Title:
SYSTEM AND METHOD OF COUPLING BEVERAGE CARTONS WITH RESILIENT BANDS
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A system and method for packaging individual beverage containers is disclosed. A package of individual beverage containers includes a plurality of beverage cartons abutted at respective edge surfaces; each beverage carton contains a plurality of individual beverage containers. The beverage cartons are secured together by at least one resilient band that is disposed over and applies a force to secure together the plurality of beverage cartons.



Inventors:
Mcwilliams, Brian (St. Louis, MO, US)
Krull, Jeff (St. Louis, MO, US)
Odehnal, Todd (St. Louis, MO, US)
Application Number:
13/957258
Publication Date:
02/06/2014
Filing Date:
08/01/2013
Assignee:
ANHEUSER-BUSCH, LLC (St. Louis, MO, US)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
53/398, 53/582
International Classes:
B65D71/50; B65B13/02
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
STEVENS, ALLAN D
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
FOLEY & LARDNER LLP (WASHINGTON, DC, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A package for individual beverage containers, comprising: a plurality of beverage cartons abutted at respective edge surfaces, each beverage carton containing a plurality of individual beverage containers; and at least one resilient band disposed over and applying a directional force to secure together the plurality of beverage cartons.

2. The package of claim 1 wherein the plurality of beverage cartons is a pair of beverage cartons.

3. The package of claim 1, wherein the at least one resilient band comprises a pair of resilient bands disposed over and applying the directional force to secure together the plurality of beverage cartons.

4. The package of claim 1 wherein the plurality of beverage cartons is a pair of twelve-packs.

5. The package of claim 4 wherein the abutted edge surfaces have a length corresponding to four of the individual beverage containers.

6. The package of claim 4 wherein the abutted edge surfaces have a length corresponding to three of the individual beverage containers.

7. The package of claim 4 wherein the abutted edge surfaces have a length corresponding to six of the individual beverage containers.

8. The package of claim 1 wherein the at least one resilient band has a width of about one-half inch.

9. The package of claim 1 wherein the individual beverage containers are cans.

10. The package of claim 1 wherein the individual beverage containers are bottles.

11. A method of packaging individual beverage containers, comprising: packaging a plurality of individual beverage containers in a plurality of cartons; abutting respective edge surfaces of the plurality of cartons; stretching at least one resilient band; and releasing the stretched resilient band over the plurality of cartons.

12. The method of claim 11, further comprising spacing apart a first pair of abutted cartons from an adjacent pair of abutted cartons.

13. The method of claim 11, further comprising severing the resilient band from a remainder of the resilient material.

14. The method of claim 11, further comprising stopping momentarily the plurality of cartons to apply the at least one resilient band over the plurality of cartons.

15. The method of claim 11, wherein the plurality of cartons is driven by a single conveyor, the single conveyor continuously moving during the stretching and releasing steps.

16. An apparatus for applying a resilient band to a plurality of cartons containing individual beverage containers, comprising: at least one conveyor; a spool of resilient bands; a jaw operable to stretch and release a resilient band from the spool of resilient bands material over the plurality of cartons on the at least one conveyor.

17. The apparatus of claim 16 wherein the at least one conveyor is an indexing conveyor.

18. The apparatus of claim 16 wherein the at least one conveyor is a continuous motion conveyor and movement of the application fingers corresponds to motion of the at least one conveyor.

Description:

PRIORITY CLAIM

This application claims priority from U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 61/678,924, filed on Aug. 2, 2012, and entitled Tray-Less 2-12 Pack with Stretch Wrap or Tape Bands, the disclosure of which is hereby incorporated by reference.

TECHNICAL FIELD

The present invention relates generally to packaging of canned or bottled beverages. More specifically, the present invention relates to applying resilient bands to couple together two cartons or “twelve-packs” into a preferred “case” or 24-can or bottle unit.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Beverage wholesalers prefer two 12-count can or bottle packs (commonly called “twelve-packs”) joined together into a 24-container unit (commonly called a “case”). Wholesaler delivery and inventory systems are created to handle twelve-packs as a dual unit. An earlier effort by breweries to produce and deliver loose twelve-packs was strongly resisted by the wholesalers. The breweries themselves have added difficulty in palletizing the loose twelve-packs due to higher speeds to increase throughput. To solve this problem, the twelve-packs are often arranged in pairs on a corrugated paper or cardboard tray.

Alternatively, beverage suppliers either run twelve-packs loose, or join them by using adhesive tape or hot-melt adhesive. Adhesive tape was commonly used early during the advent of the “fridge” style soft drink packs (2×6 can arrangement). Perforations built in to the tape were intended to allow delivery drivers to break-apart the packs for retail. If the perforations worked, the tape remained on the packaging, and if the perforations did not, there was fiber tearing on the packaging. In either case, the result was undesirable marred graphics on the packaging.

A newer alternative to the above methods is to use a time-sensitive hot-melt adhesive to join two twelve-packs. Liberal amounts of hot glue would be applied between the two joined packs to hold the packs through the packaging and delivery processes. Over time, this glue would crystallize, allowing the packs to be broken apart without creating fiber tear. One drawback with this method is that the glue remains on the packs, creating unsightly blemishes.

In addition, it is common in the packaging industry to wrap polypropylene straps around certain items, such as shipping boxes, goods that have been placed on pallets, and hay bales. For example, a pallet may be stacked with goods then the goods and the pallet are wrapped with straps such that the ends of the straps overlap. The ends are then joined to each other, and the tension created in the strap ensures that the items remain on the pallet for shipping.

SUMMARY

It is a general object of the present disclosure to provide an improved method of packaging for beverage containers. This and other objects of the present disclosure are achieved by providing a package for beverages employing a pair of conventional 12-can or bottle packages, the package comprising: a pair of conventional 12-container packages abutted along their edges. At least one band of resilient polymeric material in the form of a complete loop is stretched and released over the two 12-container packages to secure them together.

According to an exemplary embodiment of the disclosure, a pair of resilient bands secures the two 12-container packages together.

According to an exemplary embodiment of the disclosure, each 12-container package has a long edge and a short edge and the long edges of the 12-container packages are abutted against one another.

In another aspect of the disclosure, a method of packaging for beverages in aluminum can or glass bottle containers employs a pair of conventional 12-container packages, and comprises the steps of: packaging the containers in the conventional 12-containers packages in a cartoner machine; orienting the 12-container packages relative to one another; abutting a pair of the oriented 12-container packages against one another; stretching and releasing to apply at least one resilient band around the pair of abutted 12-container packages to secure the 12-container packages together in a 24-container unit.

Other objects, features, and advantages of the invention will become apparent with reference to the detailed description, which follows.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

For a more complete understanding of the present invention and the advantages thereof, reference is now made to the following brief description, taken in connection with the accompanying drawings and detailed description, wherein like reference numerals represent like parts, in which:

FIG. 1 is a schematic illustration of a machine for applying resilient bands to join together beverage cartons;

FIG. 2 is an illustration of a portion of a sheet of resilient bands to join together beverage cartons;

FIG. 3 illustrates an alternate embodiment of a system for applying resilient bands to join together beverage cartons

FIG. 4 illustrates a pair of beverage cartons with portions broken away secured together by a pair of resilient bands according to the teachings of the present disclosure;

FIG. 5 illustrates a pair of beverage cartons with portions broken away and with their short sides abutted and secured together by a pair of resilient bands according to the teachings of the present disclosure; and

FIG. 6 illustrates an alternate pair of beverage cartons with portions broken away and with their long sides abutted and secured together by a pair of resilient bands according to the teachings of the present disclosure.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Reference is made to FIG. 1, which is a schematic illustration of a banding machine 10 that applies resilient bands to join together a pair of beverage cartons, for example conventional twelve-packs of individual beverage containers, such as cans or bottles. In one embodiment, the banding machine 10 applies resilient bands to couple together two cartons 12, also referred to as packs 12. The individual drink containers, for example cans, have been placed into a cardboard carton 12 upstream of the banding machine 10 by a cartoner (not shown). The cartons 12 generally hold twelve individual drink containers, and therefore are commonly referred to as a 12-pack. A conveyor 14 moves the cartons 12 in position to be banded together. The two cartons 12 are oriented such that their edge surfaces abut and form abutted packs 16. The abutted packs 16 may be touching each other or may be slightly spaced-apart because the tension in the resilient band will apply a force that urges the two packs toward each other such that their sides abut. In addition, the abutted packs 16 are properly spaced apart from each other to facilitate application of the bands.

The cartons 12 may each be packed with twelve individual beverage containers, for example cans of beer. The carton 12 may be rectangular in cross section with one side being the length of about three twelve-ounce cans and the adjacent side being about the length of four twelve-ounce cans. In certain embodiments, the longer four-can length edge surfaces of the two cartons may abut each other to form the abutted packs 16. In other embodiments, the shorter three-can length edge surfaces abut each other to form the abutted packs 16. In addition, more than two abutted packs may have the resilient bands applied according to the teaching of the present disclosure.

The resilient bands are fed to the banding machine 10 from rolls 18 of the resilient bands. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 1, the bands are preformed into a sheet of resilient bands 20. A flashing 24 is disposed between adjacent resilient bands 22, as shown in FIG. 2. An idler 26 directs the sheet of resilient bands 20 from the roll 18 toward the band applicator 28. The band applicator 28 includes a drum 30, which drives a plurality of jaws 32. The jaws 32 rotate with the drum 30 and each jaw 32 directs a resilient band 22 from the idler 26 to a position where the band 22 can be applied to the abutted packs 16.

Each resilient band 22 is stretched to elastically increase its length such that it can be placed over the abutted packs 16. It should be noted that a resilient band 22 in a relaxed state does not have sufficient length/circumference to fit over the abutted packs 16. Thus, stretching a resilient band 22 and holding it in a stretched state, then releasing the band 22 causes the resilient band 22 to apply a force to urge the abutted packs 16 together and is sufficient to couple the packs, particularly when a band 22 is applied to each side of the abutted packs 16, as shown in FIG. 1. Appropriately spacing apart the abutted packs 16 provides clearance to allow the jaws 32 and associated components, such as application fingers to stretch, release, and place the resilient bands on an abutted pack 16 without interfering with the placement of a resilient band 22 on an adjacent abutted pack 16.

The conveyor 14 and drums 30 move continuously such that the resilient bands 22 may be stretched over the abutted packs 16 and released without stopping the motion of the conveyor 14 or the abutted packs 16. The motion of the jaws 32 corresponds to the motion of the conveyor 14 to allow the jaws 32 to apply the resilient bands 22 without having to stop the abutted packs 16. In certain embodiments, the banding machine 10 applies resilient bands 22 to twelve-packs that enter the banding machine 10 at approximately 200 twelve-packs per minute.

After the jaws 32 release the resilient band 22, the conveyor 14 moves the banded pack 34 in position where the flashing 24 may be cut by a cutter 36. The cutter 36 is a wheel style cutter. In certain embodiments, the individual bands 22 may be separated from the rest of the roll 18 before being placed on the abutted packs 16. After the flashing 24 is cut, the conveyor 14 continues to move the banded packs 34 down the line for further processing. It should be noted that further processing will not include placing the banded packs 34 into a corrugated container, as the resilient bands 22 serve the function of joining the two twelve-packs for palletizing and shipping purposes.

As illustrated in FIG. 1, the opposite side of the banding machine 10 includes the same components as those described above such that a second resilient band 22 may be stretched, released, and placed on an opposite side of the carton such that the banded packs 34 include two resilient bands, one on each side of the abutted packs 16.

In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 1, the throughput of the banding machine 10 is approximately 100 banded packs 22 or cases per minute.

FIG. 2 is an illustration of a portion of the sheet of resilient bands 20. A resilient band 22 is joined to an adjacent resilient band 22 by a piece of the resilient banding material making up a flashing 24. The flashing 24 is disposed at a location where the material is welded or otherwise joined to create the continuous loops that form each resilient band 22. The flashing 24 is severed by the cutters 36 to separate the bands to create the individual banded packs 34.

The material of the sheet of resilient bands 20 is any suitable polymeric material. For example, the resilient bands 22 may be formed from any suitable resilient polymeric material, such as a thermoplastic polymer. In a preferred embodiment, the resilient bands 22 may be formed of low density polyethylene. In addition, the polymeric material of the resilient bands 22 may be recyclable. In certain embodiments, the resilient bands 22 are approximately ½ inch wide, but in other embodiments, the resilient bands 22 may be narrower or wider. For example, the resilient bands 22 may range between ⅜ inch and two inches in width. Each resilient band may be slightly shorter than the perimeter of a pair of 12-packs abutted at their respective longer ends, which is approximately 41 inches. The resilient band 22 may be stretched to approximately 2 inches or about 5% to allow for placement over the abutted packs 16 by four application fingers. In other embodiments, the resilient bands 22 may be any suitable length to accommodate the size of the cartons 12 abutted at their longer or shorter edges.

FIG. 3 is a schematic illustration of a multiple separate banding machine system 40. Multiple separate banding machines 42 each apply two resilient bands to the abutted packs 16 to create the banded packs 34. The individual cartons or twelve-packs 12 leave the cartoner at a throughput of 200 cartons or packs per minute on a full speed upstream conveyor 44. In this context, speed refers to throughput as opposed to distance per unit time. The distance per time of the conveyor may be adjusted to obtain the desired throughput depending on the distance the product (cartons 12, abutted packs 16, and banded packs 34) is to travel to reach the next processing station.

From the full speed upstream conveyor 44 throughput is reduced by approximately half as each carton 12 is diverted to one of two reduced speed upstream conveyors 46. Thus, in the embodiment illustrated, the throughput of the reduced speed upstream conveyor 46 is approximately 100 cartons per minute or half of the throughput of the full speed upstream conveyor 44. Each reduced speed upstream conveyor 46 feeds three indexing conveyors 48. Similarly, the throughput of the indexing conveyors 48, and thus the throughput of the individual banding machines 42 is approximately 33 cartons per minute and approximately 16 cases or banded packs 34 per minute.

Similar to the embodiment shown in FIG. 1, the indexing conveyors 48 orient the cartons 12 so their edges abut each other or are oriented to be parallel and slightly separated to prepare the abutted packs 16 to receive the resilient bands 22. When an abutted pack 16 is indexed and dwelled or momentarily stopped in the banding machine 42, a resilient band 22 is stretched, released, and applied to each side of the abutted packs 16, and the banded packs 34 are indexed from the banding machine 42 to move down the line for further processing.

The throughput of the banded packs 34 is ramped up by conveying the banded packs 34 to an increased speed downstream conveyor 50. A single increased speed downstream conveyor 50 receives banded packs 34 from three banding machines 42 such that the throughput of the increased speed downstream conveyors 50 is approximately fifty abutted packs or cases 34 per minute. The increased speed downstream conveyors 50 feed the abutted packs 34 to a merging apparatus 52, which directs abutted packs 34 from each conveyor 50 to a full speed downstream conveyor 54, which runs at a throughput of about 100 abutted packs or cases 34 per minute to transport the abutted packs 34 for further processing. Similar to the embodiment of FIG. 1, further processing does not include placing the banded packs 34 into a corrugated container, as the resilient bands 22 serve the function of joining the two twelve-packs for palletizing and shipping purposes.

The throughput values of the two reduced speed upstream conveyors 46 is about half of the throughput of the full speed upstream conveyor 44. Similarly, the throughput of the indexing conveyors 48 is approximately one-third of the reduced speed conveyors 46. The ramping back up of the throughput of the banded packs 34 corresponds to the reduction of throughput upstream. That is, the increased speed downstream conveyors 50 are three times the throughput of the indexing conveyors 48, and the full speed downstream conveyor 54 is twice that of the increased speed conveyors 50. In this manner, the multiple separate banding machine system 42 can be incorporated into existing beverage can production and packaging lines and maintain the throughput achieved when the two twelve-packs are arranged on a cardboard tray, which is about 100 cases (two twelve-packs) per minute. The throughput values provided herein are example throughput values. It should be understood that the multiple separate banding machine system 40 may be run at any desired throughput.

FIG. 4 shows the banded packs 34 with portions broken away to show the individual containers 5 contained in the cartons 12. The edge surfaces corresponding to the four-can side of the cartons 12 are abutted together. A pair of resilient bands 22 have been stretched and released over the cartons 12. The tension in the resilient bands 22 applies a force to secure together the two cartons 12.

FIG. 5 shows a pair of banded cartons 60 where the three-can edge surfaces are abutted together and a pair of appropriately sized resilient bands 22 is applied to secure the two cartons 12 together.

FIG. 6 shows a pair of banded two-by-six cartons 62 where the six-can edge surfaces are abutted together. A pair of appropriately sized resilient bands 22 is applied to exert forces to secure together the two-by-six cartons 64.

The banded packs will stay together during case conveying, palletizing, shipment, and wholesaler handling—which will include loading onto existing two-wheeled dollies.

The foregoing machinery and banding material are exemplary only. Other materials may necessitate different machinery. Using stretch banding instead of corrugated trays saves 14,500 tons of corrugated material per year. Twelve-packs are delivered joined as 24-count cases as preferred by beverage wholesalers. The method and apparatus using stretch banding eliminates the potential for package marring or damage that occurs with other joining methods.