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Publication numberUS20070017827 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/185,221
Publication dateJan 25, 2007
Filing dateJul 19, 2005
Priority dateJul 20, 2004
Also published asWO2006014705A2, WO2006014705A3
Publication number11185221, 185221, US 2007/0017827 A1, US 2007/017827 A1, US 20070017827 A1, US 20070017827A1, US 2007017827 A1, US 2007017827A1, US-A1-20070017827, US-A1-2007017827, US2007/0017827A1, US2007/017827A1, US20070017827 A1, US20070017827A1, US2007017827 A1, US2007017827A1
InventorsEdward Urquhart, David Pierce
Original AssigneeUrquhart Edward F, Pierce David A
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Multipurpose columns and trays for beverages and food
US 20070017827 A1
Abstract
The invention is directed to columns, trays and systems including columns and trays that enable a user to conveniently and safely transport objects, such as one or more beverage containers, by tension (hanging) as opposed to compression (supporting). Column embodiments of the invention include a substantially elongate column extending from a central portion of a primary tray. Preferably, insertable column embodiments are formed from a pulp slurry and molded into a clam-shell configuration prior to assembly and used with a tray having an aperture and preferably a collar adapted to receive the insertable column. Supporting elements of the column engage a base portion of the tray, thereby providing a distributed support interface. Features of the invention include upper retaining elements to prevent dislodgment of the column from the tray when engaged therewith; a handle at an end opposite to the supporting elements for user grasping; and mid column accessory features such as supports for a secondary tray or tall beverage containers.
Images(15)
Previous page
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Claims(30)
1. A column for use with a primary tray having an upper surface and a lower surface that define an aperture, the column comprising:
an upper end and a lower end separated by a body portion, which together defines a longitudinal axis; and
lower supporting means for engaging and supporting the primary tray when positioned at or proximate to the lower end of the column.
2. The column of claim 1 wherein the lower supporting means comprises an enlarged portion having a cross section greater than the maximum cross section of the aperture whereby the enlarged portion is incapable of passing through the aperture when the column is inserted therein.
3. The column of claim 2 wherein the enlarged portion has a primary tray lower surface contacting portion that generally conforms to contours of the lower surface in the area of contact.
4. The column of claim 2 wherein the enlarged portion is the lower end of the column and the column is characterized as tapered.
5. The column of claim 4 wherein the column is an n-sided polygon in cross section.
6. The column of claim 2 further comprising grasping means at or proximate to the upper end to facilitate a user grasping the column.
7. The column of claim 6 wherein the grasping means is one of a hole laterally extending from one side of the column to the other, a laterally oriented handle extending bi-directionally from a pair of slots formed in the column, or an integral laterally oriented handle extending bi-directionally from the column.
8. The column of claim 2 wherein the column results from a molding process.
9. The column of claim 2 wherein the column is molded in a clamshell configuration.
10. The column of claim 1 wherein the column is constructed from cellulose.
11. The column of claim 1 wherein a plurality of planar segments from a single sheet of planar material are manipulated to form an n-sided tapered column.
12. The column of claim 1 wherein the lower supporting means comprise a plurality of outwardly extendible flaps.
13. The column of claim 1 wherein the lower supporting means comprise a plurality of laterally extending slots for receiving perimeter portions of the aperture.
14. The column of claim 13 wherein the number of slots is equal to the number of sides defining the aperture of the primary tray.
15. The column of claim 13 wherein the number of slots is one half the number of sides defining the aperture of the primary tray.
16. The column of claim 15 wherein the column is inwardly collapsible in at least one direction.
17. The column of claim 16 further comprising an inwardly extendible bracing flap for expanding the column after collapse.
18. The column of claim 1 further comprising at least one slot defined by the column and located at one of the body portion or the upper portion for receiving a beverage retaining ring.
19. The column of claim 18 wherein the at least one slot is vertically oriented and the beverage retaining ring further comprises a hook portion for engaging an interior wall of the column after insertion into the at least one vertically oriented slot.
20. The column of claim 1 further comprising a sleeve for coaxial placement over the column, thereby altering its outward appearance.
21. The column of claim 1 further comprising upper retaining means located adjacent to the lower supporting means for preventing axial movement of the column in the primary tray aperture in one direction after functional insertion of the column in the aperture by contacting the upper surface of the primary tray.
22. The column of claim 21 wherein the upper retaining means comprise a radially extending element having a width greater than that of the aperture.
23. The column of claim 21 wherein the upper retaining means comprise a plurality of extendible flaps.
24. The column of claim 1 further comprising a secondary tray for positioning above the primary tray.
25. The column of claim 1 further comprising the primary tray.
26. A primary tray configured for carrying food items comprising:
a first surface for receiving one or more items to be carried, a second surface opposed to the first surface, and a perimeter bounding the first and second surfaces wherein the first and second surface define a central aperture having a periphery and sized to receive a column.
27. The primary tray of claim 26 wherein the cellulose is a principle component of its constitution.
28. The primary tray of claim 26 wherein a cross sectional profile of the aperture is one of a closed curve or an n-sided polygon.
29. The primary tray of claim 26 further comprising a collar located at the aperture on the first surface.
30. The primary tray of claim 29 wherein the collar generally retains the geometry of the aperture.
Description
    DESCRIPTION OF THE PRIOR ART
  • [0001]
    It is well known in the prior art to use molded trays constructed from pulp to carry items such as beverage cups and food items from one place to another. Particularly popular is a molded pulp beverage container tray having four symmetrically displaced recesses for carrying 1-4 beverage cups. Such a conventional beverage tray, which is shown in FIG. 1, permits a person to conveniently carry a plurality of beverages from one location to another. However, this solution usually requires a person to use both hands to carry the beverage-containing tray. If only one hand is used, the beverage tray usually becomes unstable and results in the loss of items being carried.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • [0002]
    The invention is directed to columns, trays and systems comprising columns and trays, as well as to bails for engaging conventional trays, that enable a person to conveniently and safely transport objects, such as one or more beverage containers, by tension (hanging) as opposed to compression (supporting). Unlike known embodiments in the prior art, the invention provides a means for establishing the center of gravity for the tray below a user's hand(s), thereby dramatically increasing its stability and portability. The means comprises an auxiliary structure having a hand gripping portion for facilitating handling by a user and a tray engaging portion for supporting a tray, either apertured or conventional.
  • [0003]
    As will be further disclosed herein, the invention comprises on the one hand an auxiliary structure that engages with a primary tray to permit one-handed transportation of items contained in the primary tray, and on the other hand a primary tray having a generally centrally located aperture for receiving an auxiliary structure. The components of the invention may be constructed from a planar or non-planar material such as plastic, corrugated cardboard, chip board or other cellulose-based material, or acetate sheet; alternatively, it may be cast or molded from a slurry. particularly including cellulose pulp. As used herein, the former are referred to as “constructed” columns while the later are referred to as “molded” columns. While each material has its benefits, greatest economies can be realized through the use of molded pulps.
  • [0004]
    In a first series of embodiments, the auxiliary structure comprises an elongate column adapted to extend from a central portion of a primary tray, which is adapted to receive the column. In a second series of embodiments, the invention comprises a bail-type member that engages at least two sides of an unmodified primary tray. In a third series of embodiments, the tray defines an aperture to receive a column.
  • [0005]
    The first series of embodiments, as noted above, comprise a column extending from a central portion of a primary tray. The column may be formed integral with the tray, or may be permanently or non-permanently attached to the tray. In an integrated embodiment, the primary tray and the column are co-formed to create a unitary structure, and are preferably constructed by a molding process. In embodiments wherein the column is permanently attached to the primary tray, adhesives are preferably used to modify a removable column to ensure the structural integrity of the overall assembly; modification of a conventional tray is not necessary although it may be desirable. For “attached” embodiments, a suitable tray will have at least an aperture formed therein for receiving the desired column, the aperture preferably having or caused to have a cross section shape or geometry that closely matches that of the column cross section at the interface between the two components, as will be discussed in greater detail below. The column may have a closed curve cross section, e.g., circular or elliptical, or may be an n-sided polygon in cross section, e.g., triangular, square, pentagonal, etc.
  • [0006]
    In the “attachable” embodiments, an appropriately formed aperture is either designed into the primary tray (created at the time of tray formation) or results from post formation modification. The post formation aperture may be established by removing a central portion of the tray, e.g., an outline perforation may be created in the tray whereby removal thereof can be accomplished “punching” the central portion or by perforating a pattern such as an “X”, which will create an approximate square aperture. It should be noted that with respect to at least the collapsible column embodiment described herein, the waste from the removal process can be used to maintain an expanded state after engagement of the column with the tray.
  • [0007]
    In a removable embodiment, the cross section of the column is selected to substantially mate with the geometry of the aperture defined by the primary tray, or vice versa. If the column is a regular or right cylinder, then the external dimensions of the column should closely match those of primary tray aperture; if the column is tapered in general or frusto-conical in particular (either closed curve or n-sided polygon in cross section), then that portion of the column intended to interface with the primary tray during use should have external dimensions and a geometry close to that of the primary tray aperture. These construction parameters result in a column that partially emerges from the top of the primary tray and, at least with respect to tapered columns without tray supporting elements, frictionally interferes with the primary tray aperture upon substantial extension there through.
  • [0008]
    To enhance tray stability with respect to the column, a feature of the invention provides for the inclusion of at least one aperture collar positioned about the perimeter of the aperture. An aperture collar increases the amount of area surface area contact between the column and the tray, and further distributes the torque moment between these two components over a greater area, thereby increasing tray stability. The at least one collar can be established on the upper surface of the tray or on the lower surface. Preferably, a tray will have both upper and lower collars.
  • [0009]
    At least one primary tray supporting element may be provided at a lower portion of the column to prevent over-extension of the column through the aperture and to distribute localized vertical column load across the tray. This at least one lower supporting element beneficially engages with the bottom of the tray and, therefore, prevents further translation of the column through the tray and distributes vertical load across a greater area of the primary tray. Optionally, the column may further comprise at least one upper retaining elements that beneficially engage with an upper surface of the tray, thereby preventing unintended downward translation of the column once engaged with the tray. The incorporation of upper retaining elements further increase the stability of tray relative to the column by arresting undesired torquing of the tray, such as would be encountered during transportation of asymmetrical loads.
  • [0010]
    Another variation of the tapered column embodiment relies upon a similar friction interference between the column and the primary beverage tray. However, while other embodiments rely upon supporting elements to prevent torquing of the primary tray relative to the support column, a plurality of laterally oriented slots are selectively formed in the column. In this embodiment, a non-circular cross section column is used (preferably one that has corners which have a maximum diameter greater than that of the minimum diameter of the tray aperture). By selectively forming laterally oriented slots at the column corners, the slots will engage with the peripheral portions of the tray aperture when the column is inserted into the aperture, the slots are brought coplanar with the peripheral portions of the aperture, and the column is rotated relative to the primary tray, thereby providing suitable support means without the use of discrete supporting elements.
  • [0011]
    In the embodiments heretofore described, the column was preferably rigid. However, if a lateral slot arrangement is to be used, a modification is to provide a collapsible lower portion in the column. In this embodiment, rotation of the column to engage the peripheral portions of the tray aperture is not needed. Instead, the collapsed portion of the column is inserted into the aperture where after the column is fixedly expanded. In a disclosed embodiment, the expansion is accomplished by introducing a stiffening member into the area defined by the column. The stiffening member is preferably a wall portion of the column that is pivoted inwardly in the direction of column collapse, until it contacts the opposing wall portion, thereby causing the same to project outwardly. This outward projection in turn flexes the opposing wall portions, thereby causing expansion of the column. At least a pair of opposing slots formed in a lower portion of column then engage the peripheral portions of the tray aperture, thereby “locking” the beverage tray in its relative position viz a viz the support column.
  • [0012]
    Both of the preceding embodiment series also preferably include a gripping means for providing a location for a user to grasp or retain the column. The gripping means may be a handle member insertable into the column, i.e., an auxiliary structure not integral with the column, or may be a handle member integral with the column, i.e., cut from a blank during formation of the column or molded with the column. If insertable, the handle member can be laterally inserted into a pair of aligned holes, or can be inserted through a slot depending from the top of the column where after an obstructive interface prevents reverse movement. The insertable handle member can be a simple “V” shaped insert, or a conventional handle formation, including obstructive interface features. The handle member can also be fixedly attached to the column, such as by mechanical fasteners and/or adhesives. Alternatively, the handle member can employ a bail having two opposed distal ends that are inserted or otherwise grip the column. Furthermore, the gripping means can take the form of positive and/or negative relief features formed on the outer surface of the column, or can take the form of a hole through which a user may insert a finger or other object.
  • [0013]
    A feature of select embodiments regarding the columns includes the use of tapered columns. By utilizing tapered columns, a plurality of columns can be stacked and nested into one another, thereby reducing overall space necessary for transportation and/or storage of assembled columns, with or without attached trays. Moreover, a tapered geometric form beneficially facilitates the insertion of the column through the aperture of the tray and permits reliance on a friction fit between the column and the tray, whether or not other means for securing the relationship between the components are used.
  • [0014]
    Another derivative of the embodiments described above comprises a secondary tray. The secondary tray includes an aperture of sufficient dimensions and geometry to permit a column to penetrate there through. If secondary tray supporting elements are present on the column, the secondary tray supporting elements can arrest undesired translation between the secondary tray and the primary tray, thereby creating a suitable support surface for carrying items in addition to those carried by the primary tray. If a tapered column is used, then the dimensions of the second tray aperture should be such that the secondary tray does not translate the entire length of the column, but is frictionally restricted from further translation at a location generally corresponding to the maximum dimensions of the second tray aperture. Additionally, secondary tray upper retaining elements may be provided that beneficially engage with an upper surface of the secondary tray, thereby preventing unintended upward translation of the secondary tray relative to the column once engaged with the secondary tray. The incorporation of secondary tray upper retaining elements further increase the stability of tray relative to the column by arresting undesired torquing of the tray, such as would be encountered during transportation of asymmetrical loads.
  • [0015]
    In addition to or in lieu of a secondary tray, additional accessories can be linked to the column. One example described in more detail below, relies upon a hook and slot arrangement to associate a beverage container with the column. The same or similar hook structure can also be used to link other carries or accessories to the column. Another example utilizes a tether member comprising a loop portion and a carrier portion. The loop portion defines an aperture akin to that of the secondary tray to provide a friction fit between it and the column, and further includes a tether portion linking the loop portion with a carrier portion. Preferably, pairs of these tether members are used to form a “saddle” configuration.
  • [0016]
    As noted above, a column can also be modified to accept beverages in addition to those being held by the beverage tray, or replace the function of the beverage tray as will now be described. By forming at least one elongate vertically aligned slot in the column and utilizing a slot engaging member having means for securing an object, additional objects, such as beverage cups, can be supported by the column. In one embodiment, a generally linear strip of material having two distal ends is formed so that upon envelopment of an object and overlapping attachment of the distal ends, a hook structure for the object is formed. A preferred means for attachment of the strip uses a latex-based cohesive such as that manufactured by Sovereign Chemical of Cincinnati, Ohio. The cohesive will only bond to itself, but create a high coefficient of friction with the object. The hook structure has a length greater than that of the at least one slot; only pivotal insertion of the hook structure into the slot will engage the overlapped strip of material with the column. By positioning the distal end of the hook upward, downward pivoting of the structure will not cause the structure to emerge from the slot. Thus, the hook structure extends into the at least one slot and thereby retains any object placed therein to the column. Other embodiments use a similar sliding engagement for retaining an auxiliary structure in a slot formed in the column, as will be appreciated by those skilled in the art.
  • [0017]
    In a second series of embodiments, the auxiliary structure is a bail member that provides support for the primary tray, which need not be modified in order to operate with the invention. In this embodiment series, the auxiliary structure comprises at least two peripheral support members that extend beyond the lateral sides of the primary tray and further extend inwardly toward the center of the tray (forming a handle segment) to provide a suitable support means for the tray. While this configuration provides suitable single axis support, it does not address orthogonal movement of the primary tray. Consequently, laterally extending stabilizers arrest the second axis rotation by preventing rotation about the axis defined by the two retention members.
  • [0018]
    The invention, its various embodiments and the disclosed features will become more apparent upon inspection of the accompanying illustrations.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • [0019]
    FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a conventional molded pulp beverage tray of the prior art having a central portion, a periphery including a perimeter edge, and a plurality of recesses for receiving beverage cups;
  • [0020]
    FIG. 2 is an exploded perspective view of a primary tray defining an aperture through which a first embodiment tapered column with non-integrated handle is inserted;
  • [0021]
    FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the combination shown in FIG. 2 after column insertion and engagement of the lower supporting means;
  • [0022]
    FIG. 4 is plan view of the first embodiment column shown in a pre-configured state;
  • [0023]
    FIG. 5 is an exploded perspective view of a second embodiment tapered column using the same lower supporting means as the first embodiment of FIGS. 2-4, and further including upper retaining means and a modified, non-integrated handle;
  • [0024]
    FIG. 6 is a plan view of the second embodiment column shown in a pre-configured state;
  • [0025]
    FIG. 7 is a detailed cross section elevation view of the second embodiment column engaged with a primary tray, where both the lower supporting means and the upper retaining means are in compressive contact with the primary tray;
  • [0026]
    FIG. 8 is a perspective view of the first embodiment column and second embodiment handle inserted into the primary tray, and further illustrating the inclusion of a secondary tray positioned at the body of the column;
  • [0027]
    FIG. 9 is an exploded perspective view of a third embodiment tapered column wherein a plurality of lateral slots comprise the lower supporting means;
  • [0028]
    FIG. 10 is a detailed plan view of the embodiment of FIG. 9 illustrating the necessary rotation of the column in the aperture in order to achieve engagement with the primary tray;
  • [0029]
    FIG. 11 is perspective view of a fourth embodiment non-tapered column wherein a pair of elongate lateral slots are formed in the lower portion of a collapsible column, which also possesses an integral handle;
  • [0030]
    FIG. 12 shows the embodiment of FIG. 11 subsequent to expansion and bracing of the lower portion and extension of the handle combined with collapsing of the upper portion thereof;
  • [0031]
    FIG. 13 is a cross section elevation view of the embodiment of FIG. 12 in conjunction with a primary tray to particularly illustrate the engagement of the column with the primary tray through expansion of the lower portion of the column;
  • [0032]
    FIG. 14 is a perspective view of a fifth embodiment frusto-conical (also considered tapered) column in conjunction with a primary tray not having a pre-formed aperture but instead having a frangible aperture;
  • [0033]
    FIG. 15 is a perspective view of the second embodiment tapered column having been modified to define a pair of longitudinally oriented slots for receiving beverage container rings that either stabilize a beverage located in the primary tray or separately support additional containers directly from the column;
  • [0034]
    FIG. 16 is a plan view of a beverage container ring prior to formation;
  • [0035]
    FIG. 17 is a detailed cross section elevation view of a beverage container ring engaging the column where a hook portion prevents the unintentional dislodgement of the ring from the column;
  • [0036]
    FIG. 18 is a perspective view of a first embodiment bail shown in conjunction with a prior art tray;
  • [0037]
    FIG. 19 is a perspective view of the embodiment of FIG. 18 during extension of a pair of stabilizing members;
  • [0038]
    FIG. 20 is a partial cross section elevation of the combination of FIG. 18;
  • [0039]
    FIG. 21 is a perspective view of a second embodiment bail shown in conjunction with a prior art tray;
  • [0040]
    FIG. 22 is a perspective view of the embodiment of FIG. 21 during extension of a pair of stabilizing members;
  • [0041]
    FIG. 23 is an exploded perspective view of a column sleeve to transform the visual appearance of the column;
  • [0042]
    FIG. 24 is a perspective view of a fifth embodiment column and second embodiment primary tray particularly illustrating the use of molded lower supporting means and an upper retaining element in combination with a primary tray incorporating an upper collar;
  • [0043]
    FIG. 25 is an exploded perspective view of embodiments shown in FIG. 24;
  • [0044]
    FIG. 26 is a detailed cross section elevation of the embodiment of FIG. 24 wherein the increased surface area contact between the column and the tray is shown; and
  • [0045]
    FIG. 27 is plan view of an alternative column embodiment to that of FIG. 24 (shown as a clamshell for assembly) for use with primary trays not having a collar.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL EMBODIMENTS
  • [0046]
    Turning then to the several Figures wherein like numerals indicate like parts, and more particularly to FIG. 1, a conventional disposable beverage tray of the prior art is shown. Tray 10 includes upper surface 12, lower surface 14, container recesses 16 formed in upper surface 12 and central portion 18. In conventional use, up to four beverage containers (not shown) are disposed in recesses 16 and a user carries tray 10 by supporting lower surface 12. In this method, the center of gravity for the tray is above the point of support, thereby inherently creating an unstable platform.
  • [0047]
    In order to establish a center of gravity for the tray that is below the point of actual support, an auxiliary structure is needed. As best shown in FIGS. 2-4, the auxiliary structure comprises column 40, which is used in conjunction with modified tray 20. Tray 20 resembles tray 10 in all material respects (upper surface 22, lower surface 24, container recesses 26 and central portion 28) except for the presence of aperture 30. As best shown in FIG. 2, aperture 30 has sides 32 a-d, which are established such that they approximate the geometric shape of column 40 at the point of contact (see FIG. 3).
  • [0048]
    Column 40 includes upper end 42, lower end 44 and sides 46 a-e. In addition, and to provide suitable linkage to tray 20, supporting elements 60 are used. In this illustrated embodiment, supporting elements 60 comprise flaps 62 a-d, each of which includes supporting edge 64. Column 40 can be die cut from a suitable material such as fiber board, corrugated or folding paperboard as is shown in FIG. 4, and assembled into a final form such as shown in FIG. 2 by folding each side 46 until side 46 a is overlapped by side 46 e. Depending upon preference, the assembled structure can be biased to retain its shape through the radial constriction of aperture 30 when column 40 is inserted there through, via mechanical fastening between side 46 a and 46 e, or adhesive bonding between side 46 a and 46 e.
  • [0049]
    While a friction fit between column 40 and tray 20 through aperture 30 may provide sufficient linkage between the column and the tray, a more robust linkage employs lower supporting elements 60, as is best shown in FIGS. 2 and 3. In this embodiment, supporting elements 60 comprise flaps 62 a-d. Each flap 62 includes supporting edge 64, which contacts lower surface 24 of tray 20 when column 40 is fully inserted into aperture 30 and flaps 62 a-d are extended as shown.
  • [0050]
    To facilitate the use of column 40, handle recesses 50 are provided. When column 40 is folded into a use configuration as shown in FIG. 2, handle recesses 50 a-c longitudinally align to form slots 52 a and 52 b. In addition, each recess 50 includes converging edges 54 a and 54 b, and retaining edges 56 a and 56 b. The configuration of recesses 50 is selected to exploit the geometry of handle 80. As shown, handle 80 includes sides 82 a and 82 b, each side having corresponding supporting edges 86 a and 86 b. When handle 80 is inserted into recesses 50, either vertically through slots 52 or laterally as shown in FIG. 2, sides 82 a and 82 b abut converging edges 54 a and 54 b, respectively. Vertical escapement of handle 80 is prevented by the interaction between supporting edges 86 a and 86 b with retaining edges 56 a and 56 b, respectively. This interaction is best shown in FIG. 3.
  • [0051]
    Column 140, shown in FIGS. 5-7, is similar to column 40 shown in FIGS. 2-4, except that in addition to lower supporting elements 60, it includes upper retaining elements 70, which comprise flaps 72 a-d. Each flap 72 includes contacting edge 74, which functions to restrain upward vertical movement of tray 20 relative to column 140, as best shown in FIG. 7. Because flaps 72 a-d must be in the non-extended position during insertion of column 140 into tray 20, these flaps must be extended prior to realizing their functionality. When so extended after column insertion through the aperture, perimeter 32 is generally compressively held between supporting edges 64 a-d and contacting edges 74 a-d, as is best shown in FIG. 7.
  • [0052]
    Also shown in use with column 140 is handle 180. While the functionality of handle 180 is similar to that of handle 80, it further comprises central body portion 184, which serves to link side 182 a with side 182 b, and to provide finger hole 88. As with handle 80, supporting edges 182 a and 182 b cooperate with retaining edges 156 a and 156 b.
  • [0053]
    FIG. 8 shows column 140 engaged with tray 20, and further illustrates secondary tray 90. Secondary tray 90 is intended to provide a means for exploiting the presence of any column by providing support for items in addition to those that may be carried on the primary tray. While tray 90 need only have aperture 92, enhanced stability can be achieved by incorporating a collar surrounding aperture 92 (the collar concept will be explored in more detail with reference to FIGS. 24-26), lower and optionally upper supporting elements similar in concept to supporting elements 60 and retaining elements 70 of columns 40 and 140, and equivalent stabilizing structure. By selecting an appropriately sized aperture, vertical translation of secondary tray 90 is uni-directionally limited, with or without the presence of supping elements as long as the column has a taper. In those embodiments wherein a right prism form is selected, then some form of supporting elements on the column is necessary. Furthermore, by modifying the shape or footprint of the secondary tray, sufficient clearance can be retained for carrying tall beverage containers.
  • [0054]
    Heretofore, the features associated with an improved column have focused on supporting elements that extend from the body of the column. In FIGS. 9-13, support for the tray is accomplished by slots formed in the column. Turning first to FIGS. 9-10, a first embodiment employing this form of support is shown. Lower supporting elements 260 comprise lateral slots 248 a-d, which are formed at each corner of column 240. The lateral width of each slot will determine the degree or extent of interaction with tray 20. Column 240 is inserted into aperture 30 of tray 20 as conventionally shown in prior embodiments, however, support is not achieved by friction fit or extension of flaps. Instead, and as best illustrated in FIG. 10, column 240 is rotated within aperture 30 such that each lateral slot 248 engages perimeter 32 of aperture 30 (shown by arrows). Beneficially, this mode of support also provides the equivalent of upper supporting elements as will be appreciated by those persons skilled in the art. By providing support for tray 20 in this manner, there is no subsequent manipulation of the column or the tray after insertion and rotation of the column, thereby increasing the efficiency of establishing a combined column and tray.
  • [0055]
    FIGS. 11-13 depict a variant of the above-referenced alternative embodiment. Here, column 340 is collapsible in at least one direction and elongate lateral slots 349 a and 349 b are present on the faces of the column subject to the direction of collapse, and extend into the adjacent faces to limit the degree of tray support. To prevent the unintentional collapse of the column after insertion and expansion, flap 394 is formed in one of the faces of the column having the elongate lateral slot. By extending flap 394 into the body of column 340 as shown in FIG. 12, a non-collapsing structure can be achieved (flap 394 functions as a brace or compression strut with tab 496 operating to retain flap 394 in the desired position). Advantageously, the recess created by these actions provides a convenient location for the storage of incidentals of the user's choice.
  • [0056]
    FIGS. 11 and 12 also illustrate an additional handle embodiment. As shown therein, handle 480 comprises extending sides 482 a-d, which derive from sides 446 a and 446 c. Slits 486 decouple sides 482 from sides 446 so that when sides 446 b and 446 d are compressed towards each other (direction of arrows), sides 482 can extend as shown in beginning in FIG. 11 and ending in FIG. 12. A coating of a cohesive between the mating portions of sides 482 or use of other means for fastening these sides can be used to prevent subsequent separation thereof.
  • [0057]
    FIG. 14 is shown as an example of a true conical column that relies exclusively on friction fit with tray 520, although any of the heretofore described means for linking the column to the tray can be used. To enhance the friction fit between this column 540 (a molded column) and tray 520, tray 520 has modified aperture 530, which comprises two orthogonal scores or perforations 532 a and 532 b. This frangible aperture is then established upon the insertion of the column through the aperture, whereupon flaps 534 a-d will upwardly extend, thereby forming a type of collar about the column. This collar beneficially increases the surface contact area between the two structures, which increases the coefficient of friction there between. In addition, the extension of flaps 534 a-d in an upward direction further increases the resistance of the column to “downward” movement. It should be noted that this interaction is valid for any form of column, including those previously described and those to be described.
  • [0058]
    The earlier discussion regarding the incorporation of secondary tray 90 intimated that it could be used for a variety of functions. The implicit utility of the upper potion of the column will now be further described. FIGS. 15-17 disclose the use of beverage rings 610 with elongate vertical slots 648, which may be formed towards upper end 642 or lower end 644 of column 640. Each ring 610 comprises inside surface 612, outside surface 614, and distal ends 616, which include hook portion 618. At least inside surface 612 of each hook portion 618 will be securely linked to each other either intrinsically such as through the use of adhesives, cohesives, mechanical fasteners or the like, or extrinsically such as through the mutual insertion of hook portions 618 into elongate vertical slot 648. Once so linked, a cylindrical or frusto-cylindrical ring is formed, ready to accept a beverage container.
  • [0059]
    If slot 648 is located towards lower end 644 of column 640, then ring 610 functions to stabilize a container disposed in a cup recess; this is particularly advantageous when carrying large volume beverage containers that have a small base but enlarged volume, thereby intrinsically creating an unstable container. If slot 648 is located towards upper end 642 of column 640, then ring 610 functions to hold additional containers or similarly cylindrical objects, presuming that column 640 is sufficiently sized to accept stacked containers.
  • [0060]
    Unintentional release of ring 610 from column 640 is accomplished by the interference between hook end 619 and the inside surface of column 640 at slot 648, as is best shown in FIG. 17. In this manner, one can easily insert ring 610 into slot 648, yet once inserted therein it will not come out during normal carrying.
  • [0061]
    FIGS. 18-20 and 21-22 show two alternative “bail” embodiments of the invention. In both of these embodiments, support for tray 20 results from the peripheral retention of the tray by the bail members as opposed to the central retention as in previous embodiments.
  • [0062]
    In the event that advertising on the column is desired, economies can be achieved though the use of sleeve 100, as is shown best in FIG. 23. Sleeve 100 need only be sufficiently sized to fit over any column in order to function as intended. Thus, a sleeve having an internal diameter greater than either a rectilinear or curvilinear column will function with both. Additionally, if the material selection for the column yields a visually less than desirable result, sleeve 100 can be placed over it to alter its outward appearance.
  • [0063]
    Heretofore, the disclosed columns, with the exception of that in FIG. 14, have not been molded. Columns 740 and 840 in FIGS. 24-27 illustrate two types of molded columns that are formed in a clamshell manner (see FIG. 27 for an example). Both columns have bases contoured to closely fit the contours of lower surface 24′ of tray 20′: lower end 744 for column 740 and lower end 844 for column 840. Both columns also have upper retainers for preventing unintentional release of the column from the tray: retainer 770 for column 740 and retainer 870 for column 840. In both embodiments, the retainer and tray aperture slightly deform during insertion of the column, and recover their respective shapes after clearance of the retainer from the upper surface of the tray.
  • [0064]
    Column 740 has a greater distance between lower end 744 and retainer 770 than column 840 for reasons that will now be described. As best shown in FIGS. 25 and 26, tray 20′ includes upper collar 36. Similar in function to flaps 534 a-d in FIG. 14, collar 36 increases the amount of coacting surface area between the column and the tray. In addition, and unlike flaps 534 a-d, collar 36 functions to reduce torque effects between a tray and a column because of its structural nature (note the incorporation of struts 37). As best shown in FIG. 26, contoured portions 25 of tray 20′ closely match contoured portions 745 of column 740 from lower surface 24 to the upper periphery of collar 36. The presence of retainer 748 at this upper surface facilitates a slight compression between the column and the tray, further adding to stability of the assembly. A similar effect is found with respect to the use of column 848, however, torque transmission is reduced in view of the lack of a collar.
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Referenced by
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US7562787 *Jan 11, 2007Jul 21, 2009Raymond F SerranoBeverage holder and transport system
US8146737 *Jan 30, 2009Apr 3, 2012D Agostino Robert JBeverage cup carrier
US9150326Feb 7, 2011Oct 6, 2015Cascades Canada UlcCup holder tray
US20080169292 *Jan 11, 2007Jul 17, 2008Raymond F SerranoBeverage Holder and Transport System
US20090194437 *Jan 30, 2009Aug 6, 2009D Agostino Robert JBeverage cup carrier
US20100301077 *Sep 11, 2008Dec 2, 2010Popart Australia Pty LtdBeverage container carrier
US20110120995 *May 26, 2011Cascades Canada Inc.Cup holder tray
US20120031806 *Feb 9, 2012Sunee Wongsuwanlert RileyDetachable support and serving tray
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Classifications
U.S. Classification206/162, 206/198, 206/564, 206/562
International ClassificationB65D75/00, B65D1/34
Cooperative ClassificationB65D71/0003, B65D15/00
European ClassificationB65D71/00B, B65D15/00