Title:
BAG HOLDER
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A bagging station is provided and includes a bagging station structure including a base and a supportive portion vertically supported on the base, a bag holder, configured to hold bag handles of a bag, to occupy and selectively move between a stowed position, at which the bag holder is stowed, and a plurality of presented positions, at which the bag holder is available for bag holding, and a coupling device to couple the bag holder to the supportive portion such that the bag holder is biased to remain in a currently occupied one of the stowed position or at least one of the presented positions.



Inventors:
Adair, Randy D. (Wake Forest, NC, US)
Brower, David C. (Wake Forest, NC, US)
Heider, Robert J. (Durham, NC, US)
Herring, Dean F. (Youngsville, NC, US)
Talley, William L. (Wake Forest, NC, US)
Application Number:
12/252578
Publication Date:
04/22/2010
Filing Date:
10/16/2008
Assignee:
INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS MACHINES CORPORATION (Armonk, NY, US)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
248/99, 248/97
International Classes:
B65B67/12
View Patent Images:
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20080203262Support member systems and methodsAugust, 2008Sparks
20020066837Portable music performance standJune, 2002Dunbar
20080128566Lower Arm For FPM Support Having Indented Cable Tray SupportJune, 2008Smed
20050274851Cross-over bag clip for a wire rack for bagsDecember, 2005Malik
20070040088Car-racing themed beverage holderFebruary, 2007Tomaro et al.
20090241688Hands-Free Capture Hood Support Device and MethodOctober, 2009Reichel
20020056793Stands for supporting musical instruments or the likeMay, 2002Bell



Primary Examiner:
WOOD, KIMBERLY T
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
CANTOR COLBURN LLP - IBM RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK (Hartford, CT, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A bagging station, comprising: a bagging station structure including a base and a supportive portion vertically supported on the base; a bag holder, configured to hold bag handles of a bag, to occupy and selectively move between a stowed position, at which the bag holder is stowed, and a plurality of presented positions, at which the bag holder is available for bag holding; and a coupling device to couple the bag holder to the supportive portion such that the bag holder is biased to remain in a currently occupied one of the stowed position or at least one of the presented positions.

2. The bagging station according to claim 1, wherein the supportive portion of the bagging station comprises sidewalls from which bags are dispensed.

3. The bagging station according to claim 1, wherein the bag comprises a recycled bag.

4. The bagging station according to claim 1, wherein the bag holder comprises arms along which bag holding portions are disposed.

5. The bagging station according to claim 4, wherein the bag holding portions are user accessible when the bag holder occupies the presented positions.

6. The bagging station according to claim 1, wherein the plurality of presented positions comprises: a first position, at which a bag, held by the bag holder, exerts a relatively minimal force on the bag holder; intermediate positions, which are sequentially occupied by the bag holder as the bag exerts increasing force on the bag holder; and a final position, at which a force exerted by the bag on the bag holder ceases increasing.

7. A bagging station, comprising: a bagging station structure including a base and a supportive portion vertically supported on the base; a bag holder, configured to hold bag handles of a bag, to occupy and selectively rotate between a stowed position, at which the bag holder is stowed, and a plurality of presented positions, at which the bag holder is available for bag holding; and a coupling device to couple the bag holder to the supportive portion such that the bag holder is biased to rotate toward a currently occupied one of the stowed position or at least one of the presented positions.

8. The bagging station according to claim 7, wherein the supportive portion comprises a rod, parallel with the base, to which the bag holder is coupled.

9. The bagging station according to claim 8, wherein the bag holder comprises a member about which the bag holder rotates between the stowed and the presented positions.

10. The bagging station according to claim 9, wherein the coupling device biases a portion of the member to pivot in first or second opposing directions when the bag holder currently occupies the stowed position and the presented positions, respectively.

11. The bagging station according to claim 9, wherein the member comprises: outer portions about which the bag holder rotates between the stowed and the presented positions; and a central portion interposed between and offset from an axis of the outer portions.

12. The bagging station according to claim 11, wherein the coupling device comprises a hook that captures the central portion.

13. The bagging station according to claim 12, wherein the central portion is configured to prevent a lateral migration of the hook.

14. A bagging station, comprising: a bagging station structure including a base and a supportive portion vertically supported on the base; a bag holder, configured to hold bag handles of a bag, to occupy and selectively elevate between a stowed position, at which the bag holder is stowed, and a plurality of presented positions, at which the bag holder is available for bag holding; and a coupling device to couple the bag holder to the supportive portion and to selectively lock the bag holder in the stowed position or, when the bag holder is unlocked from the stowed position, to bias the bag holder to elevate toward at least one of the presented positions.

15. The bagging station according to claim 14, wherein the coupling device comprises a catch which is selectively engaged with notches disposed on arms of the bag holder to lock the bag holder in the stowed position.

16. The bagging station according to claim 14, wherein the coupling device is spring loaded to bias the bag holder to elevate.

Description:

BACKGROUND

Aspects of the present invention are directed to a bag holder.

Recently, consumers have become increasingly concerned with their negative environmental impact. Accordingly, the use of “green” or recycled shopping bags as an alternative to non-recycled paper or plastic shopping bags is becoming increasingly common. These “green” shopping bags, so called due to their decreased negative environmental impact, are owned by consumers and reused every time the consumers shop for, e.g., groceries. In this way, the consumers avoid using one or more paper or plastic bags.

Unfortunately, it is seen that green shopping bags are, generally, less convenient to use as compared with paper or plastic bags. In particular, plastic bags are dispensed at a bagging station by a repeatable procedure that is convenient for both consumers and bag handlers. The “green” or recycled shopping bags, on the other hand, have no such dispensing procedure. As such, their use is relatively problematic for a relatively large portion of the consuming public.

SUMMARY

In accordance with an aspect of the invention, a bagging station is provided and includes a bagging station structure including a base and a supportive portion vertically supported on the base, a bag holder, configured to hold bag handles of a bag, to occupy and selectively move between a stowed position, at which the bag holder is stowed, and a plurality of presented positions, at which the bag holder is available for bag holding, and a coupling device to couple the bag holder to the supportive portion such that the bag holder is biased to remain in a currently occupied one of the stowed position or at least one of the presented positions.

In accordance with another aspect of the invention, a bagging station is provided and includes a bagging station structure including a base and a supportive portion vertically supported on the base, a bag holder, configured to hold bag handles of a bag, to occupy and selectively rotate between a stowed position, at which the bag holder is stowed, and a plurality of presented positions, at which the bag holder is available for bag holding, and a coupling device to couple the bag holder to the supportive portion such that the bag holder is biased to rotate toward a currently occupied one of the stowed position or at least one of the presented positions.

In accordance with yet another aspect of the invention, a bagging station is provided and includes a bagging station structure including a base and a supportive portion vertically supported on the base, a bag holder, configured to hold bag handles of a bag, to occupy and selectively elevate between a stowed position, at which the bag holder is stowed, and a plurality of presented positions, at which the bag holder is available for bag holding, and a coupling device to couple the bag holder to the supportive portion and to selectively lock the bag holder in the stowed position or, when the bag holder is unlocked from the stowed position, to bias the bag holder to elevate toward at least one of the presented positions.

BRIEF DESCRIPTIONS OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS

The subject matter regarded as the invention is particularly pointed out and distinctly claimed in the claims at the conclusion of the specification. The foregoing and other aspects, features, and advantages of the invention are apparent from the following detailed description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings in which:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an exemplary bagging station in a stowed position according to a first embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the exemplary bagging station of FIG. 1 in a presented position;

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of an exemplary bagging station in a presented position according to a second embodiment of the present invention; and

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of view of the exemplary bagging station of FIG. 3 and the interior of the coupling device in a stowed position.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

With reference to FIGS. 1 and 2, a bagging station 10 is provided and includes a bagging station structure 20, a bag holder 50 and a coupling device 60. The bagging station structure 20 includes a base 30 and a supportive portion 40, which is vertically supported on the base 30. In general, the supportive portion 40 is shaped like an incomplete basket in which a recycled or non-recycled shopping bag may be filled and from which the bag may be removed. In this way, the supportive portion 40 includes a rigid exterior structure, which is described in greater detail below.

The bag holder 50 is configured to hold bag handles of a bag, such as a “green” or an otherwise recycled bag, and occupies and selectively moves between a stowed position S (see FIG. 1), at which the bag holder 50 is stowed, and a plurality of presented positions P (see FIG. 2), at which the bag holder 50 is available for bag holding operations, such as the attachment of the bag to the bag holder 50, the filling of the bag with items and the removal of the bag from the bag holder 50. The coupling device 60 couples the bag holder 50 to the supportive portion 40 such that the bag holder 50 is biased to remain in a currently occupied one of the stowed position S or at least one of the presented positions P.

Among the advantages presented by this configuration is that the bagging station 10 is able to support the use of a “green” bag and to dispense standard plastic or paper plastic bags to customers who do not use “green” bags. To this end, the supportive portion 40 of the bagging station 10 includes sidewalls 41, 42 and 43 from which the standard plastic or paper bags are dispensed according to known methods.

The bag holder 50 comprises arms 51 and 52 along which bag holding portions 70 are disposed. The bag holding portions 70 are configured to removably receive bag handles of a bag to be held by the bag holder 50 and, in that way, are adapted for operation with bag handles of varying sizes and shapes. As such, the bag holding portions 70 facilitate the opening of the bag and allow for items to be placed therein. In addition, with the bag holder 50 occupying the presented positions, the bag holder portions 70 are user accessible. Thus, once the bag is filled with items, the user (i.e., the customer or a salesperson) can remove the bag from the bag holder 50 relatively easily and/or replace the bag as necessary.

With the bag holder 50 in the presented positions, the bag holder 50 may occupy, at any one time, a first position PI, any one of intermediate positions PINT and a final position PF. At the first position PI, a bag, held by the bag holder 50, exerts a relatively minimal force on the bag holder 50. That is, the bag is either empty or nearly so and, therefore, does not exert a significant amount of force on the bag holder 50 in opposition to the bias on the bag holder 50 generated by the coupling device 60. At the intermediate positions PINT, which are sequentially occupied by the bag holder 50, the bag exerts increasing force on the bag holder 50 as the bag is filled with items, e.g., canned foods, which increasingly weigh down the bag. At the final position PF, the bag is partly supported on the base 30 and, as such, a force exerted by the bag on the bag holder 50 ceases increasing but is nevertheless present and directed in opposition to the bias placed on the bag holder 50 by the coupling device.

Still referring to FIGS. 1 and 2, in accordance with particular embodiments of the invention, the bag holder 50 occupies and selectively rotates between the stowed position S and the presented positions P (PI, PINT or PF) and the coupling device 60 couples the bag holder 50 to the supportive portion 40 such that the bag holder 50 is biased to rotate toward a currently occupied one of the stowed position S or at least one of the presented positions P (PI, PINT or PF). In accordance with these embodiments, the supportive portion 40 includes first and second rods 44 and 45, which are substantially parallel with the base 30 and which are disposed at upper and lower vertical positions relative to the base 30, respectively. Concurrently, the bag holder 50 further includes a member 53, which is connected to each of the arms 51 and 52. The bag holder 50 rotates about the member 53 between the stowed and the presented positions S and P (PI, PINT or PF). The coupling device 60, which includes an elastic element 65 that captures at least the member 53 at a first end thereof and the lower rod 45 at a second end thereof, biases a central portion 54 of the member 53 to pivot in first or second opposing directions when the bag holder 50 currently occupies the stowed position S and the presented positions P (PI, PINT or PF), respectively.

In detail, the member 53 is coupled to the first rod 44 by pivot spacers 80, which each include a main body and opposing faces. A groove is defined in each of the opposing faces to rotatably receive the first rod 44 and outside portions 55 of the member 53, which are disposed on either side of the central portion 54 of the member 53. With this configuration, the bag holder 50 is permitted to rotate about a central axis of the outside portions 55 of the member 53. The bag holder 50 and the pivot spacers 80 are further permitted to rotate, as necessary, about the central axis of the first rod 44 although this rotation is not particularly necessary or unnecessary for the operation of the bagging station 10.

The central portion 54 of the member 53 is offset from the central axis of the outside portions 55. The magnitude of the offset may vary but should, at least, be sufficiently large such that, when the bag holder 50 occupies the stowed position S, the offset central portion 54 is disposed on a first side of the first rod 44 and that, when the bag holder 50 occupies any of the presented positions P (PI, PINT or PF), the offset central portion 54 is disposed anywhere from a position in-line with a centerline of the first rod 44 to the opposite side of the first rod 44.

With this configuration, the elastic element 65, which may be a spring, biases the bag holder 50 in the direction illustrated by the arrow D1, which does not traverse the centerline of the first rod 44, to cause the bag holder 50 to remain in the stowed position S when the offset central portion 54 is disposed on the first side of the first rod 44. Conversely, the elastic element 65 biases the bag holder 50 in the direction illustrated by arrow D2, which may traverse, but not cross over, the centerline of the first rod 44, to cause the bag holder 50 to remain in the presented positions P (PI, PINT or PF) when the offset central portion 54 is disposed on the second side of the first rod 44.

Here, it is seen that, when the bag holder 50 occupies the first position PI of the presented positions P, the central portion 54 of the member 53 is disposed at a significant degree on the second side of the first rod 44 and that, as the bag holder 50 sequentially occupies the intermediate positions PINT and, ultimately, the final position PF, the central portion 54 is correspondingly disposed at lesser degrees of the second side of the first rod but never crosses over the centerline of the first rod 44.

In accordance with various embodiments of the invention, the offset central portion 54 of the member 53 may be formed in various manners of which one, in particular, is illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 2. Here, the offset central portion 54 is formed with an M-shape in which the point of the “M” is provided at the minimum offset magnitude and serves to prevent a lateral migration of the elastic element 65. In other embodiments of the invention, the offset central portion 54 is generally straight and includes a groove that engages the elastic element 65 to thereby prevent a lateral migration thereof.

With reference now to FIGS. 3 and 4, in accordance with another aspect of the invention, a bagging station 10′ is provided and includes a bagging station structure 20′, a bag holder 50′ and a coupling device 60′. Here, the bag holder 50′ occupies and selectively elevates and declines between a stowed position S′, at which the bag holder 50′ is stowed, and a plurality of presented positions P′, at which the bag holder 50′ is available for bag holding. The coupling device 60′ couples the bag holder 50′ to the supportive structure 40′ of the bagging station structure 20′ and selectively locks the bag holder 50′ in the stowed position S′. Alternately, when the bag holder 50′ is unlocked from the stowed position S′, the coupling device 60′ biases the bag holder 50′ to elevate toward at least one of the presented positions P′.

As shown, in accordance with embodiments of the invention, the coupling device 60′ includes a coupling apparatus 90. The coupling apparatus 90 includes a backing portion 91 that is anchored to the bagging station structure 20′ by, e.g., mechanical fastening or adhesion, a base portion 92 having through-holes defined therein which is anchored to the backing portion 91, and a facing portion 93 to cover exterior faces of the backing portion 91 and the base portion 92. The adjacent faces of the backing portion 91 and the facing portion 93 each have grooves or spaces defined therein through which arms 51′ of the bag holder 50′ slide as the bag holder 50′ elevates or declines. Elastic elements 95 are anchored on, e.g., the base portion 92, and the arms 51′ to bias the bag holder 50′ to elevate when the bag holder 50′ is unlocked.

When the bag holder 50′ is to be locked in the stowed position S′, the bag holder 50′ is selectively declined into the stowed position S′ until the spring loaded catch 100, which is anchored on the facing portion 93 engages notches 101 defined in the arms 51′. With this configuration, the engagement of the catch 100 and the notches 101 opposes the bias of the elastic elements 95 to prevent the elevation of the bag holder 50′. Conversely, when the bag holder 50′ is to be unlocked, the catch 100 is finger actuated by an operator to release the arms 51′ and to thereby allow for the elevation of the bag holder 50′.

When the bag holder 50′ is elevated at first, the bag holder 50 occupies the first elevated position P1′. Here, a bag held by the bag holder 50′ exerts a minimal force on the arms 51 and does not exert a substantial force in opposition to the bias on the arms 51 generated by the elastic elements 95. As items are placed in the bag, however, the bag exerts an increasing force on the bag holder 50′ in opposition to the bias and the bag holder sequentially occupies intermediate elevated positions PINT′ and, ultimately, a final elevated position PF′ at which the bag is at least partially supported on the base 30′ of the bagging station 10′.

Here, it is seen that the notches 101 defined in the arms 51′ do not engage with the catch 100 until the bag holder 50′ is selectively declined to a height well below the final elevated position PF′. Thus, the bag holder 50′ is prevented from undesirably being locked in the stowed position S′ by the mere placing of additional items inside the bag.

In accordance with other aspects of the invention, it is understood that the bag holder 50 and the bag holder 50′, described above, may be provided independent of the bagging station 10 and the bagging station 10′. In this way, the bag holders 50 and 50′ and the coupling devices 60 and 60′ can be applied to various types of bagging stations already in operation. Moreover, it is seen that retro-fitting the bagging stations already in operation will require relatively little or no technical expertise.

In accordance with another aspect of the invention, a method of operating a bagging station, including a base and a supportive portion vertically supported on the base, a bag holder, configured to hold bag handles of a bag, to occupy and selectively move between a stowed position, at which the bag holder is stowed, and a plurality of presented positions, at which the bag holder is available for bag holding, and a coupling device to couple the bag holder to the supportive portion such that the bag holder is biased to remain in a currently occupied one of the stowed position or at least one of the presented positions is provided. The method includes receiving an indication that the bag holder is required for use, selectively moving the bag holder from the stowed position and into one of the presented positions, positioning the bag onto the bag holder and placing items into the bag and removing the bag from the bag holder. At this point, it is determined whether further use will be made of the bag holder. If the bag holder will be required further, the bag is replaced on the bag holder. If, on the other hand, the bag holder will not be required further, the bag holder may be selectively returned to the stowed position.

While the disclosure has been described with reference to exemplary embodiments, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that various changes may be made and equivalents may be substituted for elements thereof without departing from the scope of the disclosure. In addition, many modifications may be made to adapt a particular situation or material to the teachings of the disclosure without departing from the essential scope thereof. Therefore, it is intended that the disclosure not be limited to the particular exemplary embodiment disclosed as the best mode contemplated for carrying out this disclosure, but that the disclosure will include all embodiments falling within the scope of the appended claims.