defined by the apparatus.

It is intended that the apparatus 10 be capable of supporting such a carton 12 in a refrigerator (FIG. 4) between adjacent shelves 15, 16 in such a manner that included beverage or similar containers 11 can be supported within the carton or case originally purchased, and be made to roll or migrate forwardly toward the discharge opening O whether such opening be pre-formed as illustrated, or formed by the user.

As shown, the preferred apparatus 10 includes an elongated tray body 20 that can be formed of a variety of materials by a variety of techniques. In one preferred form the tray can be formed of transparent plastic material. The selected material is preferably impervious to water and the typical beverages. A preferred material is PETG (glycolised polyester) if the apparatus is being formed using vacuum forming of sheet plastic feedstock material. If the apparatus is to be formed by injection molding of plastic, then HDPE (high density polyethylene) is preferred. Although these materials are currently preferred, alternative materials may subsequently become preferred. Alternative materials such as other plastics or formable metals may also be used.

The body of the tray may be formed using a variety of suitable methods. For example, the tray body may be formed by vacuum thermal forming of a plastic sheet material, molding, other thermal forming techniques; or casting, stamping or fabrication, if metal materials are used. The forming technique used will provide a tray apparatus having the desired features, such as the construction shown for the preferred configuration illustrated and described herein. In currently preferred configurations the forming technique is used to provide an integrated tray construction. This is most advantageously done using a singular material of construction which is vacuum formed at above room temperature into the tray structure shown having the features described and illustrated herein. It is also possible for the tray body 20 to be formed of discrete parts, using the same or different materials for each part. This may be accomplished using different appropriate forming techniques for each component. More particularly, the tray body may be formed of one material to provide a leak proof tray body construction and the inclined ramp structure may be formed of another material in a manner discrete from the tray body.

In the illustrated embodiments, the elongated tray body 20 is formed with a bottom wall 21 and upwardly extending marginal walls 22. The bottom wall and marginal walls are joined to provide a leak proof tray interior. The marginal walls form a dam about the bottom wall serving to retain liquids which may collect from container leakage, other leakage within a refrigerator or other storage location, or condensation that condenses from moisture in the air and condenses out upon the containers. The leak proof construction is advantageously provided by integral formation of the bottom wall and marginal walls which extend upwardly therefrom, such as in the preferred upstanding, even more preferably vertical orientations. It is also possible for the walls 22 to be separate components from and mechanically or otherwise attached to the bottom wall 21 to form a leak proof tray body.

The marginal walls 22 can be made to terminate along peripheral top edges 26 at a height dimension B (FIG. 1) from the bottom wall 21 that is less than the height dimension H (FIG. 2) of a beverage carton 12. In such configuration, the tray is upwardly open and a carton 12 received by the apparatus will project upwardly and above the peripheral top edges of the marginal walls, as shown in FIGS. 4W and 6.

Overall height of the combined carton 12 and apparatus 10 is minimized by keeping the tray height sufficiently low. The resulting compact configuration enables reception of the resulting combination within conventional refrigerators 14, between elevationally adjacent shelves 15, 16 as illustrated by FIG. 4.

The bottom and marginal walls 21, 22 can be made to define an upwardly open beverage carton receiving receptacle 28 that can be made to be complimentary to the carton 12 in order to receive the beverage carton within the confines of the walls. Thus, the marginal walls 22 can be made to compliment the sides and ends of the carton. In one preferred construction the marginal walls and bottom wall are joined by a radius. This is particularly applicable to embodiments formed by vacuum forming of thermoplastic materials because the shape is more easily filled by application of the vacuum to the thermoplastic sheet being used.

The marginal walls shown in the illustrated embodiment include a forward end wall 23, and a rearward end wall 24. The front and rear walls are joined by longitudinal side walls 25. The resulting construction is preferably shaped to be complimentary to a carton 12 being used therewith. It thus forms a receptacle 28 into which a lower portion of carton 12 is received. In the illustrated example, the walls 23, 24 and 25 are joined together in a continuous perimeter, with continuous top peripheral edges 26.

In the illustrated embodiments, the top edges 26 of the marginal walls all lie in a common plane. This may be done so that the plane is substantially parallel to the bottom wall 21. Although the illustrated edge-to-base parallel relationship is advantageous to provide a visually level appearance, it is alternatively possible that a different relationship could be used. For example, differing height walls, or coplanar wall edges that are not in a parallel relationship with the bottom wall could alternatively be used.

The Carton Support

In exemplary embodiments, the tray apparatus is provided with a support or rest upon which the carton is supported or rests. The bottom of the cart rests or is supported upon a support surface 30 which can be provided in or on the tray 20. The support surface is preferably below the peripheral top edges 26 of the marginal walls so that upward portions of the marginal walls provide lateral restraint to the carton. This is advantageous in preventing the carton from shifting during movement, such as when moved between a kitchen counter and a refrigerator shelf, or vice versa.

The carton support is also positioned or constructed so that the support surface 30 is above the bottom wall 21. Configurations of the surface 30 can be formed integrally with the bottom wall 21 and marginal walls 22. Alternatively, the surface 30 can be formed separately as an insert or attachment to the tray.

The support and contacting support surface 30 is preferably configured to receive and support a carton 12 at an inclined angle with respect to the bottom wall 21. In exemplary forms, the support surface 30 extends from a high end adjacent to the rearward end wall 24 toward a low end 32 that is adjacent to the front end wall 23. The inclined support surface is preferably maintained at a position above the inside of bottom wall 40 at the forward end wall 23. In the configuration shown, the support is constructed so that the support surface 30 inclines longitudinally. As shown, the support surface extends longitudinally for substantially the length of the carton. In alternative configurations (not illustrated) the support surface can be made to extend only part way along the length of the tray body 20, as long as sufficient area is provided for stable support of a carton 12.

In one example, an incline height E (FIG. 1) of the support surface 30 at the high end is under 2 inches, more preferably about 1 inch. Dimensions in this range allow for the overall height of the combined carton 12 and apparatus 10 to be conveniently compatible with spacing S (FIG. 4) between elevationally adjacent refrigerator shelves 15, 16. As shown, the height of the support surface and length of the support surface define the degree of inclination. The degree of inclination is preferably constant along the length of the support to accommodate and complement the substantially planar bottom surface of the carton which is placed in a resting position thereon. The length C of tray 20 is substantially controlled by the corresponding length dimension L (FIG. 2) of the carton 12 to be received with compensation for the thicknesses of the front and rear end marginal walls and any desired clearance.

In one form the tray is provided in a length and width which is slightly greater is than the length and width of the carton to provide a loose fitting relationship that allows easy installation and removal. The height B of the marginal walls is variable but is most preferably made so that the height of the front end wall 23 that extends above the support surface 30 within the interior of the tray is approximately the height of the radius of a container 11 (D/2, see FIG. 3) so that the container rolls against the front wall 23 and abuts the front wall near the forward extremity of the bottom row front container. For many beverage cans, the height of the front end wall B may be made appropriately under 2 inches and still provide sufficient degree of inclination so that containers 11 move due to gravitational migration. In the most preferred implementations of the invention, the inclination of the support surface is sufficient to encourage containers within the carton to migrate by rolling toward the forward end wall 23 and the carton discharge O (FIG. 6).

Support Surface and Forward End Wall Relation

As suggested above, the support surface 30 can extend along an inclined plane to intersect the forward end wall 23. This intersection is preferably slightly above the bottom interior surface of the tray body. Thus, a carton 12 that is placed within the beverage carton receptacle 28 will have a tendency to slide or migrate by gravity toward the forward end wall 23. The inside of the forward end wall 23 can thus become an abutment against which the carton container will stop and rest. If the carton is provided with a upstanding segment 12f, then the forward end wall 23 can thus provide support or restraint against forward lateral forces developed upon the carton stop segment to thereby brace or reinforce the carton stop against collapse.

In illustrated examples, the top peripheral edge 26 at the forward wall 23 is configured to be elevationally below the top edge T (FIG. 2) of the upstanding carton stop 12f. The height of edge T of the carton is selected by the packaging or manufacturing company, and may vary from one manufacturer to another. By configuring the tray top edge height B to be under the edge height T, structural restraint can be provided without interfering with the user's capability to remove the tear away closure 13 from the carton when installed on the tray. Such removal of the closure in some instances causes tearing and/or destruction of the carton stop 12f. With the novel construction shown, the front end wall 23 also serves to help prevent destruction of the carton stop segment 12f when the carton is placed into the tray before removal of closure 13.

A forward end wall height B can be selected in relation also to the container diameter D (FIG. 3). An exemplary abutment wall height above the support surface at the forward end wall is advantageously slightly under the radius of container 11, or half of the container diameter. Such an abutment wall height can be beneficial in allowing for sufficient wall height to brace the carton stop wall 12f, and act to contact the containers should the carton stop wall 12f be damaged or missing. Thus the abutment acts as a restraint or as a contacting stop to prevent the containers 11 from rolling free of the tray.

Exemplary Support Structure

As indicated above, the support and associated support surface 30 can be provided in various forms or dimensions. In the illustrated example, the support surface can be formed to include at least one longitudinal part or member 33. The one or more longitudinal part or parts may advantageously spans the interior length of the tray body. This is desirable to maintain the ramp in a continuous construction that allows for smooth rolling of the containers 11. As shown, the longitudinal support member is provided at a location central to the two opposing side walls 25. Plural longitudinal members in lieu of longitudinal member 33 may alternatively be used.

The support may also advantageously include at least one, and preferably plural, transverse support members 39. As shown, the tray 10 is provided with three pair of transverse members that extend across transverse width A (FIG. 1) of the tray body 20. The transverse members are in the form of reinforcing ribs 38, intersecting with the longitudinal part 33 at locations along the tray length C. The rib parts have top surfaces 39 can be made integral and coplanar, coincidental with or defining the angle of inclination of the support surface 30.

As illustrated in FIG. 2 and elsewhere, the ribs 38 and longitudinal part 33 of support surface 30 can be made integral with the remainder of the tray body. As such, the ribs and longitudinal part can be effectively used as structural reinforcement of the tray body. Alternatively, these parts can be made separately and attached to the tray in a manner to provide similar rigidity.

Catch Basin

In exemplary forms of the present apparatus 10, the bottom wall 21 and marginal walls 22 further define a catch basin 36. The support surface 30 is located above the bottom wall and below the dam formed by the marginal walls. The catch basin 36 is useful where the tray body 20 is made impervious to liquids to catch spilled or condensed liquids and to hold such liquids within the confines of the tray and below the bottom of the carton 12. This advantageously prevents any liquids from wetting the carton and prevents the associated mess, inconvenience and loss of structural integrity that occurs when a carton is in contact with a liquid within a refrigerator or elsewhere.

In configurations in which the above described central longitudinal part 33 and intersecting ribs 38 are provided, one or more collection wells are formed. In the version shown, the support structure forms a grid work or array of collecting wells 40 for reception of liquids therein. The individual wells can provide separate containment of spills. Smaller individual volumes of spilled liquid in a plurality of segregated wells 40 reduce the risks of sloshing and spilling the liquids as compared to the same volume of liquid held as a single mass.

The Finger or Hand Hold

Preferred forms of the apparatuses according to the invention may include one or more finger or hand holds. As shown, apparatus 10 may be made to include a finger or hand hold 27 which provides a gripping surface or surfaces. The gripping surfaces may be provided under a grip extension forming part of the tray body. The hand hold and associated gripping surface can be used to provide more secure handling of the tray body and a carton of containers supported thereon. In the form of the invention illustrated by FIG. 6, the exemplary finger or hand grip surface 27 can be formed integrally with the tray body 20 adjacent the rearward end wall 24. The upward interior surface 31 of the hand hold 27 also advantageously serves as a rearward ledge forming part of the inclined ramp support surface.

Space is provided between the elevation of the bottom wall 21 and gripping surface so that convenient access is provided when extending the fingers or hand under the hand hold ledge. This is particularly advantageous when reaching toward the back of a refrigerator shelf to gain a hold for removal of the tray and any supported carton and containers. As illustrated, the grip surface is disposed within the length dimension of the tray body and as such, will not take up added space or increase the size of the footprint of the apparatus in a refrigerator or elsewhere.

Operation

Operation of the present apparatus 20 can be preceded by securing a carton of containers 12 and initially removing the tear away closure 13. While this can be done separately from the apparatus 10, it is advantageous to first place the carton 11 within the described receptacle 28, so the forward end wall 23 can act as a guide in the removal step, and reinforce the carton stop wall 12f against tearing or collapse as the closure 13 is removed. The closure may also be torn away at the top of the carton and the abutment used as a tear line against which the closure is removed along the bottom edge of the removable closure 13. The remainder of the marginal walls 22 also function at this time to hold the carton securely in position upon the inclined ramp support.

Once the carton 12 is placed within the apparatus 10, and the closure 13 is removed, the forward containers 11 become accessible and can be manually removed as desired. As one container is removed, those remaining in the carton 12 will shift, roll or otherwise migrate toward the discharge O due to gravity and the inclined plane of the support surface 30. This action will continue until the last container 11 is removed, at which time the tray and empty carton can be removed from a refrigerator or other dispensing position at which the apparatus has been used. If it is desired to place the apparatus 10 and carton 12 within a refrigerator, the user can simply grasp the tray body at the forward end and slide the combined assembly outwardly. The assembly can then be lifted and relocated. The relocation is facilitated by the finger grip 27.

Should a spill occur within the carton, the spilled liquid will drain downwardly and collect in the catch basin 36, or more particularly, in one or more of the exemplary beverage collection wells 40. The spill thus contained can be easily dealt with simply by lifting the tray body and pouring the spilled liquid into a sink or other receptacle. The individual wells 40 can act during transport of the apparatus as baffles against spillage, thereby avoiding spillage from the tray.

Interpretation Note

The invention has been described in language directed to the current embodiments shown and described with regard to various structural and methodological features. The scope of protection as defined by the claims is not intended to be necessarily limited to the specific features shown and described. Other forms and equivalents for implementing the inventions can be made without departing from the scope of the concepts properly protected hereby.