Title:
CONTAINER FOR STACKABLE ITEMS
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A container for stackable items is disclosed. A hollow cylinder of resilient material having at least one closed end retains stackable items. The closed end is formed by opposite sides of the cylinder being cut perpendicularly to the length of the cylinder so as to form retainers and the retainers are attached to each other such that the retainers extend across the end of the cylinder thereby forming the closed end. The retainers of the closed end can lay flat when the hollow cylinder is collapsed. The hollow cylinder can be openable at an end opposite the closed end for the insertion and removal of the stackable items.



Inventors:
Abler, Frederick F. (Atascadero, CA, US)
Application Number:
13/476995
Publication Date:
11/29/2012
Filing Date:
05/21/2012
Assignee:
ABLER FREDERICK F.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D85/62
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
FIDEI, DAVID
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
WESTBERG LAW OFFICES (Mountain View, CA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A container for stackable items comprising: a hollow cylinder of resilient material having at least one closed end that retains stackable items, the closed end being formed by opposite sides of the cylinder being cut perpendicularly to the length of the cylinder so as to form retainers and the retainers being attached to each other such that the retainers extend across the end of the cylinder thereby forming the closed end.

2. The container according to claim 1, wherein the hollow cylinder is openable at an end opposite the closed end allowing for insertion of stackable items.

3. The container according to claim 2, wherein the openable end comprises toggle retainers formed from sides of the cylinder, wherein the toggle retainers are not attached to each other and can be manipulated to close the end of the retainer thereby retaining the stackable items within the container.

4. The container according to claim 3, wherein at least or more of the retainers of the closed end and the retainers of the openable end are angled so as to project the retainers toward a central portion of the hollow cylinder.

5. The container according to claim 3, further comprising notches in the sides of the cylinder adjacent to each toggle retainer wherein the notches facilitate manipulation of the toggle retainers.

6. The container according to claim 1, having two closed ends.

7. The container according to claim 1, having lines of weakness that extend the length of the container on opposite sides.

8. The container according to claim 7, wherein the hollow cylinder comprises an openable end having toggle retainers formed from sides of the cylinder and wherein the lines of weakness are continued onto the toggle retainers.

9. The container according to claim 1, wherein the container is collapsible to lay flat such that its thickness is no more than twice the thickness of the sidewalls of the cylinder.

10. The container according to claim 1, wherein the container is formed from a segment of lay-flat tubing.

11. The container according to claim 1, wherein the container has a seam along its length.

12. A container for stackable items comprising: a collapsible hollow cylinder of resilient material having at least one closed end that retains the stackable items by self-forming a retainer when the hollow cylinder is expanded wherein the retainer of the closed end lays flat when the hollow cylinder is collapsed.

13. The container according to claim 12, wherein the hollow cylinder is openable at an end opposite the closed end allowing for insertion of stackable items.

14. The container according to claim 13, where in the openable end comprise toggle retainers formed from sides of the cylinder, wherein the toggle retainers are not attached to each other and can be manipulated to close the end of the retainer thereby retaining the stackable items within the container.

15. The container according to claim 14, further comprising notches in the sides of the cylinder adjacent to each toggle retainer wherein the notches facilitate manipulation of the toggle retainers.

16. The container according to claim 12, having two closed ends.

17. The container according to claim 12, having lines of weakness that extend the length of the container on opposite sides.

18. The container according to claim 12, wherein the container is collapsible to lay flat such that its thickness is no more than twice the thickness of the sidewalls of the cylinder.

19. The container according to claim 12, wherein the container is formed from a segment of lay-flat tubing.

20. A container for stackable items comprising a segment of a collapsible cylinder having a rectangular shape including two sides and two ends, a first end having blind cuts adjacent but spaced from the first end and extending parallel to the ends from both sides to blind ends, and having lines of weakness extending parallel to the sides from the first end to the blind ends of the blind cuts of the first end, and a second end having blind cuts adjacent but spaced from the second end and extending parallel to the ends and having lines of weakness extending parallel to the sides from the second end to blind ends of the blind cuts of the second end and the second end having areas of opposite surfaces of the cylinder attached to each other.

21. The container according to claim 20, wherein the cylinder is openable at the first end for accepting stackable items.

22. The container according to claim 21, wherein the second end is a closed end that retains the stackable items by self-forming a retainer when the cylinder is expanded and wherein the retainer of the closed end lays flat when the cylinder is collapsed.

23. A container for stackable items comprising: a hollow cylinder of resilient material having at least one closable end for retaining stackable items, the closable end being formed by opposite sides of the cylinder being cut perpendicularly to the length of the cylinder so as to form retainers and the retainers being angled so as to project the retainers toward a central portion of the hollow cylinder.

24. The container according to claim 23, wherein the retainers of the closable end are attached to each other such that the retainers extend across the end of the cylinder thereby forming the closed end.

25. The container according to claim 24, wherein the hollow cylinder is openable at an end opposite the closed end allowing for insertion of stackable items wherein the openable end comprises toggle retainers formed from sides of the cylinder.

26. The container according to claim 25, having lines of weakness that extend the length of the container on opposite sides.

27. The container according to claim 26, the lines of weakness are continued onto the toggle retainers.

Description:

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 61/489,232, filed May 23, 2011, the entire contents of which are hereby incorporated by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to the field of containers for stackable items, such as coins.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,595,338 discloses a reusable container for a stack of coins. As described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,595,338, a container for a stack of coins is formed from a length of flexible plastic lay-flat tubing. The container has the form of a hollow cylinder that is open at both ends. The coins are prevented from falling out of the retainer by toggle retainers formed at both ends of the tube by cutting and scoring or perforating operations performed on the container while it is in the flattened condition. These operations can conveniently be carried out on a flexographic converting system. The toggle retainers can readily be opened for removal of the coins, after which the flexibility of the walls of the container permit it to be flattened, thereby saving space during transport and storage of the empty containers. This encourages reuse, which makes the container attractive from the standpoint of both economics and ecology.

While the container of the '338 patent represents a significant advancement in the art, there remains a general desire to improve the manufacturability and usability of such a container.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides a container for stackable items. In an embodiment, a container for stackable items is disclosed. A hollow cylinder of resilient material having at least one closed end retains stackable items. The closed end is formed by opposite sides of the cylinder being cut perpendicularly to the length of the cylinder so as to form retainers and the retainers are attached to each other such that the retainers extend across the end of the cylinder thereby forming the closed end. The retainers of the closed end can lay flat when the hollow cylinder is collapsed.

The hollow cylinder can be openable at an end opposite the closed end for the insertion and removal of the stackable items.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The present invention is described with respect to particular exemplary embodiments thereof and reference is accordingly made to the drawings in which:

FIG. 1 illustrates a perspective view of a collapsible container having an openable end and a closed end in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2 illustrates an alternative perspective view of a collapsible container having an openable end and a closed end in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 3 illustrates a perspective view of a collapsible container with its openable end in an open position and with the container being in a partially collapsed condition in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 4 illustrates a perspective view of a collapsible container in a collapsed condition in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 5 illustrates perspective view of an openable end of a collapsible container in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 6 illustrates perspective view of an alternative openable end of a collapsible container in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 7 illustrates perspective view of a closed end of a collapsible container in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 8 illustrates a perspective view of an alternative closed end of a collapsible container in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 9 illustrates a perspective view of an second alternative closed end of a collapsible container in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 10 illustrates a plan view of a collapsible container showing notches in accordance of an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 11 illustrates a top plan view showing a portion of a lay-flat tubing specimen after a cutting step has been performed in accordance with an embodiment of a method of manufacturing the collapsible container of the present invention;

FIG. 12 illustrates a top plan view showing the specimen after a perforating step has been performed in a preferred method of manufacturing the collapsible container of the present invention;

FIG. 13 illustrates a top plan view showing the specimen after a sheeting step has been performed in accordance with an embodiment of a method of manufacturing the collapsible container of the present invention;

FIG. 14 illustrates a top plan view showing the specimen after a scoring step has been performed in accordance with an embodiment of a method of manufacturing the collapsible container of the present invention; and

FIG. 15 illustrates a top plan view showing the specimen after a scoring step has been performed in accordance with an embodiment of a method of manufacturing the collapsible container of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF A PREFERRED EMBODIMENT OF THE INVENTION

In developing the container of U.S. Pat. No. 5,595,338, the present inventor set out to devise a reusable plastic container for a stack of coins that, when empty, could be flattened for economical storage and transport, so as to encourage reuse.

The inventor determined that in order for the container to be collapsible into a lay-flat position, both ends needed to be openable. This is because prior designs for containers having closed ends could not be flattened. Thus, the inventor developed a closable toggle mechanism for both ends of the container. Employing this toggle mechanism at both ends of the container allowed the container to be collapsed into a lay-flat position when both ends where opened. This container disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,595,338, functioned satisfactorily in most conditions.

The inventor determined that only one openable end was necessary to insert the contents into the container and to remove the contents. The second openable end increased the possibility of the contents accidentally falling out of the container and increased the complexity involved in automating the process of filling the containers. However, the inventor did not have a solution based on his understanding that in order to be collapsible, both ends needed to be openable. Indeed U.S. Pat. No. 5,595,338, teaches away from the possibility of a closed end through its teachings that its elimination is “essential” for the container to be flattened and that the presence of a closed end would prevent the container from being flattened.

The inventor has now invented a novel and non-obvious container having at least one closed end. In accordance with an embodiment of the present invention, a practical container has been devised having a closed end and being capable of being flattened when empty, along with a practical low-cost process for manufacturing it.

Novel features which are believed to be characteristic of the invention, both as to its structure and method of manufacture, together with further objects and advantages thereof, will be better understood from the following description considered in connection with the accompanying drawings in which a preferred embodiment of the invention is illustrated by way of example. It is to be expressly understood, however, that the drawings are for the purpose of illustration and description only and are not intended as a definition of the limits of the invention.

FIG. 1 illustrates a perspective view of a collapsible container 100 having an openable end 102 and a closed end 104 in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. The closed end 104 is “closed” in the sense that the retained items, such as coins, are retained by the closed end. This does not mean that the end must be completely closed off. Additionally, a retainer of the closed end is self-forming. This is because the retaining function of the “closed” end is achieved without having to take action to close the end (e.g. by toggling toggle retainers) after the container is expanded from a collapsed position and without having to take action to open the end (e.g. by toggling toggle retainers) in order to collapse the container.

The container is preferably composed of a flexible and resilient film material which can be translucent plastic. The translucency of some plastic materials can also be exploited to give visual verification of the contents, which is especially important in money handling applications. In such embodiments, mono- or copolymer polypropylenes may be used because of their excellent hinge properties and translucency. Nonetheless, injection molding allows for use of a plurality of materials, some of which may be appropriate to special packaging applications. For example, anti-static plastic compounds may be desired for retaining electronic components, such as RFID tags, or high-density polyethylene for static control of ceramic pills.

The material may include post-consumer recyclates. Thus, resins may also be used to enhance the environmental benefits of reusable packaging (e.g. by waste source reduction). For example, post-industrial recyclates, post-consumer recyclates, and/or biodegradable organic plastics may be used. Hybrid materials, such as plastic and wood-flour compounds, may also be injection molded. These hybrid organic materials may be suitable for certain specialty packaging applications, such as “plantable” containers made from organic plastics and fertilizer compounds that self-compost to fertilize small plants and seedlings as they decay underground.

The operable end 102 includes first and second toggle retainers 106, 108, which can be identical to the toggle retainers described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,595,338. The first and second toggle retainers 106, 108 are bi-stable elements in which the mechanism has at least two stable equilibrium states within their range of motion and require no power input to remain stable at each equilibrium state. The retainers 106, 108 are thus able to snap from an open position to a closed position shown in FIG. 1. The open position is used when objects, such as coins, are being inserted or removed from the container 100, and thereafter, the toggle retainers are moved in a radially inward direction to the closed position of FIG. 1 that is used to prevent the objects from falling out of the container during handling. The bi-stability of the toggle retainers is due to the resiliency of the retainers 106, 108 and to the combined length of the retainers being greater than the distance between the hinged ends of the retainers 106, 108.

The closed end 104 includes first and second attached retainers 110, 112. The retainers 110, 112, are preferably formed from the sidewalls of the container 100 itself. More particularly, the retainers 110, 112, are formed by opposite sides of the cylindrical container 100 being cut perpendicularly to the length of the container 100 near the end from which the closed end 104 is formed. Thus, the cuts extend parallel to the end from which the closed end 104 is formed. The cuts each extend approximately one fourth of the circumference of the container 100 and are equally spaced. These cuts are illustrated in FIG. 11 as blind cuts 52 and 54. The retainers 110, 112 are attached to each other at an attachment area 114. The attachment area is preferably in approximately the center of each retainer 110, 112. The retainers 110, 112 and can be attached to each other by heat or chemical weld, glue or other permanent attachment means. Alternatively, the retainers 110 can be non-permanently attached to each other, such as by a snap fastener. In either case, because of their attachment to each other, the first and second attached retainers 110, 112 expand along with the walls of the container 100 to extend across the open end of the container 100 thereby closing the end of the container 100 whenever the container 100 is in its expanded condition, as in FIG. 1.

Optionally, the container 100 can include lines of weakness 116, 118 which extend the length of the container 100 on opposite sides. These longitudinal lines of weakness 116, 118 can be creases which are present in lay-flat tubing or can be some other lines of increased flexibility such as scored or perforated lines. These lines of weakness 116, 118 can act as hinges which fold closed when the container 100 is in its collapsed position and tend to reduce the force need to collapse the container 100 and to hold it in its collapsed position. Thus, when the container is in its collapsed position, it preferably lays flat such that its thickness is no more that than twice the thickness of the sidewalls of the container (since the flattened cylinder is composed of two overlapping layers). When the container is in its opened, non-collapsed position, these hinges formed by the lines of weakness 116, 118 are in an open position.

Thus, the container 100 of the present invention can easily be flattened for storage and transport, and therefore is likely to be reused until it wears out. A force of less than 0.5 pound applied uniformly to squeeze the coin container of the present invention may be applied to flatten it. In its flattened condition, the coin container of the present invention is easier to print on than a curved wall. Additionally, the cylindrical wall of the container of the present invention can be paper thin, approximately 0.007 inch, which makes the cylindrical wall flexible and easily flattened, though thicker wall thicknesses can be utilized.

In an embodiment, the lines of weakness 116, 118, can be omitted. In this case, the container tends to retain its cylindrical shape in absence of outside flattening forces. However, because the container is preferably formed of a flexible material, it can still be collapsed by the application of force. The omission of lines of weakness means that the container will not fold as completely flat and as easily as in embodiments having the lines of weakness.

In a preferred embodiment, the container is composed of HDPE (high-density polyethylene). This is because recycled feedstocks are readily available from curbside recycling and due to properties of HDPE such as flexibility and durability that make it suitable for the hinges incorporated into the container. In alternative embodiments, the container is composed of polyethylene, polyvinylchloride, polypropylene or other polyolefins.

FIG. 2 illustrates a view of the collapsible container in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention, laying on its side. As shown in FIG. 2, the container is in an expanded position as it would be if filled with objects, such as coins. The toggle retainers 106, 108 at the openable end of the container 100 are shown in the closed position. Also shown in FIG. 2 is the attached retainers 110, 112 at the closed end of the container 100 being expanded along with the walls of the container 100.

FIG. 3 illustrates a perspective view of the collapsible container 100 with its openable end in an open position and with the container 100 being in a partially collapsed condition. FIG. 3 shows that the toggle retainers 106, 108 at the openable end of the container 100 are in an open position, which facilitates removal of any objects from the container 100 and also facilitates flattening of the container. FIG. 3 also shows that the attached retainers 110, 112 at the closed end of the container 100 do not interfere with collapsing of the container 100. In order to collapse the container 100, the attached 110, 112 retainers do not require any intervention, unlike the toggle retainers. This is because the attached retainers 110, 112 collapse along with the walls of the container 100. As is also shown in FIG. 3, the walls of the container 100 fold along the longitudinal lines of weakness 116, 118.

FIG. 4 illustrates a perspective view of the collapsible container 100 in a collapsed condition in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. In this condition, the container 100 occupies little space and is in a suitable condition for storage or transport. Multiple collapsed containers can also be stacked.

FIG. 5 illustrates perspective view of an openable end of the collapsible container 100 in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. As shown in FIG. 5, the first and second toggle retainers 106, 108, are in the closed position for retaining contents of the container 100.

As shown in FIG. 5, the toggle retainers 106, 108 each have a central crease 120. The creases 120 may also be referred to as a line of weakness. In an embodiment, these creases 120 are a continuation of the lines of weakness 116, 118 in the sides of the container 100. In an alternative embodiment, the central creases 120 can be omitted. For example, in an embodiment in which the lines of weakness 116, 118 are omitted, the creases 120 can also be omitted. In such an embodiment, the first and second toggle retainers 106, 108 will function similarly to the toggle retainers 106, 108 having the creases. In both cases, the toggle retainers 106, 108 are bi-stable elements having at least two stable equilibrium states within their range of motion and require no power input to remain stable at each equilibrium state and are thus able to snap from an open position to a closed position.

FIG. 6 illustrates perspective view of the openable end of the collapsible container 100 in accordance with an alternative embodiment of the present invention. As shown in FIG. 6, the lines of weakness 116, 118 are oriented such that they continue to the end of the container 100 without bisecting the toggle arms 106, 108. This contrasts with the embodiment of FIG. 5 in which the creases 120 are a continuation of the lines of weakness 116, 118. In the embodiment of FIG. 6, the creases 120 can be present or omitted. This embodiment allows the container 100 to be collapsed to a lay-flat condition even if the creases 120 in the toggle arms 106, 108 are omitted.

FIG. 7 illustrates a perspective view of a closed end of the collapsible container 100 in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. As shown in FIG. 7, the retainers 110, 112 are attached at a point of attachment 114. Here, each of the attached retainers 110, 112 has a central crease at the point of attachment 114. The retainers 110, 112 are preferably formed from the side walls of the container 100. Therefore, these central creases in the retainers 110, 112 can be formed as a continuation of the longitudinal lines of weakness 116, 118.

FIG. 8 illustrates a perspective view of a closed end of the collapsible container 100 in accordance with an alternative embodiment of the present invention. Similarly to the embodiment of FIG. 7, the retainers 110, 112 are attached at a point of attachment 114. However, in the embodiment of FIG. 8, the attached retainers 110, 112 do not have a central crease. Instead, the retainers 110, 112 are bow-shaped when the container is in the opened condition. The retainers 110, 112 contact each other and have a point of attachment 114 in the area of the apex of each retainer.

FIG. 9 illustrates a perspective view of a closed end of the collapsible container 100 in accordance with an alternative embodiment of the present invention. Similarly to the embodiment of FIG. 8, the retainers 110, 112 contact each other and are attached at a point of attachment 114 in an area that is substantially flat or gently curved. The embodiment of FIG. 9 additionally shows material removed from the side walls to form notches 122. Notches may be also be formed in the side walls at the open ends of the container, as shown by notches 124 in FIG. 10. These notches 122 and/or 124 can be included to aid in mechanized handling and production of the container 100. Additionally, the notches, particularly those at the openable end of the container, can also serve to aid the user since users tend to intuitively understand the that locations of the notches identity finger placements. The notches also provide clearance for the user's fingers by minimizing finger contact with the side walls of the container 100 in the are adjacent to the notches. Therefore, the notches 124 allow the user to more easily manually manipulate the toggle retainers 106, 108.

An exemplary embodiment of a method of making the containers 100 can start with the provision of a roll of lay-flat flexible film plastic tubing. This material is widely available and is supplied in rolls. Practical use of such tubing is found in agricultural drip tape widely used for irrigation purposes.

This unique starting material can be run through a rotary processing machine, such as a flexographic web converting system. An example of such a machine is the Mark Andy Model No. 830 Converting System manufactured by Mark Andy, Inc. of Chesterfield, Mo.

A roll of lay-flat flexible film plastic tubing can be inserted into the flexographic converting system. During the operation of the system, the tubing can retain its flattened condition. At a first station, a repeating pattern of pairs of opposed transverse blind cuts can be inflicted on the lay-flat tubing. These cuts are “blind” in that the ends of the cuts terminate within the tubing material. FIG. 11 shows the tubing 50 after the blind cuts 52, 54, 56, 58, 60, and 62 have been made. As shown in FIG. 11, cuts 52 and 54 have two blind ends and cuts 54, 56, 60, and 62 extend from the sides of the tubing to blind ends. The horizontal spacing between the cuts 54 and 56 is equal to the height of the stack of objects, such as coins, that is to be packaged. The spacing between the cuts 52 and 54 is equal to twice the axial dimension of the marginal portions that will ultimately form the attached retainers 110, 112. The spacing between the cuts 56 and 58 and between the cuts 60 and 62 is equal to twice the axial dimension of the marginal portions that will ultimately form the toggle retainers 106, 108.

Next, normally at a subsequent station, a number of lines of perforation 64, 66, 68 and 70 can be imposed on the lay-flat tubing 50. As best seen in FIG. 12, these lines of perforation extend lengthwise of the lay-flat tubing 50 and connect the blind ends of the cuts 52 and 54, 56 and 58, 60 and 62, respectively.

In a first alternative embodiment, shown in FIG. 14, the lines of perforation 64, 66, 68 and 70 are replaced by score lines 72, 74, 76, and 78.

As best seen in FIG. 13, in the next step of the method of making the coin containers, sheeting cuts 80 and 82 are produced (e.g. at a third station of the flexographic converting machine). These cuts extend laterally completely across the lay-flat tubing which, by these cuts, is chopped into sections that are shown in FIG. 4. The sheeting cuts 80 and 82 are located midway between the blind cuts 52 and 54 and between the blind cuts 56 and 58, respectively. The sheeting cuts separate the individual containers, so that they can be stacked one on another.

The attachments 114 can be made prior to, or in conjunction with, performance of the sheeting cuts. The attachments 114 can be formed by heat or chemical weld, glue (e.g. hot melt glue) or other attachment means.

Some users of the containers will prefer to receive the containers connected end-to-end, either in a single roll or zig-zag folded, in accordance with the user's dispensing device. To accommodate this possibility, the sheeting cuts 80 and 82 can be replaced, in an alternative embodiment shown in FIG. 11, with lines of perforation 84 and 86, or with score lines.

Any of the steps shown in FIGS. 11-15 may be combined. For example, the lines of perforation, (and/or score lines) and the blind cuts may be produced simultaneously by a single die. It will be apparent that appropriate modifications can be made to the steps shown in FIGS. 11-15 to produce the various embodiments described herein. For example, the placements of the various cuts and score lines can be altered and in some cases omitted to achieve the various alternative embodiments of FIGS. 1-10.

A legend 88 can be printed on each container 100. For example, the flexographic converting machine also prints a legend 88 on each container 100.

Although the lay-flat tubing can be composed of an extruded seamless plastic, in other embodiments the lay-flat tubing can be composed of other materials, such as paper or metal and may include a seam. Typically, paper has not been favored because of the difficulty of producing a seamless tube and because of its lack of resiliency; and metal has not been used because of its cost. However, for certain applications these alternative materials might have advantages that outweigh their disadvantages.

In alternative embodiments, rather than commencing the process with lay-flat tubing, the process may begin with a flat sheet of material (e.g. in a roll). In this case, the cuts, perforations and/or score lines can be applied to sections the flat sheet of material. For example, the material may be removed from the roll and cut into sections that are approximately three feet long where each section yields seven to ten containers. Then, the material can be folded and welded or glued to form the tubular structure with a seam along its length. In this case, the side walls of the containers 100 can be overlapped in the area of the welding or gluing. Then, the material can be cut into the individual containers. The attachments 114 can be made as a separate step or during the welding or gluing step.

To avoid having an excessive number of claims to include all of the possible combinations of score lines and lines of perforations, a generic term “lines of weakness” is used in the claims. The term “lines of weakness” includes score lines and lines of perforations but not cuts. Both score lines and lines of perforations may be thought of as incomplete cuts, and both weaken the film along the line of weakness, thereby justifying the generic use of the term.

In some embodiments, lines of weakness may be extended for greater utility or ease of manufacture, such that they do not interfere with the mechanical opening and closing of the container. For example, in alternate embodiments, the hinges of any of the retainers 106, 108, 110, 112 may be extended lines of weakness that extend the full axial length of the container 100.

As shown and described herein, the axis of the hinges of the toggle retainers 106, 108 can be parallel to the long axis of the container 100. This results in an acceptable snap from an open position to a closed position as well as retaining of the objects. In an alternative embodiment, the axis of the hinges of toggle retainers 106, 108 are slightly angled inward toward the centerline axis the container 100 (e.g. by 2-4 degrees). This tends to provide a more perceptible and possibly audible snap when the retainers 106, 108 are moved from an open position to a closed position. This also projects the retainers 106, 108 slightly downward (toward the retained objects) as they close the throat of the container 100.

This is useful because the retainers 106, 108 are then slightly sprung and take up any small amounts of slack in the stack of objects. Where the objects are coins or similar items, the height of a given number of coins can vary somewhat based on combined wear of the coins. Thus, it is possible to audibly validate a stack of coins in the container 100 with a quick shake of the filled container 100. A short coin stack (i.e. one that is missing one or more coins) will be audibly detectable by a ‘clack’ sound. With the angled ‘sprung’ ends, a coin stack having the correct number of coins will tend to be quiet when shaken. This assumes that the combined wear of the coins in the stack is within expected tolerances. Additionally, the coins are more secure during handling because greater force and energy is needed to be applied to the toggle retainers 106, 108, both to move them from an open position to a closed position, and to move them from the closed position to the open position. The hinges for the retainers of the closed end can also be angled in the same way so that the attached retainers 110, 112 are angled upward when the container is expanded.

The widest market presently seen for the containers of the present invention is for coins. However, it can be appreciated that specialized markets exist where instead of a stack of coins the container encloses a stack of casino tokens or a stack of indigestion tablets. Nor are the uses limited to stacks of disc-like objects. Cylindrical objects such as flashlight batteries or fluorescent lamps could also be packaged in the container of the present invention. The inventor's rights are, of course, limited only by the structures recited in the appended claims, and not by what the structure is later called or used for.

While the embodiments of the container described above include an openable end and a closed end, in some embodiments, the container can be closed at both ends after it is filled with objects. This may be desired to ensure that the contained objects do not fall out of the container, for example, for coin storage and transportation. In this case, at least one of the closed ends may be non-permanently closed, such as by a snap fastener. Such a snap fastener can be in the location of the attachment 114. Alternatively, both ends may be permanently closed such that at some destruction of the container is required to access the contents.

The containers can be utilized for manual object handling (e.g., manual insertion of coins into the container), for semi-automated handling (e.g., manual loading of the containers into a coin-counting machine), as well as for fully-automated handling (e.g., where the coins are counted and sealed at both ends into a destructible tube).

Thus, there has been described a container as well as a method for making such a container. The resulting container includes structural features that distinguish it from containers, including coin containers, known in the prior art. Specifically, the container is closed at least one end with the closed end being such that it does not prevent the container from being flattened. The container can be openable at one end or closed at both ends.

The foregoing detailed description of the present invention is provided for the purposes of illustration and is not intended to be exhaustive or to limit the invention to the embodiments disclosed. Accordingly, the scope of the present invention is defined by the appended claims.