Title:
VACUUM CONTAINER WITH PROTECTIVE FEATURES
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A container kit for use with a closure configured to be held to the container by atmospheric pressure, the closure having a maximum closure diameter, is provided. The kit includes a body having a principal diameter and a first feature that extends beyond the principal diameter and the maximum closure diameter.



Inventors:
Metzger, Elizabeth A. (Milwaukee, WI, US)
Clyde, Thomas J. (Milwaukee, WI, US)
Application Number:
12/040609
Publication Date:
09/03/2009
Filing Date:
02/29/2008
Assignee:
Silgan Containers Corporation
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
206/223, 220/378, 220/669
International Classes:
B65D45/00; B65D8/04; B65D53/00; B65D69/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
ELOSHWAY, NIKI MARINA
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
REINHART BOERNER VAN DEUREN S.C. (MILWAUKEE, WI, US)
Claims:
1. A container kit for use with a closure, the container kit comprising: a closure having a maximum closure diameter; and a body having a principal diameter and a first feature that extends beyond the principal diameter and the maximum closure diameter; wherein the closure is adapted to be held to the body by atmospheric pressure.

2. The container kit of claim 1 wherein the body is substantially shaped as a cylinder.

3. The container kit of claim 1 wherein the body is substantially shaped as a prism.

4. The container kit of claim 1 wherein the first feature surrounds the body.

5. The container kit of claim 1 wherein the body is metal.

6. The container kit of claim 1 wherein the body includes at least one bead.

7. A container comprising: a closure having a maximum closure diameter, the closure adapted to be coupled to the container by a vacuum; and a body comprising: a side wall; a center portion having a principal diameter; a neck opening adapted to receive the closure; a first feature extending radially from the side wall, the first feature having a first diameter; and a second feature extending radially from the side wall, the second feature having a second diameter; wherein the first diameter is greater than the principal diameter and the maximum closure diameter.

8. The container of claim 7 wherein the body is generally a cylinder.

9. The container of claim 7 wherein the body is generally a prism.

10. The container of claim 7 wherein the second diameter is equal to the first diameter.

11. The container of claim 7 wherein the first diameter is greater than the maximum closure diameter by between about 5 to 25 percent.

12. The container of claim 7 wherein the first diameter is greater than the maximum closure diameter by between 8 to 15 percent.

13. The container of claim 7 wherein the closure further includes a pressure release hole.

14. The container of claim 7 wherein the body is metal.

15. The container of claim 7 wherein the center portion is located between the first feature and the second feature.

16. The container of claim 7 wherein the closure further comprises a sealing material.

17. The container of claim 7 wherein the center portion further comprises a constant diameter.

18. The container of claim 7 wherein the center portion further comprises one or more beads.

19. A food or drink storage container comprising: a top end; a bottom end; a substantially cylindrical body comprising: a sidewall, the sidewall including a center portion having a principal diameter; a first feature extending from the sidewall and surrounding the body, the first feature having a first diameter greater than the principal diameter, wherein the first feature is disposed between the center portion and the top end; a second feature extending from the sidewall and surrounding the body, the second feature having a second diameter greater than the principal diameter, wherein the second feature is disposed between the center portion and the bottom end; and a neck opening at the top end; and a closure having a maximum closure diameter, wherein the closure is adapted to be held to the neck opening by atmospheric pressure, and wherein the first diameter is greater than the maximum closure diameter.

20. The container of claim 19 wherein the first diameter and second diameter are equal.

21. The container of claim 20 wherein the first and second diameters are greater than the maximum closure diameter by at least about 5 percent.

22. The container of claim 19 wherein the center portion further comprises a constant diameter.

23. The container of claim 19 wherein the center portion further comprises one or more beads.

24. The container of claim 19 wherein the closure further includes a pressure release hole.

Description:

BACKGROUND

The application generally relates to food containers capable of maintaining a vacuum upon closure and sealing. The application relates more specifically to food containers capable of maintaining a vacuum upon closure and sealing with features to protect the sealed closure, and/or provide improved container structure.

Containers are used to store a variety of materials and objects. Some types of containers are used to store perishable material such as organic material, solid food, food having a liquid component, and liquids. These containers must often meet a variety of requirements depending on their intended use. For example, some containers must be able to withstand acidity of certain levels such that the container's intended contents do not compromise the container. Other containers must be able to successfully store liquid such that manipulation of the container during shipping and typical use do not cause the container to deform, break an airtight seal, and/or leak the container's contents. Yet other containers must be able to withstand food cooking processes involving the container. Some containers must meet all of the aforementioned requirements.

One type of food and beverage container is provided with a closure that is affixed to the container primarily by the pressure differential between external atmospheric pressure and a lower internal pressure. Containers with vacuum closures are vulnerable to impacts during processing, labeling, and transport. Such impacts may break the hermetic vacuum seal and release the closure, thus causing leakage and exposing the container contents to spoilage. Some conventional containers address this problem by mating a threaded closure to the container. However, this solution increases manufacturing cost and complexity. Additionally, a threaded and vacuum sealed closure may be more difficult to open than a closure maintained in place solely by a vacuum seal. Other conventional containers may provide protection for sealed closures by reducing the diameter of the neck and closure relative to the principal diameter of a cylindrical container. However, this results in an opening that is limited in size relative to the principal diameter of the container, thereby inhibiting access to the container contents. Reducing the diameter of the closure also lowers the force exerted on the closure by the atmosphere, in turn lowering the strength of the vacuum seal.

Food storage containers are subjected to a variety of stresses and impacts during manufacture, filling and processing, sales, and transport. Containers must be strong enough to resist these forces without deformation. Additionally, containers with an internal vacuum must be strong enough to resist compressive deformation by the external atmospheric pressure. One solution is to make the container material thicker. However, this approach increases the container weight and the cost of raw materials.

Some containers are filled with hot, pre-cooked food then sealed for later consumption, commonly referred to as a “hot fill process.” As the contents of the container cool, a vacuum develops inside the container. The resulting vacuum may partially or completely secure the closure to the body of the container. Foods packed with a hot fill process often have certain advantages. For example, end-users often appreciate pre-cooked food contents as preparation times are often shorter and more convenient.

Other containers are filled with uncooked food, the container is sealed, and the food is cooked to the point of being commercially sterilized or “shelf stable” while sealed within the container. This process is commonly called a thermal process. Also commonly, the required heat for the process is delivered by a pressurized device, or retort. Thermal processes also have certain advantages. First, the resulting shelf-stable package offers long-term storage of food in a hermetically sealed container. Second, cooking the food inside the container commercially sterilizes the food and the container at the same time.

Many conventional containers used with thermal processes use ends that require considerable effort and the use of a tool to open. For example, some conventional containers suitable for use with thermal processes are metal cans having an end designed for use with a can-opener. Other conventional containers suitable for use with thermal retort processes are containers having “pop-tops”, “pull tops”, convenience ends, or convenience lids. Thermal retort processes present challenges to the design and manufacture of vacuum containing containers. For example, the pressure and temperature rigors of the thermal retort process may compromise the seal. In addition, differences in internal container pressure and external pressure during the thermal retort process may cause an unsecured vacuum sealable lid to separate from the container body.

Therefore, it would be desirable to provide a container capable of maintaining a vacuum having one or more protective features. Further, it would be desirable to provide a vacuumized container with protective features that is suitable for use with hot fill and/or thermal processes.

SUMMARY

The invention relates to a container kit for use with a closure configured to be held to the container by atmospheric pressure, the closure having a maximum closure diameter, the kit including a body having a principal diameter and a first feature that extends beyond the principal diameter and the maximum closure diameter.

The invention further relates to a container comprising a body, the body having a side wall including a central portion having a principal diameter, a neck opening adapted to receive a closure having a maximum closure diameter, a first feature extending radially from the side wall, the first feature having a first diameter, and a second feature extending radially from the side wall, the second feature having a second diameter, wherein the first feature diameter is greater than the principal diameter and the maximum closure diameter.

The invention still further relates to a food or drink storage container comprising a substantially cylindrical body, a top end, and a bottom end, the body including a sidewall, the sidewall including a central portion having a principal diameter, a first feature extending from the sidewall and surrounding the body, the first feature having a first diameter greater than the principal diameter, wherein the first feature is disposed between the center portion and the top end, a second feature extending from the sidewall and surrounding the body, the second feature having a second diameter greater than the principal diameter, wherein the second feature is disposed between the center portion and the bottom end, a neck opening at the top end having a neck opening diameter approximately 83 percent of the principal diameter, and a closure having a maximum diameter held to neck opening by atmospheric pressure, wherein the first feature diameter is greater than the maximum closure diameter.

Alternative exemplary embodiments relate to other features and combinations of features as may be generally recited in the claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES

The application will become more fully understood from the following detailed description, taken in conjunction with the accompanying figures, wherein like reference numerals refer to like elements, in which:

FIG. 1 shows a perspective view of a container having the protective features of the present invention.

FIG. 2 shows a side view of a container having the protective features of the present invention, and a cross-sectional view of a container closure proximal to the container.

FIG. 3 shows a cross-sectional view of a portion of the container of FIG. 2 taken along line 3-3.

FIG. 4 shows a detail cross-sectional view of a portion of the container closure of FIG. 2.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Before turning to the figures which illustrate the exemplary embodiments in detail, it should be understood that the application is not limited to the details or methodology set forth in the following description or illustrated in the figures. It should also be understood that the terminology employed herein is for the purpose of description only and should not be regarded as limiting.

Referring generally to the figures, a container (i.e., a metal can) is shown having protective features integrally formed from the material of the container body. The container is provided with a closure whose integrity is maintained by internal vacuum and atmospheric pressure. The container is typically a food container suitable for use with a thermal process. It should be understood that the phrase “food” used to describe various embodiments of this disclosure may refer to dry food, moist food, powder, liquid, or any other drinkable or edible material, regardless of nutritional value. It should be further understood that the container may be formed from any material, including metals, various plastics, and glass.

Referring to FIG. 1, a perspective view of a container 1 is shown, according to an exemplary embodiment. Container 1 includes a body 10 having a sidewall 20 and a bottom end wall 32. Body 10 is shown as generally cylindrical (i.e., the container walls or piece forming sidewall 20 are curvilinear). Body 10 is generally a cylinder having a circular cross section. More specifically, body 10 is generally a right cylinder wherein vertical axis 13 forms a right angle with bottom end wall 32. According to various other embodiments, body 10 may take any number of other container shapes as may be desirable for different applications or aesthetic qualities. For example, body 10 may be formed as a prism having one or more angles that create a horizontal polygonal cross section such as a rectangular cross section. In another embodiment, container 1 may be formed with an elliptical horizontal cross section. Container 1 may be sized to store about twenty-six ounces of liquid contents or combination of liquid and solid contents, or may be sized differently (e.g., less than twenty-six ounces, more than twenty-six ounces, twelve ounces, sixteen ounces, thirty two ounces, etc.).

Referring to FIG. 2, a side view of container 1 is shown, including body 10 having a principal diameter 12, a vertical axis 13, and a first protective feature diameter 14. In an exemplary twenty-six ounce embodiment, principal diameter 12 is about 3.01 inches, and the height of body 10 is about 6.08 inches. In other embodiments, both the principal diameter and body height be greater or lesser, and may vary according to the volumetric size of the container.

Body 10 is shown having a neck 40 integrally formed from the material of sidewall 20. Neck 40 may extend upward from a tapered transition 22 along the vertical axis of container body 10. The diameter and height of neck 40 are generally determined based on the diameter and depth of a closure 60 with which neck 40 will be used. Closure 60 comprises a maximum closure diameter 65.

Neck edge 42 may be curled or rounded to provide a suitable sealing surface (e.g., uniform and having some substantial diameter relative to the gauge of the container walls). Neck edge 42 may also be curled or rounded to provide a suitable surface for mouth contact or drinking. Neck edge 42 may curl to the inside or outside of neck 40. The exterior diameter of the neck and structures of the neck may be appropriately sized to allow a closure to function properly. Neck 40 and neck edge 42 define a neck opening 48. In an exemplary twenty-six ounce embodiment, neck opening 48 is a circular opening having a diameter of about 2.89 inches. In other embodiments, neck opening 48 may be about 83 percent of first protective feature diameter 14. In alternative embodiments, neck opening 48 may have a diameter that is more than 83 percent of first protective feature diameter 14 (i.e., 90 percent, 95 percent, 99 percent), or less than 83 percent of first protective feature diameter 14 (i.e., 80 percent, 75 percent, 70 percent, or less).

Referring further to FIG. 2, the top of body 10 and sidewall 20 angle inward to create a tapered transition 22. In a typical embodiment, tapered transition 22 is a frusto-conical shoulder area. According to other various exemplary embodiments, where body 10 is provided with a polygonal cross section, tapered transition 22 may include a transition from the polygonal cross section of body 10 to a circular neck edge 42 and neck opening 48. In alternative embodiments where body 10 is provided with a polygonal cross section, tapered transition 22 need not include a transition from the polygonal cross section of body 10 to a circular neck edge 42, and neck edge 42 may thereby define a similarly polygonal neck opening 48.

According to an exemplary embodiment, tapered transition 22 is angled around thirty degrees from the vertical axis 13 of body 10. According to various other embodiments, tapered transition 22 is angled more or less than thirty degrees from vertical. According to an exemplary embodiment, tapered transition 22 is angled so that the diameter of neck opening 48 is about 83 percent of principal diameter 12 of body 10. Tapered transition 22 may also be provided with additional curvature to improve the visual aesthetics and/or structural stability of container 1. The curvature may create an aesthetically pleasing container top, provide a user with increased leverage for opening the top, and/or prevent the container top and closure from experiencing some amount of the unavoidable contact that containers typically have with adjacent containers or other structures during manufacture, shipping, and/or use.

Referring still further to FIG. 2, body 10 is further provided with a center portion 21. In an exemplary embodiment, center portion 21 is a cylindrical portion having a diameter equal to principal diameter 12 having vertical sidewalls. In an exemplary twenty-six ounce embodiment, center portion 21 has a height of about 1.25 inches. In an alternative embodiment, center portion 21 is smoothly concave such that the diameter at the midpoint of center portion 21 is a minimum diameter, and the container body diameter increases in the direction of first and second protective features 24 and 26.

Center portion 21 may optionally be provided with one or more beads 70, shown as beads 70a and 70b. In an exemplary embodiment, center portion 21 is provided with two beads 70a and 70b, wherein bead 70a is positioned near the top of cylindrical center portion 21, and bead 70b is positioned near the bottom of cylindrical center portion 21. However, one or more beads 70 may be placed at other locations on center portion 21, or within the curved portions of sidewall 20 comprising the protective features described in greater detail below. Beads 70 provide a contour that strengthens center portion 21, thereby increasing resistance to deformation of center portion 21 caused by the pressure differential between the internal vacuum and the external atmospheric pressure. Beads 70 may further be configured to provide a contour to facilitate the grasping of container 1 by a user.

As shown best in FIG. 3 according to one exemplary embodiment, beads 70 are provided with a smoothly curved cross sectional profile concaving radially inward. In other embodiments, beads 70 may have other cross sectional profiles, such as a sinusoidal profile, a triangular profile, or a sawtooth profile. In an exemplary embodiment, beads 70 have a depth of about 0.03 inches, a radius of approximately 0.075 inches, and form a fillet with sidewall 20 with a radius of approximately 0.065 in. In alternate embodiments, beads 70 may have a depth of about 0.02 inches or less, or about 0.04 inches or more. In still another embodiment, beads 70 may extend radially outward from cylindrical center portion 21.

According to one exemplary embodiment, as shown in FIGS. 1-3, body 10 includes two beads 70. Beads 70 are generally located symmetrically along the length of center portion 21. In an exemplary twenty-six ounce embodiment, beads 70 may be spaced about 1.02 inches apart. However, beads 70 may be provided at the transitions from center portion 21 to the first and second protective features, or beads 70 may be located on the protective features. In other exemplary embodiments, a third bead may be provided equidistant between beads 70a and 70b. In still other exemplary embodiments, more or fewer beads may be provided and may be otherwise spaced.

Referring yet further to FIG. 2, body 10 is provided with a first protective feature 24. First protective feature 24 generally smoothly extends sidewall 20 radially outward relative to center portion 21. First protective feature 24 may be any radial structure having a first diameter 14 that is greater than principal diameter 12. In an exemplary embodiment, first protective feature 24 reaches a local maximum diameter at a first contact point 25. Contact between container 1 and one or more adjacent containers, shown as container 1A, is thereby limited to contact point 25. In an alternative embodiment, first protective feature 24 may include a substantially vertical portion having a constant first diameter 14 that is greater than principal diameter 12, defining a first vertical contact surface. In an exemplary embodiment, first diameter 14 is about 15 percent greater than principal diameter 12 at first contact point 25. In an exemplary twenty-six ounce embodiment, first diameter 14 is about 3.46 inches. In other embodiments, first diameter 14 may be greater than principal diameter 12 by less than 15 percent (e.g., 2 percent, 5 percent, 10 percent, 12 percent), or by more than 15 percent greater than principal diameter 12 (e.g., 18 percent, 20 percent, 25 percent, or more).

Body 10 may also be provided with at least a second protective feature 26. Second protective feature 26 generally smoothly extends sidewall 20 radially outward relative to center portion 21. Second protective feature 26 may be any radial structure having a second diameter 16 that is greater than principal diameter 12. In an exemplary embodiment, second protective feature 26 reaches a local maximum diameter at a second contact point 27. In an exemplary embodiment, second diameter 16 is equal to first diameter 14. Contact between container 1 and one or more adjacent containers 1A is thereby limited to contact points 25 and 27. In an alternative embodiment, second protective feature 26 may include a substantially vertical portion having a constant second diameter 16 that is greater than principal diameter 12, defining a second vertical contact surface.

In an exemplary embodiment, the portion of container body 10 between the maximum diameter of first protective feature 24 and the maximum diameter of second protective feature 26 is vertically symmetrical, wherein the plane of symmetry is located at the midpoint of center portion 21 and perpendicular to vertical axis 13. In an exemplary embodiment, second diameter 16 is about 15 percent greater than principal diameter 12. In an exemplary twenty-six ounce embodiment, second diameter 16 is about 3.46 inches. In other embodiments, second diameter 16 may be greater than principal diameter 12 by less than 15 percent (e.g., 2 percent, 5 percent, 10 percent, 12 percent), or by more than 15 percent greater than principal diameter 12 (e.g., 18 percent, 20 percent, 25 percent, or more). In an alternative embodiment, second diameter 16 is greater than principal diameter 12 and also different than first diameter 14.

First and second protective features 24 and 26 provide limited contact surfaces between two or more adjacent containers at first contact point 25 and second contact point 27. The protective features strengthen the sidewalls of the container against side impacts, thereby improving panel resistance to denting or other compressive deformation. Any type of label or design (not shown) may be disposed on central portion 21 of sidewall 20. A label or design disposed on center portion 21 is thereby protected from abrasive contact with adjacent containers 1A during manufacturing, processing, shipping, and/or display. In an exemplary embodiment, the container may be provided with a plastic shrink sleeve. A plastic shrink sleeve may optionally extend to partially cover closure 60 and incorporate tamper evident features. In yet another embodiment, the material of container body 10 may further be painted, coated, or provided with a decorative finish.

Referring still further to FIG. 2, body 10 is provided with a second tapered transition 34 connecting second protective feature 26 to bottom seal structure 30. In an exemplary embodiment, bottom seal structure 30 has a diameter of about 3.31 inches. In a typical embodiment, second tapered transition 34 is angled from the vertical axis at an angle of about 12 degrees. However, second tapered transition 34 may be provided angles greater or lesser than 12 degrees. In an alternative embodiment, second tapered transition 34 may be approximately vertical. If second tapered transition 34 is approximately vertical, the diameter of bottom seal structure 30 is approximately equal to second diameter 16.

According to an exemplary embodiment, container 1 is formed of metal about 0.0095 inches thick and is primarily made of tin-plated steel. According to various other exemplary embodiments, container 1 is formed from steel having a working gauge range from about 0.006 inches thick to about 0.012 inches thick, or other available working ranges. According to various other alternative embodiments, container 1 may be formed of aluminum, tin free steel, and/or another material that may be used to form food or beverage containers. The material of container 1 may also be more or less thick along certain structures or locations of sidewall 20. For example, the material of sidewall 20 may be thicker at first protective feature 24 and second protective feature 26 than the remaining portions of sidewall 20, thereby strengthening container 1 at points of contact 25 and 27 with adjacent containers. In another example, in center portion 21, the material may be more thin than material closer to the top end or bottom end.

Referring yet still further to FIG. 2, container 1 is shown having a bottom seal structure 30 at the lower end of container body 10. Bottom seal structure may couple and seal a bottom end wall 32 to container body 10. According to an exemplary embodiment, bottom seal structure 30 is a double seam including folds of metal joining a bottom lip or flange of sidewall 20 and bottom end wall 32 (i.e., sanitary end) so that a hermetic seal is created. In an alternative embodiment, sidewalls 20 and bottom end wall 32 are contiguously formed or molded from a single piece of material. According to an exemplary embodiment, bottom end wall 32 is provided with a concave recession adapted to releasably receive a closure 60. Nesting of closure 60 into bottom end wall 32 thereby facilitates the orderly vertical stacking of several containers.

Closure 60 (e.g., cap, cover, top, lid, etc.) is shown proximate to neck 40 in FIG. 2 in a cross sectional view to reveal several internal features, according to an exemplary embodiment. Closure 60 is shown having a closure underside or interior surface 61 and a maximum closure diameter 65. A closure gasket 62 may be disposed on closure underside 61 to contact and seal against neck edge 42. According to an exemplary embodiment, closure 60 has a vacuum safety button that requires a 5 inch Hg vacuum to verify the seal is intact. According to various other exemplary embodiments, the closure may include other tamper evidencing features or no tamper evidencing features.

Closure 60 is adapted to cover and seal neck opening 48. Neck opening 48 is sized such that the maximum diameter 65 of closure 60 is less than first protective feature diameter 14, thereby protecting closure 60 from impact with adjacent containers 1A. According to an exemplary twenty-six ounce embodiment, closure 60 may have a maximum diameter of 78 millimeters. According to one alternative embodiment, closure 60 is a 67 mm diameter closure. However, closure 60 may be any size appropriate to fit differently sized neck openings, as required by variations in the neck opening and/or volumetric size of the container. In alternative embodiments, closure external diameter 65 is 88 percent of first protective feature diameter 14. However, closure external diameter 65 may be greater than 88 percent of first protective feature diameter 14 (i.e., 90 percent, 95 percent, 98 percent) or lesser than 88 percent of first protective feature diameter 14 (i.e., 85 percent, 80 percent, 70 percent), provided that external closure diameter 65 is less than first protective feature diameter 14.

According to an exemplary embodiment, closure 60 is a press-on, vacuum seal closure (e.g., a Dot Top closure). A press-on, vacuum seal closure refers to a closure that is initially coupled to a body by a press-on (i.e., placed on) movement, and is substantially retained on the body by the pressure differential between the exterior and interior of the container. A vacuum seal closure is later removed by breaking the vacuum seal formed during the filling and closing process.

Referring to FIG. 4, closure 60 may be provided with a closure skirt 67 and a closure bottom rim 64. Closure skirt 67 is a substantially vertical wall portion extending below the circumference of closure 60. The lower edge of skirt 67 terminates in a closure bottom rim 64, which may be a rolled edge, a rounded edge, or a bead of a similar or different material than skirt 67. Closure skirt 67 may be further provided with one or more lugs 63. Lugs 63 are indentations or dimples in the circumference of skirt 67 that releasably engage the outer diameter of neck edge 42, thereby mechanically coupling closure 60 to neck edge 42. After the initial vacuum seal is broken by a user, lugs 63 permit the user to reattach closure 60 by popping closure 60 over neck edge 42. A single lug 63 may extend partially or entirely around the circumference of skirt 67, or two or more discreet lugs 63 may be disposed about the circumference of skirt 67. According to an exemplary embodiment, closure skirt 67 is provided with three lugs 63, each lug having a circumferential length of about 0.3 to 0.5 inches.

According to other embodiments, closure skirt 67 and bottom rim 64 are smooth such that bottom rim portion does not have any lugs, threads, or other structures to mechanically couple closure 60 onto neck 40 and/or neck edge 42. According to various alternative embodiments, closure 60 may be a plastic closure or another closure other than metal. According to other alternative embodiments, closure 60 may be a press-on, twist-off type metal closure (i.e., push-on/twist-off cap, etc.). A press-on, twist-off closure refers to a closure that is initially coupled to a body by a press-on (i.e., push-on) movement, but then is later removed or reattached to threads configured on neck 40 by a twisting motion.

Referring again to FIG. 2, according to an exemplary embodiment, the metal of closure 60 is between about 0.006 inches and about 0.012 inches thick. Closure underside 61 may be coated with a gasket or gasket material 62. According to an exemplary embodiment, gasket 62 is a plastisol material or compound applied to closure underside 61. Materials other than plastisol may serve as the gasket. Plastisol may provide sufficient resistance to acids of food products that may come into contact with the plastisol, may permit hot-fill processes to produce a vacuum, and may withstand a heat-based commercial sterilization or cooking process. A sufficient amount of the gasket material coats closure underside 61. The plastisol compound need not contain preformed indents or receiving structures. Rather, steam or another application of heat is used to soften the plastisol material prior to pressing closure 60 onto neck 40 and neck edge 42 of the container. The difference between the diameter of the gasket material and the structure of neck edge 42 cause the softened gasket 62 to move and flow around neck edge 42 so that the interface between neck edge 42 and closure underside 61 forms a hermetic seal. Following cooling of the plastisol, the plastisol stiffens or hardens to create a resilient foam that maintains the hermetic seal without any additional mechanical restraint.

According to an exemplary embodiment, gasket 62 specifically comprises a plastisol compound that may be characterized as a “508 compound” or similar material. Gasket 62 may be a liquid applied gasket or any other suitable gasket material. Material comprising gasket 62 may alternatively or additionally be applied to neck edge 42 prior to coupling with closure 60.

The user of various exemplary embodiments of a container described throughout this application may open the container by applying a lifting force to a point on the circumference of closure bottom rim 64. Closure 60 will thereby be directed upward relative to body 10, breaking the vacuum seal and releasing closure 60 from body 10. In an alternative embodiments, a pressure release hole 66 and plug 68 (e.g., a Dot Top) may optionally be incorporated into closure 60 to provide an alternate method of breaking the vacuum seal and releasing closure 60 from body 10.

Container 1 may be formed by stretching, rolling, welding, molding, or any other forming process. During the manufacturing process, the container may also be washed and coated as required for workability, cleanliness of the container, and longevity of the container surfaces when subjected to container contents, liquids, and/or air.

According to an exemplary embodiment, the container may be a three-piece can wherein a flat blank or sheet of material is shaped or bent until a first side and a second side of the shaped sheet may be welded together. According to various alternative embodiments, although the container includes a closure at the top end, and a bottom end part at the bottom end, the container embodies a 2-piece can in that one continuous blank of material forms the container body, neck, and protective features and a vertical seam or weld line does not run down the side wall of the container.

According to an exemplary embodiment, the container material is pre-coated before the forming process. According to various other exemplary embodiments, the interior and/or exterior of the container are coated with a preservative organic coating after the container is formed or substantially formed. Coating may be applied via spraying or any other suitable method. Different coatings may be provided for different food applications. The coating material may be a vinyl, polyester, epoxy, and/or other suitable preservative spray.

According to various other embodiments, a container kit may be provided utilizing various containers and closures described herein. A container kit may comprise a container body, blanks used to form a container body, a closure, and/or gasket material.

Processing may include steps of controllably ramping up temperature, cooking, and then controllably bringing temperature down or dropping temperature. As the container and the food inside the container are heated, the food is commercially sterilized (made shelf-stable) so that the food does not bacteriologically spoil.

According to an exemplary embodiment, a container as described herein may be used with a hot fill process. In a hot fill process, hot food is added to a container and a closure 60 is coupled to body 10 at neck edge 42. Gasket 62 may be pre-warmed to soften the gasket material, or it may be warmed by contact with a hot container. When closure 60 is coupled to body 10, a seal is formed by the gasket material deforming and flowing around neck edge 42. As the gasket cools, it hardens and forms around neck edge 42 and resembles a resilient foam. As the container begins cooling, a negative pressure relationship or a vacuum develops on the container interior. A strong vacuum (e.g., 19 inHg to 22 inHg) is thereby formed between closure 60 and container body 10 that holds the closure onto the body and maintains the hermetic seal. According to various other exemplary embodiments, a weaker or stronger vacuum sufficient to maintain lid to container integrity may be created and maintained. Control of product characteristics (e.g. air content, temperature), closure conditions, overall container temperature, container headspace, steam supplementation, and thermal process conditions may be used to yield a weaker or stronger vacuum.

The container disclosed herein may be further subjected to a thermal process. A thermal process may generally be characterized as a process of subjecting the filled and closed container to a cooking or sterilization process within a closed or open vessel containing a heating medium having different heat, time, and pressure variables sufficient to substantially sterilize the interior and contents of the food container. In an exemplary embodiment, the thermal processes is an overpressure thermal retort process, where pressure outside the container is substantially matched or slightly exceeded relative to the pressure that builds on the inside of the container due to heating a sealed container. Overpressure thermal retort processes may generally include inserting a filled and closed container (or group of containers) into a retort vessel that heats the container via steam, water, steam/air, or a combination of steam and water or steam and air and provides external overpressure to prevent container deformation, breakage, or separation of closure 60 from body 10 due to pressure build-up inside the container.

During a thermal retort process, the container and the food inside the container will be brought to a temperature of about at least 200 degrees Fahrenheit. According to various exemplary embodiments, a thermal retort process may include bringing the container to a temperature of between 220 degrees Fahrenheit and 275 degrees Fahrenheit. According to yet other embodiments, a thermal retort process includes bringing the container to a temperature of at least 240 degrees Fahrenheit. According to an exemplary embodiment, the container and closure should be able to withstand a thermal retort process of about 250 degrees Fahrenheit with about 32 pounds per square inch of total pressure (15 psi process pressure plus 17 psi overriding pressure) for a period of about 45 minutes and a 3 pounds per square inch differential between overriding pressure and internal pressure.

The specifications of the thermal retort process will vary depending on the food being cooked, heating medium, the machinery (e.g., retort vessel) being used, the amount of agitation used with the heat, and any number of other variables. It may be desirable to cook different types of food to certain different minimum temperatures for certain different minimum amounts of time to ensure commercial sterilization or “shelf stability”. A container and closure of the present application should be able to withstand a variety of typical temperature, time, and pressure levels such that the container may be considered suitable for use with a thermal retort process for a wide variety of foodstuffs, including, for example, adult nutritional drinks, to those skilled in the art of food sterilization using a retort process.

In another embodiment, a container as described herein may be used with a non-thermal process. In a non-thermal process, food is added to a container at an ambient temperature, such as 65 degrees Fahrenheit. The container and contents are subjected to a strong vacuum (e.g., 19 inHg to 22 inHg), and a closure is attached to the container. Gasket 62 may be pre-warmed to soften the gasket material. When closure 60 is coupled to body 10, a seal is formed by the gasket material deforming and flowing around neck edge 42. As the gasket cools, it hardens and forms around neck edge 42 and resembles a resilient foam. After the seal is formed, the pressure outside the container may be returned to a standard atmospheric pressure. The closure and seal preserve the vacuum inside the container, thereby retaining the closure against the body until the vacuum seal is broken.

While the exemplary embodiments illustrated in the figures and described herein are presently preferred, it should be understood that these embodiments are offered by way of example only. Accordingly, the present application is not limited to a particular embodiment, but extends to various modifications that nevertheless fall within the scope of the appended claims. The order or sequence of any processes or method steps may be varied or re-sequenced according to alternative embodiments.

It is important to note that the construction and arrangement of the container as shown in the various exemplary embodiments is illustrative only. Although only a few embodiments have been described in detail in this disclosure, those skilled in the art who review this disclosure will readily appreciate that many modifications are possible (e.g., variations in sizes, dimensions, structures, shapes and proportions of the various elements, values of parameters, mounting arrangements, use of materials, colors, orientations, etc.) without materially departing from the novel teachings and advantages of the subject matter recited in the claims. For example, elements shown as integrally formed may be constructed of multiple parts or elements, the position of elements may be reversed or otherwise varied, and the nature or number of discrete elements or positions may be altered or varied. Accordingly, all such modifications are intended to be included within the scope of the present application. The order or sequence of any process or method steps may be varied or re-sequenced according to alternative embodiments. In the claims, any means-plus-function clause is intended to cover the structures described herein as performing the recited function and not only structural equivalents but also equivalent structures. Other substitutions, modifications, changes and omissions may be made in the design, operating conditions and arrangement of the exemplary embodiments without departing from the scope of the present application.





 
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