Title:
ARTICLE CARRIER HAVING REINFORCED BOTTOM WALL
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An article carrier comprises upstanding walls adjoining a reinforced bottom wall. The reinforced bottom wall has an arrangement of lesser-reinforced regions. Each lesser-reinforced region may comprise a region of enhanced deformability. The reinforced bottom wall comprises at least a first bottom-wall panel and a second bottom-wall panel disposed in face-contacting relationship with respect to one another. Each lesser-reinforced region may comprise an aperture in one of the first bottom-wall panel and the second bottom-wall panel. Each lesser-reinforced region may comprise an embossment in one of the first bottom-wall panel and the second bottom-wall panel. Each lesser-reinforced region may comprise an embossment in one of the first bottom-wall panel and the second bottom-wall panel and an aperture in another one of the first bottom-wall panel and the second bottom-wall panel in alignment with the embossment.



Inventors:
Bates, Aaron L. (Raleigh, NC, US)
Application Number:
12/363888
Publication Date:
08/06/2009
Filing Date:
02/02/2009
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
206/427, 206/562
International Classes:
B65D75/00; B65D6/04
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
DESAI, KAUSHIKKUMAR A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
WESTROCK COMPANY (Richmond, VA, US)
Claims:
1. An article carrier comprising: a plurality of upstanding walls adjoining a reinforced bottom wall, said reinforced bottom wall having an arrangement of lesser-reinforced regions.

2. The article carrier of claim 1, wherein each said lesser-reinforced region comprises a region of enhanced deformability.

3. The article carrier of claim 1, wherein said reinforced bottom wall comprises at least a first bottom-wall panel and a second bottom-wall panel disposed in face-contacting relationship with respect to one another.

4. The article carrier of claim 3, wherein each said lesser-reinforced region comprises a predetermined pattern cut into one of said first bottom-wall panel and said second bottom-wall panel.

5. The article carrier of claim 4, wherein said predetermined pattern comprises an aperture.

6. The article carrier of claim 3, wherein each said lesser-reinforced region comprises an embossment in one of said first bottom-wall panel and said second bottom-wall panel.

7. The article carrier of claim 3, wherein each said lesser-reinforced region comprises an embossment in one of said first bottom-wall panel and said second bottom-wall panel and an aperture in another of said first bottom-wall panel and said second bottom-wall panel in alignment with said embossment.

8. A tray-style carrier, comprising: a bottom wall; a pair of opposed side walls hingedly connected to said bottom wall; a pair of opposed end walls hingedly connected to said bottom wall and hingedly interconnecting said side walls to form a tubular structure; a reinforcing panel disposed against said bottom wall, said reinforcing panel comprising a plurality of first regions that will promote upward deformation of a plurality of second regions of said bottom wall that are in alignment with said plurality of first regions when an upward force is applied in registry with each of said first regions.

9. The tray-style carrier of claim 8, wherein said plurality of first regions comprise a plurality of apertures.

10. The tray-style carrier of claim 9, wherein said reinforcing panel is disposed on an inner surface of said bottom wall.

11. The tray-style carrier of claim 9, wherein said reinforcing panel is disposed on an outer surface of said bottom wall.

12. The tray-style carrier of claim 8, wherein said plurality of first regions comprise a plurality of embossed portions and wherein said reinforcing panel is disposed on an inner surface of said bottom wall such that said plurality of embossed portions extend upwardly with respect to said bottom wall.

13. A tray-style carrier, comprising: a bottom wall comprising a plurality of apertures; a pair of opposed side walls hingedly connected to said bottom wall; a pair of opposed end walls hingedly connected to said bottom wall and hingedly interconnecting said side walls to form a tubular structure; and a reinforcing panel disposed against said bottom wall, said reinforcing panel comprising a plurality of embossed portions in substantial alignment with said plurality of apertures wherein said plurality of embossed portions extend upwardly with respect to said bottom wall.

14. The tray-style carrier of claim 13, wherein said reinforcing panel is disposed upon an outer surface of said bottom wall such that said embossed portions extend into said plurality of apertures.

15. The tray-style carrier of claim 13, wherein said reinforcing panel is disposed upon an inner surface of said bottom wall such that said plurality of embossed portions substantially cover said plurality of apertures.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Application No. 61/025,640 filed Feb. 1, 2008, the entirety of which is incorporated herein by reference.

TECHNICAL FIELD

This invention relates to cartons, and more particularly, the invention relates to a tray-style article carrier having a reinforced bottom wall.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Article carriers are useful for transporting and storing articles. Tray-style article carriers are particularly useful for transporting and storing multiples of articles such as bottles. The designation “tray-style” means that the carrier is open at its top end. Often manufacturers and distributors of bottled products such as beverages have a need to stack tray-style article carriers that are loaded with bottles. The loaded carriers may be stacked for storage at a location such as a warehouse or may be stacked for transport in a stacked configuration, such as a stacked array on a pallet.

A problem in stacking carriers including tray-style article carriers is maintaining stability of the stacked array of carriers. This problem is made worse when the contents of the carriers are weighted articles such as beverage bottles. Instability arises due to at least two causes. One cause of instability is that the weight of loaded carriers can cause the bottom wall of middle-tier or lower-tier loaded carriers in an array to give way under substantial loads. When the bottom wall of a carrier gives way this can cause the loaded carriers and/or their contents to shift position and thereby cause the array to topple. A second cause of instability that can also ultimately result in the toppling of a stacked array is that a loaded carrier stacked on top of another loaded carrier may slide laterally and become vertically displaced unless it is restrained from lateral movement.

The problems described above are particularly applicable to tray-style article carriers that are loaded with articles such as beverage bottles. It is convenient to store, transport and display beverage bottles in tray-style carriers. Because each bottle is individually sealed, it is not necessary to have a fully-closed carrier. Trays constructed of heavy-weight, rigid, durable plastic are often used for packaging bottles for storage, transport and display. The strength of such trays permits loaded trays of this nature to be stacked reliably. However, trays of this type are typically much more expensive than trays that are constructed from less substantial materials such as paper-based materials in general and paper-based and thin-plastic sheet materials in particular. Thus it can be appreciated that manufacturers and distributors often desire to use cartons or carriers made of paperboard or thin-plastic sheets of material in order to reduce packaging costs.

Packaging costs may often be reduced further by using paperboard, corrugated board or other sheet material of as low a caliper (thickness) as possible. Paperboard, corrugated board or other sheet-material packaging also may be more desirable to distributors of bottled beverages than heavier-weight materials because lighter-weight packaging materials produce lighter-weight loaded packages thereby reducing transportation costs and providing a loaded carrier that is easier to handle.

When a carrier or some of its parts are constructed of relatively thin, flexible material such as paperboard, corrugated board or thin plastic sheets, the problem of the bottom wall giving way (as described above) can occur, particularly if the upper ends of bottles of a lower-tier are not optimally aligned with the lower ends of bottles of an upper tier.

Therefore, despite the advantages offered by packaging that is light-weight, the walls of such packaging, particularly the bottom walls of paperboard, corrugated board or thin-sheet plastic material, are inherently weaker than the walls of heavier plastic packaging. Thus, it can be appreciated that there is a need to have an article carrier made of light-weight material that can be stacked reliably when loaded articles such as beverage bottles.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

An article carrier comprises upstanding walls adjoining a reinforced bottom wall according to exemplary embodiments of the present invention. The reinforced bottom wall has an arrangement of lesser-reinforced regions. Each lesser-reinforced region comprises a region of enhanced deformability, that is, a region that is more susceptible to being deformed than the remainder of the reinforced bottom wall. In accordance with additional exemplary embodiments the reinforced bottom wall comprises at least a first bottom-wall panel and a second bottom-wall panel disposed in face-contacting relationship with respect to one another. In accordance with an aspect of exemplary embodiments, each lesser-reinforced region comprises a predetermined pattern cut into one of said first bottom-wall panel and said second bottom-wall panel. In accordance with another aspect of exemplary embodiments, each lesser-reinforced region comprises an aperture as a predetermined pattern that is cut into in one of the first bottom-wall panel and the second bottom-wall panel. In accordance with a further aspect of the exemplary embodiments each lesser-reinforced region comprises an embossment in one of the first bottom-wall panel and the second bottom-wall panel. In accordance with yet another aspect of the exemplary embodiments each lesser-reinforced region comprises an embossment in one of the first bottom-wall panel and the second bottom-wall panel and an aperture in another one of the first bottom-wall panel and the second bottom-wall panel in alignment with said embossment.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1A is an exploded perspective view of an apertured reinforcing panel aligned with the outer surface of a carrier bottom in accordance with a first embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 1B is a perspective view of the apertured reinforcing panel of FIG. 1A placed on, or attached to, the outer surface of the carrier bottom.

FIG. 1C is a cross-sectional side view of a stacked arrangement of loaded carriers with apertured reinforcing panels positioned as shown in FIGS. 1A-1B.

FIG. 1D is a partial plan view of the bottom of a carrier showing the relative position of an aperture in an apertured reinforcing panel arranged as shown in FIG. 1C, with respect to the heel of an article loaded in the carrier.

FIG. 1E is a close-up of a portion of the cross-sectional view of FIG. 1C focusing upon the interaction between a pair of a bottle in an upper tier and bottle in a lower tier and the bottom wall panels interposed between the two bottles.

FIG. 2A is an exploded perspective view of an apertured reinforcing panel aligned with the inner surface of a carrier bottom in accordance with a second embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 2B is a perspective view of the apertured reinforcing panel of FIG. 2A placed on, or attached to, the inner surface of the carrier bottom.

FIG. 2C is a cross-sectional side view of a stacked arrangement of carriers with apertured reinforcing panels positioned as shown in FIGS. 2A-2B.

FIG. 2D is a partial plan view of the bottom of a carrier showing the relative position of an aperture in an apertured reinforcing panel arranged as shown in FIG. 2C, with respect to the heel of an article loaded in the carrier.

FIG. 2E is a close-up of a portion of the cross-sectional view of FIG. 2C focusing upon the interaction between a pair of a bottle in an upper tier and bottle in a lower tier and the bottom wall panels interposed between the two bottles.

FIG. 3A is an exploded perspective view of an embossed reinforcing panel aligned with the outer surface of an apertured carrier bottom in accordance with a third embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 3B is a perspective view of the embossed reinforcing panel of FIG. 3A placed on, or attached to, the outer surface of the apertured carrier bottom, such that the embossed portions are inserted into the apertures of the apertured carrier.

FIG. 3C is a cross-sectional side view of a stacked arrangement of carriers with embossed reinforcing panels positioned as shown in FIGS. 3A-3B.

FIG. 3D is a close-up of a portion of the cross-sectional view of FIG. 3C focusing upon the interaction between a pair of a bottle in an upper tier and bottle in a lower tier and the bottom wall panels interposed between the two bottles.

FIG. 4A is an exploded perspective view of an embossed reinforcing panel aligned with the inner surface of a carrier bottom in accordance with a fourth embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 4B is a perspective view of the embossed reinforcing panel of FIG. 4A placed on, or attached to, the inner surface of the carrier bottom.

FIG. 4C is a cross-sectional side view of a stacked arrangement of carriers with embossed reinforcing panels positioned as shown in FIGS. 4A-4B.

FIG. 4D is a close-up of a portion of the cross-sectional view of FIG. 4C focusing upon the interaction between a pair of a bottle in an upper tier and bottle in a lower tier and the bottom wall panels interposed between the two bottles.

FIG. 5A is an exploded perspective view of an embossed reinforcing panel aligned with the inner surface of an apertured carrier bottom in accordance with a fifth embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 5B is a perspective view of the embossed reinforcing panel of FIG. 5A placed on, or attached to, the inner surface of the apertured carrier bottom.

FIG. 5C is a cross-sectional side view of a stacked arrangement of carriers with embossed reinforcing panels positioned as shown in FIGS. 5A-5B.

FIG. 5D is a close-up of a portion of the cross-sectional view of FIG. 5C focusing upon the interaction between a pair of a bottle in an upper tier and bottle in a lower tier and the bottom wall panels interposed between the two bottles.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

As required, detailed embodiments of the present invention are disclosed herein. It must be understood that the disclosed embodiments are merely exemplary of the invention that may be embodied in various and alternative forms, and combinations thereof. As used herein, the word “exemplary” is used expansively to refer to embodiments that serve as illustrations, specimens, models, or patterns. The figures are not necessarily to scale and some features may be exaggerated or minimized to show details of particular components. In other instances, well-known components, systems, materials, or methods have not been described in detail in order to avoid obscuring the present invention. Therefore, specific structural and functional details disclosed herein are not to be interpreted as limiting, but merely as a basis for the claims and as a representative basis for teaching one skilled in the art to variously employ the present invention.

Referring now to the drawings, wherein like numerals indicate like elements throughout the several views, the drawings illustrate certain of the various aspects of exemplary embodiments of an article carrier having a reinforcing panel with product alignment features.

In the this description of the present invention, various exemplary embodiments of a tray-style article carrier having a reinforcing panel with product alignment features will be described in the context of utilization in the transportation of beverage bottles for retail distribution; however, it is contemplated that such an article carrier can be used for any suitable application. Generally, the article carrier that is illustrated and described is a lighter-weight, lower-cost and potentially disposable alternative to heavy-weight, rigid, reusable plastic trays that are commonly used store, transport and display beverage bottles.

As an overview, the invention provides a carrier having upstanding walls attached to a reinforced bottom wall. The reinforced bottom wall includes an arrangement of regions of lesser reinforcement (or lesser-reinforced regions). The invention further teaches that each region of lesser-reinforcement may comprise a region of enhanced deformability. That is, the material from which the bottom wall is constructed is made to be more susceptible to deformation from perpendicularly-applied forces. For example, paperboard, corrugated board or thin-sheet plastic material sandwiched between two vertically-aligned bottles is subject to deformation. When a region of the bottom wall is effectively weakened in a manner as described herein it is thereby made less reinforced and susceptible to greater deformation than the remainder of the bottom wall. These regions of lesser reinforcement or enhanced deformability are also referred to herein as deformable areas. The invention is particularly useful for packaging PET-type bottles that can withstand substantial axial loads when filled with a liquid.

In exemplary embodiments described herein, the invention contemplates that the reinforced bottom wall comprises a multiple-ply structure of at least two panels, namely, a first bottom wall panel and a second bottom wall panel. As will be described in greater detail herein, each region of lesser reinforcement is created by modifying either or both of the bottom wall panels at a selected location so that its resistance to deformation is lessened at that location.

A tray-style article carrier 100 includes either an apertured reinforcing panel 108 or an embossed reinforcing panel 310, and an apertured tray-style article carrier 300 includes an embossed reinforcing panel 310, that enhances structural integrity and provides carrier and product alignment and locking features, as will be described in more detail below. This basic configuration of an article carrier formable from a blank as taught by the invention is applicable to articles designated by both numerals “100” and “300” in this description and accompanying drawings.

Referring first to FIG. 1A, the exemplary article carrier 100 (shown bottom side up) is formed from a blank (not shown) that is preferably struck from a single sheet of foldable substrate material, such as, but not limited to, paperboard, cardstock, cardboard, corrugated board, plastic sheet, and the like. A blank used to form the article carrier 100 can include a number of panels, each foldably or hingedly connected one to another as needed to define the features of the article carrier 100 once the blank has been folded, secured, and otherwise configured into the erected form as shown. The illustrated erected article carrier 100 includes a bottom wall 102 foldably or hingedly connected to side walls 104 and end walls 106. The side walls 104 and end walls 106 are foldably or hingedly connected one to another.

A reinforcing panel 108 having apertures 110 can be formed from paperboard, cardstock, cardboard, corrugated board, plastic sheet, and the like. The apertured reinforcing panel 108 is aligned with the outer surface of the bottom wall 102 of the article carrier 100. The apertured reinforcing panel 108 is placed on, or attached to, the outer surface of the bottom wall 102, as illustrated in FIG. 1B. Glue or other means for securing sheet material may be applied between the bottom surface of the apertured reinforcing panel 108 and the outer surface of the bottom wall 102 to attach the apertured reinforcing panel 108 to the outer surface of the bottom wall 102. In the multiple-ply bottom wall that is formed, the apertures 110 define deformable areas (or regions) in what is now the inner bottom wall 102, which areas/regions are in registry with the apertures 110. It should be noted that the deformable areas are deformable according to the characteristics of the substrate. A radial pattern of stress relieving slits or other means for encouraging or promoting deformation may be formed in the substrate as needed to obtain the desired degree of controlled deformation.

Referring now to FIG. 1C, two article carriers 100 are illustrated in a stacked configuration. A base article carrier 100 (which may also be considered a lower-tier article carrier) is first loaded with beverage bottles 114. Each beverage bottle 114 has an upper end terminating in a top portion 118 and a lower end terminating in base or heel 120. Another loaded article carrier 100 (which may also be considered an upper-tier article carrier) is placed on top of the base/lower-tier article carrier 100 such that a top portion 118 of each of the beverage bottles 114 is guided by the apertures 110 to press upwardly against one of the deformable areas of the inner bottom wall 102 defined by the apertures 110, thereby forming deformed areas 116. The top article carrier 100 is also loaded with beverage bottles 114. The weight of the bottles 114 in the carrier 100 of an upper tier of the stacked carriers 100 creates a downward force upon the bottom wall of that carrier 100. The net effect is that an upward, perpendicular force is directed against the bottom wall of the upper tier carrier by the bottle tops 118 of the adjacent lower-tier carrier 100. The interaction between the carriers and bottles of adjacent tiers described above occurs in each of the embodiments of the invention described herein.

Reference now is made simultaneously to FIGS. 1C, 1D and 1E. A typical beverage bottle suitable for use with the invention is a so-called “PET” plastic bottle. The base, or heel, at the lower end of a PET bottle is a support structure typically formed from legs (that also may be considered pedestals) that are spaced around the periphery of the lower end. The base of the bottle may also be an annular structure. Either type of bottle base structure typically tapers inwardly and upwardly to form a central concavity. Those skilled in the art will recognize that particularly with respect to a bottle having a pedestal base/heel, the substantially concave bottom is often referred to as a “kick-up K (denoted in the drawings by the letter “K”).” The concavity, or kick-up K, accommodates deformation of the deformed areas 116 such that the heels 120 of the top beverage bottles 114 encircle (as shown by the real circle (in the case of an annular heel) or notional circle (in the case of pedestal type heel) in FIG. 1D) and thereby guide and control deformation of the deformed areas 116. That is, the deformed areas 116, formed by the upward force exerted by the top portion 118 of the bottom beverage bottles 114, extend upwardly into the concavity defined by the heels 120 of the top bottles 114. This further secures the base beverage bottles 114 between the bottom wall 102 of base article carrier 100 and the bottom wall 102 of the top article carrier 100 and the apertured reinforcing panel 108. It should be understood that the present invention does not limit the number of article carriers that may be stacked.

Referring now to FIGS. 2A and 2B, the article carrier 100 is positioned such that the interior of the carrier 100 is exposed. A reinforcing panel 108 having apertures 110 is placed on, or attached to, the inner surface of the bottom wall 102. Glue or other means for securing sheet material may be applied between the bottom surface of the apertured reinforcing panel 108 and the inner surface of the bottom wall 102 to attach the apertured reinforcing panel 108 to the inner surface of the bottom wall 102. Alternatively, the weight of the bottles 114 may keep the apertured reinforcing panel 108 in place without the need for means for securing sheet material. In the multiple-ply bottom wall that is formed, the apertures 110 define deformable areas (or regions) in what is now the outer bottom wall 102, which areas/regions are in registry, or alignment, with the apertures 110.

Referring now to FIG. 2C and 2E, two article carriers 100 are illustrated in a stacked configuration. A base article carrier 100 (which may also be considered a lower-tier article carrier) is first loaded with beverage bottles 114. Another loaded article carrier 100 (which may be considered an upper-tier carrier) is placed on top of the base (lower-tier) article carrier 100 such that a top portion 118 of the beverage bottles 114 in the lower tier pushes into the deformable areas/regions, thereby forming deformed areas 116. The apertures 110, on the interior of the article carrier 100, guide the deformable areas 116 as formed by the top portions 118 of the beverage bottles 114 below. The top article carrier 100 is loaded with beverage bottles 114 such that the concavity of the top beverage bottles 114, as defined by annular or pedestal heel 120, are positioned substantially over and encircle the deformed areas 116 of the base beverage bottles 114, as shown in FIG. 2D. That is, the deformed areas 116, formed by the top portion 118 of the bottom beverage bottles 114, extend upwardly into the concavity or kick-up K, guided by the downward pressure of the heels 120 of the top bottles 114 in combination with the apertures 110. This further secures the base beverage bottles 114 between the bottom wall 102 of the base article carrier 100 and the bottom wall 102 of the top article carrier 100. It should be understood that the present invention does not limit the number of article carriers that may be stacked.

Referring now to FIG. 3A, an exemplary apertured article carrier 300 is formed from a blank (not shown) that is preferably struck from a single sheet of foldable material, such as, but not limited to, paperboard, cardstock, cardboard, plastic sheet, and the like. A blank used to form the article carrier 300 can include a number of panels, each foldably or hingedly connected one to another as needed to define the features of the article carrier 300 once the blank has been folded, secured, and otherwise configured into the erected form as shown. The bottom panel of the blank used to form the bottom wall 302 of the erected article carrier 300 is cut so as to provide a plurality of apertures 304. The illustrated erected article carrier 300 includes a bottom wall 302 foldably or hingedly connected to side walls 306 and end walls 308. The side walls 306 and end walls 308 are foldably or hingedly connected one to another.

An embossed reinforcing panel 310 having a plurality of embossed portions 312 is also illustrated. The embossed reinforcing panel 310 can be formed from paperboard, cardstock, cardboard, plastic sheet, any combination thereof, and the like. The embossed reinforcing panel 310 is in alignment with the outer surface of the bottom wall 302 of the apertured article carrier 300. As illustrated in FIG. 3B, the embossed reinforcing panel 310 is placed on, or attached to, the outer surface of the bottom wall 302 such that the plurality of embossed portions 312 are inserted into the plurality of apertures 304 in the bottom wall 302. Glue or other means for securing sheet material may be applied between the top surface of the embossed reinforcing panel 310 and the outer surface of the bottom wall 302 to attach the embossed reinforcing panel 310 to the outer surface of the bottom wall 302.

Referring now to FIGS. 3C and 3D, two article carriers 300 are illustrated in a stacked configuration. A base article carrier 300 (which may also be considered a lower-tier article carrier) is first loaded with beverage bottles 114. Another loaded article carrier 300 (which may be considered an upper-tier article carrier) is then placed on top of the base (lower-tier) article carrier 300 such that a top portion 118 of the beverage bottles 114 is guided by the interior of the embossed portions 312. The embossed portions 312 can be sized appropriately so as to secure the top portions 118 of the beverage bottles 114. It should be understood that the present invention does not limit the number of article carriers that may be stacked.

Referring now to FIGS. 4A and 4B, the article carrier 100 is positioned such that the interior of the carrier 100 is exposed. An embossed reinforcing panel 310 is placed on, or attached to, the inner surface of the bottom wall 102. Glue or other means for securing sheet material may be applied between the bottom surface of the embossed reinforcing panel 310 and the inner surface of the bottom wall 102 to attach the embossed reinforcing panel 310 to the inner surface of the bottom wall 102.

Referring now to FIGS. 4C and 4D, two article carriers 100 are illustrated in a stacked configuration. A base article carrier 100 (which may also be considered a lower-tier article carrier) is first loaded with beverage bottles 114. Another loaded article carrier 100 (which may be considered an upper-tier article carrier) is placed on top of the base (lower-tier) article carrier 100. The interaction between the bottles of the two loaded article carriers causes the top portion 118 of the beverage bottles 114 of the lower-tier carrier to push into the deformable areas (or regions) on the outer wall 102 of the upper-tier carrier 100 which deformable areas are defined by and in alignment with the reverse of the embossments 312 of inner wall 310 of the upper-tier carrier 100, thereby forming deformed areas 116. The deformed areas 116 extend into the recessed portions 314 of the embossed portions 316. It should be understood that the present invention does not limit the number of article carriers that may be stacked.

Referring now to FIGS. 5A and 5B, the apertured article carrier 300 is positioned such that the interior of the carrier 300 is exposed. The embossed reinforcing panel 310 is placed on, or attached to, the inner surface of the bottom wall 302 such that the embossed portions 312 substantially cover the apertures 304. Glue or other means for securing sheet material may be applied between the bottom surface of the embossed reinforcing panel 310 and the inner surface of the bottom wall 302 to attach the embossed reinforcing panel 310 to the inner surface of the bottom wall 302, thereby forming recessed portions 314 (best shown in FIG. 5C).

Referring now to FIG. 5C and 5D, two article carriers 300 are illustrated in a stacked configuration. A base article carrier 300 (which may also be considered a lower-tier article carrier) is first loaded with beverage bottles 114. Another loaded article carrier 300 (which may be considered an upper-tier article carrier) is placed on top of the base (lower-tier) article carrier 300 such that the top portions 118 of the beverage bottles 114 of the lower-tier article carrier are guided by the apertures 304 and the interior of the embossed portions 312. The embossed portions 312 can be sized appropriately so as to secure the top portions 118 of the beverage bottles 114. It should be understood that the present invention does not limit the number of article carriers that may be stacked.

The invention is particularly useful with tray-style article carriers for bottles wherein the upper ends of the bottles extend at least slightly above side and end walls (the upstanding walls) of the carrier in the manner illustrated. The bottles are thus able to serve as the axial load-bearing structures of the invention as well as serve as a nesting component for substantially interlocking vertically-adjacent packages. The regions of lesser reinforcement are disposed to correspond with the overlapping upper ends and lower ends of bottles of respective adjacent tiers of carriers. The interaction between the upper end of a bottle (the bottle top) and the centrally-disposed concavity of the lower end of an adjacent bottle causes the lesser-reinforced carrier material that is sandwiched between the two to be upwardly embossed. This action, in turn promotes nesting (and thereby stabilization) between adjacent tires of loaded, stacked carriers. Thus, the bottom walls of the carriers 100, 300 are reinforced but also promote nesting (and thereby stabilization) when loaded with articles such as bottles.

As described and herein, the invention provides a carrier having a reinforced bottom wall that resists undesirable deformation and degradation when loaded carriers are stacked upon one another. At the same time, the reinforced bottom wall provides “weakened” regions (lesser-reinforced regions or regions of enhanced deformability) that can be made nestable with respect to tops of bottles and the central concavities of PET-type bottles. The nesting promoted by the carriers enables the axial load of a stack of loaded carriers to be distributed along columns of bottles. This weight distribution enhances the strength and stability of a stack or stacked array of loaded carriers that are constructed in accordance with the teachings of the invention. Nesting promoted by the carriers also help inhibit lateral movement of stacked carriers with respect to one another.

Many variations and modifications may be made to the above-described embodiments without departing from the scope of the claims. For example, although the exemplary article carriers 100, 300 are designed to carry eight bottles 114, as shown in the Figures, it is contemplated that the article carrier can be modified to hold more or fewer bottles 114, or to divide the bottles in to one or more groups. The article carrier may be constructed from disposable material or may be reusable. As an example of an additional variation, the bottom wall may be integrally formed so as to produce the regions of lesser reinforcement or enhanced deformability. All such modifications, combinations, and variations are included herein by the scope of this disclosure and the following claims.





 
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