Title:
Multifunctional container with reinforcing structural columns
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A multifunctional container for storing, transporting, displaying and selling a wide range of goods has a bottom wall, a pair of opposing end walls and a pair of opposing side walls that can be formed into a variety of different container configurations. The container of the present invention has integrally formed structural columns for superior stacking strength and resistance to distortion. The columns are formed by providing column fold lines in extension members that are integrally formed with the panels that define the end walls and then pressing the fold lines between a folding arm having a protrusion and a cooperatively configured mandrel. The container can have integral cover flaps, corner panels, dividers and/or partitions. The container utilizes areas of a blank that would normally be discarded as waste. By slitting, scoring and folding these areas, various features can be formed to enhance flexibility and functionality of the container.



Inventors:
Montague Kisch, Raymond George (Paso Robles, CA, US)
Application Number:
12/148997
Publication Date:
10/30/2008
Filing Date:
04/23/2008
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D3/22
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
DEMEREE, CHRISTOPHER R
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
RICHARD A. RYAN (Fresno, CA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A multifunctional container formed from a single integral blank, said container comprising: a bottom wall and a plurality of walls in upstanding relation to said bottom wall, each of said walls having a first end and a second end; an extension member integral with one or more of said first end or said second end of at least one of said walls and disposed in substantially right angle relation thereto, said extension member having a proximal end at said at least one of said walls and a distal end distally disposed therefrom; and a structural column integrally formed in said extension member, said structural column defined by one or more column fold lines in said extension member.

2. The container according to claim 1, wherein said plurality of walls comprises a pair of opposing end walls and a pair of opposing side walls, said end walls defining opposing ends of said container, said side walls defining opposing sides of said container, each of said end walls having said extension members formed integrally therewith, each of said extension members having said structural column formed integrally therein.

3. The container according to claim 2 further comprising a plurality of corner panels formed integrally with said container, one of said corner panels angularly disposed between each of said end walls and said side walls disposed in adjacent relation.

4. The container according to claim 3 further comprising one or more cover flaps integrally formed with at least one of said end walls and said side walls.

5. The container according to claim 4, wherein each of said end walls has an end cover flap integrally formed therewith and each of said side walls has a side cover flap integrally formed therewith.

6. The container according to claim 4, wherein at least one of said side walls has a side cover flap integrally formed therewith and each of said end walls has an end column flap formed integrally therewith, said end column flap having a structural column integrally formed therein and defined by one or more column fold lines in said end column flap.

7. The container according to claim 4, wherein each of said one or more cover flaps has one or more divider flaps integrally formed therewith, said divider flaps defining one or more dividers in said container.

8. The container according to claim 7 further comprising an integrally formed securing mechanism to secure said divider flaps to said bottom wall.

9. The container according to claim 4 further comprising one or more integrally formed partitions in at least one of said end walls and side walls, each of said partitions formed from a partition flap integral with one of said extension members and defined by a partition fold line.

10. The container according to claim 2 further comprising one or more cover flaps integrally formed with at least one of said walls.

11. The container according to claim 2, wherein at least one of said side walls has a side cover flap integrally formed therewith and each of said end walls have an end column flap formed integrally therewith, said end column flap having a structural column integrally formed therein and defined by one or more column fold lines in said end column flap.

12. The container according to claim 1, wherein at least one of said walls has a side cover flap integrally formed therewith, each of said cover flaps has one or more divider flaps integrally formed therewith, said divider flaps attached to said bottom wall so as to define one or more dividers in said container.

13. The container according to claim 1 further comprising one or more integrally formed partitions in at least one of said walls, each of said partitions formed from a partition flap integral with one of said extension members and defined by a partition fold line.

14. A multifunctional container formed from a single integral blank, said container comprising: a bottom wall, a first end wall and an opposing second end wall and a first side wall and an opposing second side wall, said end walls defining opposing ends of said container, said side walls defining opposing sides of said container, each of said first end wall, second end wall, first side wall and second side wall having a first end and a second end; an extension member integrally formed at each end of said first end wall and said second end wall, each of said extension members being disposed at right angles to said end wall so as to align two of said extension members on each of said opposing sides of said container; and one or more structural columns integrally formed in at least one of said extension members on each of said opposing sides of said container, each of said structural columns defined by one or more column fold lines.

15. The container according to claim 14 further comprising a plurality of corner panels formed integrally with said container, one of said corner panels angularly disposed between each of said end walls and said side walls disposed in adjacent relation.

16. The container according to claim 14 further comprising one or more cover flaps integrally formed with at least one of said end walls and said side walls.

17. The container according to claim 16, wherein each of said one or more cover flaps has one or more divider flaps integrally formed therewith, said divider flaps defining one or more dividers in said container.

18. The container according to claim 14, wherein at least one of said side walls has a side cover flap integrally formed therewith and each of said end walls has an end column flap formed integrally therewith, said end column flap having a structural column integrally formed therein and defined by one or more column fold lines in said end column flap.

19. The container according to claim 14 further comprising one or more integrally formed partitions, each of said partitions formed from a partition flap integral with one of said first extension member and said second extension member and defined by a partition fold line.

20. A method of forming a multifunctional container from a single integral blank, said method comprising the steps of: a) providing said blank with a bottom wall, a first end wall, a second end wall, a first side wall and a second side wall, each of said first end wall and said second end wall defined by an end wall fold line and each of said first side wall and said second side wall defined by a side wall fold line, each of said first end wall and second end wall, first side wall and second side wall having a first end and a second end, said first end wall and said second end wall defining opposing ends of said container, said first side wall and said second side wall defining opposing sides of said container; b) defining an extension member integral with each of said first end wall and said second end wall by forming an extension fold line at said ends of said first end wall and said second end wall; c) forming one or more column fold lines in each of said extension members, said column fold lines configured to define a structural column that is integral with said extension members; d) folding each of said first end wall and said second end wall at said respective end wall fold lines in right angle relation to said bottom wall; e) folding each of said extension members in right angle relation to each of said respective first end wall and said second end wall to substantially align said extension members along each of said sides of said container; f) forming said structural column in each of said extension members; and g) folding said first side wall at said side wall fold line to abut said extension members on one of said sides of said container and folding said second side wall at said side wall fold line to abut said extension members on the opposite side of said container.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/925,909 filed Apr. 24, 2007.

STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH

Not Applicable.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

A. Field of the Invention

The field of the present invention relates generally to packaging. More specifically, the present invention relates to multifunctional containers having multiple sides and structural supports and/or partitions to resist crushing from stacking, distortion from lateral forces against the side or end walls and bottom bulging from product placed in the container. Even more specifically, the present invention relates to such containers that are relatively quickly and easily manufactured from a single sheet of material, such as corrugated paperboard or the like.

B. Background

As well known to those in the packaging industry, there is an ever increasing need for improved containers to hold commodities, including items such as fresh fruits, vegetables, poultry, meat products and other products, which are known to have a wide variety of sizes, shapes and dimensions. In the packaging industry, as well as the present disclosure, the terms “case,” “box,” “tray,” “package” and “container” are often used interchangeably to refer to the same item. Containers are commonly formed in a generally rectangular or square shape and made out of corrugated paperboard to hold a given number or mass of smaller units such as cartons, bottles, cans, chickens, meat, fruit, vegetables or produce pieces. Although many different styles of containers are known in the art, most conventional containers have four sides, with the opposing side and end walls being generally parallel (i.e., providing a square or rectangular plan view), or they have eight sides, having pairs of opposing side and end walls with diagonal corner panels that are typically oriented at approximately 45 degrees to the longitudinal axis of the container to connect the adjacent side and end walls. An example of such an eight-sided container is shown in U.S. Pat. No. 6,749,107 to Quaintance.

The packaging industry has developed many different types and styles of fiberboard containers over the years, each being optimally suited for one or more particular products or industries. Such containers are typically constructed of a corrugated paperboard material. The material may be single face corrugated, single wall (double-faced) corrugated, double wall corrugated, triple wall corrugated or the like. Containers are also known to be made of other paperboard products including, without limitation, containerboard, boxboard, linerboard and cardboard. To increase top-to-bottom compression strength of the containers, various types of reinforcing pillars, columns or other structural members have been utilized. Typically, the structural members are formed by folding the container blank material to define corner panels at the all or some of the corners or to define columns at various points along the side and/or end walls of the container.

In general, eight-sided containers have greater compressive strength, which is particularly useful in order to stack containers on top of each other, than four-sided trays and exhibit less bulging of the side walls from the lateral force of the contents stored in the container. Columns formed in the side walls of the container further increases the compression strength of the container. A well known problem with the eight-sided containers is that the container tends to flex, distort or concertina, especially at the open top edge, due to the diagonally oriented angular faces of the corner panels. These problems tend to occur when lateral force is applied to one or more of the end walls of the open container, also referred to as a tray, such as occurs when two eight-sided trays are pushed together end-to-end during motorized conveying, when the trays are stretch-wrapped and/or strapped to form a unit load or when an individual tray that is carrying a load is lifted by its ends. The distortion of the tray can cause the cover to dislodge, which is usually applied to the tray, or make it difficult to apply a cover to the tray. Additionally, the resulting changes in dimension of the tray may cause other difficulties during use, such as when the trays are palletized during shipment and/or storage.

Containers are typically formed from blanks that are scored, cut, folded and glued to define a particular shaped container. Due to the use of separate side wall blanks, the popular Bliss-style container generally lends itself to variations in design, including the formation of columns in its side walls, prior to final assembly. A well known disadvantage of the Bliss-style container is that the multiple component design of the container results in higher cost for the manufacture, inventory and assembly of the container components. The Bliss-style container described in U.S. Pat. No. 4,948,033 to Halsell, II, et al., which is for a moisture resistant container, is provided with a column in each of the opposing side walls. The container of Halsell is constructed by assembling three separate blanks into an eight-sided container comprising two side walls that each have one or more generally triangular-shaped columns, two opposing end walls and four diagonally disposed corner panels. The diagonal corner panels subtend an angle of 45 degrees with respect to the longitudinal axis of the container. The side and end walls are typically configured such that the flute direction thereon will run generally perpendicular to the base of the container. The container of Quaintance, U.S. Pat. No. 6,749,107, is made from a single blank that is appropriately slit, scored, folded and then glued into an eight-sided container. The use of structural columns with this container is not disclosed.

Accordingly, there is a need for a container that is formed from a singe corrugated blank that has the direction of the fluting material running perpendicular to the base of the container on both the end and side walls of the container in conjunction with structural columns and dividers and/or partitions that have been formed as an integral part of the side and/or end walls. Such a container would provide superior compression strength for stacking and provide enhanced resistance to distortion when transverse forces are applied to the ends or sides of the container. In addition, such a container would prevent bottom bulge where the contents of the container are susceptible to damage caused by vertical force on such contents.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The multifunctional container with reinforcing structural columns of the present invention provides the benefits and solves the problems identified above. That is to say, the present invention discloses a container which is formed from a single blank of suitable material, such as corrugated paperboard or the like, and which has one or more integrally formed structural columns or partitions on the side and/or end walls thereof. The container of the present invention has angular corner panels formed at the junction of the end and side walls of the container, has the direction of the fluting material running generally perpendicular to the base of the container and/or has dividers that are formed as integral components of the unitary sheet of corrugated paperboard. As such, the improved container of the present invention is constructed to resist crushing when containers are stacked on top of one another, to resist distortion when force is applied to the ends of the container and to prevent bottom bulge when the product placed in the container is sensitive to vertical force. The single sheet of corrugated paperboard, or like material, is slit, scored, folded and then glued to form the various structural components that provide the above-described strength enhancing features of the container of the present invention. As such, the present container is particularly useful for containing products that require somewhat enhanced protection, such as produce, meat products, detergents, fragile items, pharmaceuticals and such. In addition, the container of the present invention results in faster assembly and lower cost for a container having one or more structural support columns by eliminating the need to manufacture, inventory and then assemble a plurality of separate container components.

In the preferred embodiment of the present invention, the container comprises a bottom wall, a first end wall and an opposing second end wall and a first side wall and an opposing second side wall, all formed from a single integral blank. The end walls define opposing ends of the container and the side walls define opposing sides of the container. Each of the first end wall, second end wall, first side wall and second side wall has a first end and a second end. In a preferred embodiment, the container has extension members formed at each end of each end wall that are disposed at a right angles to the respective end walls. One or more structural columns are integrally formed in each of the extension members. The structural columns are defined by one or more column fold lines positioned at the desired location for the structural columns in each of extension member, typically one on each of the opposing side walls. The container can also include a plurality of corner panels, which are also formed integrally with the container, with one corner panel being angularly disposed, typically at approximately 45 degrees to the longitudinal axis of the container, between each of the adjacent end and side walls. The container can comprise one or more cover flaps that are integrally formed with one or more of the end and side walls. In one embodiment, the cover flaps has divider flaps that are integrally formed therewith and configured to define one or more dividers in the container. A securing mechanism can be utilized to hold the divider panels in place. In a preferred embodiment, the securing mechanism comprises a tab member on each divider flap and divider slits in the bottom wall of the container such that each tab members is received in a corresponding divider slit. In another preferred embodiment, each of the side walls has an integral cover flap and each of the end walls has an integral column flap with an integral structural column that is defined by one or more column fold lines in the end column flap. In yet another embodiment, the container has one or more integrally formed partitions that are each formed from a partition flap which is integrally formed with one of or more of the extension members and defined by a partition fold line. The container of the present invention, having integrally formed structural columns, can comprise various combinations of corner panels, cover flaps, end columns, dividers and partitions and be made in various sizes and shapes and configured to hold a wide variety of different items.

One of the primary advantages of the present container is its multifunctional capabilities. The user can change the size of the structural columns by changing the spacing between the column fold lines in a particular set of column fold lines, change the column location by changing the location of the sets of column fold lines, change the shape of the columns by changing the scoring pattern for a particular set of column fold lines and change the number of columns by increasing or decreasing the number of sets of column fold lines. Additionally, the user can form a container having four, six, eight or other number of sides having integral walls, an integral lid, integral dividers and/or integral partitions. As a result of the various features, the container of the present invention has superior stacking strength relative to existing multi-sided containers that are made from a unitary corrugated paperboard blank and has resistance to distortion unlike that of a three piece Bliss style box that has structural columns formed in the side walls. In addition to the structural benefits, this invention makes use of areas of the unitary corrugated blank that would normally be discarded as waste. By slitting, scoring and folding these areas, structural columns, lids, corner panels, dividers and/or partitions can be formed to enhance the flexibility and functionality of the container.

The above and other aspects and objectives of the present invention are explained in greater detail by reference to the attached figures and the description of the preferred embodiments which follows. As set forth herein, the present invention resides in the novel features of form, construction, mode of operation and combination of processes presently described and understood by the claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

In the drawings which illustrate the preferred embodiments and the best modes presently contemplated for carrying out the present invention:

FIG. 1 is a top perspective view of a first embodiment of the present invention showing a four-sided container having a geometrically shaped structural column formed in two of the four end wall extension members;

FIG. 2 is a plan view of a blank utilized for making the four-sided container of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a top perspective view of a second embodiment of the present invention showing a four-sided container having an alternatively shaped structural column formed in two of the four end wall extension members;

FIG. 4 is a top perspective view of a third embodiment of the present invention showing a four-sided container having a structural column formed in two of the four end wall extension members, a pair of end cover flaps and a pair of side cover flaps;

FIG. 5 is a plan view of a blank utilized for making the four-sided container of FIG. 4;

FIG. 6 is a top perspective view of a fourth embodiment of the present invention showing an eight-sided container having diagonal corner panels, a geometrically shaped structural column formed in each of the four end wall extension members, a pair of end cover flaps and a pair of side cover flaps;

FIG. 7 is a plan view of a blank utilized for making the eight-sided container of FIG. 6;

FIG. 8 is a top perspective view of a fifth embodiment of the present invention showing an eight-sided container having diagonal corner panels and one or more geometrically shaped structural columns formed in each of the four end wall extension members;

FIG. 9 is a top perspective view of a sixth embodiment of the present invention showing an eight-sided container having diagonal corner panels, two geometrically shaped structural columns formed in the four end wall extension members and a geometrically shaped structural column at each end of the container;

FIG. 10 is a plan view of a blank utilized for making the eight-sided container of FIG. 9;

FIG. 11 is a top perspective view of a seventh embodiment of the present invention showing an eight-sided container having diagonal corner panels, two geometrically shaped structural columns formed in the four end wall extension members and a pair of divider flaps formed in the sidewall extension flaps;

FIG. 12 is a plan view of a blank utilized for making the eight-sided container of FIG. 11;

FIG. 13 is a top perspective view of an eighth embodiment of the present invention showing a four-sided container having two geometrically shaped structural columns formed in the end wall extension members and a single divider flap formed in the side cover flaps;

FIG. 14 is a top perspective view of a ninth embodiment of the present invention showing an eight-sided container having diagonal corner panels, two geometrically shaped structural columns formed in the four end wall extension members and a partition assembly; and

FIG. 15 is a plan view of a blank utilized for making the eight-sided container of FIG. 14.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

With reference to the figures where like elements have been given like numerical designations to facilitate the reader's understanding of the present invention, the preferred embodiments of the present invention are set forth below. The enclosed figures and drawings are merely illustrative of one or more of the preferred embodiments and, as such, represent one or more ways of configuring the present invention. Although specific components, materials, configurations and uses are illustrated, it should be understood that a number of variations to the components and to the configuration of those components described herein and in the accompanying figures can be made without changing the scope and function of the invention set forth herein. For instance, although the figures and description provided herein are primarily directed to a container manufactured out of corrugated paperboard or the like in a rectangular or square shape with generally triangular-shaped structural support members, those skilled in the art will readily understand that this is merely for purposes of simplifying the present disclosure and that the present invention is not so limited.

A multifunctional container that is manufactured out of the components and configured pursuant to a preferred embodiment of the present invention is shown generally as 10 in FIGS. 1, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9, 11 and 13. The container 10 is made from an appropriately configured blank 12, examples of which are shown in FIGS. 2, 5, 7, 10 and 12, that is scored, cut, folded and glued to define a particular shaped container 10. Typically, but not necessarily exclusively, the blanks 12 are manufactured out of a corrugated paperboard material. As set forth in more detail below, one of the advantages of the present invention is that the container 10 may be formed into many different container styles that can be configured as the user deems most suitable for the goods which are to be contained within container 10 during shipping, storage, sale, display or other uses. The various features of the container 10 of the present invention, including the structural supports and dividers, may be readily adapted as needed to provide a container which best suits the user's needs. As will be apparent to those skilled in the art, such a multifunctional container 10 will provide many benefits with regard to the manufacturing, storage and use of container 10. Set forth below are various exemplary embodiments of containers 10 which may be formed utilizing the principles of the present invention. Those who are skilled in the art will understand that the example embodiments set forth herein and in the accompanying drawings are only intended to show some of the configurations possible for container 10 and are not intended to limit the styles, shapes and uses of container 10 of the present invention.

A first embodiment of the present invention, which is a four-sided container 10, is shown in FIG. 1 and the blank 12 for forming container 10 is shown in FIG. 2. A conventional four-sided container 10 comprises a bottom wall 14 and a plurality of walls 16, 18, 20 and 22 formed in upstanding relation to the bottom wall 14. For purposes of simplifying the disclosure set forth herein, the plurality of walls 16-22 are further described as being a pair of opposing and generally parallel end walls, shown as first end wall 16 and second end wall 18, and a pair of opposing and generally parallel side walls, shown as first side wall 20 and second side wall 22. Those skilled in the art will recognize that the terms “end walls” and “side walls” are utilized for convenience to describe sets of opposing walls and that the terms do not limit the present invention with regard to the location or relative length of those walls, as the container 10 may be shaped to have a generally square or rectangular cross-section and the end walls or side walls may be utilized interchangeably to describe opposing pairs of the upstanding walls.

For purposes of the present disclosure, the end walls 16 and 18 define the first end 24 and second end 26, respectively, of container 10 and the side walls 20 and 22 define the first side 28 and second side 30, respectively, of container 10. For increased resistance vertical crush forces, such as may result from stacking, the container 10 of FIG. 1 is provided with a geometrically shaped reinforcing support column 32 along first side 28 and second side 30. As best shown in FIG. 2 with regard to the blank 12 for forming container 10 of FIG. 1, unlike prior art containers with structural support columns, container 10 of the present invention is formed from a single, unitary sheet of blank material to define the bottom wall 14, ends 24 and 26, sides 28 and 30 and the structural columns 32 of container 10, thereby eliminating the need to store, handle and assemble the various separate container components necessary to provide the desired structural support. To form container 10, each of the end walls 16 and 18 are provided with end wall extension members that are integrally formed therewith. As best shown in FIG. 2, blank 10 has a first end wall extension member 34 at the first end 36 of first end wall 16, a second end wall extension member 38 at the second end 40 of first end wall 16, a third end wall extension member 42 at the first end 44 of second end wall 18 and a fourth end wall extension 46 at the second end 48 of second end wall 18. With regard to the blank 12, the proximal end 50 of each of end wall extension member 34, 38, 42 and 46 is foldably disposed, typically achieved by scoring, relative to the respective ends of end walls 16 and 18. The distal ends 52 of the end wall extension members 34, 38, 42 and 46 are not connected to any of the end 16/18 or side 20/22 walls. As known to those skilled in the art with regard to prior art containers, the basic shape of container 10 is formed by folding the end walls 16 and 18 upward at right angles relative to the bottom wall 14 at the end wall fold lines 54, folding the end wall extension members 34, 38, 42 and 46 inward at right angles at the extension fold lines 56 to dispose the distal ends 52 of the aligned end wall extension members (i.e., 34/42 and 38/46) generally toward each other, and then folding side walls 20 and 22 upward at right angles at the side wall fold lines 58 until the side walls 20/22 are abutting the outer surfaces of the inwardly folded end wall extension members 34, 38, 42 and 46. Fold lines 54, 56 and 58 are scored into the blank 12. Glue or other adhesive is utilized between side walls 20/22 and end wall extension members 34, 38, 42 and 46 to bond the components together.

To form the structural columns 32 that are the structural support features of the container 10 of the present invention, one or more of the end wall extension members 34, 38, 42 and 46 are provided with column fold lines 60, which are scored therein. Typically, at least two of the end wall extension members 34, 38, 42 and 46 will be provided with column fold lines 60 so that each of the opposing sides 28 and 30 will each have a structural column 32. In the embodiment shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, first end wall extension member 34 and fourth end wall extension member 46 have column fold lines 60 generally toward the distal ends 52 thereof (hereinafter, the extension members that have the column fold lines 60 are referred to as “column extension members” and the other extension members without column fold lines 60 are referred to as “extension members”). The position, number and/or other features of the scoring of column fold lines 60 on the column extension members 34 and 46 will define the location and geometric shape of structural column 32. In the embodiment of FIGS. 1 and 2, the positioning of the column fold lines 60 on column extension members 34/46 results in the structural column 32 being at or near the middle of sides 20/22 and the use of three column fold lines 60 results in the geometric shape of structural column 32 being generally triangular. The folding of the column extension members 34 and 46 at the column fold lines 60 to form structural columns 32 is achieved by utilizing a folding arm, having an appropriately configured protruding member that interacts with a cooperatively configured mandrel, that pushes against the paperboard material. Beginning with the blank 12 of FIG. 2, the panels that make up the first 16 and second 18 end walls are folded upward at end wall fold lines 54 at a right angle to the bottom wall 14, folding arms swing inward to fold the column extension members 34/46 and extension members 38/42 until they are aligned with the edges of bottom wall 14, the protruding members on the folding arms push in against the paperboard to form structural columns 32, and then the panels that make up the side walls 20/22 (previously glued in the top/inner side) are folded upward at a right angle at side wall fold lines 58 to abut against the outer surface of the upstanding column extension members 34/46 and extension members 38/42. With appropriately sized column extension members 34/46 and extension members 38/42, the distal ends 52 of the column extension members 34/46, having column fold lines 60, will generally abut against the aligned distal ends 52 of extension members 38/42 to define a junction 62, best shown in FIG. 1. For any location of junction 62, it is necessary to appropriately size each of the column extension members 34/46 and other extension members 38/42. For instance, in an alternative embodiment, not shown, the blank 12 can be configured with longer column extension members 34/46, no extension members 38/42 and extension members on each of the sides 20/22 that extend along the ends 24/26 (utilized to join the end walls 16/18 and side walls 20/22), such that the junction 62 will be at two of the corners of the container 10.

The embodiment of FIG. 3 is shows a four-sided container 10 having the same features as the container 10 of FIG. 1, including the structural columns 32 to provide improved resistance to vertical crushing forces. In this embodiment, however, the shape of the structural column 32 is different. As shown, the column fold lines 60 on the column extension members 34 and 46 are selected to provide a generally rectangular shaped structural column 32 on sides 28 and 30 of container 10. The scoring of column extension members 34/46 and the shape of the protruding member on the folding arm is selected to achieve the folding of column extension members 34/46 to provide the desired shape of structural columns 32. As will be readily apparent to those skilled in the art, a variety of different cross-sectional shapes are possible for structural columns 32.

The embodiment of FIG. 4 also shows a four-sided container 10 having the same features as the container 10 of FIG. 1, including the structural columns 32 to provide improved resistance to vertical crushing forces. The blank 12 for this embodiment of container 10 is shown in FIG. 5. The container of FIG. 4 also includes end cover flaps 64 and 66 and side cover flaps 68 and 70 that are configured to cooperate together to form an integral top or lid for container 10. As shown on FIGS. 4 and 5, end cover flaps 64/66 are integrally formed with end walls 16/18, respectively, and side cover flaps 68/70 are integrally formed with side walls 20/22, respectively. The use of integral cover flaps 64-70 eliminates the need for separate components to provide the lid. In this embodiment, the end cover flaps 64 and 66 are also referred to as minor cover flaps and the side cover flaps 68 and 70 are referred to as major cover flaps due primarily to their size and the area which they cover. As will be readily apparent to those skilled in the art, container 10 can include one or more of end cover flaps 64/66 and/or side cover flaps 68/70 to define the lid for container 10. Utilizing blank 12 of FIG. 5, the container 10 of FIG. 4 is formed in the same manner as described above for the container of FIG. 1, except that the end cover flaps 64/66 are folded at right angles inward at end cover fold lines 72 and the side cover flaps 68/70 are folded at right angles inward at side cover fold lines 74. Typically, the folding of the end cover flaps 64/66 and side cover flaps 68/70 is done after product is placed inside container 10.

A fourth embodiment of the present invention, which is an eight-sided container 10, is shown in FIG. 6 and the blank 12 for forming this container 10 is shown in FIG. 7. As with the four-sided container 10 described above, a conventional eight-sided container 10 comprises a bottom wall 14 and a plurality of walls, such as first end wall 16, an opposing second end wall 18, a first side wall 20 and an opposing second side wall 22, in upstanding relation to the bottom wall 14. In addition to the above walls, the eight-sided container 10 of FIG. 6 also comprises four diagonal corner panels, namely first corner panel 76, second corner panel 78, third corner panel 80 and fourth corner panel 82, as best shown on the blank 12 in FIG. 7. Each of the corner panels 76-82 are disposed between an end of one of the end panels 16/18 and the proximal end 50 of the extension member 34, 38, 42 or 46 attached thereto. Specifically, first corner panel 76 is disposed between the first end 36 of first end wall 16 and extension member 34, second corner panel 78 is disposed between the second end 40 of first end wall 16 and extension member 38, third corner panel 80 is disposed between the first end 44 of second end wall 18 and extension member 42 and the fourth corner panel 82 is disposed between the second end 48 of second end wall 18 and extension member 46. As with the previously described embodiments, the corner panels 76-82 and all other components of container 10 of FIG. 6 are integrally formed (as shown on the blank 12 of FIG. 7). The corner panels 76-82 are formed by appropriately scoring end panels 16/18 and extension members 34, 38, 42 and 46. In a preferred embodiment, the scoring for corner panels 76-82 is such that the corner panels 76-82 are diagonally disposed at the corners of container 10, as best shown in FIG. 6. Preferably, the corner panels 76-82 are configured such that they are oriented to subtend an angle of approximately 45 degrees with respect to the longitudinal axis of container 10. The embodiment of FIGS. 6 and 7 also show the use of multiple structural columns 32 that are integrally formed during the forming of container 10. In this embodiment, this is achieved by providing column fold lines 60 in extension members 38 and 42 (as well as those in extension members 34 and 46 described above), resulting in each of the extension members 34, 38, 42 and 46 being column extension members. As shown in FIG. 6, this results in two structural columns 32 along sides 28 (not shown) and 30. If desired, container 10 can also have a number of additional structural columns 32 by providing one or more additional sets of column fold lines 60 scored into one or more of the extension members 34, 38, 42 and 46, as shown in the fifth embodiment (FIG. 8). These structural columns 32 can all be of the same shape or they can be different shapes. The containers 10 of FIGS. 6 and 8 are formed in much the same manner as described above for the four-sided containers 10 except that the folding arm and mandrel are cooperatively configured to achieve the desired structural columns 32 and corner panels 76, 78, 80 and 82.

FIG. 9 shows a sixth embodiment of the container 10 of the present invention. FIG. 10 is the blank 12 that is utilized to form the container 10 of FIG. 9. As with each of the above embodiments, all of the components of the container 10 of FIG. 9 are integrally formed. As with the embodiments of FIGS. 6 through 8, the embodiment of FIGS. 9 and 10 illustrate an eight-sided container 10 having the various features previously described with the addition of a structural column 32 at each of the ends 24 and 26 of container 10. The columns 32 at ends 24 and 26 are formed by providing the blank 12 with two modified minor cover flaps, more appropriately referred here as a first end column flap 84 and second end column flap 86, having column fold lines 60 scored therein and a column flap fold line 88 and slit 90 between the end column flaps 84/86 and end walls 16/18, respectively. The container 10 of this embodiment is formed in the same manner as container 10 of FIGS. 6 and 7 except that instead of folding end cover flaps 64/66 over to define a lid, the end column flaps 84/86 are folded completely over toward bottom wall 14. Prior to folding the end walls 16/18 and end column flaps 84/86 over, a folding arm with an appropriately positioned protruding member contacts end column flaps 84/86 from above (in the plan view shown) to push the paperboard against a cooperatively configured mandrel so as to form structural columns 32 in end walls 16/18. Once the columns 32 in end walls 16/18 are formed, the end column flaps 84/86 and end walls 16/18 are folded into position. As with the other structural columns 32 set forth above, the user can change the size of the structural columns 32 by changing the spacing between column fold lines 60 in a particular set of column fold lines 60, change the location of the structural columns 32 by changing the location of the sets of column fold lines 60, change the shape of the structural columns 32 by changing the scoring pattern for a particular set of column fold lines 60 and change the number of structural columns 32 on ends 16/18 and/or sides 20/22 by increasing or decreasing the number of sets of column fold lines 60.

A seventh embodiment of the container 10 of the present invention is shown in FIGS. 11 and 12. FIG. 11 is an eight-sided container 10 and FIG. 12 is the blank 12 that is utilized to form the container 10 of FIG. 11. As with each of the above embodiments, all of the components of the container 10 of FIG. 11 are integrally formed. The embodiment of FIGS. 11 and 12 illustrate an eight-sided container 10 having the various features previously described with the addition of dividers 92. In this embodiment, the side cover flaps (or major flaps) 68 and 70 are modified to define the dividers 92 for container 10. As best shown on FIG. 12, dividers 92 are formed by modifying side cover flaps 68/70 to include divider flaps 94, 96, 98 and 100, which are extensions of the side walls 20 and 22. The divider flaps 94-100 are folded at divider fold lines 102 to form the dividers 92 shown in FIG. 11. To secure the dividers 92 in place inside container 10, the container 10 of the present invention is provided with a securing mechanism. In the preferred embodiment, best shown in FIG. 12, the securing mechanism comprises a tab member 104 located at the outer edge of each of the divider flaps 94-100 and a set of appropriately positioned divider slots 106 in the bottom wall 14 that are sized and configured to receive one of the tab members 104 therein. The tab members 104 and divider slots 106 are cooperatively configured to hold the divider flaps 94-100 at an angle of substantially 90 degrees relative to the base 14. As well known in the art, various other tab/slot configurations or other configurations securing mechanisms, preferably of the type that are integrally formed with the other components, can be utilized with container 10 of the present invention. The container 10 of this embodiment is formed essentially as described above except that prior to the side cover flaps 68/70 being folded over to form the lid, the divider flaps 94-100 are folded upward so that when the lid is folded down onto the top of the container the tab members 104 of divider flaps 94-100 are directed downward into the divider slots 106 to secure the dividers 92 in place.

As shown in FIG. 13 for the eighth embodiment of the present invention, the system of dividers 92 of in FIGS. 11 and 12 can also be utilized with the four-sided container 10 described above. In addition, the dividers 92 can be utilized with other configurations of containers 10 having structural columns 32. As will be readily apparent to those skilled in the art, the user can modify the shape and position of the dividers 92 shown in FIG. 11 by changing the position and shape of the divider slit 108 cut into the unitary blank 12 to form the divider flaps 94-100. For instance, FIG. 13 shows dividers 92 comprised of two tab members 104 inserted into a like number of divider slots 106 in the bottom wall 14. The different configuration of side cover flaps 68/70 for FIG. 13 provides a different shaped opening into container 10 than that utilized for FIG. 11. Various other configurations of the dividers 92 and openings are also possible for container 10 of the present invention.

A ninth embodiment of the container 10 of the present invention is shown in FIG. 14. The blank 12 for forming this container 10 is shown in FIG. 15. This embodiment shows use of partitions 110 that are integrally formed with container 10. As best shown in FIG. 15, partitions 110 are formed by providing blank 12 with one or more partition flaps 112, 114, 116 and 118, which in the preferred embodiment are integral with the extension members 34, 38, 42 and 46, respectively, but set off therefrom by partition fold lines 120. As with other fold lines, partition fold lines 120 are appropriately scored or otherwise formed to facilitate the folding of the partition flaps 112, 114, 116 and 118 to form the partitions 110. If the extension members 34, 38, 42 and 46 are to also include structural columns 32 in addition to the partitions 110, as shown in FIGS. 14 and 15, the length of such extension members 34, 38, 42 and 46 should be lengthened an amount to include the desired width of partitions 110. If desired, one or more of such partitions 110 can be formed in the sides 28/30 and/or ends 24/26 of container 10. Typically, partitions 110 will be formed by utilizing the same folding arm that folds the extension members 34, 38, 42 and 46, with an additional folding component that folds the partition flaps 112, 114, 116 and 118 at partition fold lines 120. The fluting of the paperboard material is preferably selected to run generally perpendicular to the bottom wall 14 of the container 10.

As will be readily appreciated by those skilled in the art, one of the advantages of the container 10 of the present invention is its multifunctional capabilities. As set forth above with regard to the structural columns, the user can change their size by changing the spacing between column fold lines 60 in a particular set of column fold lines 60, change their location by changing the location of the sets of column fold lines 60, change their shape by changing the scoring pattern for a particular set of column fold lines 60 and change the number of columns 32 by increasing or decreasing the number of sets of column fold lines 60. In addition, the user can form containers 10 with four, eight or other number of sides using integral walls, an integral lid and/or integral dividers 92. The container 10 of the present invention has superior stacking strength to that of existing multi-sided containers made from a unitary corrugated paperboard blank and has resistance to distortion unlike that of a three piece Bliss style box that has formed structural columns in the side walls. In addition to the structural benefits, this invention makes use of areas of the unitary corrugated blank that are created as a function of the basic design of the container which would normally be discarded as waste. By slitting, scoring and folding these areas, structural columns 32, dividers 92 and/or partitions 110 can be integrally formed in the container 10 to enhance the flexibility and functionality of container 10.

While there are shown and described herein a specific form of the invention, it will be readily apparent to those skilled in the art that the invention is not so limited, but is susceptible to various modifications and rearrangements in design and materials without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. In particular, it should be noted that the present invention is subject to modification with regard to any dimensional relationships set forth herein and modifications in assembly, materials, size, shape, and use. For instance, there are numerous components described herein that can be replaced with equivalent functioning components to accomplish the objectives of the present invention.