Title:
CONTAINERS FOR RAISINS AND OTHER STICKY PRODUCE
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A container for transporting or storing raisins or other sticky produce features a flexible membrane secured within a container structure which has a base and four walls. The flexible membrane is secured within the container structure so as to overlie a major part of the base, such that, when the container is filled with sticky produce and inverted, the flexible membrane peels away from the sticky produce, thereby releasing the sticky produce while the flexible membrane itself remains secured within the container structure for subsequent use.



Inventors:
Hadar, Nir (Hadera, IL)
Application Number:
12/013498
Publication Date:
07/17/2008
Filing Date:
01/14/2008
Assignee:
POLYMER LOGISTICS (ISRAEL) LTD (Raanana, IL)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D25/14
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
BRADEN, SHAWN M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Dr. Mark M. Friedman (Ramat Gan, IL)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A container for transporting or storing raisins or other sticky produce, the container comprising: (a) a container structure including a base and four walls; and (b) at least one flexible membrane secured within said container structure so as to overlie a major part of said base, such that, when the container is filled with sticky produce and inverted, said at least one flexible membrane peels away from the sticky produce, thereby releasing the sticky produce while remaining secured within said container structure.

2. The container of claim 1, wherein said at least one flexible membrane is implemented as a single flexible membrane overlying substantially the entirety of said base.

3. The container of claim 2, wherein said flexible membrane is secured at a plurality of locations around a periphery of said flexible membrane while a central portion of said flexible membrane is free to part from said base.

4. The container of claim 3, wherein a length of said flexible membrane between two of said securing locations is greater than a distance between said two securing locations such that said flexible membrane exhibits slack in at least one direction.

5. The container of claim 4, wherein said slack is provided by a pattern of undulations formed in said membrane.

6. The container of claim 5, wherein said pattern of undulations provides slack in two perpendicular directions.

7. The container of claim 1, wherein said walls and said base are separately formed, interconnected elements, and wherein said at least one flexible membrane is secured by being interposed between said walls and said base during interconnection of said walls and said base.

8. The container of claim 7, wherein at least one of said base and said walls are formed with projecting features for interlocking between said base and said walls, and wherein said at least one flexible membrane is formed with a plurality of apertures for accommodating said projecting features, thereby securing said at least one flexible membrane within the container.

9. The container of claim 7, wherein said container structure further includes a plurality of locking elements, said base and said walls being formed with recesses for receiving said locking elements so that said locking elements interlock between said base and said walls, and wherein said at least one flexible membrane is formed with a plurality of apertures for accommodating said locking elements, thereby securing said at least one flexible membrane within the container.

10. The container of claim 9, wherein said locking elements are corner posts additionally operative to interlock said walls.

11. The container of claim 1, wherein said at least one flexible membrane is formed with: (a) a plurality of apertures for securing said at least one membrane to said container structure; and (b) reinforced regions of increased thickness surrounding said apertures.

12. The container of claim 11, wherein said at least one flexible membrane is formed by injection molding of polymer material.

13. A method for transporting or storing raisins or other sticky produce, the method comprising the steps of: (a) providing a container including: (i) a container structure including a base and four walls, and (ii) at least one flexible membrane secured within the container structure so as to overlie a major part of the base; (b) filling the container with a quantity of the sticky produce for transport or storage of the produce; and (c) inverting the container so that the at least one flexible membrane peels away from the sticky produce, thereby releasing the sticky produce while the at least one flexible membrane remains secured within the container structure.

14. The method of claim 13, further comprising repeating steps (b) and (c) without removal of the at least one flexible membrane from the container.

15. The method of claim 13, wherein the at least one flexible membrane is implemented as a single flexible membrane overlying substantially the entirety of the base.

16. The method of claim 15, wherein the flexible membrane is secured at a plurality of locations around a periphery of the flexible membrane while a central portion of the flexible membrane is free to part from the base.

17. The method of claim 16, wherein a length of the flexible membrane between two of the securing locations is greater than a distance between the two securing locations such that the flexible membrane exhibits slack in at least one direction.

18. The method of claim 17, wherein the slack is provided by a pattern of undulations formed in the membrane.

19. The method of claim 18, wherein the pattern of undulations provides slack in two perpendicular directions.

20. The method of claim 13, wherein the at least one flexible membrane is formed with: (a) a plurality of apertures for securing the at least one membrane to the container structure; and (b) reinforced regions of increased thickness surrounding the apertures.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO PRIOR DOMESTIC APPLICATION

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/884,881 filed 14 Jan. 2007.

FIELD AND BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to containers for transporting and/or storing raisins and other sticky produce.

There is a growing trend towards use of plastic containers in place of the traditional wooden crates for transporting raisins and other dried fruit. However, it has been found that the raisins tend to stick to the base of the crate and are very difficult to empty by tipping.

There is therefore a need for a container which will allow tipping out of sticky produce such as raisins. It would also be advantageous to provide a corresponding method of transporting sticky produce such as raisins.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is a container for transporting or storing raisins or other sticky produce, and a corresponding method.

According to the teachings of the present invention there is provided, a container for transporting or storing raisins or other sticky produce, the container comprising: (a) a container structure including a base and four walls; and (b) at least one flexible membrane secured within the container structure so as to overlie a major part of the base, such that, when the container is filled with sticky produce and inverted, the at least one flexible membrane peels away from the sticky produce, thereby releasing the sticky produce while remaining secured within the container structure.

According to a further feature of the present invention, the at least one flexible membrane is implemented as a single flexible membrane overlying substantially the entirety of the base.

According to a further feature of the present invention, the flexible membrane is secured at a plurality of locations around a periphery of the flexible membrane while a central portion of the flexible membrane is free to part from the base.

According to a further feature of the present invention, a length of the flexible membrane between two of the securing locations is greater than a distance between the two securing locations such that the flexible membrane exhibits slack in at least one direction.

According to a further feature of the present invention, the slack is provided by a pattern of undulations formed in the membrane.

According to a further feature of the present invention, the pattern of undulations provides slack in two perpendicular directions.

According to a further feature of the present invention, the walls and the base are separately formed, interconnected elements, and wherein the at least one flexible membrane is secured by being interposed between the walls and the base during interconnection of the walls and the base.

According to a further feature of the present invention, at least one of the base and the walls are formed with projecting features for interlocking between the base and the walls, and wherein the at least one flexible membrane is formed with a plurality of apertures for accommodating the projecting features, thereby securing the at least one flexible membrane within the container.

According to a further feature of the present invention, the container structure further includes a plurality of locking elements, the base and the walls being formed with recesses for receiving the locking elements so that the locking elements interlock between the base and the walls, and wherein the at least one flexible membrane is formed with a plurality of apertures for accommodating the locking elements, thereby securing the at least one flexible membrane within the container.

According to a further feature of the present invention, the locking elements are corner posts additionally operative to interlock the walls.

According to a further feature of the present invention, the at least one flexible membrane is formed with: (a) a plurality of apertures for securing the at least one membrane to the container structure; and (b) reinforced regions of increased thickness surrounding the apertures.

According to a further feature of the present invention, the at least one flexible membrane is formed by injection molding of polymer material.

There is also provided according to the teachings of the present invention, a method for transporting or storing raisins or other sticky produce, the method comprising the steps of: (a) providing a container including: (i) a container structure including a base and four walls, and (ii) at least one flexible membrane secured within the container structure so as to overlie a major part of the base, (b) filling the container with a quantity of the sticky produce for transport or storage of the produce; and (c) inverting the container so that the at least one flexible membrane peels away from the sticky produce, thereby releasing the sticky produce while the at least one flexible membrane remains secured within the container structure.

According to a further feature of the present invention, the aforementioned steps of filling and inverting are repeated without removal of the at least one flexible membrane from the container.

According to a further feature of the present invention, the at least one flexible membrane is implemented as a single flexible membrane overlying substantially the entirety of the base.

According to a further feature of the present invention, the flexible membrane is secured at a plurality of locations around a periphery of the flexible membrane while a central portion of the flexible membrane is free to part from the base.

According to a further feature of the present invention, a length of the flexible membrane between two of the securing locations is greater than a distance between the two securing locations such that the flexible membrane exhibits slack in at least one direction.

According to a further feature of the present invention, the slack is provided by a pattern of undulations formed in the membrane.

According to a further feature of the present invention, the pattern of undulations provides slack in two perpendicular directions.

According to a further feature of the present invention, the at least one flexible membrane is formed with: (a) a plurality of apertures for securing the at least one membrane to the container structure; and (b) reinforced regions of increased thickness surrounding the apertures.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The invention is herein described, by way of example only, with reference to the accompanying drawings, wherein:

FIG. 1 is an isometric view of a container, constructed and operative according to the teachings of the present invention, for transporting or storing raisins or other sticky produce;

FIG. 2 is an isometric view of a flexible membrane from the container of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a partially disassembled isometric view of the container of FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 is a lower isometric view of a part of the flexible membrane from the container of FIG. 1;

FIG. 5 is a further disassembled view of the container of FIG. 1;

FIGS. 6A and 6B are schematic cut-away isometric views illustrating an initial position and a displaced position, respectively, of the flexible membrane when the container of FIG. 1 is inverted;

FIG. 7 is an isometric view of an alternative implementation of a container, constructed and operative according to the teachings of the present invention, for transporting or storing raisins or other sticky produce;

FIG. 8 is an isometric view of a flexible membrane from the container of FIG. 7; and

FIG. 9 is a schematic cut-away isometric view illustrating the container of FIG. 7 in an inverted state.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

The present invention is a container for transporting or storing raisins or other sticky produce, and a corresponding method.

The principles and operation of containers and methods according to the present invention may be better understood with reference to the drawings and the accompanying description.

Referring now to the drawings, FIGS. 1-6B illustrate a container, generally designated 10, constructed and operative according to the teachings of the present invention, for transporting or storing raisins or other sticky produce (not shown). Generally speaking, container 10 includes a container structure, including a base 12 and four walls 14, and at least one flexible membrane 16. Flexible membrane 16 is secured within the container structure so as to overlie a major part of base 12 such that, when the container is filled with sticky produce and inverted, the at least one flexible membrane 16 peels away from the sticky produce, thereby releasing the sticky produce while the flexible membrane 16 itself remains secured within the container structure.

In the particularly preferred implementations illustrated here, the at least one flexible membrane is implemented as a single flexible membrane 16 overlying substantially the entirety of base 12. Flexible membrane 16 is preferably secured at a plurality of locations around a periphery of the flexible membrane while a central portion of flexible membrane 16 is free to part from the base. As a result, flexible membrane 16 tends to form a convex “belly” when pulled on by a sticky mass, such as when the container is tipped or inverted. The uneven pull on the membrane makes the edges of the membrane close to the anchored regions tend to pull away from the surface of the sticky mass, thereby starting a gradual peeling off of the membrane from the surface of the sticky mass, typically starting at the sides and advancing inwards. This and other advantages of the present invention will be better understood with reference to the following detailed description and drawings.

Before turning to the remaining features of the present invention in more detail, it will be helpful to define certain terminology as used herein in the description and claims. Firstly, reference is made to a “container”. The term “container” is used herein in the description and claims to refer generically to any and all type of box, bin, crate or other container which may be used for handling raisins or other sticky produce, particularly dried fruit. Primarily, the present invention relates to large dimension shipping containers, i.e., of lateral dimensions greater than about 40 cm, and often in excess of about 80 cm. The container may be any shape, but is typically either square or another rectangular form.

The term “flexible membrane” is used herein to refer to any sheet-like or otherwise relatively thin layer which can provide the recited functionality. The membrane does not necessarily have uniform thickness, and may have various apertures and/or reinforcing regions, such as will be described in the example below.

Turning now to the features of the present invention in more detail, membrane 16 is preferably, although not necessarily, formed with at least one undulating feature or fold which accommodates a greater length of material in at least one dimension as measured along the sheet than the corresponding distance between anchoring points of the membrane. In other words, the flexible membrane is anchored so as to have some “slack” or “spare length” in at least one direction and in a region passing through or near the center of the container's base. In the particularly preferred implementation illustrated in FIG. 2, a pattern of undulations formed in the membrane provides slack in two perpendicular directions. The significance of this slack will be better understood with reference to FIGS. 6A and 6B.

Specifically, as shown in FIGS. 6A and 6B, when container 10 is at least partially filled with raisins of other sticky produce, and is inverted to dump out the produce, the presence of the undulations reduces the tension in the central part of membrane 16. As a result, the sticky mass of produce is momentarily suspended via tension in membrane 16 between the peripheral anchored region of the membrane and the outermost line of contact between the membrane and the produce. The localized application of the weight, plus the upward vector caused by pulling of membrane 16 away from base 12 to form a “belly” as shown in FIG. 6B, result in a highly effective peeling effect in which the membrane progressively peels away from the sticky produce as the line of contact moves inwards.

In the particular example illustrated in FIGS. 1-6B, membrane 16 having a series of circular creases or undulations, in this case one within the other. It should be appreciated, however, that this circular shape is not critical. Membrane 16 is preferably formed from common low-cost materials used in the food packaging industry, and is preferably chosen to be flexible but not particularly stretchable in-plane. Suitable examples include, but are not limited to, polyurethane sheets and polyethylene sheets.

Membrane 16 may be anchored within container 10 in a range of different ways. According to certain preferred implementations, membrane 16 is anchored at least near each corner. Alternatively, or additionally, membrane 16 is anchored at locations spaced along each side.

In the particularly preferred implementation illustrated here, walls 14 and base 12 are separately formed, interconnected elements, and membrane 16 is secured by being interposed between the walls and the base during interconnection of the walls and the base. In this case, securing of membrane 16 is advantageously performed as part of the interlocking of walls 14 with base 12. Specifically, either base 12 or walls 14 are preferably formed with projecting features 18 for interlocking between base 12 and walls 14. Membrane 16 is formed with a corresponding set of apertures 20 for accommodating projecting features 18. This inherently secures membrane 16 within container 10 during assembly of the container structure. Additionally, or alternatively, a plurality of separate locking elements 22 may be provided for engaging recesses formed in both base 12 and walls 14 so as to interlock between the base and the walls. Here too, membrane 16 is preferably formed with a corresponding set of apertures 24 for accommodating locking elements 22, thereby further securing membrane 16 within container 10. In the particular example illustrated here, as best seen in FIG. 5, locking elements 22 are corner posts additionally operative to interlock adjacent walls 14.

Optionally, where additional connecting elements such as screws or bolts (not shown) are used to attach walls 14 to base 12, additional pre-formed apertures 26 in membrane 16 may be provided in order to minimize the risk of damage (e.g., tearing) of membrane 16 when the connecting elements are inserted.

Securing of membrane 16 during assembly of walls 14 and base 12 is particularly advantageous, rendering membrane 16 replaceable like any other part during disassembly of the container for servicing. During normal use, however, the membrane remains fixed within the container during a plurality of cycles of filling and emptying.

Although membrane 16 may optionally be implemented as a simple sheet of material of roughly uniform thickness and with apertures cut out as desired, certain particularly preferred implementations employ a membrane 16 formed by injection molding of polymer material. This approach facilitates various additional features, such as precise shaping of the various aforementioned apertures 20, 24 and/or 26, and formation of reinforced regions 28 of increased thickness surrounding the apertures, as illustrated in FIG. 4.

Optionally, instead of assembling between the sides and the base, the membrane may be fixed by a clamping arrangement deployed on the inside surface of the base or sides, or part of the membrane may extend through a slot formed in the base or sides for securing externally. These options are the preferred options in the case of an integrally molded one-piece container. According to one particularly preferred option, the corners or two complete edges of the membrane may be gripped under clamping blocks or strips which are screwed, bolted or otherwise fixed to the inside of the side walls close to the bottom edge.

It should be noted that, although the preferred implementations illustrated here employ a single membrane 16 covering substantially the entirety of base 12, a similar effect may be achieved by providing a number of separate membranes each only covering a subregion of base 12.

The use of container 10, and a corresponding method for transporting or storing raisins or other sticky produce according to the present invention, will now be clear. Container 10 is filled to a desired extent with a quantity of the sticky produce for transport or storage of the produce. On reaching the intended destination or when otherwise desired to remove the produce from the container, container 10 is inverted, i.e., tipped sufficiently that at least part of base 12 becomes the highest part of container. In this state, as described above with reference to FIGS. 6A and 6B, the weight of the sticky mass within the container tends to pull membrane 16 away from base 12 of the container. As the mass moves, the edges of membrane 16 which are fixedly attached to the container experience tension which tends to peel the membrane away from the peripheral regions of the surface of the sticky mass. This process continues as the mass continues to move until the membrane is completely peeled off the mass and the mass is released from the container. Membrane 16 itself remains secured within the container structure. The filling and inverting process is preferably repeated during successive cycles of transport and/or storage without removal of membrane 16 from container 10.

Turning now briefly to FIGS. 7-9, there is shown an alternative implementation of a container, generally designated 30, constructed and operative according to the teachings of the present invention. Generally speaking, container 30 is similar, both in structure and function, to container 10 described above. In this case, the flexible membrane 32 is initially formed in an undulating or “corrugated” form. This provides excess length of the membrane in one direction, and results in a peeling motion primarily progressing from two opposite ends of the container when inverted. In all other respects, the structure and function of the membrane is similar to that described above.

It will be appreciated that the above descriptions are intended only to serve as examples, and that many other embodiments are possible within the scope of the present invention as defined in the appended claims.