US 3675811 A
Disclosed is a covered vending container which is divided into compartments by divider wall ridge members. The divider wall ridge members describe generally double-curved paths across the bottom of the container, and rise to a height above the bottom of the container less than the height of the side walls extending peripherally therearound. Container strength is enhanced by the curved paths of the divider walls and by the manner of intersection between the divider walls and the container side walls. The container cover is a clear dome provided with denestable stacking means and corner detent means for engaging the underside of the flange portion of the vending container. In preferred embodiments, the tray portion of the vending container is molded foam sheet and the dome portion of the vending container is clear plastic material.
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Patent Artz [451 July 11, 1972 54] VENDING CONTAINER WITH COVER 3,305,124 2/l967 Whiteford ..220/23.s x THEREFOR 3,303,964 2/ i967 Luker ..229/2.$ X D207,726 5/1967 Whelan ..D44/] 4  inventor: Kenneth W. Artz, Mohnton, Pa.
73 A Grace & Co D SC Primary Examiner-George E. Lowrance 1 Attorney-John J. Toney, William D. Lee, Jr. and Edward J.  Filed: Dec. 18, 1969 Hanson, 1:.
[2l] Appl. No.: 886,279  ABSTRACT Disclosed is a covered vending container which is divided into  US. Cl. ..220/20, 220/60 R, 2212/3/72? compartments y divider wan ridge members. The divider wall ridge members describe generally double-curved paths across s "865d g the bottom of the container, and rise to a height above the bot- 56 l 6 tom of the container less than the height of the side walls extending peripherally therearound. Container strength is enhanced by the curved paths of the divider walls and by the  References Cited manner of intersection between the divider walls and the con- UNITED STATES PATENTS tainer side walls. The container cover is a clear dome provided with denestable stacking means and comer detent means for Dl95,682 7/1963 Grogel ..D44/ 16.2 engaging the underside f the fl portion f the vending 0195,52? 6/ 1963 Pattonmcontainer. in preferred embodiments, the tray portion of the $107,027 l0/1963 f vending container is molded foam sheet and the dome portion 3,326,408 6/196 Rlnglen of the vending container is clear plastic material. 2,738,915 3/1956 St. Clair..... v D200,249 2/1965 Hancock ..229/2.5 UX 2 Claims, 10 DrawlngFigures MTENTEDJUL H I972 3,675.81 1
v SHEET 2 BF 4 INVENTOR K.W. ARTZ Q .L BY w ATTORNEY MTENTEDJUL 11 m2 3.675.811
sum 3 BF 4 INVENTOR K.W. ARTZ vdtwwy ATTORNEY .fKTENTEhJUL 1 1 1972 3.67 5 81 '1 SHEET '4 BF 4 FIG IO INVENTOR K.W. ARTZ f 5 ATTORNEY 3/ VENDING CONTAINER WITH COVER THEREFOR BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION The present invention relates to a vending container or the like with a tray portion molded from foam sheet material and a cover portion molded from clear plastic sheet. More particularly the tray portion of the container is compartmentized by curving divider wall members, and the cover portion is rendered denestable by staggered stacking lugs.
The term vending container is employed herein as a matter of convenience. It is used to describe various trays, dishes and like constructions which are adapted to receive food and other substances into compartments. The term is particularly used to describe those containers which are first obtained from coin operated, refrigerated vending machines, and are subsequently heated in micro-wave type ovens.
The prior art has provided many types of trays and containers' for food applications. Generally, these containers have performed their functions satisfactorily. However, certain difficulties with containers and vending trays of the prior art do exist. For instance, it has been difficult to produce trays which possess satisfactory rigidity and resistance to cracking and breaking along stress lines. The cover portions of certain containers of the prior art have also proved difficult to remove after heating. Another shortcoming of the prior art which the present invention substantially obviates relates to the difflculty in removing trays from the tight confines of compartments ordinarily found in vending machines. Yet another problem resides in providing stable trays whose bottom portions resist rocking.
It is therefore a principal object of the present invention to provide a product wherein the above noted and other difficulties of the prior art are substantially reduced.
It is another object of the present invention to provide a vending container having a tray portion made more rigid by the presence of curving divider walls rising up from the bottom of said tray.
It is a further object of the present invention to provide divider walls which rise from the bottom of the tray to a height less than the height of the side wall members of said tray.
It is yet one other object of the present invention to provide a vending container having a clear plastic dome with detent means located at the corners thereof.
It is yet one more object of the present invention to provide a vending container having a clear plastic dome with staggered stacking means centered directly above the detents which improves detent rigidity over prior art detent design.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION In solving the problems of the prior art several novel features have been discovered. Discussed broadly, certain of these novel features are as follows:
1. It has been found that the strength of container trays may be enhanced by providing generally double curved divider walls which rise above the bottom of the tray less than the height of the side wall members of said tray.
The double curve path of the divider wall prevents the flexing which would occur in hingelike fashion if a straight-line path were employed. It has also been found that tray strength and resistance to damaging flexure is particularly improved when the divider wall members are made to intersect the tray side wall along lengthwise segments of the side walls' rather than at vertical lines thereof. Near the intersecting segments, the divider wall peaks are flared out into gently curving, triangular shaped plateaus with one side of each triangular plateau comprising the segments of intersection with the container side wall members. The triangular plateaus provide areas of opposed stressed bracing in combination with the sloping sides of the divider wall ridges and the portions of the side wall members extending upwardly from the intersection with the triangular plateaus.
2. Triangular shaped, opposed, stressed, bracing areas are also provided in embodiments wherein intersections exist between two divider wall ridge members.
3. Container tray rigidity is likewise enhanced by forming the bottom portion of tray compartments in a generally upwardly curving, concave configuration. This concave configuration provides further opposed stress bracing areas.
The edge or peripheral bottom portions of each compartment are constructed to lie in the same plane. The coplanar edges of the compartment bottoms thereby provide a stable platform for resting the trays on flat surfaces.
4. The cover portion of the vending container, which is likewise provided with novel features, basically comprises a raised dome section, a ledge element extending outwardly and peripherally from the lower area of the dome portion, and a skirt portion depending downwardly from the ledge element. At each corner of the skirt, inwardly projecting detent means are formed to engage with the under side of the tray flange member. Stacking means are provided at each comer of the cover and extend outwardly from the lower wall of the dome portion and downwardly in a smooth curving plane into the skirt portion of the cover member.
In the cover member, the skirt portion extends a considerable distance below the ledge of the tray member. This extension provides space for the detent means, and a gripping area for removing the vending container from vending machine compartments or the like. This provision also provides a larger cover opening for slipping over the flange of the container tray portion.
Novel stacking means or lugs are provided at each corner of the cover member, and are located directly above the detent latch means. These lugs prevent locking of a stack of container covers by being staggered in location from one container to the next and also aid in denesting. In this manner the underside of the ledge of one container rests on the top portion of the stacking lugs positioned directly therebeneath in the stack of containers.
For economys sake a minimum number of basic cover configurations, (with respect to lug location), are preferred. Preferably, the lugs ofone cover configuration are spaced somewhat further apart, or alternatively closer together, than the lugs of another configuration. Therefore, in a stack of container covers the various types of covers lie in alternate spacing within the stack.
5. Benefit has also been found in selecting particular materials for use in the cover member and tray portion of the vending container. It has been found that clear plastic material is best employed as the cover member from both decorative and utility standpoints. Molded foam sheet is most advantageously employed in the tray portion. Special benefit is derived when using foam sheet which has been laminated to clear plastic sheet. The clear plastic side is used on the inside of the container tray. The primary purpose of the clear laminate is to provide an insulator or barrier between hot food and the foam portion of the tray. Otherwise, the foam will become distorted and transfer an offensive taste and odor to the food. This provision also enhances appearance by providing a glossy surface, and aids in utility by providing a smooth hard surface for the removal of food items with utensils.
6. Other benefits and advantageous aspects of the present invention will become obvious to those skilled in the art from the following Brief Description of the Drawings and Discussion of the Preferred Embodiments.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS FIG. 1 is a plan view of a three compartment vending container formed in the manner of the present invention.
FIG. 2 is an elevation view of the vending container shown in FIG. 1.
FIG. 3 is a sectional view of the edge portion of the vending container shown in FIG. 1 along line 3 3.
FIG. 4 is a sectional view of the divider wall ridge member of the vending container shown in FIG. 1 along line 4 4.
FIG. 5 is another sectional view of the divider wall ridge member of the vending container shown in FIG. 1 along line 5-5.
FIG. 6 is another sectional view of the edge portion of the vending container shown in FIG. 1 along line 6 6.
FIG. 7 is a sectional view of the bottom of the vending tray shown in FIG. 1 along line 7 7.
FIG. 8 is a plan view of a two compartment vending container.
FIG. 9 is a plan view of three cover members arranged in a nesting stack.
FIG. 10 is a sectional view of the container covers shown in FIG. 9 along line 10 10.
DISCUSSION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT The following embodiments, which are discussed with particular reference to FIGS. 1 and 10, relate to the principal or preferred aspects of the present invention. Two general container configurations are shown. Likewise, two compartment, and three compartment trays are shown, as are the denestable arrangement for stacked container covers. Although these embodiments and particular details are preferred, other arrangements and details falling within the scope of the invention may be easily inferred, and are in some cases specifically noted.
Referring now to FIG. 1, I have shown a three compartment vending container 11 in plan view. The tray portion is bound peripherally by side wall members 12, from which extend flange members 13. The tray is divided into three compartments by divider wall ridges 14 and 15. In combination with the side walls 12, the divider wall ridges l4 and 15 form compartments 16, 17 and 18.
Referring to FIG. 2 a cover member 19 is shown disposed onto the tray portion of the vending container 11. The cover comprises a dome portion 20, a peripherally extending ledge member 21, (also see FIG. 1), and a skirt member 22 depending downwardly from the ledge member 21. Stacking lugs or bosses 23 are located at each corner of the cover. Beneath each stacking boss 23 is an inwardly projecting detent latch member 24. The latch member 24 engages the underside 25 of the tray of flange 13.
In FIG. 1 the triangular shaped intersecting lands or plateaus between divider wall ridge members and between intersecting divider wall ridge members are shown. Plateaus 26 join the upper portions of ridge members 14 and 15 with side wall 12. Plateau 27 lies at the junction between divider wall ridge members 14 and 15.
Various novel aspects and preferred configurations exist for the elements noted. For instance, the overall length of container tray 11 should be somewhat greater than the overall length of cover member 20. Conversely the width of the tray should be somewhat less than the width of the cover member. These differences in width and length are primarily intended to form a more secure fit between the cover member and the tray 11.
In being snapped over the tray, the cover is somewhat distended along its length and shortened across its width. This preferential flexing causes the leading portions 28 of detent means 24 to engage more securely with the under side of tray flange member 13.
This length and width differential between container tray and container cover is somewhat critical. For example, in a tray whose configuration is similar to that shown in FIG. 1 and whose overall length and width dimensions are approximately 7.304 by 5.628 inches a cover portion is preferred whose overall interior length and width dimensions are 7.268 by 5.618 inches. Thus, the tray overall length is 0.036 inches greater than the interior length of the cover. Still referring to FIG. 1 it is also somewhat desired that the stacking lugs or bosses and the detent latching means are located generally at the corners of the containers as shown.
Another preferred aspect shown in FIG. 1 is the relationship between the tray flange lengths at the ends and sides of the tray. It is generally preferred that the lengths 29 are greater than the lengths of the tray flange 30. This is preferred for several reasons. One is to provide more surface area at the ends of the trays for engagement with the detent latch means 24, and the other is to provide finger grip removal areas at the underside 25 of the tray flange, and between the cover skirt 22 and the trays side wall 12. Consequently, the widest flange portion should be provided at the ends of the tray which are intended to face outwardly from the vending container compartment. In typical applications 0.5 inches of space is provided between the cover skirt 24 and the outside portion of the tray side wall 12.
Additional novel aspects and preferred configurations of the present invention may be best appreciated by referring to sectional representations of various features of the tray of FIG. 1 as shown in FIGS. 3 and 7.
FIG. 3 is a sectional view of the container tray side wall 12, a portion of the container dome 20, the stacking lug 23, and detent latch means 24. The four detent latch means 24, as seen in FIG. 1, and as pictured sectionally in FIG. 3, are the primary instrumentalities for retaining the container cover on the container tray. These detent latch means are essentially inwardly projecting segments formed in the container cover skirt 22, generally at the corners thereof. The detents comprise upwardly and inwardly projecting walls 47, an innermost projecting peak 28 and a somewhat downwardly projecting engaging surface 31. The engaging surface 31 contacts and engages the lower portion 25 of the tray flange 13. This engaging surface acts as a cam to force the tray flange into a locked position. The engaging surface 31 proceeds in a more acute angle from the cover skirt 22 than the lower wall 30. In this manner the detent latch means may be easily disengaged from the bottom portion 25 of the tray flange 13 by outwardly applied finger pressure at the bottom of the cover skirt. The engaging surface 31 of detent latch 24 should protrude inwardly a sufficient amount to securely engage the lower portion of the tray flange. The detent latch 24 should also extend a sufficient distance around the periphery of the cover corner to insure adequate engagement with the tray flange underside. In a typical application the engaging surface 31 extends 0.085 inches inwardly from the skirt and is 0.500 inches long.
Still referring to FIG. 3 the stacking boss or lug 23 is shown extending outwardly from the cover dome 20 and downwardly into a smooth plane into the cover skirt 22. The same plane angle or slope of the surface of the skirt 22 continues with the front wall of the lug 23. In a typical application the lug protrudes 0.281 inches up from the top of the cover ledge 21.
In FIG. 4 a section of the divider wall ridge 14 is shown. This section is typical for both divider wall ridges 14 and 15 in areas other than those near intersections with one another, or the tray sidewall. The divider wall, in section, is comprised of curving peak portion 32, and outwardly sloping side walls 33 depending therefrom. The sloping walls 33 of the divider wall form an opposed stress bracing area and thus greatly add to the strength of the container bottom. As seen in FIG. 4 the intersections 34 between side walls 33 and tray bottoms l6 and 18 are in the form of arcuate joints. This feature is advantageous because it prevents the trapping of food which would be the case with straight line intersections. Arcuate joints also add to the strength of the container. For this reason it is generally preferred that all intersections between plane surfaces of both the container tray and the container cover are in the form of arcuate joints.
Referring now to FIG. 5 a sectional view is shown whereby the plateau-like, triangular shaped intersecting land 26 between divider wall 14 and container tray wall 12 is revealed. As previously indicated, these intersecting lands are intended to increase the strength and resistance to damaging flex of the container tray. In the section shown, divider wall ridge 32 flares outwardly and upwardly to form triangular land 26. Triangular land 26 is a gently curving plateau which rises upward from divider wall 14 to intersect side wall 12 in a somewhat curving segment 36 thereof. The intersection 36 as shown lies below the top portion of the side wall 12. The side walls 33 of divider wall 14 follow the curve of the triangular land 26 to intersect side wall 12 along lines 37 and thus form additional opposed stress bracing areas 38 and 39. These opposed stress bracing areas in addition to similar opposed stress bracing areas prevent damaging flex, particularly flex directed inwardly from the container sidewalls.
Referring to FIG. 6 an additional section is shown. This section particularly refers to the divider wall ridge 15, the container cover skirt 22, and the intersection plateau 26. The ledge of the container cover 21 rests on the upper surface of the container tray flange 13. The container cover skirt 22 is shown engaged with the end portion of the container tray flange 13. The skirt 22 preferably extends sufficiently below the flange 13 to provide a finger grip space 40 and to provide area for the detent latch means 24. In typical applications the container cover skirt 22 projects 0.500 inches below the edge of the flange 13.
In FIG. 6 the divider wall ridge 15 is shown rising to a height above the container tray bottom less than the height of the container tray flange 13. This is necessary in order to provide the upward curving plateau-like intersecting land 26 between the divider l5 and the container tray side wall 12. In typical applications the divider wall rises 0.662 inches above the container bottom and the tray flange rises 0.975 inches above the container bottom.
In FIG. 7 the somewhat upward curving concave tray bottom 16 is shown in sectional representation. This upward curvature, which in a typical application is a one sixteenth inch concave bow, serves multiple functions. One benefit of the curving surface is that it provides additional opposed stress bracing areas and thus further increases tray strength. Another benefit of this configuration is that it allows container trays to rest with greater stability on flat surfaces such as tables or vending machine shelves. This is due to the fact that only the tray bottom edges 41 actually rest on a supporting surface. It is thought easier to render such edges coplanar than to form an absolutely flat bottom surface.
In FIG. 7 it is also pertinent to discuss the configuration of the container cover 20. The dome of the container cover, (whose other elements have been previously noted), should rise to a height above the container tray sufficient to enclose but not contact the articles contained therein. In typical applications the container cover is 1.500 inches high between the bottom edge of the cover skirt and the top of the dome.
Proceeding to FIG. 8, a two compartment vending container is shown. This container is similar in its essential aspects to the vending container shown if FIG. 1. The principal differences are that only one divider wall ridge 42 is employed, and that the sides 43 and 44 converge from long end 45 to short end 46. It is obvious that other containers similar to those shown in FIGS. 1 and 8 may likewise be constructed and yet fall within the broad scope of the present invention.
In FIGS. 9 and I0 I have shown 2 covers 19A, 19B and of the type employed in the container pictured in FIG. 1. The covers as seen are identical except for the placement of the stacking lugs or bosses 23 a and 23 b.
These stacking lugs are positioned so that lugs 23 a are staggered with respect to 23 b. This allows the ledge 21 b of the upper container to rest on the lugs 23 a of the bottom container. If the lugs were directly superimposed in the stack they would tend to project into one another and 'to thereby cause the tray to be extremely difficult to denest. It will be readily appreciated that for economys sake a minimum number of basic cover configurations, (with respect to lug location) are preferred. In one typical application two cover styles as shown in FIGS. 9 and 10 are produced. Thus, in a stack of container covers, the tray styles with respect to lug location would a1 ternate in this manner: 23 a, 23 b, 23 a, 23 b, etc. In this typical application the lugs 23 a are 3.5 inches apart at the end of the cover, and lugs 23 b and 2.0 inches apart at the end of the cover. Still referring to FIGS. 9 and 10 another utilitarian feature of the somewhat long cover skirt is illustrated. Each cover skirt by extending below the cover ledge directly therebeneath, reduces the likelihood of a stack of container covers tipping over.
A variety of materials may be employed in producing containers which fall within the broad of the scope of the present invention. However, it is somewhat preferred to employ clear plastic material in the cover portion of the container and foam material in the tray portion of the container. Furthermore, in typical application it has been found worthwhile to employ a clear oriented polystyrene material between 10 (.0l0 inches) and 12.5 mils (.0125 inches) thick and coated with an anti-fog agent. It has likewise been found beneficial in typical applications to employ foam polystyrene between (.090 inches and (.100 inches) mils thick in the container tray portion. This foam material is especially beneficial when the portion which is to be employed as a container tray inside surface has been laminated with clear polystyrene between 5 (.005 inches) and 7 h (.0075 inches) mils thick.
These materials when employed in applications as noted herein have yielded further benefit by providing a container whose cover portion may be easily removed from the tray section thereof subsequent to being heated in microwave ovens or the like. It is hypothesized that preferential shrinkage or expansion occurs which results in a change in the relative dimen sions of the container tray and the container cover. Subsequent to heating the container cover appears to grip the container tray less tightly which facilitates the removal therefrom.
Any appropriate apparatus or device may be employed in molding vending containers as discussed herein. Such devices are known to the art and include male and female molding units, vacuum molding machines, and other similar devices.
1. A vending container or the like comprising:
A. a tray, said tray comprising:
1. a bottom,
2. a sidewall extending upwardly from and peripherially around said bottom,
3. a flange extending outwardly from said sidewall, and
4. a divider wall, said divider wall:
a. comprising a ridge rising from said bottom and projecting to a height above said bottom less than the height of said sidewall, said ridge b. connecting with said sidewall,
c. describing a continuous doublecurved path across said bottom, and
d. dividing said bottom into at least two compartments, each of said compartment being defined by a portion of said bottom, a portion of said sidewall, and a portion of said divider wall; and,
B. a cover, said cover comprising:
1. a dome-like portion,
2. a ledge extending outwardly and peripherially around said dome-like portion wherein said ledge is adapted to engage the upper surface of said tray flange,
3. a skirt depending downwardly from said ledge and extending peripherially therearound, said skirt adapted to fit over said tray flange,
4. detent latching means on said skirt for engaging the lower portion of said tray flange, and
' 5. stacking lugs associated with the corners of said ledge, said stacking lugs being located above said latching means.
2. A vending container according to claim 1, wherein said stacking lugs are box-like members projecting outwardly from the sidewall of said dome-like portion and extending in a smooth curve into said cover skirt portion.