Title:
Small item dispenser
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A dispenser assembly for dispensing small items such as pieces of candy or gum is disclosed herein. The dispenser assembly includes a first container including a first storage chamber for storing small items, a second container including a second storage chamber for storing small items, the second container including a dispenser opening, the second container movable between a dispensing position and a storage position, wherein the dispenser opening is in communication with the second storage chamber in the dispensing position and the dispenser opening is blocked off from the second storage chamber in the storage position, wherein the second container is removably attachable to the first container and refillable with small items from the first storage chamber of the first container when the second container is still attached to the first container.



Inventors:
Thao, Fusu (St. Paul, MN, US)
Kramer, Thomas (Coon Rapids, MN, US)
Webb, Alan (Prior Lake, MN, US)
Rgnonti, Dustin Charles (Farmington, MN, US)
Application Number:
11/978230
Publication Date:
12/11/2008
Filing Date:
10/25/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47F1/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
POOS, MADISON LYNN
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MERCHANT & GOULD P.C. (MINNEAPOLIS, MN, US)
Claims:
We claim:

1. A small item dispenser assembly comprising: a first container including a first storage chamber for storing small items; a second container including a second storage chamber for storing small items, the second container including a dispenser opening, the second container movable between a dispensing position and a storage position, wherein the dispenser opening is in communication with the second storage chamber in the dispensing position and the dispenser opening is blocked off from the second storage chamber in the storage position; wherein the second container is removably attachable to the first container and refillable with small items stored in the first storage chamber of the first container when the second container is still attached to the first container.

2. A small item dispenser assembly according to claim 1, wherein the second container includes a first portion that is rotatable with respect to a second portion to move the second container between the storage position and the dispensing position.

3. A small item dispenser assembly according to claim 1, wherein the first container is movable between a refilling position and a storage position, wherein a refill opening of the first container is in communication with the first storage chamber in the refilling position and the refill opening is blocked off from the first storage chamber in the storage position, wherein the first container can be moved to the refilling position by rotating the second container with respect to at least a portion of the first container when the second container is still attached to the first container.

4. A small item dispenser assembly according to claim 1, wherein the first container is movable between a refilling position and a storage position, wherein a refill opening of the first container is in communication with the first storage chamber in the refilling position and the refill opening is blocked off from the first storage chamber in the storage position, wherein the first container can be moved to the storage position after refilling is complete by rotating the second container with respect to at least a portion of the first container when the second container is still attached to the first container.

5. A small item dispenser assembly according to claim 1, wherein the second container is attachable to the first container with a snap-fit.

6. A small item dispenser assembly comprising: a first container including a first storage chamber for storing small items, the first container including a refill opening, the first container movable between a refilling position and a storage position, wherein the refill opening is in communication with the first storage chamber in the refilling position and the refill opening is blocked off from the first storage chamber in the storage position; a second container including a second storage chamber for storing small items, the second container being removably attachable to the first container, the second container including a dispenser opening, the second container movable between a dispensing position and a storage position, wherein the dispenser opening is in communication with the second storage chamber in the dispensing position and the dispenser opening is blocked off from the second storage chamber in the storage position; wherein the second container is refillable with small items from the first container when the first container is in the refilling position and the second container is in the dispensing position such that the refill opening is in communication with the first storage chamber and the dispenser opening is in communication with the refill opening and the second storage chamber.

7. A small item dispenser assembly according to claim 6, wherein the second container includes a first portion that is rotatable with respect to a second portion to move the second container between the storage position and the dispensing position.

8. A small item dispenser assembly according to claim 6, wherein the second container is refillable with small items from the first storage compartment of the first container when the second container is attached to the first container.

9. A small item dispenser assembly according to claim 8, wherein the first container includes a main housing portion and a lid portion that is rotatable with respect to the main housing portion to move the first container between the storage position and the refilling position, wherein the first container can be moved to the refilling position by rotating the second container with respect to the main housing portion of the first container when the second container is attached to the first container.

10. A small item dispenser assembly according to claim 9, wherein the first container can be moved from the refilling position to the storage position by rotating the second container with respect to the main housing portion of the first container when the second container is attached to the first container.

11. A small item dispenser assembly according to claim 6, wherein the second container is attachable to the first container with a snap-fit.

12. A small item dispenser assembly according to claim 6, further comprising a visual indicator for indicating when the first container has moved from the storage position to the refilling position.

13. A method of using a small item dispenser assembly, the method comprising: providing a first container including a first storage chamber for storing small items; providing a second container including a second storage chamber for storing small items, the second container including a dispenser opening, the second container movable between a dispensing position and a storage position, wherein the dispenser opening is in communication with the second storage chamber in the dispensing position and the dispenser opening is blocked off from the second storage chamber in the storage position; and attaching the second container to the first container and refilling the second container with small items stored in the first container when the second container is attached to the first container.

14. A method according to claim 13, further comprising removing the second container from the first container after refilling.

15. A method according to claim 13, further comprising: providing the first container with a refill opening, the first container movable between a refilling position and a storage position, wherein the refill opening is in communication with the first storage chamber in the refilling position and the refill opening is blocked off from the first storage chamber in the storage position; and refilling the second container with small items stored in the first container while the second container is attached to the first container by moving the first container to the refilling position and moving the second container to the dispensing position such that the refill opening is in communication with the first storage chamber and the dispenser opening is in communication with the refill opening and the second storage chamber.

16. A method according to claim 15, further comprising: providing the first container with a main housing portion and a lid portion that is rotatable with respect to the main housing portion to move the first container between the storage position and the refilling position; moving the first container to the refilling position by rotating the second container with respect to the main housing portion of the first container when the second container is attached to the first container.

17. A method according to claim 16, further comprising: prior to removing the second container from the first container, moving the first container from the refilling position to the storage position by rotating the second container with respect to the main housing portion of the first container when the second container is attached to the first container.

18. A small item dispenser assembly comprising: a housing including a first storage chamber for storing small items, wherein at least a portion of the housing can be separated from the housing and be used as a separate small item dispenser that includes a second storage chamber for storing small items and that includes a closable opening for dispensing small items.

19. A small item dispenser assembly according to claim 18, wherein the housing is sized to fit in a standard cup holder of an automobile.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application claims the benefit of provisional application Ser. No. 60/933,946, entitled SMALL ITEM DISPENSER filed on Jun. 8, 2007, the entire disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference.

TECHNICAL FIELD

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

BACKGROUND

Containers for storing and dispensing small items such as tablets or pieces of candy are well known. Such containers are normally small and non-bulky so that they can be carried in a person's clothing pocket or in a handbag without taking up a lot of room. As a consequence, these containers do not provide a large compartment for storing the small items and tend to run out rather quickly, requiring replacement of the entire container or cumbersome refilling of the container.

There are also larger containers for storing and convenient dispensing of small items such as vending machines and gumball machines. Such containers, however, are usually not portable.

It would be desirable to provide for a small item dispenser that is portable, and, yet at the same time, easy and convenient to refill.

SUMMARY

One aspect of the present disclosure relates to a dispenser adapted for easily dispensing small items such as pieces of candy or gum. In one example embodiment, the dispenser assembly includes a hopper that includes a first compartment for storing small items. The dispenser assembly further includes a portable dispenser portion that is removable from the hopper, the portable dispenser portion including a second compartment for storing small items. The dispenser portion of the dispenser assembly is removable from the hopper portion to provide for a small item dispenser that becomes portable once detached. The dispenser portion and the hopper portion are also configured for convenient attachment and refilling of the dispenser portion.

According to another aspect of the present disclosure, a small item dispenser assembly is disclosed wherein the assembly includes a housing including a first storage chamber for storing small items, wherein at least a portion of the housing can be separated from the housing and be used as a separate small item dispenser that includes a second storage chamber for storing small items and that includes a closable opening for dispensing small items.

According to yet another aspect of the present disclosure, the small item dispenser assembly comprises a first container including a first storage chamber for storing small items, a second container including a second storage chamber for storing small items, the second container including a dispenser opening, the second container movable between a dispensing position and a storage position, wherein the dispenser opening is in communication with the second storage chamber in the dispensing position and the dispenser opening is blocked off from the second storage chamber in the storage position, wherein the second container is removably attachable to the first container and refillable with small items from the first storage chamber of the first container when the second container is still attached to the first container.

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

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a top perspective view of a dispenser assembly having examples of inventive aspects in accordance with the principles of the present disclosure;

FIG. 2 is a front elevational view of the dispenser assembly of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a rear elevational view of the dispenser assembly of FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 is a right side elevational view of the dispenser assembly of FIG. 1;

FIG. 5 is a left side elevational view of the dispenser assembly of FIG. 1;

FIG. 6 is a top plan view of the dispenser assembly of FIG. 1;

FIG. 7 is a bottom plan view of the dispenser assembly of FIG. 1;

FIG. 8 is a top perspective exploded view of the dispenser assembly of FIG. 1;

FIG. 9 is a bottom perspective exploded view of the dispenser assembly of FIG. 1;

FIG. 10 is a cross-sectional view of the dispenser assembly of FIG. 1 taken along section line 10-10 of FIG. 2;

FIG. 11 is a perspective view of the removable dispenser of the dispenser assembly of FIG. 1;

FIG. 12 is an exploded view of the dispenser of FIG. 11;

FIG. 13 illustrates a top perspective view of the dispenser of FIG. 11, wherein the dispenser is in a closed, storage, position;

FIG. 14 illustrates a top perspective view of the dispenser of FIG. 11, wherein the dispenser is in an open, dispensing, position;

FIG. 15 is a perspective view of the top piece of the dispenser of FIG. 11;

FIG. 16 is a top plan view of the top piece of FIG. 15;

FIG. 17 is a bottom plan view of the top piece of FIG. 15;

FIG. 18 is a front elevational view of the top piece of FIG. 15;

FIG. 19 is a cross-sectional view of the top piece of FIG. 15 taken along line 19-19 of FIG. 18;

FIG. 20 is a perspective view of the bottom piece of the dispenser of FIG. 11;

FIG. 21 is a top plan view of the bottom piece of FIG. 20;

FIG. 22 is a bottom plan view of the bottom piece of FIG. 20;

FIG. 23 is a front elevational view of the bottom piece of FIG. 20;

FIG. 24 is a right side elevational view of the bottom piece of FIG. 20;

FIG. 25 is a perspective view of the hopper rotating lid of the dispenser assembly of FIG. 1;

FIG. 26 is a top plan view of the hopper rotating lid of FIG. 25;

FIG. 27 is a bottom plan view of the hopper rotating lid of FIG. 25;

FIG. 28 is a front elevational view of the hopper rotating lid of FIG. 25;

FIG. 29 is a cross-sectional view of the hopper rotating lid of FIG. 25 taken along line 29-29 of FIG. 28;

FIG. 30 is a perspective view of the hopper cap of the dispenser assembly of FIG. 1;

FIG. 31 is a top view of the hopper cap of FIG. 30;

FIG. 32 is a side view of the hopper cap of FIG. 30;

FIG. 33 is a cross-sectional view of the hopper cap of FIG. 30 taken along line 33-33 of FIG. 32;

FIG. 34 is a perspective view of the hopper of the dispenser assembly of FIG. 1;

FIG. 35 is a top view of the hopper of FIG. 34;

FIG. 36 is a front view of the hopper of FIG. 34;

FIG. 37 is a cross-sectional view of the hopper of FIG. 34 taken along line 37-37 of FIG. 36; and

FIGS. 38A-38D illustrate the steps for attaching the dispenser of the dispenser assembly to the hopper of the dispenser assembly and refilling the dispenser of the dispenser assembly.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

FIGS. 1-10 illustrate a dispenser assembly 10 having features that are examples of inventive aspects in accordance with the principles of the present disclosure. An exploded view of the dispenser assembly 10 is shown in FIGS. 8-9 to illustrate the internal features thereof. Referring to FIGS. 8-9, the dispenser assembly 10 includes a hopper assembly 12 made up of a hopper 14, a hopper cap 16, and a hopper rotating lid 18, and a removable dispenser 20 that is made up of a dispenser top piece 22 and a dispenser bottom piece 24. It should be noted that although the dispenser top piece 22 is illustrated as being located at the bottom of the dispenser 20 when the dispenser 20 is attached to the hopper assembly 12, the dispenser top piece 22 forms the top of the removable dispenser 20 when the dispenser 20 is separated from the hopper assembly 12 and is being carried separately. As such, the dispenser top piece 22 includes indicia 26 indicating the open and closed positions of the dispenser 20.

It will be appreciated that a variety of different types of items can be dispensed from the dispenser 20 of the dispenser assembly 10. Preferred items include pieces of gum or candy. In one embodiment, the pieces of a candy can include pieces of hard candy. In another embodiment, the items can include liquid filled (e.g., mint filled) candy. In one example embodiment, the items can include balls or spheres of candy including outer gelatin coatings and an inner liquid candy filling (e.g., a mint filling).

According to the inventive features, the hopper 14 is configured to be filled with small items. The dispenser 20 is removably attachable to the hopper assembly 12 and is configured to be a portable structure. The dispenser 20, after being filled with small items from the hopper 14, can be separated from the hopper 14 and carried as a separate dispenser. As will be described in further detail below, the dispenser 20, when separate, is rotatable from a closed position to an open position for dispensing items. Also, as will be described in further detail below, when the dispenser 20 is attached to the hopper assembly 12, the dispenser 20 and the hopper assembly 12 interact to bring the dispenser assembly 10 from a closed position to a refill position for conveniently refilling the small items into the dispenser 20 from the hopper 14. As such, the hopper 14 can remain closed for storing the small items at a certain given location and the dispenser 20 can be separated to be used as a portable item for carrying small items to remote locations.

According to one embodiment, the hopper 14 of the dispenser assembly 10 can be sized such that it fits within a cup holder of an automobile. As such, the hopper 14 can be left in the automobile with stored small items and the dispenser 20 can be removed to portably carry a number of small items when a person leaves the car.

It should also be noted that, although in the illustrated figures, the dispenser 20 is shown as being attached to the top of the hopper assembly 12, in other embodiments, the dispenser, as long as it is removable from the hopper assembly, can be attached to different parts of the hopper assembly.

Now referring to FIGS. 11-24, the separable dispenser 20 and the features thereof are shown. As noted above, the dispenser 20 includes a dispenser top 22 and a dispenser bottom 24. The dispenser top 22 is rotatably disposed with respect to the dispenser bottom 24. The dispenser top 22 includes a circular, planar configuration with an opening 28 for dispensing small items. The dispenser top 22 includes a pair of opposing downwardly-extending flanges 30. The flanges 30 include radially inwardly extending tabs 32. The tabs 32 are configured to slide within a track 34 that is formed around an upwardly (or downwardly, depending upon orientation) extending skirt portion 36 of the dispenser bottom 24. As such, when the dispenser top 22 is attached to the dispenser bottom 24, the two can rotate slidably with respect to each other.

The downwardly extending flanges 30 of the dispenser top 22 also act as positive stops to limit rotation of the dispenser top 22 with respect to the dispenser bottom 24, as will be discussed. The flanges 30 include surface texture for improving grip.

The dispenser top 22 also includes mounting openings 38 located adjacent the downwardly extending flanges 30. The mounting openings 38 receive mounting posts 40 of the hopper rotating lid 18 to attach the dispenser 20 to the hopper assembly 12, as will be discussed in further detail below. The dispenser top 22 includes an alignment feature 39 that aligns with a visual indicator 74 of the hopper rotating lid 18 for mounting the dispenser top 22 to the hopper assembly 12 in the correct orientation. The alignment feature 39 is also used to indicate when the dispenser is in a fully closed configuration. The alignment feature 39 is aligned with an alignment feature 41 of the dispenser bottom 24 when the dispenser is in a fully closed position.

As noted above, the dispenser top 22 may include indicia 26 for illustrating or indicating the direction of rotation for moving the dispenser 20 from a closed, item-storing, position to an open, item-dispensing, position.

Still referring to FIGS. 11-24, the dispenser bottom 24 also includes a circular configuration. The dispenser bottom 24 includes the circumferential skirt portion 36. The skirt portion 36 defines the track 34 that receives the inner tabs 32 of the dispenser top 22 for slidable rotation therebetween. The dispenser bottom 24 also defines opposing flanges 42 located around the skirt portion 36. The flanges 42 of the dispenser bottom 24 make contact with the flanges 30 of the dispenser top 22 to act as positive stops to limit relative rotation therebetween. The flanges 42 also include surface texture to improve grip.

The skirt 36 forms a small item storage cavity 44 for the dispenser bottom 24. The dispenser bottom 24 defines a bulkhead 46 extending from the inner face 48 thereof. The bulkhead 46 is configured to align with and close the dispensing opening 28 of the dispenser top 22 when the two parts of the dispenser 20 are rotated to a closed position. FIG. 13 illustrates the dispenser 20 in a closed position where the bulkhead 46 is lined up with the opening 28. FIG. 14 illustrates the dispenser 20 in an open position where the bulkhead 46 has been moved away from the dispensing opening 28. According to one embodiment, the dispenser top 22 may be rotated clockwise to bring the dispenser 20 from a closed position to an open position. The flanges 30 of the dispenser top 22 and the flanges 42 of the dispenser bottom 24 contact each other and act as positive stops to stop the dispenser 20 at fully closed and fully open positions.

As shown in FIG. 11, the dispenser bottom 24 also includes indicia 50 for indicating or illustrating rotation directions for refilling the dispenser 20. Since the dispenser bottom 24 ends up being on the top side of the dispenser assembly 10 when the dispenser 20 is attached to the hopper assembly 12, the indicia 50 of the dispenser bottom 24 becomes visible to the user.

Referring now to FIGS. 26-37, the parts of the hopper assembly 12 are shown. The hopper assembly 12 includes the hopper 14, the hopper cap 16, and the hopper rotating lid 18. The hopper cap 16 is fixedly mounted on the hopper 14. The hopper rotating lid 18 is configured to slidably rotate with respect to the hopper 14 and the hopper cap 16 to expose the refill opening 52, as will be discussed.

Referring to FIGS. 26-29, the hopper rotating lid 18 includes a top wall 54 and a downwardly extending skirt 56. The skirt 56 defines a radially inwardly extending lip portion 58. The lip 58 is configured to fit within a circumferential slot 60 defined adjacent the hopper opening 62 for slidable rotation of the hopper rotating lid 18 with respect to the hopper 14.

At the top wall 54 is defined the refill opening 52. Extending upwardly from the top wall 54 are the mounting posts 40 for attachment to the portable dispenser 20. The mounting posts 40 include radially inwardly extending hook portions 41 for snap-fit attachment to the mounting holes 38 of the dispenser top 22. It should be noted that in other embodiments, other types of snap-fit arrangements other than the illustrated mounting posts 40 and mounting holes 38 could be used.

Referring to FIGS. 27 and 29, the hopper rotating lid 18 includes a detent 64 at the inner surface 66 of the top wall 54. As will be discussed in further detail below, the detent 64 is configured to ride along the top surface 68 of the hopper cap 16 until it contacts and snaps into one of the detent holes 70, 72 of the hopper cap 16 (see FIGS. 30-31). When the detent 64 is received within either of the detent holes 70, 72, rotation of the hopper rotating lid 18 is stopped. A pushing force large enough to pop the detent 64 out of a detent hole is needed to restart the rotation of the hopper rotating lid 18 with respect to the hopper cap 16.

The hopper rotating lid 18 also includes a visual hole alignment indicator 74 that is configured to align with another visual alignment indicator 76 on the hopper 14. When the hopper rotating lid 18 has been rotated to a position where the refill opening 52 is aligned with a hopper cap opening 78 (see FIG. 30), the two visual indicators 74, 76 are aligned. When the refill opening 52 is aligned with the hopper cap opening 78, the detent 64 snap fits into one of the detent holes of the hopper cap 16 to stop further rotation of the hopper rotating lid 18 with respect to the hopper 14 and the hopper cap 16.

The hopper cap 16 is illustrated in FIGS. 30-33. The hopper cap include a circular, planar body 80 defining a wall 82. The hopper cap opening 78 is defined on the wall 82. The hopper cap opening 78 communicates with the inside storage chamber of the hopper 14 (see FIG. 34). Small items contained in the hopper 14 can be accessed through the hopper cap opening 78 for refilling purposes, as will be described in further detail.

The hopper cap 16 includes a downwardly extending skirt 84 and a circular lip 86 that extends radially inwardly therefrom. The circular lip 86 snap fits into a second circumferential slot 88 located adjacent the hopper opening 62. As noted previously, the hopper cap 16 is configured to be non-rotatably mounted to the hopper 14. The skirt 84 defines opposing gaps 85 to align with and interlock with opposing tabs 101 defined on the perimeter of the hopper 14 to fixedly lock the hopper cap 16 with respect to the hopper 14 and to prevent it from rotating.

The hopper cap 16 includes the first and second detent holes 70, 72 for receiving the detent 64 of the hopper rotating lid 18 to temporarily stop rotation of the rotating lid 18 with respect to the hopper cap 16. It should be noted that either or both the hopper cap 16 and the hopper rotating lid 18 should be made flexible enough such that the detent 64 can pop out of the detent holes 70, 72 when turned between closed and refill positions.

FIGS. 34-37 illustrate the hopper 14 of the dispenser assembly 10. The hopper 14 includes a storage cavity 90 for storing small items. As noted previously, the hopper assembly 12 is configured to be left stationary at a location, whereas the dispenser 20 is configured to be removable from the hopper assembly 12 and carried as a portable unit. It is, however, contemplated that the hopper assembly 12 may also be a portable unit wherein two separate portable dispensers may be provided by separating the dispenser 20 from the hopper assembly 12. As noted above, in certain embodiments, the hopper 14 may be sized to fit into places such as an automobile cup holder.

The hopper 14 includes two circumferential slots 60, 88 around the hopper opening 62. The upper slot 88 is configured to receive the lip 86 of the hopper cap 16 with a snap fit for fixed mounting. The lower slot 60 is configured to receive the lip 58 of the hopper rotating lid 18 with a snap fit for a slidable mounting.

The hopper 14 defines a sidewall 90 including grip features 92. The sidewall 92 also includes the visual alignment feature 76 for aligning with the visual alignment feature 74 of the hopper rotating lid 18 to indicate the hopper refill position.

When assembling the hopper assembly 12, the hopper cap 16 should be fixedly positioned on the hopper 14 such that the center point of side A of the cap opening 78 is aligned with the visual indicator 76 on the hopper 14. At this position, the hopper cap 16 is at the correct position with respect to the hopper 14 for proper functioning of the parts of the dispenser assembly 10 for refilling and storing, as will be clear.

FIGS. 38A-38D illustrate the steps for attaching the dispenser 20 of the dispenser assembly 10 to the hopper assembly 12 of the dispenser assembly 10 and bringing the dispenser assembly 10 to a refilling position by rotating the dispenser 20.

As discussed previously, the dispenser 20 can be used a portable structure to carry small items and selectively dispense them by being rotated from a closed position to an open position. The dispenser 20 is preferably kept at a closed position when the dispenser 20 is carried on a person when storing the items.

As illustrated, when the dispenser 20 runs out of small items and is brought back for attachment with the hopper assembly 12, the first step is to flip the dispenser 20 upside down so that the dispenser top 22 is adjacent the hopper assembly 12 and the dispenser bottom 24 is further away from the hopper assembly 12. At this point, since the dispenser 20 is empty, it might be in a closed position or an open position. Then, the mounting posts 40 of the hopper rotating lid 18 are received within the mounting openings 38 of the dispenser top 22.

Next, as indicated by the indicia 50 on the dispenser bottom 24, the dispenser bottom 24 is slidably rotated clockwise with respect to the dispenser top 22 until the flanges 42 of the dispenser bottom 24 contact the flanges 30 of the dispenser top 22. At this point, the dispenser 20 is at an open position where the bulkhead 46 has moved out of the way of the dispensing opening 28 of the dispenser top 22 and the dispensing opening 28 has been exposed to the inside of the dispenser 20.

As shown in FIGS. 38B and 38C, further clockwise rotation of the dispenser bottom 24 pushes against the dispenser top 22, which in turn, starts slidably rotating the hopper rotating lid 18. The interaction of the mounting post 40 of the hopper rotating lid 18 with the mounting holes 38 of the dispenser top 22 causes the two parts to move together. The hopper rotating lid 18 is moved relative to the hopper 14 until the visual indicator 74 of the rotating lid 18 is aligned with the visual indicator 76 of the hopper 14 (see FIG. 38C). At this point, the hopper rotating lid 18 has moved to a point where the refill opening 52 of the rotating lid 18 is aligned with the cap opening 78 of the hopper cap 16. When the refill opening 52 of the rotating lid 18 is aligned as such, the detent 64 of the rotating lid is received within the detent opening 72 that is at the opposite side of side A of the cap opening 78. At this point, the detent 64 would have to pop out of the detent hole 72 in order to slidably rotate the hopper rotating lid 18 again.

Referring to FIG. 38C, when the visual alignment indicators 74, 76 are aligned, all of the openings extending from the dispenser 20 to the hopper 14 are aligned and the dispenser 20 is ready to be refilled. The dispenser assembly 10 can simply be turned upside down and the small items refilled into the dispenser 20, as shown in FIG. 38D.

Once the refilling is complete, the steps may be reversed to close the openings with respect to each other and to separate the dispenser 20 from the hopper assembly 12.

For example, when the refilling is complete, the dispenser bottom 24 is turned counterclockwise (after the detent 64 has been popped out of the detent hole 72), until the flanges 42 of the dispenser bottom 24 contact the flanges 30 of the dispenser top 22. At this point, the dispensing opening 28 becomes closed. Further counterclockwise rotation of the dispenser bottom 24 pushes on and starts rotating the dispenser top 22, and, in turn, the hopper rotating lid 18. The hopper rotating lid 18 starts rotating due to contact between the mounting posts 40 thereof and the mounting holes 38 of the dispenser top 22. The visual alignment indicators 74, 76 start to separate. The hopper rotating lid 18 is rotated counterclockwise until the detent 64 pops into the other detent hole 70, at which point the refill opening 52 has been completely closed.

When the dispenser 20 is separated from the hopper assembly 12 after the above-described counter-clockwise rotation, both the dispensing opening 28 and the refill opening 52 are closed, leaving both the hopper assembly 12 and the dispenser 20 in a storage position.

As described above, the parts of the dispenser assembly 10 are configured and interact such that one continuous clockwise rotation of the dispenser bottom 24 opens both the dispensing opening 28 of the dispenser 20 and the refill opening 52 of the hopper rotating lid 18 when refilling is desired. And, as described, the parts are configured such that one continuous counterclockwise rotation of the dispenser bottom 24 closes both the dispensing opening 28 of the dispenser 20 and the refill opening 52 of the hopper rotating lid 18 for getting the dispenser 20 ready for separation.

The parts of the dispenser assembly 10 may be manufactured from a variety of known materials, although polymers are preferable.

Although in the foregoing description of the small item dispenser assembly 10, terms such as “top”, “bottom”, “front”, “rear”, “right”, “left”, “clockwise”, and “counterclockwise” were used for ease of description and illustration, no restriction is intended by such use of the terms.

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