Title:
Collapsible tube with roll-up fastener structure
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A tube for dispensing a material such as toothpaste has a tube wall with a sealed first end and s second end having a dispensing opening. A plurality of rows of cooperating fasteners are disposed in plural columns along opposite sides of the tube wall. As the tube is rolled up during consumption of the material therein, the fasteners are brought into juxtaposition with each other and mated together to secure the tube in the rolled up position. The fasteners may be male and female snaps that are integrally molded into the tube side walls during manufacture of the tube.



Inventors:
Avraham, Roei (New York, NY, US)
Application Number:
11/974703
Publication Date:
04/16/2009
Filing Date:
10/15/2007
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
222/107
International Classes:
B65D35/24; B65D35/00
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
BAINBRIDGE, ANDREW PHILIP
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
DAVID M. QUINLAN, P.C. (PRINCETON, NJ, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A dispensing tube with a tube wall having a first end that is sealed and a second end with a dispensing opening, the tube comprising: a first fastener structure disposed on one side of said tube wall between said first and second ends thereof; and a second fastener structure, disposed on an opposite side of said tube wall between said first and second ends thereof, for cooperating with said first fastener structure to hold said first and second fastener structures together when in mating relationship with each other, wherein said first and second fastener structures are located on said tube such that said first and second fastener structures are brought into juxtaposition as the tube is rolled up from the first end toward the second end.

2. A tube as in claim 1, wherein: said first fastener structure comprises a plurality of first fasteners disposed on said one side of said tube wall between said first and second ends thereof; and said second fastener structure comprises a plurality of second fasteners, disposed along said opposite side of said tube wall between said first and second ends thereof, for cooperating with said first fasteners to hold said first and second fasteners together when in mating relationship with each other, wherein said first and second fasteners are located on said tube such that respective said first and second fasteners are brought into juxtaposition as the tube is rolled up from the first end toward the second end.

3. A tube as in claim 2, wherein said fasteners are disposed in plural columns along said respective sides of said tube wall, and said fasteners on each said side of said tube are disposed in rows parallel to the axis along which the tube is rolled up.

4. A tube as in claim 3, wherein: said first fasteners on said one side of said tube comprise a first row of a first type of fastener proximate to said first end of said tube and succeeding rows of a second type of fastener extending toward said second end of said tube; said second fasteners on said opposite side of said tube wall are said first type of fastener; and said first type of fastener mates with said second type of fastener to hold said fasteners together.

5. A tube as in claim 4, wherein said first type of fastener is one of a male or female fastener and the second type of fastener is the other of a female or male fastener, and said male and female fasteners snap together.

6. A tube as in claim 5, wherein said fasteners are formed integrally with said tube wall.

7. A method of securing a dispensing tube in a rolled up configuration as the contents thereof are used, the method including: providing a dispensing tube with a tube wall having a first end that is sealed and a second end with a dispensing opening, a first fastener structure disposed on one side of said tube wall between said first and second ends thereof, and a second fastener structure, disposed on an opposite side of said tube wall between said first and second ends thereof, for cooperating with said first fastener structure to hold said first and second fastener structures together when in mating relationship with each other, wherein said first and second fastener structures are located on said tube such that said first and second fastener structures are brought into juxtaposition as the tube is rolled up from the first end toward he second end; and rolling up said tube in increments as the contents thereof are dispensed and securing said first and second fastener structures together between dispensing operations as they are brought into juxtaposition.

8. A method as in claim 7, wherein said first fastener structure comprises a plurality of first fasteners disposed on said one side of said tube wall between said first and second ends thereof, and said second fastener structure comprises a plurality of second fasteners, disposed along said opposite side of said tube wall between said first and second ends thereof, for cooperating with said first fasteners to hold said first and second fasteners together when in mating relationship with each other, the method further comprising: securing a said first fastener proximate to said first end of said tube to a next adjacent first said fastener when a sufficient amount of the tube contents have been dispensed to permit said sealed end of said tube to be folded to bring said adjacent first fasteners into juxtaposition.

9. A tube as in claim 8, wherein: said first fasteners on said one side of said tube comprise a first row of a first type of fastener proximate to said first end of said tube and succeeding rows of a second type of fastener extending toward said second end of said tube; said second fasteners on said opposite side of said tube wall are said first type of fastener; and said first type of fastener mates with said second type of fastener to hold said fasteners together.

10. A tube as in claim 9, wherein said first type of fastener is one of a male or female fastener and the second type of fastener is the other of a female or male fastener, and said male and female fasteners snap together.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to a collapsible tube, and more particularly, to a collapsible tube with fastener structures that secure the empty portion of the tube in place as the contents of the tube are used.

2. Description of Related Art

Many types of flowable materials are dispensed using collapsible tubes, including toothpaste, cosmetic products such as lotions and creams, hair products such as shampoo and conditioner, food products, and many other liquid, viscous and solid (granular) products. While collapsible tubes have proven to be a very convenient dispenser for these kinds of materials, they have certain drawbacks that manifest themselves as the tube is emptied by usage over time.

As they are used, tube dispensers, especially toothpaste tubes, will become misshapen because many people squeeze them from the middle. This also makes it difficult to dispense product as the tube empties. Even if everyone who uses the tube (which in the case of toothpaste, for example, can be multiple family members) takes care always to squeeze the tube from the bottom, still another problem arises as the tube is emptied. Most modern tube dispensers are made from plastic materials that do not retain their shape after being deformed during a dispensing operation. Accordingly, although one user might roll up the tube to force the product towards the dispensing opening before use, the tube tends to return to an unrolled state afterwards. This not only creates an unsightly appearance, but each user has to re-roll up the tube before using it in order to make sure that all of the product is completely dispensed.

The many proposed solutions to these problems can be considered as falling into two broad categories. The first involves a separate device into which the tube fits and which the user manipulates to squeeze the tube and dispense product. Examples of this kind of device are shown in U.S. Pat. No. 2,848,141, No. 4,403,714, No. 5,560,518, and No. 6,968,978. While these devices may accomplish their intended purpose, they are nonetheless an imperfect solution to the problems noted above. In addition, they all are relatively complex in construction, considering that they have only one purpose—to dispense toothpaste from a tube. They also involve a separate device that takes up more space than the tube itself, and they represent an additional expense for the consumer.

Examples of a second type of device for addressing the problems inherent in tube dispensers are shown in U.S. Pat. No. 5,743,434, No. 6,749,087, and No. Des. 322,528. These devices generally comprise clips or roll-up devices that fit onto the tube. They can either fit over the tube to be pushed or rolled along the tube to extrude the tube contents and keep them from retreating into the portion of the tube that has been emptied, or they clip onto the tube after the user has rolled up the tube manually. While they do not generally add to the space taken up by the tube, they are still an extra component, making them less convenient to use than would be the case if the user had only the tube to manipulate. They also can be lost because they are separate from the tube.

What is needed is a simple, inexpensive way of improving the dispensing of material from a tube container, while avoiding extraneous parts that increase the cost to the consumer and decrease the convenience of using the tube.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

It is an object of the present invention to provide an improved dispensing tube that can be kept neatly rolled up between dispensing operations.

It is another object of the invention to provide an improved method of securing a dispensing tube in a rolled up configuration between dispensing operations.

In accordance with a first aspect of the invention, a dispensing tube with a tube wall having a first end that is sealed and a second end with a dispensing opening comprises a first fastener structure disposed on one side of the tube wall between the first and second ends thereof, and a second fastener structure, disposed on an opposite side of the tube wall between the first and second ends thereof, for cooperating with the first fastener structure to hold the first and second fastener structures together when in mating relationship with each other, wherein the first and second fastener structures are located on the tube such that the first and second fastener structures are brought into juxtaposition as the tube is rolled up from the first end toward the second end.

In accordance with another aspect of the invention, the first fastener structure comprises a plurality of first fasteners disposed on one side of the tube wall between the first and second ends thereof, and the second fastener structure comprises a plurality of second fasteners, disposed along the opposite side of the tube wall between the first and second ends thereof, for cooperating with the first fasteners to hold the first and second fasteners together when in mating relationship with each other, wherein the first and second fasteners are located on the tube such that respective first and second fasteners are brought into juxtaposition as the tube is rolled up from the first end toward the second end. In one preferred arrangement, first fasteners on one side of the tube comprise a first row of a first type of fastener proximate to the first end of the tube and succeeding rows of a second type of fastener extending toward the second end of the tub, and second fasteners on the opposite side of the tube wall comprise the first type of fastener, wherein the first type of fastener mates with the second type of fastener to hold the fasteners together.

In accordance with still another aspect of the invention, a method of securing a dispensing tube in a rolled up configuration as the contents thereof are used includes providing a dispensing tube such as those described above, and rolling up the tube in increments as the contents thereof are dispensed and securing the first and second fastener structures together between dispensing operations as they are brought into juxtaposition. With a preferred embodiment as noted above, the method may include securing the fasteners in the first row on one side wall of the tube to the fasteners in the next adjacent row when a sufficient amount of the tube contents have been dispensed to permit the sealed end of the tube to be folded over to bring the fasteners into juxtaposition.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The objects of the invention will be better understood from the detailed description of its preferred embodiments which follows below, when taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which like numerals and letters refer to like features throughout. The following is a brief identification of the drawing figures used in the accompanying detailed description.

FIGS. 1 and 2 are elevation views of opposite sides of a toothpaste tube incorporating fasteners in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 3 is a side view of the tube shown in FIGS. 1 and 2.

FIG. 4 is a side view of the tube partially rolled up and secured in place by the fasteners depicted in FIGS. 1 to 3.

FIG. 5 is a cross-sectional view of two of the fasteners indicated at line 5-5 of FIG. 4 in their mated orientation.

One skilled in the art will readily understand that the drawings are not strictly to scale, but nevertheless will find them sufficient, when taken with the detailed descriptions of preferred embodiments that follow, to make and use the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

FIGS. 1 to 3 taken together depict a toothpaste tube 10 incorporating an embodiment of the present invention. The tube 10 has a sealed first end 12 and a dispensing second end 14. The dispensing end 14 is conventionally constructed, with an opening through an externally threaded cylindrical post (not shown). As is conventional, the opening is closed by a removable cap 16 with internal threads that mate with the threads on the post, although other types of dispensing openings are known. These components of the tube 10 are conventional, and will be familiar to those skilled in the art.

For purposes of describing the present embodiment of the invention, the tube 10 can be considered to have two side walls 18 and 20. A first fastening structure comprises two columns of fasteners 30 and 32 along one side wall 18, between the first end 12 and the second end 14 of the tube. A second fastener structure comprises two columns of fasteners 40 and 42 along the opposite side wall 20, also between the first end 12 and the second end 14 of the tube. (It should be noted that in this context “between” does not mean that the fasteners necessarily extend the entire length of the side walls.) The columns on each side wall are arrayed in rows, which are identified in the drawings by letter suffixes beginning with the rows proximate to the sealed end 12 of the tube. That is, column 30 includes first fasteners 30a, 30b, . . . , 30h, and column 32 includes first fasteners 32a, 32b, . . . , 32h. The fasteners 30a and 32a, 32a and 32b, . . . , 30h and 32h, form rows that are generally parallel to the sealed end 12. Likewise, column 40 includes second fasteners 40a, 40b, . . . , 40e, column 42 includes second fasteners 42a, 42b, . . . , 42e. The fasteners 40a and 42a, 42a and 42b, . . . , 40e and 42e, also form rows that are generally parallel to the sealed end 12 and to the axis about which the tube will be rolled up as the product therein is used.

In the depicted embodiment the first fasteners 30a, 32a, and all of the second fasteners 40, 42 are a first type of fastener, while the first fasteners 30b, 32b to 30h, 32h are a second type of fastener configured to mate with and fasten to the first type of fasteners. The fasteners 30a and 32a on the side wall 18 in the first row proximate to the sealed end 12 are first-type fasteners (like the fasteners 40, 42) for a reason described below. In the depicted embodiment the fasteners of the first type are male fasteners and the fasteners of the second type are female fasteners that securely hold the male fasteners when they are mated together. However, it is clearly within the scope of the invention to have first-type female fasteners and second-type male fasteners.

The use of the present invention can best be understood in connection with FIGS. 3 and 4. FIG. 3 depicts the tube 10 in side view before it has been used, and illustrates the relative positions of the fasteners 30, 32 and 40, 42 on the tube side walls 18 and 20. FIG. 4 also depicts the tube 10 in side view, but after a certain amount of product has been dispensed and the tube has been rolled up accordingly about an axis generally perpendicular to the plane of the drawing. It will be appreciated from FIG. 4 that the first row of fasteners 30a and 32a proximate to the tube's sealed end 12 mate with the next adjacent row of fasteners 30b and 32b on the same side wall. That is, these first two rows of fasteners on the side wall 18 mate when a first increment of product has been dispensed sufficient to permit the tube end to be folded on itself to juxtapose the fasteners 30a, 32a and 32a, 32b, thus beginning the tube roll-up process.

FIG. 4 also illustrates how the tube is further rolled up in a fashion that will be familiar to most consumers, as the contents of the tube continue to be consumed. As will be appreciated from FIG. 4, each time a particular increment of product has been dispensed, the tube can be further rolled up to bring first-type fasteners 30, 32 on the one side wall 18 into juxtaposition with second-type fasteners on the opposite side wall 20. For example, when another increment of product has been dispensed, the first row of first-type fasteners 40a, 42a on the side wall 20 can be brought into juxtaposition with the third row of fasteners 30c, 32c (which are of the second type) on the opposite side wall 18. When another increment of product has been dispensed, the second row of first-type fasteners 40b, 42b (on the side wall 20) can be brought into juxtaposition with the fourth row of second-type fasteners 30d, 32c (on the side wall 18). Likewise, fasteners 30e, 32e and 40c, 42c are brought into juxtaposition after succeeding dispensing operations have dispensed another increment of product from the tube. FIG. 4 depicts tube 10 after sufficient product has been dispensed to bring fasteners 30f, 32f and 40d, 42c, and then 30g, 32g and 40e, 42e, into juxtaposition, as the tube is rolled up.

It will be appreciated that the rows of fasteners on the two tube side walls must be properly spaced in order to bring mating fasteners into juxtaposition as the tube is rolled up. Those skilled in the art will appreciate that the spacing will depend on the material used to make the tube (a thicker or less pliant material will require more space between rows). Further, the spacing between rows will increase toward the dispensing end, and it will be appreciated from FIG. 4 particularly that the spacing between the rows of fasteners will determine how tightly the tube is rolled up between dispensing operations. The spacing required for a particular tube material and tube size, containing a particular product, can readily be determined by one of ordinary skill in the art.

The configurations of the first- and second-type fasteners is illustrated in more detail in FIG. 5, which is a sectional view taken of the fasteners indicated in FIG. 4. A male first-type fastener (fastener 42c in FIG. 4) comprises a shallow boss 44 extending generally perpendicularly from the tube wall 20. The end of the boss flares outwardly to form an annular protrusion 46. A female second-type fastener (fastener 32f in FIG. 4) comprises a corresponding shallow boss 34 on the tube side wall 18. The boss 34 has an inwardly facing annular protrusion 36 at its end to form an annular recess 38 with the tube wall 18. When the fastener 42 is pressed against the fastener 32, the flared end 46 of the boss 44 is deformed slightly by the protrusion 36 on the boss 32 and then snaps into place into the recess 38 to hold the two fasteners together. With the fasteners thus firmly secured, the used portion of the tube 10 is held in a rolled-up configuration solely by structure incorporated into the tube and without separate devices as in the prior art.

One important advantage of the depicted embodiment is that the fasteners 30, 32 and 40, 42 can be molded integrally with the tube during its manufacture, as shown in FIG. 5. Exemplary manufacturing processes for dispensing tubes are shown in U.S. Pat. No. 4,733,801 and No. 6,673,301, the contents of which relating to tube manufacturing methods and apparatus are incorporated herein by reference as if set out in full. It will be well within the ability of those skilled in the art to modify the molds used to manufacture tubes using the manufacturing processes in those patents, and other such processes, to form the fasteners on the tube walls.

It will be understood that the present invention is not limited to the use of fastener structures like those used in the preferred embodiment depicted herein. For example, the fasteners may vary in configuration along the tube to account for different magnitudes of force required to hold them together as the tube is rolled up.

Another variation could involve using different configurations at different locations to assist the user in juxtaposing the proper fastener on one side of the tube with its intended mate on the other side of the tube. Or more or fewer fasteners could be used on different locations along the tube. Moreover, although the invention is particularly useful for toothpaste tubes, it is not limited to that application. Some of the other products with which the invention can be used are mentioned above.

Those skilled in the art will readily recognize that only selected preferred embodiments of the invention have been depicted and described, and it will be understood that various changes and modifications can be made other than those specifically mentioned above without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention, which is defined solely by the claims that follow.