Patent application title: CUP CARRIER
Robert C. Olsen (Medinah, IL, US)
Robert C. Olsen (Medinah, IL, US)
IPC8 Class: AB65D7150FI
Class name: Winding, tensioning, or guiding wound storage package convolute coil (e.g., wound web)
Publication date: 2008-08-28
Patent application number: 20080203204
This invention relates to a cup carrier and method of distribution and
application whereby a flexible plastic carrier is applied around sidewall
of one or more cups resulting in an easily portable unit with a flexible
plastic handle extending therefrom.
1. A generally continuous string of cup carriers, each cup carrier of the
generally continuous string for unitizing one or more cups, each cup
carrier comprising:a plastic sheet including at least one cup engaging
portion forming a cup aperture;a first bail opposite a second bail with a
handle bridging therebetween, the first bail and the second bail
connected with respect to the at least one cup engaging portion by struts
and separable sections; andat least one line of weakness between adjacent
cup carriers wherein the separable sections are separated by a force
required to separate the line of weakness.
2. The cup carrier of claim 1 wherein the line of weakness requires more breaking force than the separable sections.
3. The cup carrier of claim 1 further comprising two straw apertures formed by the plastic sheet for receiving at least one straw.
4. The cup carrier of claim 1 wherein the cup carrier includes two cup apertures.
5. The cup carrier of claim 1 wherein the plastic sheet has a thickness of about 8 mils to about 20 mils.
6. The cup carrier of claim 1 wherein the cup carrier further comprises at least one removable ring positioned around a perimeter of the at least one cup engaging portion.
7. The cup carrier of claim 6 wherein the low density polyethylene has a density of about 0.910 grams/cm3 to about 0.950 grams/cm.sup.3.
8. The cup carrier of claim 1 wherein the line of weakness extends between adjacent tabs and bails to assist in winding and unwinding the cup carriers.
9. The cup carrier of claim 1 wherein the cup aperture is adapted to receive sizes of cups between sixteen ounces and thirty six ounces.
10. The cup carrier of claim 1 wherein each bail is divided from each cup engaging portion with a discrete separable section of the separable sections.
11. The generally continuous string of cup carriers of claim 1 rolled on a spool.
12. The spool of cup carriers of claim 11 disposed on a fixture for unwinding the cup carriers.
13. A sheet of cup carriers, the cup carriers comprising:a first generally round cup aperture formed by a first engaging portion opposite a second generally round cup aperture formed by a second cup engaging portion, wherein inward struts connect between the first engaging portion and the second engaging portion, and outward struts extend opposite the inward struts;a first bail opposite a second bail with a handle therebetween, wherein the first bail and the second bail connect to the outward struts allowing the handle to pivot from a first flat position to a second extended position;two separable sections extend between the handle or the respective bails and the respective engaging portions,a line of weakness extending between the first bail of a first cup carrier and the second bail of the second cup carrier, wherein the separable section separate with less force than required to separate the first cup carrier and the second cup carrier at the line of weakness.
14. The sheet of cup carriers of claim 13 further comprising two straw apertures disposed with respect to the first engaging portion and the second engaging portion.
15. A method of unitizing multiple cups, the method comprising:providing a generally continuous string of cup carriers on a spool, wherein separable sections between a bail and a cup engaging portion have a lower breaking force than lines of weakness between adjacent cup carriers;providing more than one cup to be unitized;separating a cup carrier from the spool at the line of weakness, wherein the separable sections pull apart by the force to separate the line of weakness;placing the cup carrier underneath one or more cups; andlifting the cup carrier to engage the engaging portion with each respective cup.
16. The method of claim 15 further comprising the step of removing one or more removable rings from the cup engaging portion.
17. The method of claim 15 wherein the step of lifting includes pivoting the handle from a first flat position to a second raised position.
18. The method of claim 15 further comprising the steps of:providing one or more straws for use with the cups; andplacing the straws within straw apertures of the cup carrier.
19. The method of claim 15 wherein the step of separating includes a fixture for unwinding the spool.
20. The method of claim 15 further comprising the steps ofproviding a hook for receiving at least a portion of the handle; andhanging the cup carrier on the hook.
CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION
This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/902,657, filed 22 Feb. 2007.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
1. Field of the Invention
This invention relates to a cup carrier that is separable from a spool of cup carriers and adapted to easily carry one or more cups.
2. Description of Prior Art
Cup carriers are used to unitize individual cups into a single portable package. Cup carriers enable a user to carry several cups while freeing the user's hands or other space to carry additional objects. Traditionally, cup carriers are rigid cardboard boxes or formed board carriers which generally contain four rigid openings, each for receiving a base of a cup.
More recently, cup carriers may comprise flexible ring carriers. Flexible ring carriers are generally constructed of a thin lightweight sheet of thermoplastic material and are usually designed to carry between one and four cups.
Marvin, U.S. Pat. No. 5,098,144, and Slomski, U.S. Pat. No. 5,755,474, disclose generally planar sheets of polymeric material for carrying a predetermined number of cups. The sheet includes cup engaging portions and an integral handle. A cup is inserted into a cup engaging portion until a tapered sidewall of the cup is firmly seated against an inner circumference of the cup engaging portion. The cup carriers are ostensibly dispensed in single units at the point of sale.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
The cup carrier of this invention comprises a sheet of flat flexible sheet which forms at least one cup aperture and a handle. Each cup aperture is surrounded by a cup engaging portion of the flexible material that engages a sidewall of a cup when the cup is inserted into the cup aperture.
Multiple cup carriers are preferably wound onto a spool for distribution and application at the point of purchase. Individual cup carriers may be separated from the spool and applied without any additional steps beyond simple separation.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
The above-mentioned and other features and objects of this invention will be better understood from the following detailed description taken in conjunction with the drawings wherein:
FIG. 1 is a side elevational view of a cup carrier according to one preferred embodiment of this invention;
FIG. 2 is a front view of a string of cup carriers according to one preferred embodiment of this invention;
FIG. 3 is a front view of a cup carrier base according to one preferred embodiment of this invention;
FIG. 4 is a front view of a cup carrier holding two cups according to one preferred embodiment of this invention;
FIG. 5 is a front view of two adjacent cup carriers holding four cups according to one preferred embodiment of this invention;
FIG. 6 is a front view of a cup carrier holding two cups according to one preferred embodiment of this invention; and
FIG. 7 is a side elevational view of a cup carrier according to one preferred embodiment of this invention.
DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
FIGS. 1-7 show various preferred embodiments of a cup carrier 10. As described, cup carrier 10 is preferably used to transport one or more cups 80 in a convenient and portable manner thereby freeing up the user's hands to carry other objects and/or permit the user to hang the cups in a convenient manner.
FIGS. 1-6 show cup carrier 10 for carrying one or more and preferably two cups 80, for instance soft drink cups, according to various preferred embodiments of this invention. Cups 80, such as those shown in FIGS. 4-6, are preferably beverage cups, such as those accommodating sixteen ounces, twenty-four ounces or other suitable quantities of soft drinks, beer, or other beverages or food products, such as popcorn and/or any similar product suitable for use with such cups. Although beverage cups are shown in FIGS. 4-6, similar cups 80 maybe used with cup carrier 10 according to this invention.
Cup carrier 10 comprises a flexible plastic sheet 15 preferably constructed from a flexible, resilient material such as, in one preferable embodiment, low density polyethylene. For most applications, the flexible plastic sheet 15 may have a thickness of about 3-50 mils, suitably about 5-30 mils, commonly about 8-20 mils.
According to a preferred embodiment of this invention, the flexible plastic sheet 15 used to form cup carrier 10 is formed using a polymer composition which includes a high pressure low density polyethylene polymer. The composition provides the cup carrier 10 with improved recovery after stretch, improved elongation and strength at break, and improved resistance to tearing when the carrier is notched or scratched. The low density polyethylene polymer should have a density of about 0.910-0.950, grams/cm3, suitably about 0.920-0.940 grams/cm3, desirably about 0.925-0.935 grams/cm3. In other words, the term "low density polyethylene polymer" includes polyethylene polymers commonly considered as having medium density, as well as polyethylene polymers commonly considered as having low density.
Plastic sheet 15 of material is preferably cut, using means known to those skilled in the art, such as a stamping die, to form one or more suitable cup apertures 30 and preferably two cup apertures 30 in plastic sheet 15. Cup apertures 30 are preferably formed in a desired shape to sufficiently engage and retain a respective cup 80. Preferably cup apertures 30 and adjacent cup engaging portions 20 are generally round although elliptical, triangular and/or a rectangular shapes may be used for specialty applications. Plastic sheet 15 may include other configurations of cup aperture 30 depending on the size and/or configuration of cups 80 desired.
Cup aperture 30 is preferably applied to cup 80 by sliding the cup aperture 30 up the sidewall of cup 80 from the bottom. As shown in FIGS. 1-7, each cup carrier 10 preferably includes two cup apertures 30, although it is contemplated that one, three, four or any other suitable number of cup apertures 30 may be positioned within cup carrier 10.
FIG. 1 shows one preferred embodiment of cup carrier 10. As described above, cup carrier 10 is constructed of a flat flexible sheet 15. Cup carrier 10 is preferably cut, using means known to those skilled in the art, such as a stamping die, to form a plurality of cup apertures 30 and handle 40. Handle 40 is designed to be wide enough to clear the top of the largest diameter cup 80, in order to pivot handle 40 from the position shown in FIG. 1 to the position shown in FIGS. 4-6.
As shown in FIGS. 1-7, handle 40 is positioned within cup carrier 10 adjacent to the cup apertures 30. Handle 40 is preferably positioned within cup carrier 10 to provide an ample area for a user to grab by inserting his hand or fingers through and still maintain the integrity of cup carrier 10. As shown in the figures, handle 40 is preferably extends lengthwise along cup carrier 10 such that it is generally parallel to the two wide direction of cup apertures 30.
Handle 20 is connected with respect to one or more cup engaging portions 20 of flexible sheet 15 which form cup apertures 30. Each cup aperture 30 preferably accepts a single cup 80.
According to a preferred embodiment of this invention, handle 40 preferably extends between two bails 45, each bail positioned over a respective cup aperture 30 such as shown in FIGS. 1, 4 and 7. Each bail 45 preferably extends between handle 40 and one or more and preferably two struts 50. Struts 50 are preferably positioned on either side of each cup aperture 30. As shown in FIG. 7, each of two central struts 50 may share a single band in bail 45. In one preferred embodiment of this invention, shown in FIG. 1, each cup engaging portion 20 is connected to each bail 45 through two struts 50, spaced equidistantly on either side of cup engaging portion 20. Each bail 45 is then preferably joined to each other bail 45 by handle 40. Specifically, as shown in FIG. 4, two bails 45 are joined together by single handle 40. As a result of the described embodiments, handle 40 is preferably connected at a total of three places to cup engaging portions 20.
Each bail 45 and/or handle 40 may additionally comprise one or more separable sections 55 that may be broken to open up an area for the purchaser to grab handle 50 and create a sufficient distance between cups 80 and the user's hand. As shown in FIGS. 1 and 7, and according to one embodiment of this invention, a total of two separable sections 55 are included on each cup carrier 10. In addition, such separable sections 55 maintain the string of cup carriers 10 relative to each other during the punching and winding process described above. As described in more detail below, such separable sections 55 separate with less force than the force required to separate adjacent cup carriers 10.
As shown in FIG. 1, each bail 45 is preferably generally squared around each cup aperture 30. Such an arrangement preferably maximizes length of bail 45 following separation from cup engaging portion 20. In addition, each bail 45 preferably is connected to a bail 45 on an adjacent cup carrier 10 along line of weakness 60. Line of weakness 60 may additionally extend between adjacent tabs 65 that extend from a portion of cup engaging portion 20 opposite a handle 40 side of cup carrier 10. These attachment points along adjacent bails 45 and tabs 65 assist in the winding and unwinding of cup carriers 10 on spool 70.
Following engagement with a suitable cup 80, cup engaging portion 20 surround a circumference of cup aperture 30 and permit, upon insertion of cup 80 into cup aperture 30, frictional contact between cup engaging portion 20 and cup 80 as shown in FIGS. 4-6.
As best shown in FIG. 6, cup engaging portion 20 preferably engages a generally tapered sidewall of cup 80 preferably above an approximate midpoint of the sidewall such that a center of gravity of filled cup 80 is below cup engaging portion 80. When cup 80 is fully nested within cup aperture 30, cup engaging portion 20 frictionally engages the tapered sidewall of cup 80. Alternatively, or in addition, cup engaging portion 20 may nest against a lip or upper flange of cup 80 thereby preventing disengagement of cup aperture 30 from cup 80.
According to an additional preferred embodiment of this invention, shown in FIG. 7, cup carrier 10 may include one or more removable rings 75 that at least partially line one or more cup engaging portions 20. As shown, removable rings 75 preferably are severable from cup engaging portion 20 along a perforated or similarly weakened division from cup engaging portion 20. In use, removable rings 75 may be grasped along finger hold 85 and pulled to remove removable ring 75 thereby opening a diameter within cup carrier 10 to permit insertion of a larger diameter cup 80 or container. For instance, a nominally sized cup engaging portion 20 may be used to engage a 16 ounce cup or one or more removable rings 75 may be removed to result in a larger cup engaging portion 20' thereby permitting insertion of a larger cup 80, such as a 32 ounce cup.
As shown in FIG. 2, cup carrier 10 is preferably manufactured so that raw carrier stock includes a generally continuous roll of plastic sheet 15 having a plurality of adjacent cup carriers 10 that are punched and then wound onto a spool 70 having a generally continuous string of cup carriers 10, each cup carrier 10 attached to each adjacent cup carrier 10, as described in more detail below. According to one preferred embodiment of this invention, spool 70 is applied to fixture 90 for unwinding spool 70 of cup carriers 10 as needed.
Cup carriers 10 are then applied to cups 80 as needed, preferably from a vendor, counter, stand, etc. where the cups of product are dispensed and sold. Cup carriers 10 are preferably unwound from spool 70 as needed and individually separated from each other to form individual cup carriers 10. Empty spools 70 may be replaced at point of purchase as they are used either with or without use of fixture 90.
According to a preferred embodiment of this invention, between each cup carrier 10 in the generally continuous roll of cup carriers is line of weakness 60. Prior to, or during, the process of applying cup carrier 10 to cups 80, each cup carrier 10 may be separated from each adjacent carrier along line of weakness 60. As each cup carrier 10 is removed from spool 70, a user preferably separates line of weakness 60 to free cup carrier 10 while at the same time breaking separable sections 55 of cup carrier 10. As such, line of weakness 60 preferably requires more breaking force than separable sections 55. The resulting cup carrier 10 therefore is ready for application to cups 80 without any additional manipulation or separation of components within cup carrier 10.
Spools 70 may be positioned for separation of cup carriers 10 and use by the seller or the buyer. An additional fixture, such as recessed cup holders, not shown, may be used for placement of cups 80 as cup carrier 10 is applied to cups 80.
Lines of weakness 60 may comprise perforations, serrations, slits or combination thereof formed in plastic sheet 15 and are preferably tearable or frangible to permit separation of plastic sheet 15 along a defined line. In addition, lines of weakness 60 preferably do not extend directly into any edge or aperture of plastic sheet 15 but instead are preferably positioned within interior portions of plastic sheet 15.
According to embodiments of the invention best shown in FIGS. 1-6, a method of distributing cup carriers 10 and carrying cups 80 preferably includes providing a generally continuous plastic sheet 15 having a plurality of cup carriers 10 each having one or more and preferably two cup apertures 30. The generally continuous string of cup carriers 10 is preferably provided on a spool 70 which may in turn be positioned on fixture 90 or may be configured to provide self-contained rotation to facilitate unwinding of cup carriers 10. Such carriers 10 optimally form a single carrying handle for carrying one or more cups 80, as described herein.
As filled cups 80 are purchased from a vending station, counter or similar point of purchase, an individual cup carrier 10 is separated from the continuous string of cup carriers 10 on spool 70 along line of weakness 60. As line of weakness is separated, one or more addition separable sections 55 are pulled apart by the force of such separation. The resulting cup carrier 10 may then be placed underneath one or more cups 80 and lifted up thereby engaging each cup engaging portion 20 with a respective cup 80. Following application, each cup 80 therefore includes a cup aperture 30 positioned about its sidewall that enables convenient carrying of cup 80 using handle 40. The resulting package of one or more cups 80 and one cup carrier 10 may then be lifted and carried using handle 40. A consumer may then carry, hang and/or pour cup 80 as desired and appropriately dispose of the empty cup 80 and cup carrier 10. According to one preferred embodiment of this invention, one or more severable sections may be positioned within cup carrier 10 to permit the user to break apart cup carrier 10 prior to disposal.
According to a preferred embodiment of this invention, and as shown in FIG. 6, hook 100 may be available or provided for placement in an automobile or other suitable location to facilitate hanging cup carrier 10 for storage, transport or accessibility of cup 80. In addition, straw apertures 35 may be positioned within cup carrier 10 to facilitate placement of straws for use with cups 80 as needed.
While in the foregoing specification this invention has been described in relation to certain preferred embodiments thereof, and many details have been set forth for purpose of illustration, it will be apparent to those skilled in the art that cup carrier 10 and the related method of manufacture are susceptible to additional embodiments and that certain of the details described herein can be varied considerably without departing from the basic principles of the invention.
Patent applications by Robert C. Olsen, Medinah, IL US
Patent applications in class Convolute coil (e.g., wound web)
Patent applications in all subclasses Convolute coil (e.g., wound web)