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Publication numberUS20060191929 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/068,658
Publication dateAug 31, 2006
Filing dateFeb 28, 2005
Priority dateFeb 28, 2005
Also published asCA2599686A1, CA2599686C, CN101119896A, EP1863715A1, WO2006093903A1
Publication number068658, 11068658, US 2006/0191929 A1, US 2006/191929 A1, US 20060191929 A1, US 20060191929A1, US 2006191929 A1, US 2006191929A1, US-A1-20060191929, US-A1-2006191929, US2006/0191929A1, US2006/191929A1, US20060191929 A1, US20060191929A1, US2006191929 A1, US2006191929A1
InventorsCharles Berg, John Norcom
Original AssigneeBerg Charles J Jr, Norcom John D
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Flexi-resilient to rigid container including horizontally hinged sides
US 20060191929 A1
Abstract
An erectable and collapsible container including a support structure formed by a bottom wall and a pair of opposing end walls articulable relative to the bottom wall about respective hinges. The end walls include flexi-resilient sections connected along hinges for articulated movement of the end walls between collapsed and erected configurations. A pair of flexible opposing side walls extend between the end walls and include sections foldable about hinges during articulated movement of the end walls. A pair of opposed flexible panels extend from the side walls and define a bag-like upper portion extending from the support structure and forming a sealable opening for the container.
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Claims(20)
1. An erectable and collapsible container comprising:
a structure comprising a bottom wall and at least a pair of end walls pivotably attached to said bottom wall;
said end walls each comprising a plurality of end wall sections having an end wall hinge disposed therebetween;
an upper portion comprising a sheet of material attached to said structure, said upper portion comprising engageable sides defining a closable opening for said container; and
wherein said end walls are articulable about said end wall hinges when said pair of end walls moves from a first position relative to said bottom wall to a second position relative to said bottom wall.
2. The container of claim 1 including side walls pivotably attached to said bottom wall and extending between said end walls, said side walls each comprising plurality of side wall sections having a side wall hinge disposed therebetween.
3. The container of claim 2 wherein said end wall hinges move away from each other and said side wall hinges move away from each other when said pair of end walls moves from said first position to said second position.
4. The container of claim 3 wherein said end wall sections and said side wall sections move from a position substantially parallel to said bottom wall toward a position substantially perpendicular to said bottom wall when said pair of end walls moves from said first position to said second position.
5. The container of claim 2 wherein each said side wall includes a pair of gusset portions extending between said side wall sections and adjacent end walls, each said gusset portion including a gusset hinge articulable relative an adjacent end wall hinge of an adjacent end wall.
6. The container of claim 5 wherein each said gusset hinge is movable from a position substantially parallel to said adjacent end wall hinge toward a position substantially perpendicular to said adjacent end wall hinge when said pair of end walls moves from said first position to said second position.
7. The container of claim 1 wherein said end wall hinges extend substantially parallel to said bottom wall.
8. The container of claim 1 wherein said pair of end walls moves from said first position to said second position in response to a force producing oppositely directed resultant forces upon said end walls.
9. The container of claim 1 wherein said sheet of material comprises a pair of flexible panels.
10. The container of claim 8 including means for closing said upper portion.
11. The container of claim 1 including a frangible connection between said structure and said upper portion and defining a location for separating said upper portion from said support structure.
12. An erectable and collapsible container comprising:
a structure comprising a bottom wall and at least a pair of end walls pivotably attached to said bottom wall;
said end walls each comprising a plurality of end wall sections having an end wall hinge disposed therebetween;
side walls pivotably attached to said bottom wall and extending between said end walls, said side walls each comprising a plurality of side wall sections having a side wall hinge disposed therebetween;
an upper portion attached to said structure; and
wherein said end walls are articulable about said end wall hinges when said pair of end walls moves from a first position relative to said bottom wall to a second position relative to said bottom wall.
13. The container of claim 12 wherein said end wall hinges move away from each other and said side wall hinges move away from each other when said pair of end walls moves from said first position to said second position.
14. The container of claim 13 wherein said end wall sections and said side wall sections move from a position substantially parallel to said bottom wall toward a position substantially perpendicular to said bottom wall when said pair of end walls moves from said first position to said second position.
15. The container of claim 12 wherein said side walls comprise flexible sheets of material.
16. An erectable and collapsible container comprising:
a structure comprising a bottom wall and at least a pair of end walls pivotably attached to said bottom wall;
said end walls each comprising a plurality of end wall sections having an end wall hinge disposed therebetween;
side walls pivotably attached to said bottom wall and extending between said end walls and including gusset portions extending between said side walls and adjacent end walls, each said gusset portion including a gusset hinge articulable relative an adjacent end wall hinge of an adjacent end wall; and
wherein said end walls are articulable about said end wall hinges and said gusset hinges are articulable relative to said adjacent end wall hinges when said pair of end walls moves from a first position relative to said bottom wall to a second position relative to said bottom wall.
17. The container of claim 16 wherein each said gusset hinge is movable from a position substantially parallel to said adjacent end wall hinge toward a position substantially perpendicular to said adjacent end wall hinge when said pair of end walls moves from said first position to said second position.
18. The container of claim 16 wherein said side walls each comprise a plurality of sections having a sidewall hinge disposed therebetween.
19. The container of claim 18 wherein said end wall hinges move away from each other and said side wall hinges move away from each other when said pair of end walls moves from said first position to said second position.
20. The container of claim 16 wherein said end wall sections move from a position substantially parallel to said bottom wall toward a position substantially perpendicular to said bottom wall when said pair of end walls moves from said first position to said second position.
Description
FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to erectable containers, and more particularly, to such containers wherein the container is erectable from a generally flat collapsed configuration to a generally three-dimensional configuration in response to forces applied to opposing walls of the container.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The use of storage bags for containing and protecting items, including preservation of perishable materials such as food items, is generally known in the art. Such storage bags include bags formed of opposing sheets of film material joined together along peripheral edges to form a semi-enclosed container having three sealed or folded edges and one open edge. The open edge is typically provided with a closure, such as a reclosable or reusable seal formed integrally, as may be provided by an integrally formed interlocking seal. Storage bags may be conveniently stored in a flat configuration prior to use and expanded to accommodate the contents placed in the bag.

With regard to rigid or semi-rigid containers, it is well recognized that such containers have also realized a fair degree of commercial success in providing a means for storing a wide variety of contents. Such containers typically have an opening which maintains an open condition for filling and/or removal of contents. Such containers also are frequently provided with flat bottoms and tops to provide stackability. However, such containers typically use more material than bags such that disposability may be limited. At the same time, the useful life of such containers may be limited by damage, soiling, or other degradation naturally occurring in use. Such three-dimensional, rigid or semi-rigid containers may also require greater storage area than other, more flexible containers, since they generally occupy as much volume empty as they do in a filled condition.

Accordingly, it would be desirable to provide a container combining the desirable qualities of both flexible bags and rigid or semi-rigid storage containers. It would also be desirable to provide such a container which is capable of being self-supporting in an open condition for filling purposes, yet stores easily by folding into a compact form.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In accordance with one aspect of the invention, an erectable and collapsible container is provided comprising a structure comprising a bottom wall and at least a pair of end walls pivotably attached to the bottom wall. The end walls each comprise a plurality of end wall sections having an end wall hinge disposed therebetween. An upper portion comprising a sheet of material is attached to the structure, the upper portion comprising engageable sides defining a closable opening for the container. The end walls are articulable about the end wall hinges when the pair of end walls moves from a first position relative to the bottom wall to a second position relative to the bottom wall.

In accordance with another aspect of the invention, an erectable and collapsible container is provided comprising a structure comprising a bottom wall and at least a pair of end walls pivotably attached to the bottom wall. The end walls each comprise a plurality of end wall sections having an end wall hinge disposed therebetween. Side walls are pivotably attached to the bottom wall and extend between the end walls, the side walls each comprising a plurality of side wall sections having a side wall hinge disposed therebetween. An upper portion is attached to the structure. The end walls are articulable about the end wall hinges when the pair of end walls moves from a first position relative to the bottom wall to a second position relative to the bottom wall.

In accordance with a further aspect of the invention, an erectable and collapsible container is provided comprising a structure comprising a bottom wall and at least a pair of end walls pivotably attached to the bottom wall. The end walls each comprise a plurality of end wall sections having an end wall hinge disposed therebetween. Side walls are pivotably attached to the bottom wall and extend between the end walls, and including gusset portions extending between the side walls and adjacent end walls, each gusset portion including a gusset hinge articulable relative an adjacent end wall hinge of an adjacent end wall. The end walls are articulable about the end wall hinges and the gusset hinges are articulable relative to the adjacent end wall hinges when the pair of end walls moves from a first position relative to the bottom wall to a second position relative to the bottom wall.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

While the specification concludes with claims particularly pointing out and distinctly claiming the present invention, it is believed that the present invention will be better understood from the following description in conjunction with the accompanying Drawing Figures, in which like reference numerals identify like elements, and wherein:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a front side of a container illustrating the present invention in an erected configuration;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a rear side of the container shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the container illustrating the present invention in a collapsed configuration;

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of the container illustrating the present invention in a partially erected configuration;

FIG. 5 is a cross-sectional view taken along line 5-5 in FIG. 4;

FIG. 6 is a cross-sectional view taken along line 6-6 in FIG. 4;

FIGS. 7 and 8 are perspective views illustrating steps of folding a side panel and implementing an interlocking structure to hold the side panel in a folded position;

FIGS. 9 and 10 are perspective views illustrating steps of folding a side panel and implementing a pocket structure to hold the side panel in a folded position;

FIG. 11 is a perspective view of a step of separating the side panels along separation lines extending along an edge of the side panels;

FIG. 12 is a perspective view of the support portion of the container after separation of the side panels along a separation line extending along a connection between the side panels and the support structure; and

FIG. 13 is perspective view of the container of FIG. 1 with the side panels joined together in a sealed configuration.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Referring to FIGS. 1 and 2, a container 10 in accordance with the teachings of the present invention is shown. The container 10 generally includes a support structure 12 movable between a configuration defining a flexi-resilient structure and a configuration defining a rigid or semi-rigid structure. The support structure 12 comprises a bottom wall 14 including opposing side edges 16, 18 and opposing end edges 20, 22 connecting the side edges 16, 18. First and second opposing end walls 24, 26 are attached to the bottom wall 14 at respective hinges 28, 30 defined at the end edges 20, 22; and a front or first longitudinal side wall 32 is attached to the bottom wall at a hinge 36 defined at side edge 16, and a rear or second longitudinal side wall 34 is attached to the bottom wall at a hinge 38 defined at the side edge 18. The first and second end walls 24, 26 and front and rear side walls 32, 34 extend generally perpendicular relative to the bottom wall 14 and circumscribe a generally rectangular area when the container 10 is in an erected three-dimensional configuration.

It should be noted that although the present invention is described with reference to a four-sided or rectangular container, the structure and operation of the present invention is not limited to four-sided containers, and the principles of the present invention may be applicable to other polygon-sided container configurations, for example, such that the bottom wall 14 may comprise three or more edges.

The first end wall 24 comprises first and second sections 40, 42 connected for articulation relative to each other at a first end wall hinge 44. The first section 40 of the first end wall 24 comprises opposing front and rear edges 46, 48, and opposing inner and outer faces 50, 52; and the second section 42 of the first end wall 24 comprises opposing front and rear edges 54, 56, and opposing inner and outer faces 58, 60. The first and second sections 40, 42 are illustrated as preferably having substantially similar dimensions in both the width direction, i.e. extending between the front edges 46, 54 and rear edges 48, 56, and the height direction, i.e., extending generally perpendicular to the width direction in a direction extending from the bottom wall 14. Although preferred dimensional relationships between the components of the container 10 are described herein, those skilled in the art will recognize that the relative dimensions of the components, as well as the degree of displacement of the components relative to each other, the number of components that comprise a wall, the consistency or inconsistency of the dimensions of the components with each other, may vary and still remain functional within the scope of the invention.

Similarly, the second end wall 26 comprises first and second sections 62, 64 connected for articulation relative to each other at a second end wall hinge 66. The first section 62 of the second end wall 26 comprises opposing front and rear edges 68, 70, and opposing inner and outer faces 72, 74; and the second section 64 of the second end wall 26 comprises opposing front and rear edges 76, 78, and opposing inner and outer faces 80, 82. The first and second sections 62, 64 of the second end wall 26 are illustrated as having width and height dimensions preferably substantially similar to the width and height dimensions of the first and second sections 40, 42 of the first end wall 24.

The front side wall 32 comprises first and second sections 84, 86 pivotably connected to each other at a front side wall hinge 88, and first and second front gusset structures 90, 92 extending from opposing ends 94, 96 of the front side wall hinge 88. The first front gusset structure 90 extends from the hinge end 94 to the front edges 46, 54 of the first end wall 24, and the second front gusset structure 92 extends from the hinge end 96 to the front edges 68, 76 of the second end wall 26.

The rear side wall 34 comprises first and second sections 98, 100 pivotably connected to each other at a rear side wall hinge 102, and first and second rear gusset structures 104, 106 extending from opposing ends 108, 110 of the rear side wall hinge 102. The first rear gusset structure 104 extends from the hinge end 108 to the rear edges 48, 56 of the first end wall 24, and the second rear gusset structure 106 extends from the hinge end 110 to the rear edges 70, 78 of the second end wall 26. The first and second sections 98, 100 of the rear side wall 34 and the first and second sections 84, 86 of the front side wall 32 are illustrated as preferably having substantially similar width and height dimensions, where the height dimension of the sections 84, 86, 98, 100 comprising the front and rear side walls 32, 34 is preferably substantially similar to the height dimension of the sections 40, 42, 62, 64 comprising the first and second end walls 24, 26. Further, the height and width dimensions of sections 84, 86, 98, 100 may comprise different dimensions from each other and from those of sections 40, 42, 62, 64.

In accordance with a further aspect of the invention, the container 10 includes two generally planar opposing side panels 112, 114 extending from the end walls 24, 26 and side walls 32, 34 to define a flexible bag-like upper portion 116 for the container 10. The side panel 112 extends from the front side wall 32 and from a front half of each of the end walls 24, 26, and the side panel 114 extends from the rear side wall 34 and from a rear half of each of the end walls 24, 26. The side panels 112, 114 are attached together along elongated edge seams 118, 120 where the edge seams 118, 120 may be formed by ultasonic welding, heat sealing, an adhesive or other conventional attachment means, joined in a butt joint, lap seam, a fin seal or other configuration.

An upper end of the side panels 112, 114 distal from the bottom wall 14 defines an open mouth 122 for the container 10 for passage of contents into and/or out of the container 10. An optional, reusable closure 124 is shown located at the mouth 122 of the container 10 and is illustrated as complementary mating elements 126, 128 attached to the interior of the side panels 112, 114 for reclosably sealing the mouth 122 of the container 10. For example, the reusable closure 124 may comprise an interlocking seal type closure, and which may or may not include a slider for manipulating opening and closing of the container 10. The present invention is not limited to the illustrated reusable closure, and non-limiting examples of reusable closures which may be employed, and information on their manufacture, are described in U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,186,786; 4,285,105; 4,363,345; 4,561,109; 5,804,265 and 5,851,070. Additional closure structures may be incorporated for closing the mouth 122 of the container 10 including, without limitation, mechanical fasteners such as hook-and-loop fasteners, snap closures, grips, clips, and clamps, flap closures, tie flaps, drawstring closures, twist-tie closures, and adhesion closures such as pressure sensitive adhesive tapes or strips, mating cohesives, epoxy-resin reactive adhesives, and pressure sensitive adhesive embedded activated films. Non-limiting examples of pressure sensitive adhesive embedded activated films which may be used, and information on their manufacture may be found in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,662,758 and 6,489,022. Although reusable closures have been mentioned as a preferred closure, a more permanent closure may be preferred in certain applications of the invention. Full or partial closures, or absence of closures, other than those specifically mentioned herein may also be provided within the scope of the described invention.

The illustrated embodiment of the container 10 is constructed from a sheet or sheets of the flexible material 130 (see FIGS. 5 and 6), where the term “flexible” is utilized to refer to materials which are capable of being flexed or bent, especially repeatedly, such that they are pliant and yieldable in response to externally applied forces. Accordingly, “flexible” is substantially opposite in meaning to the terms inflexible, rigid, or unyielding. Materials and structures which are flexible, therefore, may be altered in shape and structure to accommodate external forces and to conform to the shape of objects brought into contact with them without losing their integrity. The sheet material 130 for forming the container 10 may comprise a flexible film material including a polymeric film, such as polypropylene or comparable material, where a polypropylene material may be provided in a thickness of from 1 to 4 mils, for example.

The sheet or sheets of flexible material 130 forming the container 10 may form the end walls 24, 26, the side walls 32, 34, the bottom wall 14 and the side panels 112, 114 as a continuous flexible containment material. Alternatively, the flexible material 130 can comprise a bag-like or tube-like structure. Further, the end wall sections 40, 42, 62, 64 and bottom wall 14 define semi-rigid, resilient surfaces of the container 10 capable of pivoting relative to each other at the hinges 28, 30, 44, 66 where the hinges may be formed by the flexible material 130. In the illustrated embodiment of the container 10, each of the end wall sections 40, 42, 62, 64 and bottom wall 14 are defined by a layered structure comprising the flexible material 130 and a panel of resilient semi-rigid structural material 132 that is attached to the exterior surface of the flexible material 130 as shown, for example, in FIGS. 5 and 6. In a non-limiting example of the invention, the panel of structural material 132 may comprise a material having a flexural modulus in the range of between 170,000 and 250,000 psi and a thickness of between 0.01 and 0.50 inches, as compared to the flexible material 130 which has a flexural modulus of between 170,000 and 250,000 psi and a thickness of between 0.0005 and 0.01 inches. The structural material 132 is preferably stiffer than the flexible material 130 and is preferably capable of resiliently flexing from and returning to a predetermined initial shape, such as a generally planar shape. As used herein, the term “flexural modulus” means the flexural modulus as determined according to ASTM Test Method D 790. In one embodiment the structural material 132 may preferably comprise a polypropylene material. However, additional or other materials may be used for the structural material 132 including, without limitation, any known polymeric material including extruded corrugate polymeric materials, carded fibrous materials, and fine fluted corrugates. Those skilled in the art will recognize that the particular stiffness for either the flexible material 130 or the structural material 132 may be adjusted in accordance with a desired end use or application for the container 10.

The structural material 132 may be attached to the flexible material 130 by means of a mechanical connection forming a molecular level bond between the structural material 132 and the flexible material 130, such as by ultrasonic welding, or a thermal bond, e.g., heat sealing. Alternatively, the structural material 132 and flexible material 130 may be joined by adhesives or cohesives including without limitation contact adhesives, or by mechanical connections such as a snap fit, clips, rubber bands, mechanical fasteners, staples, grips, clamps, and/or an interference fit connection between the two materials, i.e., a tolerance fit such as by locating the structural material 132 in a tight fit within the flexible material 130, or a mechanical punching of the material together. Such attachment may be continuous or discontinuous as in, for example, a series of two or more points of attachment.

It should be noted that structural material 132 comprising the bottom wall 14 may optionally be unattached to the flexible material 130. In such a case, the structural material 132 of the bottom wall 14 may be attached to other structure, for example, one or more of the end walls, 32, 34. Further, although the illustrated construction locates the structural material 132 on the exterior surface of the flexible material 130, some or all portions of the structural material 132 may be located on the inside surface of the flexible material 130.

Alternatively, the end wall sections 40, 42, 62, 64 and/or bottom wall 14 may be formed with less than the full area of the end wall sections 40, 42, 62, 64 and/or bottom wall 14 covered with the structural material 132. For example, the end wall sections 40, 42, 62, 64 and/or bottom wall 14 may include frame members (not shown) located so as to maintain the structural integrity or shape of the end wall sections 40, 42, 62, 64 and/or bottom wall 14 during movement between a generally flat collapsed configuration and the erected configuration and/or during use of the container 10. It should be understood that any construction capable of providing a stiffness to the end wall sections 40, 42, 62, 64 and/or bottom wall 14 greater than the stiffness of the flexible material 130 may be used, whether solid or perforated sheets or frames or other structural elements are employed, which construction need not necessarily include providing separate or attached rigidifying structure to the end wall sections 40, 42, 62, 64 and/or bottom wall 14. For example, the end wall sections 40, 42, 62, 64 and/or bottom wall 14 may be formed of the same sheet of material comprising the side panels 112, 114, but formed with a different material characteristic, such as may be provided by a different material caliper or by increased cross-linking or crystallization of the material in the end wall sections 40, 42, 62, 64 and/or bottom wall 14, or by mechanical means such as by forming folds, creases or corrugations in the material.

Although the flexible material 130 has been described as flexible polypropylene film material, other materials exhibiting flexible characteristics may be incorporated as the flexible material 130 including without limitation, substantially impermeable polymeric materials, cellulose materials, aluminum foil, coated (waxed, etc.) and uncoated paper, coated nonwovens etc., and substantially permeable materials such as scrims, meshes, wovens, nonwovens, open or closed cell foams, or perforated or porous films, whether predominantly two-dimensional in nature or formed into three-dimensional structures. Such materials may comprise a single composition or layer or may be a composite or laminate structure of multiple materials, including a substrate material utilized as a carrier for a substance. Further, those skilled in the art will recognize that any material that provides the desired stiffness characteristics for the flexible material 130 may be incorporated within the scope of the present invention.

The flexible material 130 is not limited to constructions formed from sheet materials, and the flexible material portion of the container 10 may be constructed in any known and suitable fashion such as those known in the art for making bags or storage containers in commercially available form. Heat or adhesive sealing technologies may be utilized to join various components or elements of the flexible material 130 to themselves or to each other. In addition, the flexible material portion of the container 10 may be thermoformed, blown, or otherwise formed or molded as an alternative to reliance upon folding and bonding techniques to construct the flexible material portion from a web or sheet of material.

The materials selected for either or both the flexible material 130 and the structural material 132 may exhibit any degree of transparency, translucency and/or opacity, such as may be selected to provide a desired degree of visual identification of contents and may include colored transparent, translucent and/or opaque materials. The degree of transparency, translucency and/or opacity may additionally be selected to facilitate writing and/or reading textual messages, i.e., container contents and/or directions, on the container 10.

Also included among materials acceptable for forming the flexible material 130 and the structural material 132 are microwaveable materials. Further, the flexible material 130 and the structural material 132 may comprise materials and constructs or structures providing insulative properties for limiting flow of heat between exterior and interior surfaces of the container 10, such as may be provided to the bottom wall 14 or other contacted surfaces to limit heat transfer to a user's hand or a supporting surface. Such materials may include those materials which generally have a lower heat conductivity, lower heat/cold capacity, less mass and/or material structures influencing the thermal conductivity and/or thermal capacity, such as materials including void spaces for either partially or fully enveloping or enclosing a fluid, such as air, within the material. Examples of materials for providing desirable thermal properties to the container 10 include, without limitation, open or closed cell foamed materials, small air entrapping materials, e.g., fibers, down, spaced particles, etc., dispersed through, on or between the flexible material 130 and/or structural material 132, low mass portions defined in the flexible material 130 and/or structural material 132, e.g., thinned portions of the flexible material 130 and/or structural material 132, and/or provision of a low heat transference insulative layer or coating between the flexible material 130 and structural material 132. Such materials may be in the form of a corrugated paper or polymer material structure formed of one or two or more layers having offset areas, such as may be formed by thermoforming, embossing, folding, etc. For example, a multi-layered structure formed of two layers, at least one of which includes areas offset from the plane of the other layer, or a single layer material where selected areas of the material are offset from other areas of the material to provide a volume of insulative air between exterior and interior surfaces of the container. Alternatively, a thermal barrier may be formed by two or more layers of flexible polymeric material selectively sealed or bonded together to produce areas of entrapped air.

As seen in FIGS. 1-2 and 4, the container 10 in the illustrated embodiment includes a bottom 14 formed with a corrugated construction. Referring further to FIG. 6, the corrugated construction includes a layer of formed structural material 132 including corrugation portions 134, and a flexible material layer 130 attached to the structural material 132. An air space is defined between the structural material 132 and the flexible material 130 at the corrugation portions 134 which may entrap air to provide a thermal barrier at the bottom wall 14. In addition, the corrugation portions 134 may provide additional structural rigidity to stiffen the bottom wall 14.

FIG. 3 illustrates the container 10 in the generally flat collapsed configuration where the end walls 24, 26 are folded substantially flat. Specifically, the first sections 40 and 62 of the end walls 24, 26 may pivot toward the bottom wall 14 to locate the respective inner surfaces 50 and 72 adjacent and generally parallel to the bottom wall 14. The second sections 42 and 64 of the end walls 24, 26 may pivot about the respective end wall hinges 44, 66 to locate the first and second sections 40, 42 of the first end wall 24 generally parallel and adjacent to one another with the outer faces 52, 60 thereof in substantially facing relationship to one another, and to locate the first and second sections 62, 64 of the second end wall 26 generally parallel and adjacent to one another with the outer faces 74, 82 thereof in substantially facing relationship to one another. The pivoting of the second sections 42 and 64 of the end walls 24, 26 may occur substantially simultaneously with and in the opposite pivoting direction of the respective first sections 40 and 62 of the end walls 24, 26. In addition, hinges 136, 138 may be provided adjacent a junction between upper edges of the second end wall sections 42, 64 and the upper portion 116 of the container 10 to facilitate pivoting movement of the second end wall sections 42, 64 relative to the upper portion 116.

The flexible material 130 forming the front and rear side walls 32, 34 is folded in a substantially predetermined configuration when the container 10 is in the collapsed configuration, where the first sections 84 and 98 of the front and rear side walls 32, 34 may pivot about respective hinges 36 and 38 toward the bottom wall 14 to locate the first sections 84, 98 generally parallel and adjacent to the bottom wall 14. The second sections 86 and 100 of the front and rear side walls 32, 34 may pivot about the side wall hinges 88, 102 to locate the first and second sections 84, 86 of the front side wall 32 generally parallel and adjacent to one another, and to locate the first and second sections 98, 100 of the rear side wall 34 generally parallel and adjacent to one another. The pivoting of the second sections 86 and 100 of the front and rear side walls 32, 34 may occur substantially simultaneously with and in the opposite pivoting direction of the respective first sections 84 and 98 of the front and rear side walls 32, 34. In addition, hinges 140, 142 may be provided adjacent a junction between upper edges of the second sections 86, 100 of the front and rear side walls 32, 34 and the upper portion 116 of the container 10 to facilitate pivoting movement of the second sections 86, 100 relative to the upper portion 116.

Movement and orientation of the gusset structures 90, 92, 104, 106 relative to the articulated movement of the sections 40, 42, 62, 64 of the end walls 24, 26 is described with reference to FIGS. 4-6, where FIG. 4 illustrates the container 10 in a partially erected configuration. The gusset structures 90, 92, 104, 106 may each undergo substantially similar movement, as will be described below with reference to the first gusset structure 90 of the front side wall 32. The gusset structure 90 is foldable about a gusset hinge 144 extending generally collinear with the side wall hinge 88, where folding of the gusset structure 90 about the gusset hinge 144 defines a first gusset portion 146 and a second gusset portion 148 (see also FIG. 1) on either side of the gusset hinge 144. By way of illustration, during movement of the support structure 12 of the container 10 from the erected configuration to the collapsed configuration, an inner surface 150 (FIG. 5) of the gusset structure 90 may move from an orientation generally perpendicular to the end wall sections 40, 42 to an orientation where the portions of the inner surface 150 defined on the first and second gusset portions 146, 148 may be substantially parallel and facing toward the respective inner faces 50, 58 of the end wall sections 40, 42. The gusset hinge 144 also may move from an orientation generally perpendicular to the end wall hinge 44 in the erected configuration to an orientation where the gusset hinge 144 may extend generally parallel to the end wall hinge 44 in the collapsed configuration. As the end wall sections 40, 42 pivot to the collapsed configuration, the gusset structure 90 folds or wraps around the inner faces 50, 58 substantially progressively in a direction from the front edges 46, 54 toward the rear edges 48, 56, as illustrated in FIG. 5 in which a folded portion 152 of the gusset structure 90 is shown extending substantially parallel to the end wall section 40, and a remaining portion 154 of the gusset structure 90 may extend between the folded portion 152 and the side wall section 84. As noted above, each of the remaining gusset structures 92, 104, 106 may move in a manner substantially similar to the described movement of the gusset structure 90 during articulated movement of the end wall sections 40, 42 and 62, 64 relative to each other.

In the collapsed configuration of the container 10, as illustrated in FIG. 3, the ends 94, 96 and 108, 110 of the front and rear side wall hinges 88, 102 are located adjacent the end wall hinges 44, 66, locating the side wall hinges 88, 102 at an innermost position. Similarly, the end wall hinges 44, 66 are located at an innermost position, such that the support structure 12 is configured as a substantially compact folded structure in the collapsed configuration of the container 10. As the container moves form the collapsed toward the erected configurations, the end wall hinges 44, 46 move away from each other and the side wall hinges 88, 102 move away from each other.

The upper portion 116 of the container 10 may include extended end portions 154, 156 (FIG. 3) that may extend outwardly beyond a location adjacent the hinges 136, 138 at the upper edges of the second sections 42, 64 of the end walls 24, 26 when the upper edges of the side panels 112, 114 are located adjacent each other, i.e., when the opening 122 is substantially closed. The extended end portions 154, 156 may comprise gusset portions 158, 160 (FIGS. 1 and 2) located between upper edges of the second sections 42, 62 of the end walls 24, 26 and respective angled hinges 162, 164 and 166, 168 positioned on either side of the edge seams 118, 120, respectively. The angled hinges 162, 164, 166, 168 may comprise, without limitation, score lines, or embossed or thinned lines of material. The extended end portions 154, 156 may further be folded around the end edges 20, 22 and under the bottom wall 14 to facilitate, for example, compact packaging of the container 10 or a plurality of the containers 10 contained in a package.

The container 10 may be transformed from the collapsed configuration to the erected configuration by application of a force or forces to the container 10. A force or forces may be applied to the end wall hinges 44, 66, either internally or externally of the container 10, to bias or move the end wall hinges 44, 66 outwardly from each other. For example, a force may be applied to cause generally oppositely directed resultant forces to act on the end walls 24, 26. Alternatively, a force or forces may be applied to cause relative pivoting movement between the first and second sections 40, 42 of the first end wall 24 and/or to cause relative pivoting movement between the first and second sections 62, 64 of the second end wall 26. Additionally and/or alternatively, a force or forces may be applied to cause relative pivoting movement between the first section 40 of the first end wall 24 and the bottom wall 14 and/or to cause pivoting movement between the first section 62 of the second end wall 26 and/or the bottom wall 14. As a further alternative, a force a may be applied to cause a generally oppositely directed resultant forces to be applied to the container 10 in a direction extending between the support structure 12 and the upper portion 116, to cause expansion of the container 10.

Application of a force or forces to move the container 10 between collapsed and erected configurations may be facilitated by additional structure associated with one or more of the end walls 24, 26, side walls 32, 34, bottom wall 14 and/or side panels 112, 114 of the container 10, such as structure which may facilitate forming a gripping surface and/or applying a leveraged force thereto. Such additional structure may include, without limitation, tabs, wall edge or facial finger indentations, or increased friction surfaces and the like, loops or levers for directly or indirectly transmitting a force from a user to a portion of the container 10 for causing the container 10 to either move from the collapsed configuration toward the erected configuration or to move from the erected configuration toward the collapsed configuration, or for applying a restraining anchor force such as to control the bottom wall position while erecting one or more end walls 24, 26.

In the erected configuration, as seen in FIGS. 1 and 2, the upper portion 116 comprises a flexible openable and closable portion of the container 10, where contents may be placed in or taken out of the container 10 through the open mouth 122 of the upper portion 116. The side panels 112, 114 may be biased away from each other to facilitate access through the opening 122. For example, additional structure may be provided to the side panels 112, 114 to facilitate maintaining the side panels 112, 114 in a more open state. Such additional structure may include, without limitation, a stay or stays 170, 172 located at a mid-span location of the top of one or both of the side panels 112, 114 or positioned along other locations of the side panels 112, 114. The stay or stays may comprise flexible or rigid members, generally exhibiting some dead-fold or position lockable functionality for maintaining at least a portion of the side panels 112, 114 in a desired position. A stay exhibiting such functionality may comprise metal wire or thin sheet material, including fibrous papers and boardstocks, dead-foldable polymer sheet, and molded, formed, stamped or cut rigid parts with a lockable hinge-like mechanism. Other stay materials exhibiting similar functionality may also be used.

Alternatively, or additionally, the structure for biasing or maintaining the flexible panels 112, 114 in a more open position may comprise structure for facilitating maintaining the side panels 112, 114 more aligned with the adjacent end walls 24, 26 and/or side walls 32, 34. For example, means altering the material properties of the side panels 112, 114, including but not limited to force transmission elements or stiffening elements for transmitting forces between the side panels 112, 114 and the end walls 24, 26 and/or the side walls 32, 34 may be provided.

Referring to FIGS. 7-12, the container 10 may further include means facilitating access to contents located in the container by manipulation of the side panels 112, 114. In particular, in the illustrated embodiment of the container 10, areas for separating the side panels 112, 114 from each other and/or from the end walls 24, 26 and side wall 32, 34 may be provided including, for example, a frangible area or areas 174 (see also FIGS. 1 and 2) extending along at least one of the edge seams 118, 120, and may also include a further frangible area 176 extending adjacent an upper edge of the end walls 24, 26 and side walls 32, 34. In accordance with one method of providing access to the container 10, the side panels 112, 114 may be separated fully or partially along the at least one frangible area 174, and the side panels 112, 114 may be folded and/or rolled toward the bottom wall 14 along the end walls 24, 26 and side walls 32, 34, as illustrated in FIG. 7. In addition, the edge portion of the side panels 112, 114 including the reusable closure 124 may be folded back toward the open end of the container 10 and retained in position by a fastening structure, such that an outwardly facing surface 178 of the upper portion 116, defined by inner surfaces of the side panels 112, 114, are overlapped or covered by the folded portion or portions of the side panels 112, 114. Optionally, a further frangible area may be provided, such as at the other one of the edge seams 118, 120 or another location, to allow multiple sections of the side panels 112, 114 to be folded and/or rolled over to facilitate separation of the side panels 112, 114. Preferably, the separated material is separated in one piece; or alternatively in two or more pieces. The separated material may be fully removable from the container 10 or may still be attached at one or more points about which the material can be pivoted.

As illustrated in FIGS. 7 and 8, the fastening structure for retaining the folded edge portion of the side panels 112, 114 may comprise a section or sections of an interlocking closure element 180 located on the surface 178 of the upper portion 116 for cooperating and mating with at least one of the elements 126, 128 of the reusable closure 124. For example, after the upper portion 116 is folded toward the bottom wall 14 along the outside of the support structure 12, the edge portion of the side panels 112, 114 including the reusable closure 124 may be folded back toward the open end of the container 10 to position the reusable closure 124 in interlocking engagement with the interlocking closure element 180 located on the surface 178.

FIGS. 9 and 10 illustrate an alternative fastening structure fastening structure for retaining the folded edge portion of the side panels 112, 114 in the folded position. The fastening structure may comprise a pocket structure 182 defining a pocket or pockets located on the support structure 12. The pocket structure 182 is illustrated as a triangular structure and may be located, for example, on one or more of the end walls 24, 26 and defines a slit or slits 184, or similar structure, for receiving a corner 186 formed by folding the edge portion of the side panels 112, 114 after the upper portion 116 is folded along the outside of the support structure 12. Retention of the upper portion 116 in the described folded configuration is not limited to the mechanisms described above and may comprise other mechanisms including, without limitation, material retaining dimple(s) or aperature(s), hook and loop fasteners, adhesives including pressure sensitive adhesives, snap fit connections, clips, rubber bands, mechanical fasteners, grips and/or clamps.

In providing the container access illustrated in FIGS. 7-10, it is not necessary for the entire upper portion 116 formed by both side panels 112, 114 to be folded toward the bottom wall 14. For example, half of the upper portion 116, as defined by one of the side panels 112, 114 may be folded to provide access through one side of the upper portion 116. Alternatively, the side panels 112, 114 may be slit or tom along additional locations to provide access through an area less than or greater than the area defined by one of the side panels 112, 114.

In accordance with an alternative method of providing access to the container 10, the side panels 112, 114 may be separated along one or more of the frangible portions or areas 174, as seen in FIG. 11, and the side panels 112, 114 may be further separated from the end walls 24, 26 and side walls 32, 34 along frangible portion or area 176 to permit substantially complete removal of the side panels 112, 114 from the end walls 24, 26 and side walls 32, 34 (FIG. 12).

The frangible portions or areas 174, 176 may be formed by predefined areas or lines of weakness and/or tear-oriented material properties. Examples of predefined areas or lines of weakness include, without limitation, perforations, mechanical or laser scores, material thinning and/or tear tapes positioned at or adjacent to desired separation locations. Alternatively, separation can occur along lines, portions or areas of releasable attachment such as lap, fin, butt seams or seals whether joined by adhesive, cohesive, heat seal, welding or other means. As a further alternative, a spanning material, e.g., pressure sensitive adhesive tape, may be torn or removed to cause separation of the panel(s). Additionally, means may be provided for facilitating the tear or separation process including without limitation anchor/pull tags, loops or other tactile means facilitating a user's identification of the frangible area and/or to facilitate grip and/or force application to the container 10. Identification of the frangible area or areas may further be facilitated by a visual indicator or indicators including without limitation color portions, such as applied or printed color strip(s) and/or a visually distinguishable material characteristic which may be located at or adjacent to the frangible area and may include a visual indicator extending along either side of the frangible area, such as may be provided by a visually identifiable laser score or area(s) exhibiting a difference in opacity or translucency relative to adjacent area(s). Further, tear prevention structure may be provided adjacent to the frangible areas to prevent the tear from propagating beyond the frangible area.

Structure for facilitating access to the container 10 is not limited to manipulation of the side panels 112, 114. Additional, structure may be provided to the area of the support structure 12 and may include removable or displaceable structure associated with one or more of the end walls 24, 26 and side walls 32, 34 permitting a portion or portions of the container 10 to be removed, reformed or otherwise manipulated to improve access to the interior of the container 10.

In one use of the container 10, the container 10 may be sealed and used for storage of any contents contained in the container 10. In such a use, the top portions of the side panels 112, 114 may be joined together, such as by means of the above-described reusable closure 124. Joining or engagement of the side panels 112, 114 together may be accompanied by a certain amount of movement of the side panels 112, 114 as the side panels pivot about the hinges 140, 142 and fold at the angled hinges 162, 164, 166, 168 forming the outwardly extending end portions 154, 156 (FIG. 13). The folded state of the side panels 112, 114 defines a generally flat top surface for the container 10 along a plane substantially coincident with the location of the hinges 136, 138, 140, 142. Accordingly, other containers may be stacked on the container 10 in a manner similar to the stackability provided by known rigid or semi-rigid storage containers.

The stackability of the container 10 may be enhanced by providing additional structure including, without limitation, additional structure adjacent the top or bottom of the end panels 24, 26 and or side panels 32, 34, such as a top rim providing a support upon which the bottom of a supported container may rest, flared structure comprising some or all of the end walls 24, 26 and/or 32, 34 being outwardly angled at the upper or lower edges thereof to provide a positive engagement with engaged lower or upper edges of a supported or supporting container, or a rim extending transversely from an outwardly extending flange adjacent the upper or lower edges of some or all of the end walls 24, 26 and/or side walls 32, 34 providing a ledge for engaging the lower or upper edges of a supported or supporting container. The structure facilitating stacking of containers 10 may be positioned exteriorly or interiorly of the flexible material 130 to function in direct contact with a stacked container or indirectly, through the flexible film, to facilitate stacking engagement. Other structures for facilitating alignment and/or engagement of stacked containers may also be provided.

In general, the end and/or bottom walls may be positioned exteriorly or interiorly to the flexible material 130, either completely or in a combination of interior and exterior positions.

The container 10 may be provided with additional structure to facilitate handling of the container 10 including, without limitation, a tab or tabs, handle or strap formed as part of or attached to the end walls 24, 26, the side walls 32, 34 and/or the bottom wall 14. For example, a hand strap may be included to facilitate single handed lifting and/or carrying of the container 10, such as a strap provided to the bottom wall 14 to receive one or more fingers of a user and facilitating carrying of the container through support of the bottom wall 14.

Handling the container 10 may also be facilitated by structure provided on the side panels 112, 114. The container 10 may be lifted and/or carried by gripping the combined side panels 112, 114 between the user's fingers, as may be facilitated by a slip-resistant or other grip enhancing surface. Additional structure for enabling a user to grip the side panels 112, 114 may include, without limitation, attached or integral tab(s), loop(s), handle hole(s) and/or strap(s).

In a use of the described container 10, the container may be provided in the collapsed configuration during storage or prior to use. Two or more containers 10 in the collapsed configuration may be provided with an outer package for convenient storage, distribution, sale and transport of multiple containers 10. The package may partially or fully enclose or envelope the containers 10. The package can be any known package including but not limited to bags, paper or plastic bands, shrink packages, shrink sleeves, stretch sleeves or bands, cartonboard packages, flow wrap packages, thermoformed packages, etc. Preferably, the package encloses or itself displays, illustrates or contains instructions for use of the containers 10, including erecting method(s). In a preferred retail store package, the package is itself either a consumer usable semi-rigid or rigid container or even an expanded erectable container 10.

During use, the container 10 may be transformed from the collapsed to erected configuration, as described above, where the support structure 12 defines a rigid or semi-rigid structure and the upper portion 116 defines a flexible bag-like structure that is openable for passage of contents. Contents may be placed in the container 10 through the opening 122, and the opening 122 sealed using the reusable closure 124. The container 10 and contents may be placed in a refrigerator or freezer, if appropriate, for storage and may be stacked with other containers 10 of similar construction if desired. Further, where the container 10 is formed of a microwavable material, the container 10 and enclosed contents may be placed directly in a microwave oven to reheat the contents directly in the container 10. Subsequently, a portion or all of the upper portion 116 may be removed, or separated and positioned away to create a more accessible opening, to facilitate access to the contents, where the support structure 12 may be utilized as a bowl or plate-like structure for serving the contents, or even directly eating therefrom.

Alternative constructions are useful for certain situations, such as a container with plural compartments. For example, a divider, itself optionally erectable, may rise up from the bottom wall to section the container into two or more compartments. Another example is a container with plural openings.

Not to be limiting, the present invention may contain liquids, solids, particles and combinations of contents thereof. Said contents may be an unlimited pallet of materials and articles to be used, for example for personal, household, industrial, automotive, hygienic, farming or pet maintenance purposes. Food stuff storage such as for human or animal purposes is a specific example. Further, the container may be partially or wholly collapsed prior to use, but pre-packed with contents such as the non-limiting examples of oil and popcorn kernels prior to popping; dried instant noodles and vegetables prior to addition of hot water for creating soup; dried pet food prior to addition of water; and seasonings prior to addition of other food ingredient(s).

All documents cited in the Detailed Description of the Invention are incorporated herein by reference; the citation of any document is not to be construed as an admission that it is prior art with respect to the present invention.

While particular embodiments of the present invention have been illustrated and described, it would be obvious to those skilled in the art that various other changes and modifications can be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. It is therefore intended to cover in the appended claims all such changes and modifications that are within the scope of this invention.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US7380704 *Dec 22, 2006Jun 3, 2008Ran NizanMailbox system
US8220651Feb 28, 2005Jul 17, 2012The Procter & Gamble CompanyContainer including removable integral upper portion
US8651309Dec 21, 2011Feb 18, 2014Jorge IbarraCollapsible container
US20110297680 *Sep 13, 2010Dec 8, 2011Illinois Tool Works Inc.Carton with plastic reclosable header
US20120037618 *Aug 8, 2011Feb 16, 2012Lekue, S.L.Flexible kitchen container
US20120060449 *Sep 13, 2010Mar 15, 2012Illinois Tool Works Inc.Carton with plastic reclosable header
US20120187182 *Sep 13, 2010Jul 26, 2012Illinois Tool Works Inc.Carton with plastic reclosable header
EP2033901A2 *Sep 9, 2008Mar 11, 2009Teng-Shun LaiCollapsible and disposable container
Classifications
U.S. Classification220/6
International ClassificationB65D6/12
Cooperative ClassificationB65D33/02, B65D5/3635, B65D33/2508
European ClassificationB65D5/36B4, B65D33/25A, B65D33/02
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Jun 10, 2005ASAssignment
Owner name: PROCTER & GAMBLE COMPANY, THE, OHIO
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:BERG, CHARLES JOHN JR;NORCOM, JOHN DAVID;REEL/FRAME:016320/0107
Effective date: 20050228