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Publication numberUS20010000560 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 09/746,384
Publication dateMay 3, 2001
Filing dateDec 21, 2000
Priority dateFeb 24, 1989
Also published asUS6370840
Publication number09746384, 746384, US 2001/0000560 A1, US 2001/000560 A1, US 20010000560 A1, US 20010000560A1, US 2001000560 A1, US 2001000560A1, US-A1-20010000560, US-A1-2001000560, US2001/0000560A1, US2001/000560A1, US20010000560 A1, US20010000560A1, US2001000560 A1, US2001000560A1
InventorsDonald Weder, Joseph Straeter, Paul Fantz
Original AssigneeWeder Donald E., Straeter Joseph G., Paul Fantz
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Single station covering and fastening system
US 20010000560 A1
Abstract
An apparatus and method for forming a cover about an article and for automatically fastening the cover to the article, and optionally for automatically placing a label on the covered article. The article may be an article such as a potted plant and the cover may be a decorative cover. The invention satisfies the need for a means for rapidly covering and fastening the cover about an article with a minimal amount of manual effort and in a location having a limited amount of available space. The apparatus comprises a platform having at least one opening sized to receive the article. The apparatus comprises a tying device for automatically applying a band or fastener about a portion of the outer surface of the covered article for fastening the cover about the article after the sheet is formed into a cover about the article.
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Claims(51)
What is claimed is:
1. A method for fastening a cover about an article, comprising:
providing a platform having a support surface formed thereon and an opening extending through the support surface, the opening sized to receive a cover forming means and having a cover forming means disposed therein, the cover forming means having contacting portions and sized to receive an article having an upper end, a lower end, and an outer peripheral surface;
placing a sheet of material in a cover forming position over the opening and on the support surface wherein the sheet of material, in the cover forming position, is positioned over the cover forming means;
providing the article;
positioning the article in a position over the sheet of material and in a position wherein the lower end of the article is disposed generally above and near the portion of the sheet of material which is above the cover forming means;
forming a covered article by moving the article in a direction which causes the lower end of the article to engage a portion of the sheet of material, the article and portions of the sheet of material passing through the cover forming means causing the sheet of material to contact or nearly contact both the outer peripheral surface of the article and the contacting portions of the cover forming means as the article is moved wherein the sheet is pressed about the outer peripheral surface of the article to form a cover about the article, the cover having an inner surface facing the outer peripheral surface of the article and an exposed outer surface;
automatically applying a fastener about a portion of the outer surface of the cover of the article for fastening the cover about the article; and
removing the covered article from the platform.
2. The method of
claim 1
wherein in the step of placing the sheet of material, the material further comprises a material selected from a group of materials consisting of paper, metal foil, cloth (natural or synthetic), denim, burlap or polymer film or combinations thereof.
3. The method of
claim 1
comprising the additional step of providing means for releasably securing the sheet of material in the cover forming position for generally immobilizing the sheet until after the sheet has been formed about the article.
4. The method of
claim 1
wherein the step of placing a sheet of material on the support surface is performed automatically.
5. The method of
claim 1
wherein in the step of providing the article, the article is further defined as a flower pot containing a botanical item therein.
6. The method of
claim 1
comprising the additional step of moving the platform to a site where the article is provided.
7. The method of
claim 1
wherein the step of forming a covered article is performed automatically by using an automatic pick and place means to pick up an article and place it into the opening to form the covered article.
8. The method of
claim 1
wherein in the step of automatically applying a fastener, the fastener is selected from a group consisting of elastic or non-elastic string, wire, thread, elastic, ribbon, wire and tape.
9. The method of
claim 1
comprising the additional step of engaging an automatic labeling means and automatically applying a label to a portion of the outer surface of the cover of the article.
10. The method of
claim 1
wherein the step of removing the covered article further comprises automatically removing the covered article from the opening of the platform.
11. The method of
claim 1
wherein the fastener is applied about the cover of the article to a portion of the cover which is above the cover forming means.
12. The method of
claim 1
wherein the fastener is applied about the cover of the article to a portion of the cover which is below the cover forming means.
13. The method of
claim 1
comprising the additional step of mechanically retracting the fastener for providing clearance of the opening which extends through the support surface.
14. The method of
claim 1
comprising the additional step of automatically elevating the covered pot to a position at least partially above the platform for facilitating the removal of the covered article from the platform.
15. A method for processing an article, comprising:
providing a platform having a support surface formed thereon and an opening extending through the support surface, the opening sized to receive a cover forming means and having a cover forming means disposed therein, the cover forming means having contacting portions and sized to receive an article having an upper end, a lower end, and an outer peripheral surface;
placing a sheet of material in a cover forming position over the opening and on the support surface wherein the sheet of material, in the cover forming position, is positioned over the cover forming means;
providing the article;
positioning the article in a position over the sheet of material and in a position wherein the lower end of the article is disposed generally above and near the portion of the sheet of material which is above the cover forming means;
forming a covered article by moving the article in a direction which causes the lower end of the article to engage a portion of the sheet of material, the article and portions of the sheet of material passing through the cover forming means causing the sheet of material to contact or nearly contact both the outer peripheral surface of the article and the contacting portions of the cover forming means as the article is moved downward wherein the sheet is pressed about the outer peripheral surface of the article to form a cover about the article, the cover having an inner surface facing the outer peripheral surface of the article and an exposed outer surface;
automatically applying a fastener about a portion of the outer surface of the cover of the article for fastening the cover about the article;
automatically applying a label to a portion of the outer surface of the cover of the article; and
removing the covered article from the platform.
16. The method of
claim 15
wherein step of automatically applying a label occurs prior to the step of automatically applying a fastener.
17. The method of
claim 15
wherein in the step of placing the sheet of material, the material further comprises a material selected from a group of materials consisting of paper, metal foil, cloth (natural or synthetic), denim, burlap or polymer film or combinations thereof.
18. The method of
claim 15
comprising the additional step of providing means for releasably securing the sheet of material in the cover forming position for generally immobilizing the sheet until after the sheet has been formed about the article.
19. The method of
claim 15
wherein the step of placing a sheet of material on the support surface is performed automatically.
20. The method of
claim 15
wherein in the step of providing the article, the article is further defined as a flower pot containing a botanical item therein.
21. The method of
claim 15
comprising the additional step of moving the platform to a site where the article is provided.
22. The method of
claim 15
wherein the step of forming a covered article is performed automatically by using an automatic pick and place means to pick up an article and place it into the opening to form the covered article.
23. The method of
claim 15
wherein in the step of automatically applying a fastener, the fastener is selected from a group consisting of elastic or non-elastic string, wire, thread, elastic, ribbon, wire and tape.
24. The method of
claim 15
wherein the step of removing the covered article further comprises automatically removing the covered article from the opening of the platform.
25. The method of
claim 15
wherein the fastener is applied about the cover of the article to a portion of the cover which is above the cover forming means.
26. The method of
claim 15
wherein the fastener is applied about the cover of the article to a portion of the cover which is below the cover forming means.
27. The method of
claim 15
comprising the additional step of mechanically retracting the fastener for providing clearance of the opening which extends through the support surface.
28. The method of
claim 15
comprising the additional step of automatically elevating the covered pot to a position at least partially above the platform for the removal of the covered article from the platform.
29. An apparatus for fastening a cover to an article, comprising:
a platform having a support surface formed thereon and an opening extending through the support surface, the support surface adapted to support at least portions of a sheet of material in a position generally over the opening;
a framework for supporting the platform;
a cover forming means disposed in the opening in the support surface, the cover forming means having contacting portions for contacting the sheet of material, the opening and the cover forming means adapted for receiving an article having an upper end, a lower end, and an outer peripheral surface such that when the article is moved toward the opening the lower end of the article is caused to engage a portion of the sheet of material disposed over the cover forming means in the opening, the article and portions of the sheet of material thus passing through the cover forming means causing the sheet of material to engage the outer peripheral surface of the article and the contacting portions of the cover forming means as the article is moved wherein portions of the sheet contactingly engage or nearly engage the outer peripheral surface of the article forming a cover about the article and thereby forming a covered article, the cover of the covered article having an inner surface facing the outer peripheral surface of the article and an exposed outer surface; and
means for automatically applying a fastener about a portion of the outer surface of the covered article for fastening the cover about the article.
30. The apparatus of
claim 29
further comprising means for releasably securing the sheet of material in the cover forming position for generally immobilizing the sheet until after the sheet has been formed about the article.
31. The apparatus of
claim 29
further comprising means for automatically placing a sheet of material on the support surface.
32. The apparatus of
claim 29
further comprising means attached to the framework enabling movement of the apparatus.
33. The apparatus of
claim 29
further comprising means for automatically applying a label to a portion of the outer surface of the cover of the covered article.
34. The apparatus of
claim 29
further comprising means for automatically picking and placing the article for picking up the article from an article supply and placing the article into the opening to form the covered article.
35. The apparatus of
claim 29
wherein the fastening means is able to apply a fastener selected from a group consisting of elastic or non-elastic string, wire, thread, elastic, ribbon, wire and tape.
36. The apparatus of
claim 29
further comprising means for automatically removing the covered article from the opening of the platform.
37. The apparatus of
claim 29
wherein the means for applying the fastener applies the fastener in a position above the cover forming means.
38. The apparatus of
claim 29
wherein the means for applying the fastener applies the fastener in a position below the cover forming means.
39. The apparatus of
claim 29
further comprising fastener retraction means for retracting the fastener for providing clearance of the opening which extends through the support surface.
40. The apparatus of
claim 29
further comprising means for automatically elevating the covered pot to a position at least partially above the platform for facilitating the removal of the covered article from the platform.
41. An apparatus for fastening a cover to an article, comprising:
a platform having a support surface formed thereon and an opening extending through the support surface, the support surface adapted to support at least portions of a sheet of material in a position generally over the opening;
a framework for supporting the platform;
a cover forming means disposed in the opening in the support surface, the cover forming means having contacting portions for contacting the sheet of material, the opening and the cover forming means adapted for receiving an article having an upper end, a lower end, and an outer peripheral surface such that when the article is moved in a pre-determined direction the lower end of the article is caused to engage a portion of the sheet of material disposed over the cover forming means in the opening, the article and portions of the sheet of material thus passing through the cover forming means causing the sheet of material to engage the outer peripheral surface of the article and the contacting portions of the cover forming means as the article is moved wherein portions of the sheet contactingly engage or nearly engage the outer peripheral surface of the article forming a cover about the article and thereby forming a covered article, the cover of the covered article having an inner surface facing the outer peripheral surface of the article and an exposed outer surface;
means for automatically applying a fastener about a portion of the outer surface of the covered article for fastening the cover about the article; and
means for automatically applying a label to a portion of the outer surface of the cover of the covered article.
42. The apparatus of
claim 41
further comprising means for releasably securing the sheet of material in the cover forming position for generally immobilizing the sheet until after the sheet has been formed about the article.
43. The apparatus of
claim 41
further comprising means for automatically placing a sheet of material on the support surface.
44. The apparatus of
claim 41
further comprising means for automatically picking and placing the article for picking up the article from an article supply and placing the article into the opening to form the covered article.
45. The apparatus of
claim 41
wherein the fastening means is able to apply a fastener selected from a group consisting of elastic or non-elastic string, wire, thread, elastic, ribbon, wire and tape.
46. The apparatus of
claim 41
further comprising means for automatically removing the covered article from the opening of the platform.
47. The apparatus of
claim 41
wherein the means for applying the fastener applies the fastener in a position above the cover forming means.
48. The apparatus of
claim 41
wherein the means for applying the fastener applies the fastener in a position below the cover forming means.
49. The apparatus of
claim 41
further comprising fastener retraction means for retracting the fastener for providing clearance of the opening which extends through the support surface.
50. The apparatus of
claim 41
further comprising means for automatically elevating the covered pot to a position at least partially above the platform for facilitating the removal of the covered article from the platform.
51. The apparatus of
claim 41
further comprising means attached to the framework enabling movement of the apparatus.
Description
CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] This application is a continuation-in-part of co-pending U.S. Ser. No. 08/088,692, filed on Jul. 7, 1993, entitled “ROTARY COVERING AND FASTENING SYSTEM”.

[0002] This application is also a continuation-in-part of U.S. Ser. No. 08/088,976, filed on Jul. 8, 1993, entitled “CONVEYABLE COVER FORMER AND FASTENING SYSTEM”.

[0003] This application is also a continuation-in-part of pending prior application Ser. No. 07/979,389, filed Nov. 19, 1992, entitled “MEANS FOR SECURING A DECORATIVE COVER ABOUT A FLOWER POT” which is a continuation of pending prior application Ser. No. 07/832,096, filed Feb. 6, 1992, entitled “MEANS FOR SECURING A DECORATIVE COVER ABOUT A FLOWER POT”, which is a continuation-in-part of Ser. No. 07/765,416, filed on Sep. 26, 1991, now U.S. Pat. No. 5,105,599, entitled “MEANS FOR SECURING A DECORATIVE COVER ABOUT A FLOWER POT”, which is a continuation of Ser. No. 530,491, filed May 29, 1990, now ABANDONED, which was a continuation of Ser. No. 315,169 filed Feb. 24, 1989, now ABANDONED.

BACKGROUND

[0004] The present invention relates to an apparatus and method for placing a cover about an article, automatically applying a fastener about the covered article and removing the covered article at a single station, and more particularly, but not by way of limitation, to such apparatus and methods wherein the article is a potted plant.

DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0005]FIG. 1 is a plan view of a first sheet of material with one end turned up and constructed in accordance with the present invention.

[0006]FIG. 2 is a plan view of a second sheet of material with one end turned up and constructed in accordance with the present invention.

[0007]FIG. 3 is a perspective view showing the first and the second sheets of material disposed adjacent each other.

[0008]FIG. 4 is a perspective view showing bonding areas on the surface of a first sheet or a second sheet which cause bonding of the second sheet and the first sheet.

[0009]FIG. 5 is a sectional view of a modified first and second sheets of material.

[0010]FIG. 6 is another cross-sectional view of a modified first sheet of material connected to a modified second sheet of material.

[0011]FIG. 7 is a cross sectional view of still another modified first sheet of material connected to a modified second sheet of material.

[0012]FIG. 8 is another cross-sectional view of yet another modified first sheet of material connected to a modified second sheet of material.

[0013]FIG. 9 is a diagrammatic view of a plurality of sheets of material, constructed in accordance with the present invention forming a continuous roll, the roll partially unrolled to reveal a single sheet still attached thereto.

[0014]FIG. 10 is a diagrammatic view of a plurality of sheets of material forming a continuous roll of material disposed in a dispenser.

[0015]FIG. 11 is a diagrammatic view showing a roll of material wherein the roll of material comprises a first and a second sheet of material constructed in accordance with the present invention disposed in a dispenser (diagrammatically shown in FIG. 11) for dispensing the first and the second sheets of material from the roll of material.

[0016]FIG. 12 is a diagrammatic view of a roll of material for dispensing a first and a second sheet of material constructed in accordance with the present invention from the roll of material.

[0017]FIG. 13 is a side elevational view of a pad of first and second sheets of material constructed in accordance with the present invention.

[0018]FIG. 14 is a perspective view of another embodiment of a sheet of material of the present invention, and a pot disposed upon the sheet.

[0019]FIG. 15 is a perspective view of the sheet of material of FIG. 14, showing a sheet of material partially wrapped about a flower pot.

[0020]FIG. 16 is a perspective view of the sheet of material wrapped about a flower pot.

[0021]FIG. 17 is a perspective view of a pre-formed decorative pot cover.

[0022]FIG. 18 is a perspective view of a potted plant wrapped by a sheet of material to form a covered potted plant.

[0023]FIG. 19 is a plan view of a sheet of material with a sheet extension connected thereto constructed in accordance with the present invention.

[0024]FIG. 20 is a partial perspective view of a flower pot having a floral grouping disposed therein.

[0025]FIG. 21 is a partial perspective view of the sheet of material formed into a pot cover with the sheet extension connected thereto.

[0026]FIG. 22 is a partial perspective view showing the flower pot of FIG. 20 disposed in the pot cover of FIG. 21 with the sheet extension formed about the floral grouping.

[0027]FIG. 23 is a plan view showing the upper surface of another sheet of material with a sheet extension connected thereto constructed in accordance with the present invention.

[0028]FIG. 24 is a sectional view showing the sheet of material of FIG. 23 crimpingly formed about a flower pot and the sheet extension formed about a floral grouping to provide a protective covering.

[0029]FIG. 25 is a sectional view of a portion of the sheet of material crimped to form an overlapping fold.

[0030]FIG. 26 is a plan view of one version of the present invention which applies a band or fastener below the support surface.

[0031]FIG. 27 is a side elevational view of the apparatus of FIG. 26 as viewed from one angle.

[0032]FIG. 28 is a side elevational view of the apparatus of FIG. 26 as viewed from a second angle.

[0033]FIG. 29 is a plan view of another version of the present invention which applies a band or fastener above the upper support assembly.

[0034]FIG. 30 is a side elevational view of the apparatus of FIG. 29 as viewed from one angle.

[0035]FIG. 31 is a side elevational view of the apparatus of FIG. 30 as viewed from a second angle.

[0036]FIG. 32 is a plan view of another version of the present invention using another fastener retraction system.

[0037]FIG. 33 is a side view of the apparatus of FIG. 32.

[0038]FIG. 34 is a plan view of yet another method of fastener retraction.

[0039]FIG. 35 is a plan view of the apparatus of FIG. 34 at a later operation phase.

[0040]FIG. 36 is an enlarged perspective view of the fastener retraction assembly of FIG. 34.

[0041]FIG. 37 is a side view of another version of the present invention in which the sheet is provided from a roll of material.

[0042]FIG. 38 is a plan view of another version of the present invention using another fastener retraction system.

[0043]FIG. 39 is a side view of the version of FIG. 38 shown in one stage of operation.

[0044]FIG. 40 is a side view of the version of FIG. 38 shown in a stage of operation subsequent to the stage shown in FIG. 39.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

[0045] The present invention comprises an apparatus for fastening a cover to an article, such as a potted plant.

[0046] In a preferred embodiment, the apparatus comprises a platform having an upper support surface formed thereon and at least one opening extending through the upper support surface. The upper support surface is adapted to support at least one sheet of material in a cover forming position over the opening. The opening is sized to accommodate a cover forming mold.

[0047] The apparatus further comprises a cover forming mold disposed below the opening in the support surface. The cover forming mold has contacting portions for contacting the sheet of material. The opening and the cover forming mold are adapted for receiving an article such as a flower pot having an upper end, a lower end, an upper opening and an outer peripheral surface such that when the article is moved in a pre-determined direction, such as downward, the lower end of the article is caused to engage a portion of the sheet of material disposed over the opening. The article and portions of the sheet of material thus pass into the cover forming mold causing the sheet of material to engage the outer peripheral surface of the article and the contacting portions of the cover forming mold as the article is moved. As this happens, portions of the sheet contactingly engage or nearly engage the outer peripheral surface of the article forming a cover about the article and thereby forming a covered article. The cover of the covered article then has an inner surface facing the outer peripheral surface of the article and an exposed outer surface adjacent the inner portion of the mold.

[0048] The apparatus further comprises a fastening device for automatically applying a fastener about a portion of the outer surface of the covered article. The fastening device comprises a fastener retraction assembly for grasping and retracting the fastener for clearing the fastener from the opening to allow clearance for insertion of a pot or article into the opening. In an alternate version, the apparatus may comprise a labeling assembly for automatically applying a label to a portion of the outer surface of the cover of the covered article, preferably after the cover has been fastened to the article.

[0049] The sheet of material used in accordance with the present invention is constructed from a material selected from a group of materials described in greater detail below. The apparatus may further comprise a securing assembly for releasably securing the sheet of material in the cover forming position on the upper support surface for generally immobilizing the sheet prior to the forming step. The apparatus may further comprise a sheet feeder for automatically placing a sheet of material on the support surface and/or a pick an place assembly for picking up the article from an article supply and for placing the article into the opening to form the covered article. Additionally, the apparatus may further comprise a removal assembly for automatically removing the covered article from the opening of the platform.

[0050] The present invention further comprises a method for processing an article, such as a flower pot or potted plant. The first step comprises providing a platform such as described above which has an upper support surface formed thereon and at least one opening extending through the support surface. The opening is sized exactly as described above and has a cover forming mold disposed therein. Each cover forming mold has contacting portions and is sized to receive an article such as a potted plant which has an upper end, a lower end, an opening, and an outer peripheral surface.

[0051] The next step comprises placing a sheet of material in a cover forming position over the opening. The sheet of material, in the cover forming position, is positioned over the cover forming mold in the opening.

[0052] In the next step, a potted plant is covered with the sheet of material by positioning the potted plant in a position over the sheet of material and disposing the lower end of the pot generally above and near the portion of the sheet of material which is above the cover forming mold. The pot is moved in a direction which causes the lower end of the pot to engage a portion of the sheet of material. The sheet of material is thereby caused to contact or nearly contact both the outer peripheral surface of the pot and the contacting portions of the cover forming mold as the pot is moved. The sheet is pressed about the outer peripheral surface of the pot to form a cover about the pot. The cover has an inner surface facing the outer peripheral surface of the pot and an outer surface facing the interior of the mold.

[0053] Following this, a fastener is automatically applied about a portion of the outer surface of the covered pot for fastening the cover about the pot. Then, if a labeling assembly is included as a component of the apparatus a label is automatically applied to a portion of the outer surface of the cover of the covered pot for labeling the covered pot. Finally, the covered pot is removed from the opening. Alternatively, the step of automatically applying a label may occur prior to the step of automatically applying a fastener.

[0054] In an alternative embodiment, the step of placing a sheet of material on the support surface may be performed automatically using an automatic sheet feeding assembly. Also, the step of forming a covered article may be performed automatically by using an automatic pick and place assembly to pick up an article and place it into the opening to form the covered article. Additionally, the step of removing the covered article may further comprise automatically removing the covered article from the opening of the platform.

[0055] The machine may be located on any axis and may be portable or stationary. The machine can use pre-cut sheets fed manually or automatically with a dispenser which feeds a sized sheet from a roll to the proper working position on the machine table. The fastening apparatus may also tie the knot on a radius or on a tangent to the object.

The Embodiments of FIGS. 1-3

[0056] Shown in FIG. 1 and designated therein by the general reference numeral 10 is a sheet of material. The sheet of material 10 has a first end 12, a second end 14, a first side 16, a second side 18, an upper surface 20 and a lower surface 22.

[0057] A closure bonding material 24 may be disposed on the upper surface 20 of the sheet of material, alternatively, the sheet of material 10 may be free of a closure bonding material. As shown in FIG. 1, the closure bonding material 24, if present, may be disposed adjacent the first side 16 of the sheet of material 10 and extends between the first and the second ends 12 and 14 of the sheet of material 10 or it may be disposed on any other portion of the sheet 10. As shown in FIG. 1, the closure bonding material 24 is disposed on the upper surface 20 in a strip of closure bonding material 24, although the closure bonding material 24 also could be applied to the upper surface 20 of the sheet of material 10 in the form of spaced apart spots or the closure bonding material 24 also could be disposed on the upper surface 20 of the sheet of material 10 in any other geometric form and in any pattern including covering the entire upper surface 20 of the sheet of material 10. In this last-mentioned instance, the closure bonding material and the connecting bonding material would be contained within the bonding material covering the sheet of material 10. The term “spot” or “spots” includes any geometric shape of spot including, but not limited to, what is commonly referred to as strips.

[0058] The sheet of material 10 has a thickness in a range from about 0.1 mils to about 30 mils. Preferably, the sheet of material 10 has a thickness in a range from about 0.1 mils to about 5 mils.

[0059] The sheet of material 10 may be any shape and a square or rectangular shape is shown in FIG. 1 only by way of example. The sheet of material 10 for example only may be square, rectangular, circular or any other geometric shape such as heart shaped, for example only.

[0060] The sheet of material 10 may be constructed of a single layer of material or a plurality of layers of the same or different types of materials. Any thickness of the sheet of material 10 may be utilized in accordance with the present invention as long as the sheet of material 10 is wrappable about an object, such as a plant or flower pot, as described herein. The layers of material comprising the sheet of material 10 may be connected together or laminated or may be separate layers.

[0061] Shown in FIG. 2 is a second sheet of material 26. The second sheet of material 26 has a first end 28, a second end 30, a first side 32, a second side 34, an upper surface 36 and a lower surface 38. The second sheet of material 26, if used is preferably constructed of paper. The term “paper” as used herein means treated or untreated paper, corrugated paper or cardboard or any other form of paper material.

[0062] The first sheet of material 10 has a length 40 extending between the first and the second sides 16 and 18 of the sheet of material 10. The first sheet of material 10 also has a width 42 extending between the first and the second ends 12 and 14 of the first sheet of material 10.

[0063] The second sheet of material 26 has a length 44 extending between the first and the second sides 32 and 34 of the second sheet of material 26. The second sheet of material 26 has a width 46 extending between the first and the second ends 28 and 30 of the second sheet of material 26. In a preferred embodiment, the length 44 of the second sheet of material 26 is less than the length 40 of the first sheet of material 10 as shown in FIG. 3 so that, when the first sheet of material 10 is disposed adjacent the second sheet of material 26, a portion of the first sheet of material 10 adjacent the first side 16 thereof extends a distance beyond the first side 32 of the second sheet of material 26, in a manner and for reason which will be described in greater detail below.

[0064] The first sheet of material has a thickness in a range from about 0.5 mils to about 30 mils and preferably the thickness of the first sheet of material is in a range from about 0.5 mils to about 10 mils. The first sheet of material 10 is constructed of a material which is flexible.

[0065] The second sheet of material 26 has a thickness in a range from about 0.1 mils to about 30 mils and preferably in a range from about 0.1 mils to about 10 mils. The second sheet of material 26 is flexible, but relatively rigid compared to the first sheet of material 10.

[0066] The second sheet of material 26 may be any shape and a square or rectangular shape is shown in FIG. 2 only by way of example. The second sheet of material for example only may be square, rectangular, circular or any other geometric shape.

[0067] The second sheet of material 26 may be constructed of a single layer of materials or a plurality of layers of the same or different types of materials. Any thickness of the second sheet of material 26 may be utilized in accordance with the present invention as long as the second sheet of material 26 is wrappable about an object such as a flower pot, as described herein, and as long as the second sheet of material 26 provides the rigidity described herein or the absorbency described herein or both. The layers of material comprising the second sheet of material 26 may be connected together or laminated or may be separate layers.

[0068] In operation, when a second sheet of material 26 is desired in addition to the first sheet of material 10, the second sheet of material 26 is placed adjacent the first sheet of material 10 as shown in FIG. 3. In this position, the lower surface 38 of the second sheet of material 26 is disposed adjacent the upper surface 20 of the first sheet of material 10. The width 42 of the first sheet of material 10 is about equal to the width 46 of the second sheet of material 26 so that, when the first and the second sheets of material 10 and 26 are disposed adjacent each other, the first end 28 of the second sheet of material is generally aligned with the first end 12 of the first sheet of material 10, the second end 30 of the second sheet of material 26 is generally aligned with the second end 14 of the first sheet of material 10, the second side 18 of the first sheet of material 10 is generally aligned with the second side 34 of the second sheet of material and the first side 16 of the first sheet of material 10 extends a distance beyond the first side 32 of the second sheet of material 26 so that the closure bonding material 24 on the upper surface 20 of the first sheet of material 10 is exposed and not covered by the second sheet of material 26.

[0069] It should be noted that the first and the second sheets of material 10 and 26 each could have virtually identical lengths 40 and 44. In this case, the second sheet of material 26 is disposed on the first sheet of material 20 in such a manner that the second side 34 of the second sheet of material 26 extends a distance beyond the second side 18 of the first sheet of material 10 whereby the first side 16 of the first sheet of material 10 is spaced a distance from the first side 32 of the second sheet of material 26 thereby leaving the closure bonding material 24 on the first sheet of material 10 exposed and not covered by the second sheet of material 26. And multiple sheets of material 10 and 26 may be used. Moreover, when multiple sheets of material 10 and 26 are used in combination, the sheets of material 10 and 26 need not be uniform in size or shape. Finally, it will be appreciated that the sheets of material 10 and 26 shown in all embodiments herein are substantially flat.

[0070] As noted earlier, a closure bonding material may be disposed on the upper surface of the first sheet of material 10. The closure bonding material 24 may be applied as a strip or as spots or other shapes. One method for disposing a closure bonding material, in this case an adhesive, is described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,111,637 entitled “Method For Wrapping A Floral Grouping” issued to Weder et al., on May 12, 1992 and which is hereby incorporated herein by reference.

[0071] The first sheet of material 10 can be utilized alone or in combination with the second sheet of material 26 to wrap a potted plant or flower pot. The term “flower pot” refers to any type of container used for holding a floral grouping or a potted plant. Examples of flower pots used in accordance with the present invention are clay pots, plastic pots, and the like. “Floral grouping” as used herein means cut fresh flowers, artificial flowers, a single flower other fresh and/or artificial plants or other floral materials and may include other secondary plants and/or ornamentation or artificial or natural materials which add to the aesthetics of the overall floral arrangement. The floral grouping comprises a bloom or foliage portion and a stem portion. However, it will be appreciated that the floral grouping may consist of only a single bloom or only foliage (not shown). The term “floral grouping” may be used interchangeably herein with the term “floral arrangement”.

[0072] The first sheet of material 10 or the second sheet of material 26 may be constructed of a single layer of material or a plurality of layers of the same or different types of materials. Any thickness of the sheet of material 10 or 26 may be utilized in accordance with the present invention as long as the sheet of material 10 or 26 may be wrapped or formed about at least a portion of a portion of a flower pot, as described herein. Additionally, an insulating material such as bubble film, preferable as one of two or more layers, can be utilized in order to provide additional protection for the item wrapped therein.

[0073] In a preferred embodiment, the first sheet of material 10 is constructed from two polypropylene films (a 20″×15″ sheet of Mobil 270 ABW white opaque film laminated to a 20″×15″ sheet of Mobil 220 AB clear film) having a thickness in a range of from less than about 1.0 mil to about 2.5 mils. The layers of material comprising the first sheet of material 10 may be connected together or laminated or may be separate layers.

[0074] The sheet of material 10 is constructed from any suitable wrapping material that is capable of being wrapped about a flower pot or floral grouping, as the case may be. Preferably, the wrapping material 10 comprises paper (untreated or treated in any manner), cellophane, foil, polymer film, fabric (woven or nonwoven or synthetic or natural), burlap, or combinations thereof.

[0075] The term “polymer film” means a man-made polymer such as a polypropylene or a naturally occurring polymer such as cellophane. A polymer film is relatively strong and not as subject to tearing (substantially non-tearable), as might be the case with paper or foil.

[0076] The sheet of material 10 or 26 may vary in color. Further, the sheet of material 10 or 26 may consist of designs or decorative patterns which are printed, etched, and/or embossed thereon using inks or other printing materials. An example of an ink which may be applied to the surface of the sheet of material 10 or 26 is described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,147,706 entitled “Water Based Ink On Foil And/Or synthetic organic polymer” issued to Kingman on Sep. 15, 1992 and which is hereby incorporated herein by reference. In addition, the sheet of material 10 or 26 may have various colorings, coatings, flocking and/or metallic finishes, or other decorative surface ornamentation applied separately or simultaneously or may be characterized totally or partially by pearlescent, translucent, transparent, iridescent or the like, qualities. Each of the above-named characteristics may occur alone or in combination and may be applied to the upper and/or lower surface of the sheet of material 10 or 26. Moreover, each surface of the sheet of material 10 or 26 may vary in the combination of such characteristics. The sheet of material 10 or 26 itself may be opaque, translucent or partially clear or tinted transparent.

Embodiments of FIGS. 4-8

[0077] Referring now to FIG. 4, a bonding material may be applied to either the upper surface of a first sheet of material 10 a or to the lower surface of a second sheet 26 a of material in a plurality of patches 48 for the purpose of bonding the upper surface of the first sheet 10 a to the lower surface of the second sheet 26 a.

[0078] Shown in FIG. 5 is a modified first sheet of material 10 b connected to a modified second sheet of material 26 b. The first sheet of material 10 b is constructed exactly like the sheet of material 10. The second sheet of material 26 b is constructed like the sheet of material 26 described in detail before and shown in FIG. 2, except the second sheet of material 26 b includes a bonding material 60 disposed on the lower surface 38 b of the second sheet of material 26 b. The bonding material 60 is in the form of a plurality of spaced apart spots of bonding material 60, similar to that shown in FIG. 4. The lower surface 38 b of the second sheet of material 26 b is bondingly connected to the upper surface 20 b of the first sheet of material 10 b by way of the bonding material 60. Since the bonding material 60 is in the form of a plurality of spaced apart spots, a plurality of spaced apart spaces 62 (only one of the spaces 62 being designated by reference numeral in FIG. 5) are formed between the lower surface 38 b of the second sheet of material 26 b and the upper surface 20 b of the first sheet of material 10 b. The spaces 62 provide air gaps which form an insulation when the first and the second sheets of material 10 b and 26 b are wrapped about a flower pot in a manner and for reasons like that described herein.

[0079] Shown in FIG. 6 is a modified first sheet of material 10 c connected to a modified second sheet of material 26 c. The first sheet of material 10 c is constructed exactly like the sheet of material 10 shown in FIG. 1, except the first sheet of material 10 c includes a bonding material 64 disposed on the upper surface 20 c of the first sheet of material 10 c. The bonding material 64 is in the form of a plurality of spaced apart spots of bonding material 64, similar to that shown in FIG. 5. The lower surface 38 c of the second sheet of material 26 c is bondingly connected to the upper surface 20 c of the first sheet of material 10 c by way of the bonding material 64. Since the bonding material 64 is in the form of a plurality of spaced apart spots, a plurality of spaces 66 (only one of the spaces 66 being designated by a reference numeral in FIG. 6) are formed between the lower surface 38 c of the second sheet of material 26 c and the upper surface 20 c of the first sheet of material 10 c. The spaces 66 provide air gaps which form an insulation when the first and the second sheets of material 10 c and 26 c are wrapped about a flower pot in a manner and for reasons like that described herein in connection with FIG. 5.

[0080] Shown in FIG. 7 is a modified first sheet of material 10 d connected to a modified second sheet of material 26 d. The first sheet of material 10 d is constructed exactly like the sheet of material shown in FIG. 1, except the first sheet of material 10 d includes a bonding material 68 on the upper surface 20 d thereof. The second sheet of material 26 d is constructed exactly like the second sheet of material 26 shown in FIG. 2, except the second sheet of material 26 d includes a plurality of spaced apart raised portions 70. The raised portions 70 may be formed by embossing the second sheet of material 26 d or forming corrugations in the second sheet of material 26 d or in any other manner desired in any particular application.

[0081] The upper surface 20 d of the first sheet of material 10 d is disposed generally adjacent the lower surface 38 d of the second sheet of material 20 d or, more particularly, adjacent the raised portions 70 on the second sheet of material 26 d. In this position, the raised portions 70 are bonded to the upper surface 20 d of the first sheet of material 10 d by way of the bonding material 68 to connect the first sheet of material 10 d to the second sheet of material 20 d.

[0082] The spaced apart raised portions 70 on the second sheet of material 26 d form a plurality of spaces 72 between the first sheet of material 10 d and the second sheet of material 26 d in a connected position of the first and the second sheets of material 10 d and 26 d for providing insulation when the first and second sheets of material 10 d and 26 d are connected together and wrapped about a flower pot in a manner like that described herein.

[0083] Shown in FIG. 8 is a modified first sheet of material 10 e connected to a modified second sheet of material 26 e. The first sheet of material 10 e is constructed exactly like the sheet of material 10 shown in FIG. 1, except the first sheet of material 10 e includes a plurality of spaced apart raised portions 74. The raised portions 74 may be formed in the first sheet of material 10 e by embossing the first sheet of material 10 e or forming corrugations in the first sheet of material 10 e or in any other suitable manner. The second sheet of material 26 e is constructed exactly like the second sheet of material 26 shown in FIG. 2, except the second sheet of material 26 e includes a bonding material 76 disposed on the lower surface 38 e thereof.

[0084] In operation, the upper surface 20 e of the first sheet of material 10 e is disposed generally adjacent the lower surface 38 e of the second sheet of material 26 e or, more particularly, the raised portions 74 on the first sheet of material 10 e are disposed adjacent the lower surface 38 e of the second sheet of material 26 e. In this position, the first sheet of material 10 e is bondingly connected to the second sheet of material 26 e by way of the bonding material 76 on the second sheet of material 26 e or, more particularly, the bonding material 76 on the second sheet of material 26 e bondingly engages and bondingly connects to the raised portions 74 on the first sheet of material 10 e to connect the first sheet of material 10 e to the second sheet of material 26 e. In this connected position of the first sheet of material 10 e and the second sheet of material 26 e, the raised portions 74 cooperate to form a plurality of spaces 76. Between the first sheet of material 10 e and the second sheet of material 26 e. The spaces 76 cooperate to provide an insulation when the first and the second sheets of material 10 e and 26 e are wrapped about a flower pot in a manner and for reasons like that described herein.

Embodiments of FIGS. 9-10

[0085] Referring now to FIG. 9, a plurality of individual sheets of material 10 f are connected linearly together to form a roll 80. Preferably, the plurality of sheets of material 10 f in the roll 80 are connected by perforations 82, as illustrated in FIG. 9. Such a roll 80 permits one sheet of material 10 f to be withdrawn from the roll 80, then severed or disconnected from the roll 80. Alternatively, as shown in FIG. 10, the roll 80 may simply be formed as a continuous roll 80 of wrapping material without perforations, wherein a plurality of sheets of material 10 f may be removed from the roll 80 by unrolling a portion of the roll 80, and using a separate cutting element (not shown) to sever the unrolled portion of the roll 80 of material to form the sheet of material 10 f. The roll 80 may also be contained within a dispenser 84, as illustrated in FIG. 10. When the roll 80 is disposed in the dispenser 84, a portion of the wrapping material is again unrolled, and a serrated cutting edge 86 contained within the dispenser 84, or a separate cutting element (not shown), severs the unrolled portion of the wrapping material from the roll 80 to form a sheet of material 10 f. Any number of sheets of material 10 f may form the roll 80 as long as it is possible to withdraw at least one sheet 10 f from the roll 80 as described herein.

Embodiments of FIGS. 11-12

[0086] The first and the second sheets of material described herein can be provided in the form of a roll of first and second sheets of material wherein the first and the second sheets of material are unrolled from the roll of first and second sheets of material and the first and the second sheets of material are severed from the roll either by perforations at spaced apart locations in the roll or by cutting the first and the second sheets of material from the roll. It also should be noted that additional sheets of material may be combined with the first and the second sheets of material if so desired in a particular application.

[0087] Shown in FIG. 11 is a roll of material 90 comprising a first material 92 and a second material 94 with the second material 94 being disposed adjacent the first material 92. The first material 94 is constructed of any of the materials described before with respect to the first sheet of material. The second material 94 is constructed of any of the materials described before with respect to the second sheet of material.

[0088] The roll of material 90 is disposed in a dispenser 96 having an opening 98 through which the materials 92 and 94 may be withdrawn from the roll of material 90. A cutting edge 100 is disposed on the dispenser 96 near the opening 98. The cutting edge 100 may be a sawtooth type of edge, as shown in FIG. 11, or the cutting edge 100 may be any other type of edge or device suitable for cutting a portion of the materials 92 and 94 from the roll of material 90 and the cutting edge 100 may be connected to the dispenser 96 or may be a separate component if desired in particular application.

[0089] The roll of material 90 has a leading edge 102. In operation, the leading edge 102 is gripped or a portion of the first and/or the second materials are gripped and the first and the second materials are unrolled and withdrawn from the roll of material 90 in a direction 104. The first and the second materials 92 and 94 are withdrawn or unrolled from the roll of material 90 until a desired length of the first and the second materials 92 and 94 have been withdrawn from the roll of material 90. In this position, a portion of the first and the second materials 92 and 94 are disposed adjacent the cutting edge 100. The first and the second materials 92 and 94 then are maneuvered to pass the first and the second materials 92 and 94 over the cutting edge 100 thereby severing a portion of the material extending a distance from the leading edge 102 thereof from the roll of material 90. The portion of the first and the second materials 92 and 94 withdrawn from the roll of material 90 and severed from the roll of material 90 comprise the first and the second sheets of material as described herein.

[0090] The first and the second materials 92 and 94 in the roll of material 90 may be connected or unconnected. Further, the roll of material 90 may comprise two rolls of material with one of the rolls of material comprising the first material 92 and the other roll of material comprising the second material 94. In this last-mentioned embodiment, the first material 92 is withdrawn from the first roll of material and the second material 94 is withdrawn from the second roll of material about simultaneously so that the first and the second materials 92 and 94 are provided in a manner as generally shown in FIG. 11 for severing from the first and second rolls of material to provide the first and the second sheets of material as described herein. The term “roll of material” as used herein is intended to encompass two or more rolls in the manner generally described.

[0091] Shown in FIG. 12 is a modified roll of material 90 a comprising a first material 92 a and a second material 94 a with a leading edge 102 a. The roll of material 90 a is constructed exactly like the roll of material 90 described before, except the roll of material 90 a is not disposed in a dispenser constructed like the dispenser 96 shown in FIG. 11. Rather, the roll of material 90 a is supported on a generally mounted shaft 106. The first and the second sheets of material 92 a and 94 a are withdrawn from the roll of material 90 a in a manner like that described before in connection with FIG. 11 until a predetermined length of the first and the second materials 92 a and 94 a have been withdrawn from the roll of material 90 a. In this position, a portion of the first and the second materials 92 a and 94 a are disposed under a knife edge 108. The knife edge 108 is connected to an actuator 110 adapted to move the knife edge 108 in a direction 112 and in a direction 114. When the predetermined length of the first and the second materials 92 a and 94 a have been withdrawn from the roll of material 90 a, the actuator 110 actuates to move the knife edge 108 in the direction 112 to a position wherein the knife edge 108 severingly engages the materials 92 a and 94 a to severingly cut a portion of the first and the second materials 92 a and 94 a from the roll of materials 90 a to provide the first and the second sheets of material as described herein. The actuator 110 may comprise a hydraulic or pneumatic cylinder or a motor and gear arrangement or any other form of arrangement suitable for moving the knife edge 108 in the directions 112 and 114. After the knife edge 108 has cuttingly severed the desired portion of the first and the second sheets of material 92 a and 94 a from the roll of material 90 a, the actuator 110 is actuated to move the knife edge 108 in the direction 114 to a storage position disposed a distance above the first and the second materials 92 a and 94 a as opposed to the cutting position previously described.

Embodiment of FIG. 13

[0092] Shown in FIG. 13 is a pad 116 of first sheets of materials designated by the reference numerals 10 f, 10 g, and 10 h in FIG. 13 and a plurality of second sheets of material designated in FIG. 13 by the reference numerals 26 f, 26 g and 26 h. The first sheets of material 10 f, 10 g and 10 h may be constructed like the sheet of material 10 shown in FIG. 1 and described in detail before and the second sheets of material 26 f, 26 g and 26 h may be constructed like the second sheet of material 26 shown in FIG. 2 and described in detail before, or like any of the other first and the second sheets of material described herein. The first and the second sheets of material 10 f, 10 g, 10 h, 26 f, 26 g and 26 h are connected in the form of a pad 116 with the closure bonding material 24 f, 24 g and 24 h cooperating to connect the first sheets of material 10 f, 10 g and 10 h in the form of the pad 116. The second sheets of material 26 f, 26 g and 26 h may be connected to the respective first sheets of material 10 f, 10 g and 10 h or may be interleaved between the adjacent first sheets of material 10 f, 10 g and 10 h in the pad 116. In the alternative, the second sheets of material 26 f, 26 g and 26 h may be connected to form the pad 116 with the first sheets of material 10 f, 10 g and 10 h being interleaved in the respective second sheets of material 26 f, 26 g and 26 h and/or connected thereto. In operation, one of the first sheets of material 10 f, 10 g or 10 h along with the adjacent second sheet of material 26 f, 26 g and 26 h may be removed from the pad 116 and then placed in position to be wrapped about the flower pot.

Embodiments of FIGS. 14-18

[0093] As noted above, a first sheet of material 10 or a first sheet 10 and a second sheet of material 26 may be used to provide a decorative cover for an object such as a flower pot or a potted plant. To cover the object, the sheet or sheets may be manually or automatically placed in a position to be formed about the outer peripheral surface of the pot or potted plant as described in more detail below. Or, the sheet or sheets may be formed into a preformed cover which is then placed in a position to receive the pot or potted plant.

[0094] Referring to FIG. 14, to form a sheet of material 10 i into a cover about a pot 140, the sheet of material 10 i is disposed above an opening in a platform. The pot 140 is then disposed upon the upper surface 20 i of the sheet of material 10 i, so the lower end 142 of the pot 140 rests upon the portion of the upper surface 20 i which is over the opening. The pot 140 has an outer peripheral surface 144 and an upper end 146. In one embodiment of a manual application of the sheet 10 i about the pot 140, the pot 140 is manually pushed in a direction into the opening covered by the sheet 10 i. The upper surface 20 i of the sheet of material 10 i is caused to be pressed about the outer peripheral surface 20 i (FIG. 15) thereby engaging the outer peripheral surface 20 i to form a cover 148 about the pot 140 as shown in FIG. 16. The lower surface 22 i of the sheet of material 10 i thereby becomes the outer surface 150 of the cover 148.

[0095] Another method for wrapping the sheet of material 10 i about a pot 140 for forming such a cover is shown in U.S. Pat. No. 4,733,521 entitled “Cover Forming Apparatus” issued to Weder et al., on Mar. 29, 1988, which is hereby incorporated herein by reference.

[0096] A cover 148 formed by wrapping the sheet of material 10 i about the flower pot 140 may be secured to the outer peripheral surface 144 of the pot 140 by the use of one or more bonding materials described herein. One particular method of securing the cover 148 to the pot 140 is by applying a band about the pot 140 to hold the covering in place such as is described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,105,599 entitled “Means For Securing A Decorative Cover About A Flower Pot” issued to Weder on Apr. 21, 1992 and which is hereby incorporated herein by reference.

[0097] Alternatively, the sheet of material may be preformed into a cover 152 having an opening 154 as shown in FIG. 17. The cover 152 is self-supporting by virtue of overlapping folds which are bonded to each other, thereby forming a rigid structure. The preformed cover 152 may be deposited into an opening in a table or platform to support the cover 152. A potted plant 156 can then be disposed into the opening 154 of the preformed cover 152, thereby resulting in a covered potted plant 158 as shown in FIG. 18.

[0098] One method for forming such a preformed plant cover or pot cover is shown in U.S. Pat. No. 4,773,182 entitled “Article Forming System” issued to Weder et al., on Sep. 27, 1988, which is hereby incorporated herein by reference.

Embodiments of FIGS. 19-22

[0099] Referring to FIG. 19, as shown therein and designated by the general reference numeral 10 j is another sheet of material constructed in accordance with the present invention. The sheet of material 10 j shown in FIG. 19 has an upper surface 12 j, a lower surface 14 j (FIG. 21), a first end 16 j, a second end 18 j, a first side 20 j and a second side 22 j. The ends 16 j and 18 j cooperate with the sides 20 j and 22 j to define an outer peripheral surface 24 j of the sheet of material 10 j. The outer peripheral surface 24 j of the sheet of material 10 j is defined by perforations 26 j, as shown in FIGS. 19, 21 and 22.

[0100] As shown in FIGS. 19, 21 and 22, a sheet extension 28 j is connected to the outer peripheral surface 24 j of the sheet of material 10 j. As shown in FIGS. 19 and 21, the sheet extension 28 j extends a distance outwardly from the outer peripheral surface 24 j of the sheet of material 10 j. The sheet extension 28 j has a first end 30 j, a second end 32 j, a first side 34 j and a second side 36 j. A portion of the sheet extension 28 j extends a distance outwardly from the first end 16 j of the sheet of material 10 j terminating with the first end 30 j of the sheet extension 28 j. Another portion of the sheet extension 28 j extends a distance outwardly from the second end 18 j of the sheet of material 10 j terminating with the second end 32 j of the sheet extension 28 j. Yet another portion of the sheet extension 28 j extends a distance outwardly from the first side 20 j of the sheet of material 10 j terminating with the first side 34 j of the sheet extension 28 j. Still another portion of the sheet extension 28 j extends a distance outwardly from the second side 22 j of the sheet of material 10 j terminating with the second side 36 j of the sheet extension 28 j.

[0101] The sheet extension 28 j cooperates with the sheet of material 10 j to define a generally square or rectangularly shaped sheet with the perforations 26 j being disposed in a central portion of the sheet and defining the outer peripheral surface 24 j of the sheet of material 10 j. Preferably, the sheet of material 10 j and the sheet extension 28 j are unitary and formed from a single sheet or plies or multiple sheets one on top of the other which may or may not be laminated.

[0102] The sheet of material 10 j and the sheet extension 28 j are constructed from any suitable flexible material that is capable of being wrapped about a floral grouping and formed into the covering, as described herein. Preferably, the sheet of material 10 j and the sheet extension 28 j are constructed of a material selected from a group of materials consisting of paper, metal foil, cloth (natural or synthetic), denim, burlap or polymer film as defined above or combinations thereof.

[0103] The sheet of material 10 j and the sheet extension 28 j have a thickness in a range from about 0.1 mils to about 30 mils. Preferably, the sheet of material 10 j and the sheet extension 28 j have a thickness in a range from about 0.1 mils to about 5 mils.

[0104] The sheet of material 10 j and the sheet extension 28 j may be any shape and a rectangular shape is shown in FIG. 19 only by way of example. The sheet of material 10 j and the sheet extension 28 j for example only may be square, rectangular, circular or any other geometric shape such as heart shaped for example only.

[0105] The sheet of material 10 j and the sheet extension 28 j may be constructed of a single layer of material or a plurality of layers of the same or different types of materials. Any thickness of the sheet of material 10 j and the sheet extension 28 j may be utilized in accordance with the present invention as long as the sheet of material 10 j and the sheet extension 28 j is wrappable about a floral grouping and formable into the covering, as described herein. The layers of material comprising the sheet of material 10 j and the sheet extension 28 j may be connected together or laminated or may be separate layers.

[0106] The covering of the present invention is particularly constructed to be used with a pot 38 j (FIG. 20). The pot 38 j has a top 40 j, a bottom 42 j with an opening through the top 40 j forming a receiving space 44 j within the pot 38 j. The pot 38 j also has an outer peripheral surface 46 j. As shown in FIG. 20, the pot 38 j is generally cylindrically shaped. However, the pot 38 j may be any shaped as may be desired in a particular application.

[0107] A floral grouping 48 j is disposed at least partially within the receiving space of the pot 38 j, as shown in FIG. 20. The floral grouping 48 j has a stemmed end 50 j and a bloom end 52 j. In one embodiment as shown in FIG. 20, material such as soil 54 j is disposed in the receiving space 44 j and a portion of the stem end 50 j extends into the soil 54 j. The floral grouping extends a distance upwardly from the top 40 j of the pot 38 j terminating with the bloom end 52 j.

[0108] The sheet extension 28 j is transparent, although a decorative pattern also may be applied to the sheet extension 28 j.

[0109] The sheet of material 10 j with the sheet extension 28 j connected thereto is placed between a male and a female die or other forming means and formed into a pot cover 56 j (FIG. 21). As shown in FIGS. 21 and 22, the pot cover 56 j has a top 58 j, a closed bottom 60 j and a cover opening 62 j (FIG. 21) formed through the top 58 j and extending through the top 58 j a distance toward the bottom 60 j of the pot cover 56 j providing a pot receiving space 64 j (FIG. 21). The pot receiving space 64 j is shaped and adapted to receive the pot 38 j.

[0110] The pot cover 56 j has a plurality of overlapping folds 66 j (FIG. 21) with each of the overlapping folds 66 j extending at various distances and at various angles over an outer peripheral surface 68 j (FIG. 21) of the pot cover 56 j extending between the top 58 j and the bottom 60 j. The overlapping folds 66 j extend at various angles and over various distance over the outer peripheral surface 68 j.

[0111] The pot cover 56 j includes a skirt 70 j (FIGS. 21 and 22). The skirt 70 j extends from the top 40 j of the pot 38 j radially outwardly with an outer peripheral surface of the skirt 70 j being formed by the outer peripheral surface 24 j of the sheet of material 10 j. The perforations 26 j extend along the outer peripheral surface of the skirt 70 j formed by the outer peripheral surface 24 j of the sheet of material 10 j.

[0112] The overlapping folds 66 j may be connected or at least partially connected. The connection of the overlapping folds may be accomplished by using heat sealing material and heat sealing the overlapping folds or by adhesively or cohesively connecting the overlapping folds.

[0113] The pot 38 j is placed in the pot receiving space 64 j and positioned in the pot cover 56 j such that the bottom 42 j of the pot 38 j is disposed generally adjacent the bottom 60 j of the pot cover 56 j. The pot cover 56 j substantially encompasses the entire outer peripheral surface 46 j of the pot 38 j including the bottom 42 j. The pot cover 56 j extends from the bottom 42 j to the top 40 j of the pot 38 j. The skirt 70 j extends radially outwardly from the top 40 j of the pot 38 j.

[0114] After the pot 38 j has been placed in the pot cover 56 j, the skirt extension 28 j is formed about the floral grouping 48 j to a position wherein the sheet extension 28 j covers and encompasses a substantial portion of the floral grouping including the bloom end of the floral grouping.

[0115] The sheet extension 28 j preferably includes a bonding material 72 j (FIG. 19) disposed on the upper surface of the sheet extension 28 j and extending about the outer peripheral surface of the sheet extension 28 j. After the sheet extension 28 j has been formed about the floral grouping 48 j, the ends of the sheet of material are bonded together to provide a closed end 74 j (FIG. 22). The term “bonding material” as used herein is as defined below.

[0116] The sheet extension 28 j remains in a position extending about the floral grouping 48 j until it is desired to remove the sheet extension 28 j. The sheet extension 28 j is removed from the pot cover 56 j by tearing along the perforations 26 j separating the sheet extension 28 j from the pot cover 56 j. The sheet extension 28 j then is removed from the floral grouping 48 j leaving the pot cover 56 j providing a decorative cover for the pot 38 j.

[0117] In addition to the perforations 26 j, the sheet extension 28 j also may include perforations extending between the perforations 26 j and the outer peripheral surface of the sheet extension 28 j to further assist in the removal of the sheet extension 28 j when it is no longer desired to keep the sheet extension 28 j extending about the floral grouping 48 j.

[0118] Shown in FIG. 23 and designated by the general reference number 10 k is a sheet of material constructed in accordance with the present invention. The sheet of material 10 k includes a first end 12 k, a second end 14 k, a first side 16 k and a second side 18 k. The sheet of material 10 k also includes an upper surface 20 k (FIG. 23) and a lower surface 22 k (FIG. 24).

[0119] A connecting bonding material 24 k is disposed on the upper surface 20 k of the sheet of material 10 k. The sheet of material 10 k has an outer peripheral surface 26 k. The connecting bonding material 10 k is disposed near and spaced a distance 28 k from the outer peripheral surface 26 k of the sheet of material 10 k and extends generally circumferentially about the sheet of material 10 k.

[0120] The sheet of material 10 k shown in FIG. 23 is circularly shaped and the connecting bonding material 24 k extends in a circularly shaped pattern over the upper surface 20 k of the sheet of material 10 k. The sheet of material 10 k may be any geometric shape such as square or rectangular or heart shaped or trapezoidally shaped or any other geometric shape. Further, the connecting bonding material 24 k may extend in any geometric pattern over the upper surface 20 k of the sheet of material 10 k, and the circularly shaped pattern is shown in FIG. 23 only by way of example.

[0121] A sheet extension 25 k is connected to the sheet of material 10 k. The sheet extension 25 k extends about the outer peripheral surface 26 k of the sheet of material 10 k. The sheet extension 25 k extends outwardly from the sheet of material 10 k terminating with an outer peripheral surface 27 k. The sheet extension 25 k has an upper surface 29 k (FIG. 23) and a lower surface 31 k (FIG. 24). The upper surface 29 k is disposed in a plane about coplanar with the upper surface 22 k of the sheet of material 10 k and lower surface 31 k is disposed in a plane about coplanar with the lower surface 22 k of the sheet of material 10 k.

[0122] The sheet extension 25 k and the sheet of material 10 k may be integrally constructed of a single sheet of material or the sheet extension 25 k may be laminated to the sheet of material 10 k. A connecting bonding material 33 k is disposed on the upper surface 29 k of the sheet extension 25 k. The connecting bonding material 33 k is disposed near and spaced a distance from the outer peripheral surface 27 k of the sheet extension 25 k and extends generally circumferentially about the sheet extension 25 k.

[0123] The sheet extension 25 k is shown in FIG. 23 as being circularly shaped. The sheet extension 25 k may be any geometric shape such as a square or rectangular or heart shaped or trapezoidally shaped or any other geometric shape and the geometric shape of the sheet extension 25 k may be the same as the geometric shape of the sheet of material 10 k or the sheet extension 25 k may have a geometric shape different from the geometric shape of the sheet of material 10 k. Further, although the sheet extension 25 k is shown in FIG. 23 as extending circumferentially about the outer peripheral surface 26 k of the sheet of material 10 k, the sheet extension 25 k may extend only about a portion of the outer peripheral surface 26 k of the sheet of material 10 k or the sheet extension 25 k may comprise segments with each segment extending about a portion of the outer peripheral surface 26 k of the sheet of material 10 k.

[0124] The sheet of material 10 k and the sheet extension 25 k may be constructed of a single layer of material or a plurality of layers of the same or different types of materials as described above. Any thickness of the sheet of material 10 k and the sheet extension 25 k may be utilized in accordance with the present invention as long as the sheet of material 10 k and the sheet extension 25 k are wrappable or formable about a flower pot or a floral grouping in the manners described herein. The layers of material comprising the sheet of material 10 k and the sheet extension 25 k may be connected together or laminated or may be separate layers. A decorative pattern, such as a color and/or an embossed pattern, and/or other decorative surface ornamentation may be applied to the upper surface 20 k and/or the lower surface 22 k of the sheet of material 10 k or portions thereof as described above.

[0125] A decorative pattern, such as a color and/or an embossed pattern, and/or other decorative surface ornamentation may be applied to the upper surface 29 k and/or the lower surface 31 k of the sheet extension 25 k or portions thereof as described above. The sheet extension 25 k also may be totally or partially clear or tinted transparent material as described above.

[0126] The connecting bonding materials 24 k and 33 k are shown in FIG. 23 as being applied to the upper surface 20 k or the upper surface 29 k in the form of a circularly shaped strip. The connecting bonding materials 24 k or 33 k may be applied in the form of spots or spaced apart strips and the spots may be any geometric pattern or any other type of pattern such as a logo for example. Further, the connecting bonding materials 24 k or 33 k may include a color to obscure the fact that the connecting bonding materials 24 k and 33 k are disposed on the sheet of material 10 k or the sheet extension 25 k.

[0127] Shown in FIG. 24 is a flower pot 30 k having an upper end 32 k, a lower end 34 k and an outer peripheral surface 36 k. An opening 38 k is formed through the upper end 32 k of the flower pot 30 k providing access to a retaining space 40 k.

[0128] The retaining space 40 k forms an inner peripheral surface 42 k in the flower pot 30 k. A bottom 44 k of the flower pot 30 k is disposed at the lower end 34 k and cooperates to enclose or partially enclose the retaining space 40 k. The flower pot 30 k may be any conventional, commercially available container well known in the art.

[0129] Growing medium 45 k is shown in FIG. 24 disposed in the retaining space 40 k and a floral grouping 47 k is shown in FIG. 24 partially disposed in the growing media 45 k. A portion of the floral grouping 47 k extends a distance upwardly above the upper end 32 k of the flower pot 30 k.

[0130] The flower pot 30 k is placed on the upper surface 20 k of the sheet of material 10 k. More particularly, the bottom 44 k of the flower pot 30 k is disposed on a central portion of the sheet of material 10 k. In this position, the connecting bonding material 24 k extends circumferentially about the flower pot 30 k and the connecting bonding material 24 k is spaced a distance from the flower pot 30 k.

[0131] The sheet of material 10 k then is formed about the flower pot 30 k to a position wherein the sheet of material 10 k extends about and encompasses substantially the entire outer peripheral surface 36 k of the flower pot 30 k, including the bottom 44 k. It should be noted that the sheet of material 10 k does not have to cover the bottom 44 k. In this position, a portion of the sheet of material 10 k is disposed adjacent the bottom 44 k of the flower pot 10 k and portions of the sheet of material 10 k extend upwardly and encompass the entire outer peripheral surface 36 k of the flower pot 30 k between the upper end 32 k and the lower end 34 k of the flower pot 10 k. In one embodiment, the portions of the sheet of material 10 k extending over the outer peripheral surface 36 k are spaced a distance from the outer peripheral surface 36 k of the flower pot 30 k to provide a blossom type affect.

[0132] In this position, the portion of the sheet of material 10 k disposed near and about the connecting bonding material 24 k is crimped by bringing together portions of the sheet of material 10 k near and about the connecting bonding material 24 k so that portions of the sheet of material 10 k near and about the connecting bonding material 24 k are disposed adjacent each other and the adjacent portions of the sheet of material 10 k are connected by way of the connecting bonding material 24 k thereby forming a plurality of overlapping folds 45 k in the portion of the sheet of material 10 k near and about the connecting bonding material 24 k. The connected overlapping folds 45 k extend at various distances and at various angles. The connected overlapping folds 45 k (FIG. 24) in the area near and about the portion of the sheet of material 10 k containing the connecting bonding material 24 k is designated in FIG. 24 by the reference numeral 46 k and maybe referred to herein as the crimped portion 46 k (FIG. 24).

[0133] A typical section showing a portion of a typical overlapping fold 45 k is shown in FIG. 25. The adjacent portions of the sheet of material 10 k on the upper surface 20 k are shown in FIG. 25 as being connected while the adjacent portions of the sheet of material 10 k on the lower surface 22 k are unconnected since no bonding material is disposed on the lower surface 22 k. It should be noted that connecting bonding material also can be disposed on the lower surface 22 k for connecting adjacent portions of the lower surface 22 k in the crimped portion 46 k if desired and as described in more detail below.

[0134] The crimped portion 46 k extends circumferentially about the upper end 32 k of the flower pot 30 k. The crimped portion 46 k also extends a distance inwardly from the upper end 32 k of the flower pot 30 k toward a central portion of the retaining space 40 k thereby forming a ridge portion 48 k extending circumferentially about the flower pot 30 k generally near the upper end 32 k of the flower pot 30 k. The crimped portion 46 k and the ridge portion 48 k thereof cooperate to engage the upper end 32 k of the flower pot 30 k to assist and cooperate in holding the sheet of material 10 k formed about the flower pot 30 k to provide a decorative cover 50 k (FIG. 24).

[0135] The crimped portion 46 k when formed preferably causes adjacent portions of the upper and lower surfaces 20 k and 22 k of the sheet of material 10 k to be brought together or positioned adjacent each other. The crimped portion 46 k and the other crimped portions shown in the drawings are shown in an expanded form where the portions of the lower surface 22 k are not disposed adjacent each other for the purpose of illustration and because this expanded form may be desired in some applications.

[0136] Either before or after or during the forming of the crimped portion 46 k, the sheet extension 25 k is formed about the floral grouping 47 k to a position wherein the sheet extension 25 k encompasses a substantial portion of the floral grouping 47 k, as shown in FIG. 24. The sheet extension 25 k extends upwardly about the floral grouping 47 k with a portion of the sheet extension 25 k extending upwardly beyond the upper end of the floral grouping 47 k terminating with the outer peripheral surface 27 k of the sheet extension 25 k and forming an open upper end. In this position of the sheet extension 25 k, portions of the sheet extension 25 k near the outer peripheral surface 27 k (the open upper end) thereof are brought into contact thereby bringing the bonding material 33 k into contact and engagement with adjacent portions of the sheet extension 25 k for closing the sheet extension 25 k about or above an upper end of the floral grouping 47 k.

[0137] In a preferred form, a line of perforations 53 k (FIGS. 23 and 24) is formed between the sheet of material 10 k and the sheet extension 25 k. The line of perforations 53 k extends generally about the outer peripheral surface 26 k of the sheet of material 10 k. The sheet extension 25 k encompasses the floral grouping 47 k and provides a protective covering for the floral grouping 47 k to protect the floral grouping 47 k during shipment and/or storage. When it is desired to remove the protective covering provided by the sheet extension 25 k, the operator tears the sheet extension 25 k along the line of perforations 53 k thereby severing or separating the sheet extension 25 k from the sheet of material 10 k so that the sheet extension 25 k can be removed from the sheet of material 10 k or, in other words, the protective covering may be removed from the decorative covering by tearing along the line of perforations 53 k.

[0138] The term “bonding material” when used herein means an adhesive, preferably a pressure sensitive adhesive, or a cohesive. Where the bonding material is a cohesive, a similar cohesive material must be placed on the adjacent surface for bondingly contacting and bondingly engaging with the cohesive material. The term “bonding material” also includes materials which are heat sealable and, in this instance, the adjacent portions of the material must be brought into contact and then heat must be applied to effect the seal. The term “bonding material” also includes materials which are sonic sealable and vibratory sealable. The term “bonding material” when used herein also means a heat sealing lacquer which may be applied to the sheet of material and, in this instance, heat, sound waves, or vibrations, also must be applied to effect the sealing.

[0139] The term “bonding material” when used herein also means any type of material or thing which can be used to effect the bonding or connecting of the two adjacent portions of the material or sheet of material to effect the connection or bonding described herein. The term “bonding material” also includes ties, labels, bands, ribbons, strings, tape, staples or combinations thereof. Some of the bonding materials would secure the ends of the material while other bonding material may bind the circumference of the wrapper. Another way to secure the wrapping is to heat seal the ends of the material to another portion of the material. One way to do this is to contact the ends with an iron of sufficient heat to heat seal the material.

[0140] The term “bonding material” when used herein also means any heat or chemically shrinkable material, and static electrical or other electrical means, magnetic means, mechanical or barb-type fastening means or clamps, curl-type characteristics of the film or materials incorporated in the sheet of material which can cause the material to take on certain shapes, and any type of welding method which may weld portions of the sheet to itself or to the pot, or to both the sheet itself and the pot.

[0141] The term “botanical item” when used herein means a natural or artificial herbaceous or woody plant, taken singly or in combination. The term “botanical item” also means any portion or portions of natural or artificial herbaceous or woody plants including stems, leaves, flowers, blossoms, buds, blooms, cones, or roots, taken singly or in combination, or in groupings of such portions such as bouquet or floral grouping.

[0142] The term “propagule” when used herein means any structure capable of being propagated or acting as an agent of reproduction including seeds, shoots, stems, runners, tubers, plants, leaves, roots or spores.

[0143] The term “growing medium” when used herein means any liquid, solid or gaseous material used for plant growth or for the cultivation of propagules, including organic and inorganic materials such as soil, humus, perlite, vermiculite, sand, water, and including the nutrients, fertilizers or hormones or combinations thereof required by the plants or propagules for growth.

[0144] The term “band” when used herein means any material which may be secured about an object such as a flower pot, such bands commonly being referred to as elastic bands, rubber bands or non-elastic bands and also includes any other type of material such as an elastic or non-elastic string or elastic piece of material, non-elastic piece of material, a round piece of material, a flat piece of material, a ribbon, a piece of paper strip, a piece of plastic strip, a piece of wire, a tie wrap or a twist tie or combinations thereof or any other device capable of gathering the sheet of material to removably or substantially permanently form a crimped portion and secure the crimped portion formed in the sheet of material which may be secured about an object such as the flower pot. The band also may include a bow if desired in a particular application.

[0145] The sheet of material used herein may further comprise at least one scent (not shown). Examples of scents utilized herein include (but are not limited to) floral scents (flower blossoms, or any portion of a plant), food scents (chocolate, sugar, fruits), herb or spice scents (cinnamon), and the like. Additional examples of scents include flowers (such as roses, daisies, lilacs), plants (such as fruits, vegetables, grasses, trees), foods (for example, candies, cookies, cake), food condiments (such as honey, sugar, salt), herbs, spices, woods, roots, and the like, or any combination of the foregoing. Such scents are known in the art, and are commercially available.

[0146] The scent may be disposed upon the sheet of material 10 by spraying the scent thereupon, painting the scent thereupon, brushing the scent thereupon, lacquering the scent thereupon, immersing the sheet of material in a scent-containing liquid, exposing the sheet of material to scent-containing gas, or any combination thereof.

[0147] The scent may be contained within a lacquer, or other liquid, before it is disposed upon the sheet of material 10. The scent may also be contained within a dye, ink, and/or pigment (not shown). Such dyes, inks and pigments are known in the art, and are commercially available, and may be disposed upon or incorporated in the sheet of material 10 by any method described herein or known in the art.

Embodiments of FIGS. 26-28

[0148] In one version, the apparatus of the present invention comprises a platform having an upper support surface formed thereon and at least one opening extending through the upper support surface. The upper support surface is adapted to support at least one sheet of material in a cover forming position over the opening. The opening is sized to accommodate a cover forming mold.

[0149] The apparatus further comprises a cover forming mold disposed below the opening in the support surface. The cover forming mold has contacting portions for contacting the sheet of material. The opening and the cover forming mold are adapted for receiving an article such as a flower pot having an upper end, a lower end, an upper opening and an outer peripheral surface such that when the article is moved in a pre-determined direction, such as downward, the lower end of the article is caused to engage a portion of the sheet of material disposed over the opening. The article and portions of the sheet of material thus pass into the cover forming mold causing the sheet of material to engage the outer peripheral surface of the article and the contacting portions of the cover forming mold as the article is moved. As this happens, portions of the sheet contactingly engage or nearly engage the outer peripheral surface of the article forming a cover about the article and thereby forming a covered article. The cover of the covered article then has an inner surface facing the outer peripheral surface of the article and an exposed outer surface adjacent the inner portion of the mold.

[0150] The apparatus further comprises a fastening device for automatically applying a fastener about a portion of the outer surface of the covered article. In an alternate version, the apparatus may comprise a labeling assembly for automatically applying a label to a portion of the outer surface of the cover of the covered article, preferably after the cover has been fastened to the article.

[0151] The sheet of material used in accordance with the present invention is constructed from a material selected from a group of materials described in greater detail below. The apparatus may further comprise a securing assembly for releasably securing the sheet of material in the cover forming position on the upper support surface for generally immobilizing the sheet prior to the forming step. The apparatus may further comprise a sheet feeder for automatically placing a sheet of material on the support surface and/or a pick an place assembly for picking up the article from an article supply and for placing the article into the opening to form the covered article. Additionally, the apparatus may further comprise a removal assembly for automatically removing the covered article from the opening of the platform.

[0152] Referring now to FIG. 26, a portion of a covering and fastening assembly designed in accordance with the present invention is generally designated by the reference numeral 170. The covering and fastening assembly 170 is mounted upon a framework (not shown) which may be mobile or stationary. The assembly 170 comprises an upper platform 172 which has an upper support surface 174 and an opening 176.

[0153] A sheet of material (such as sheet 26 in FIG. 2) is manually placed upon the upper support surface 174 generally over the opening 176 in the upper support surface 174. The sheet of material may be obtained from a stack of sheets such as shown in FIG. 13, or may be obtained from a sheet dispenser such as shown in FIGS. 10-12 and discussed above. In one alternate version of the invention, the sheet of material may be automatically fed from a sheet feeding apparatus (not shown). Automatic sheet feeding devices are well known in the art. Examples of such sheet feeding machines are shown in U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,887,805 issued to Herbert et al., 4,889,331 issued to Sardella, and 5,090,676 issued to Matsumo et al. An automatic sheet feeding machine, if used, is detachably connected to the framework of the apparatus of the present invention.

[0154] In a preferred version of the invention, a cover former (not shown) is detachably mounted in each opening 176. Examples of cover formers contemplated in accordance with the present invention are disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 4,733,521 as discussed above, and are hereby incorporated herein by reference.

[0155] An article or potted plant or pot such as pot 140 may be delivered to the apparatus manually or automatically. When the operation is manual, a pot 140 or a potted plant such as the potted plant 156 is disposed above the sheet of material and is pushed downward into the opening 176, through the cover former disposed therein, forming the sheet of material into a cover 180 about the potted plant.

[0156] Alternatively, the potted plant 156 may be deposited into the cover forming position by a pick and place machine (not shown) which is an apparatus for grasping an article from a plurality of stored articles, delivering the article to the correct position above a sheet of material and then automatically depositing the article into the opening 176, and disengaging from the article once the article is deposited into the opening 176. Such pick and place machines are familiar to persons of ordinary skill in the art of object pickup and placement.

[0157] Once a pot 140 or potted plant 156 has had a cover 180 applied thereabout, a fastening assembly 182 serves to apply a fastener 184 about the cover 180 which has been applied about the pot 140 or potted plant 156. Examples of fastening machines include tying machines such as those commercially available from Saxmeyer, Bunn, Felins, and Cyclops.

[0158] The fastening machine 182 is mounted upon the mobile or stationary framework.

[0159] In the embodiment represented in FIGS. 26-28, the fastening assembly 182 is constructed to apply a fastener or band to the covered article or pot in a plane beneath the upper support surface 174. The fastening assembly 182 comprises a tie arm 186 having a tie end 188 and a pivot end 190, a tie arm shaft 192, a knotter head 194, a rocker plate 196 and a vertical rod 198 mounted to a lower support assembly 200. A string, tie, wire, or other type of band or fastener 184 is drawn through the knotter head 194 and engaged with the tie end 188 of the tie arm 186. The fastener 184 is looped outside of the vertical rod 198 as shown in FIG. 26 which serves as a fastener retraction assembly so that the stress of the fastener 184 upon the cover 180 is relieved so as not to tear the cover 180. The tie arm 186 is rotated by the tie arm shaft 192 in a direction 202 when the tie arm shaft 192 is rotated in a direction 204 by a drive motor (not shown) of the fastening assembly 182.

[0160] An optional labeling apparatus (not shown) is a separate unit which can be mounted and removed from the main framework of the covering and fastening assembly 170. Such labeling devices are known by persons of ordinary skill in the label applying art and are commercially available. The label (not shown) is applied to the side of the cover 180 of the potted plant 156 before or after the fastener 184 is applied about the cover 180. The label may be an adhesive label or may be applied as an ink jet, or even by stamping. As the covered potted plant is recovered from the opening of 176 after the fastener 184 has been applied and knotted, the knotted fastener 184 slips off the vertical rod 198 and holds the cover 180 about the pot 140 or potted plant 156.

Embodiments of FIGS. 29-31

[0161] Referring now to FIGS. 29-31, an alternative covering and fastening assembly is generally designated by the reference numeral 170 a. The fastening assembly 170 a is exactly the same as the apparatus 170 except that it is modified to apply the fastener 184 a to the cover 180 a in a plane above the upper support surface 174 a. A tie arm 186 a is supported by a tie arm shaft 192 a above the upper support surface 174 a. The fastener 184 a is looped about a set of studs 206 a-d which serve as a fastener retraction assembly and which function to relieve the stress of the fastener 184 a as it is applied about the cover 180 a. The studs 206 a-d are reciprocatingly mounted in the upper support assembly 172 a so that the studs 206 a-d can be retracted into the upper support assembly 172 a to allow the fastener 184 a to grasp the cover 180 a. The studs 206 a-d can be controlled electrically, pneumatically, hydraulically or by another power source.

Embodiments of FIGS. 32-33

[0162] Referring now to FIG. 32, a covering and fastening assembly is designated by the reference numeral 170 b. The assembly 170 b is exactly like the assembly 170 a of FIGS. 29-31 except that instead of using a plurality of studs 206 a-d to function as a fastener retraction assembly, the assembly 170 b uses a fastener retraction assembly 208 comprising a first retraction unit 210 and a second retraction unit 212.

[0163] The first retraction unit 210 comprises a first grasping arm 214 having a grasping end 216 for catching and holding a portion of the fastener 184 b. The second retraction unit 212 comprises a second grasping arm 218 having a grasping end 220 for catching and holding a portion of the fastener 184 b different from the portion of the fastener 184 b held by the first grasping arm 214. The first retraction unit 210 and the second retraction unit 212 may be automatically controlled and may comprise pneumatically or hydraulically controlled pistons.

[0164] In operation, the first grasping arm 214 grasps a portion of the fastener 184 b and the second grasping arm 218 grasps another portion of the fastener 184 b. The first grasping arm 214 is retracted in direction 222 and the second grasping arm 218 is retracted in direction 224 until the fastener 184 b is retracted to a position as shown in FIG. 32 in which the fastener 184 b is drawn away from the opening 176 b in the upper support surface 174 b whereby the opening 176 b is available for an article or pot to be deposited therein. Once a pot or article has been deposited into the opening to form a cover 180 b substantially as described above for the assembly 170 a, the first retraction arm 214 and the second retraction arm 218 are caused to release the fastener 184 b whereby the fastener 184 b engages the circumference of the cover 180 b about the pot or article and holds the cover 180 b thereabout. The covered pot or article can the be removed from the fastening and covering assembly 170 b.

Embodiment of FIGS. 34-36

[0165] Referring now to FIG. 34, another version of the covering and fastening assembly of the present invention is designated by the general reference numeral 170 c. The assembly 170 c is exactly like assembly 170 b of FIGS. 32-33, except that instead of using a pair of retraction units 210 and 212, as a fastener retraction assembly, a fastener retraction assembly 230 is alternatively comprised of a U-shaped retraction arm 232 attached to a cylinder 234. The retraction arm 232 comprises a first grasping prong 236 having a grasping end 238 and a second grasping prong 240 having a second grasping end 242. The retraction arm 232 is attached to a rod 244 which is reciprocatingly disposed within the cylinder 234.

[0166] In operation, the rod 244 is advanced in direction 246 until the grasping ends 238 and 242 catch the fastener 184 c. Once the retraction arm 232 has grasped the fastener 184 c, the rod 244 is reciprocatingly retracted by the cylinder 234 in direction 248 until the fastener 184 c has been retracted a distance sufficient to clear the opening 176 c in the upper support surface of the fastening and covering assembly 170 c as shown in FIG. 35. The assembly 170 c is at that point prepared to proceed in the operation of applying a cover to a pot or article disposed in the opening 176 c. After the pot has been disposed into the opening 176 c and a cover formed thereabout, the fastener 184 c is released from the fastener retraction assembly 230.

Embodiment of FIG. 37

[0167] Referring now to FIG. 37, a covering and fastening assembly is designated by the general reference numeral 170 d. The assembly 170 d is exactly any of assemblies 170, 170 a, 170 b, or 170 c except that the sheet of material is supplied from a roll of material substantially as described above in the embodiment of FIG. 12.

[0168] Shown in FIG. 37 is a roll of material resting on a shaft 252 supported by a support assembly 254. A clutch assembly 256 which is driven by a drive assembly (not seen) such as a motor advances a portion of the roll of material 250 under an idler roller 258 until the portion of the roll 250 is advanced a predetermined length. A knife edge 260 which is connected to an actuator 262 serves to sever the portion of the sheet from the roll of material 250. The sheet is then ready to be used to be formed as a cover about a flower pot.

In Operation

[0169] In operation, the present invention comprises providing a covering and fastening apparatus such as the one designated by the reference numeral 170 c in FIGS. 34-36. In the first operational step, a sheet of material 10 is placed on the upper support surface 174 c in a cover forming position over the opening 176 c. There placed, the sheet of material 10 is positioned over the cover former (not shown) mounted within the opening 176 c.

[0170] In the next step, the article, or in the preferred embodiment a pot 140 containing a plant is removed from a storage position. The pot 140 is positioned over the sheet of material 10 the potted plant is disposed generally above and near the portion of the sheet of material 10 which is above the cover former mounted in the opening 176 c. Then, the pot 140 is moved in a direction through the cover former toward a lower support assembly (not shown, but similar to the lower support assembly 200 shown in FIGS. 27-28) which causes the lower end of the pot 140 to engage a portion of the sheet of material 10. The pot 140 and portions of the sheet of material 10 pass through the cover former causing the sheet of material 10 to contact or nearly contact both the outer peripheral surface 144 of the pot 140 and the contacting portions of the inner perimeter of the cover former. The sheet 10 is thereby pressed about the outer peripheral surface 144 of the pot 140 thereby forming a cover 148 about the pot 140 and retaining the covered pot 140 in the opening 176 c. The pot 140 is advanced through the cover former opening until the lower end 142 of the pot 140 rests on or nearly rests on the lower support assembly 330. A band or fastener 184 c is automatically applied about a portion of the outer surface 150 of the cover 148 of the covered potted plant 158 by the fastening apparatus whereby the cover 148 is fasteningly secured about the pot 140. In the next step, the covered potted plant 158 is removed.

[0171] The method may comprise the optional step of manually arranging portions of the cover 148 and the exposed portions of the plant so that the cover 148 and potted plant are attractively and optimally arranged prior to the fastening step.

[0172] The method may also comprise the additional step of engaging an automatic labeling device (not shown) wherein a label (not shown) is automatically applied to a portion of the outer surface 150 of the cover 148 of the pot 140. The label may be applied to the outer peripheral surface 150 of the cover 148 or the label may be applied to the bottom (not shown) of the cover 148 through an opening in the lower support assembly 200.

Embodiments of FIGS. 38-40

[0173] Referring now to FIGS. 38-40, another version of the present invention is designated by the general reference numeral 170 e. The fastening assembly 170 e is exactly the same as the assembly 170 a in FIGS. 29-31 except in the construction of the mechanism for retracting and releasing the fastener. The fastening assembly 170 e comprises an upper support assembly 172 e having an upper support surface 174 e which has an opening 176 e. A pot 178 e having a cover 180 e is shown in the opening 176 e. A fastener 184 e is looped about a first retraction pin 270 and a second retraction pin 272. Pin 270 is stationarily mounted upon the upper support surface 174 e. Similarly, pin 272 is stationarily mounted upon the upper support surface 174 e. The pot 178 e is supported by a pot base cup 274 which is supported on a base plate 276. Base plate 276 is mounted on a reciprocating piston 278 which can be manually or automatically caused to urge the base plate 276 and base plate cup 278 in an upward direction 280 or a downward direction 282.

[0174] The fastener assembly 170 e further comprises a pin stripping assembly 286. The function of the pin stripping assembly 286 is to strip the fastener 184 e from the pins 270 and 272 after the fastener 184 e has been tied to allow the tied fastener 184 e to engage and bind the cover 180 e about the pot 178 e. The pin stripping assembly 286 comprises a first stripper 288 and a second stripper 290. The first stripper 288 strips the fastener 184 e from the first pin 270. The second stripper 290 strips the fastener 184 e from the second pin 272. Each stripper 288 and 290 is disposed about the pins 270 and 272, respectively, in such a manner that the stripper is able to reciprocatingly slide up and down the pin. Each pin 270 and 272 has a stop. One such stop is shown in FIGS. 39 and 40 and is designated by the reference numeral 292. The stop 292 functions to prevent the stripper 288 from sliding too far down the pin 270. The stop 292, if present, may be adjustable. Each stripper 288 and 290 has an arm 294 and 296, respectively.

[0175] The pin stripping assembly 286 further comprises a support frame 298 which is connected to the base plate 276 via a support arm 300. Connected to the upper end of the support frame 298 is a first stripper lifting post 304 which has an upper end 306 and a second stripper lifting post 308, also which has an upper end (not shown).

[0176] The stripper assembly 286 further comprises a first pot restraint 310 connected to the support frame 298 and a second pot restraint 312 also connected to the frame 298. The pot restraints 310 and 312 function to prevent the pot 178 e from leaning in the direction of the fastener pins 270 and 272 when tension is applied by the fastener 184 e to the side of the pot 178 e which is opposite the pins 270 and 272.

[0177] In operation, the stripper assembly 286 is activated when the base plate 276 is urged upwardly in direction 280. The base plate 276 is lifted by the piston 278 a predetermined distance 314. At this point, the upper end of the pot 178 e has been “ejected” or elevated to a position at least partially beyond the opening 176 e in the support surface 174 e in order to facilitate removal of the covered pot from the covering assembly.

[0178]FIG. 39 shows the pot orientation before the base plate 276 is lifted and FIG. 40 shows the pot orientation after the base plate 276 is lifted a distance 314 in direction 280. During the process of lifting the base plate 276 to eject the covered pot 178 e, each stripper lifting post 304 and 306 is elevated and each engages, respectively, the arms 294 and 296 of strippers 288 and 290. When, for example, stripper lifting post 304 is elevated, the upper end 306 engages arm 294 of stripper 288, causing the stripper 288 to be slidingly elevated upwardly along the pin 270 and causing the fastener 184 e to be released from the pin 270. The action is repeated for the portion of the fastener 184 e which is engaged by pin 272. The fastener assembly 286 can then be moved downwardly in direction 292 in preparation of repeating the process.

[0179] It will be understood by one of ordinary skill in the art that each of the covering and fastening assemblies discussed herein above may be outfitted with means for enabling the apparatus to be mobile, for example, with wheels or casters. It will also be understood that each of the covering and fastening assemblies may be used with a labeling apparatus for applying a label to the covered pot. Each covering and fastening system may also be used in conjunction with an automatic sheet feeding apparatus.

[0180] Changes may be made in the construction and the operation of the various components, elements and assemblies described herein or in the steps or the sequence of steps of the methods described herein without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention as defined in the following claims.

Classifications
U.S. Classification53/397, 53/464, 53/416
International ClassificationA47G7/08, B65B11/08, B65D85/50, B65B51/08, A01G5/04, B65D85/52, B65B67/08, B65B25/02, B65D63/10
Cooperative ClassificationB65D85/52, B65D2203/12, B65B51/08, B65B67/08, B65D63/109, B65B11/08, B65D85/505, A01G5/04, B65B25/026, A47G7/085
European ClassificationB65D63/10C, A01G5/04, B65D85/52, B65D85/50B, B65B25/02C, B65B11/08, B65B51/08, B65B67/08, A47G7/08S
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Jun 8, 2010FPExpired due to failure to pay maintenance fee
Effective date: 20100416
Apr 16, 2010LAPSLapse for failure to pay maintenance fees
Nov 23, 2009REMIMaintenance fee reminder mailed
Jan 9, 2006SULPSurcharge for late payment
Jan 9, 2006FPAYFee payment
Year of fee payment: 4
Nov 2, 2005REMIMaintenance fee reminder mailed
Aug 2, 2005CCCertificate of correction