Easy open container

There is provided a shipping container and methods of manufacturing a shipping container that may be opened using a tear strip to sever a cover portion of the container from a tray portion of the container. The container is preferably formed from corrugated cardboard that includes an outer layer, an inner liner, and a corrugated medium disposed between the outer layer and the inner liner. The tear strip is preferably located on the inside of the inner liner, beginning at the glue flap. The outer layer, but not the corrugated medium or the inner liner, has a division to facilitate pulling the tear strip through the container to separate the cover from the tray portion. During manufacture, the inner liner and the corrugated medium are adhered to one another, and the outer layer is provided in two separate pieces that are adhered to the corrugated material, leaving a slit or a space between the two separate portions. The tear strip is then adhered to the inside area of the inner liner adjacent to or above the area where the slit is provided.

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Description

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/601,269, filed Aug. 13, 2004, the entire contents of which are hereby incorporated by reference.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to shipping containers and methods of manufacturing shipping containers that may easily be converted to display containers. The containers are provided with a tear strip that does not rip the outermost layer of the container, allowing graphics to remain intact, preventing a ragged edge, and allowing the container to be easily opened while still protecting the contents during shipping.

BACKGROUND

It is often desirable for shipping containers to be converted to display trays at a retail point of sale, avoiding the need to unpack the product from a shipping container and restack it in a separate display tray. Often, display/shipping containers are opened by removing a tear strip that is embedded in (or provided on the inside layer of) the shipping container upon arrival of the container at the retail point of sale, allowing a portion of the container to be removed and display the remaining product in a portion of the container.

For example, the top (or cover) of the container may be removed while the product sits in the bottom (or lower tray) on a store shelf or display unit. These containers have a removable tear strip of cardboard that encircles a portion of the container. Removal of the strip releases the top portion of the container.

Such tear strips are problematic, however, because the cardboard does not always tear evenly, or rips off before being fully removed, requiring the use of a knife to finish opening the container. If a knife is used, the product in the container may be damaged during opening if the knife inadvertently penetrates the packaged product during opening, rendering the damaged product useless. The use of knives may also result in cutting an uneven edge on the display container, causing the display to look sloppy and undesirable.

The use of typical tear strips is also problematic because the removal of the tear strip often causes the outermost portion of the resulting display tray to be torn or otherwise damaged. Again, this results in an unattractive display tray that is not suitable for displaying product at a retail point of sale. This may result in the need to remove and re-arrange the contents of the container, occupying valuable employee time, negating the benefits of using the tear strip in the first place, and requiring additional storage units for the product (e.g., if the product is not being restocked onto a shelf but onto a separate display unit).

Another problem with typical tear strips is that a relatively large amount of effort may be required to remove them because the tear strip is applied to the inside of the container. The tear strips are typically embedded between multiple layers of corrugated material and other outer and inner box layers, requiring the user to use a substantial amount to force to remove the strip. This force may cause the tear strip itself to rip off before the container is actually opened. Tear strips can also be difficult to predict and may tear a substantial portion of the display tray, particularly the outer layer, which is typically the portion that displays graphics and preferably presents a pleasing, finished edge,

Some manufacturers have attempted to solve these problems by forming the corrugated material and then perforating the outer layer, presumably to make the container easier to open. This attempted solution has actually presented a number of additional problems. First, a perforated outer layer does not provide a clean edge when the tear strip is removed. Graphics are still damaged and run the risk of being delaminated. Second, the act of perforating the outer layer necessarily causes damage to the corrugated flutes underneath the layer. For example, the flutes can be crushed from the pressure of the cutting machine or they may be nicked or cut themselves during the cutting process. Damage to the corrugated flutes causes the structural integrity of the container to weaken. Accordingly, these solutions are not sufficient.

Other manufacturers have sought to develop containers that have two portions that can be separated, but without using tear strips at all, in an attempt to prevent some of these problems. For example, one option has been to use an adhesive to attach two separable halves of a container. Another option has been to use a piece of wide tape with an embedded filament that holds the two halves together. Removing the filament separates the two halves, allowing the container to be opened to display product. However, removal of the filament requires tearing through the wide tape, which may result in the display tray having an unattractive appearance due to the edges of the torn wide tape that remain on the tray and are visible. Such unattractive display trays are not suitable for displaying product at a retail point of sale.

As discussed, many systems for opening boxes have been developed that use tear strings, adhesive, and other securing mechanisms. In corrugated boxes, the string must tear through the paper liners and corrugated medium. This often results in a ragged edge being left and the de-lamination of the outside liner. With the introduction of new paper to meet the ECT standards, the tear quality has become even worse. If an adhesive is used, there exists some concern about the securing and integrity of the container prior to its being opened. Consequently, there exists a need for a tearing system that will tear cleanly, maintain most of the box strength, and yet be economical to manufacture. It is important to retailers that a shipping container can be easily opened, without requiring a knife or other tools, but that it also attractively displays a product at a retail point of sale once opened. It is also important to be able to include, and protect, graphics, such as advertisements, on the display portion of the tray. Various embodiments and aspects according to the present invention provide one or more, and sometimes combinations, of these aspects.

SUMMARY

There is provided a shipping container and methods of manufacturing a shipping container that may be opened using a tear strip to sever a cover portion of the container from a tray portion of the container. The container is preferably formed from corrugated cardboard that includes an outer layer, an inner liner, and a corrugated medium disposed between the outer layer and the inner liner. The tear strip is preferably located on the inside of the inner liner, beginning at the glue flap. In certain embodiments, the glue flap has a die cut portion that may be used as a pull tab. Additionally, the one of the body panels (and preferably the last body panel) of the container has another die cut portion that covers the pull tab and tear strip. The outer layer, but not the corrugated medium or the inner liner, is provided in at least two separate pieces (for example, from two different rolls, in two different materials, or from a single sheet that is severed) such that the outer layer has a division to facilitate pulling the tear strip through the outer layer to separate the cover from the tray portion.

In order to manufacture a container having such a divided or severed outer layer and tear strip, the inner liner and the corrugated medium are adhered to one another, and then the outer layer is applied separately to the corrugated material, leaving a slit or a space between the two separate outer layer portions. A tear strip is then adhered to the inside area of the inner liner adjacent to or above the area where the slit is provided.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1A shows a side perspective view of a container according to one embodiment of this invention.

FIG. 1B shows a side perspective view of another embodiment of a container having a pull tab and a flap separated from the body of the container.

FIG. 2A shows a top view of a blank that may be used to manufacture containers according to certain embodiments of this invention.

FIG. 2B shows the opposite side of the blank of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 shows a cross-sectional view of one embodiment of the material used to make a container according to certain embodiments of this invention.

FIG. 4 shows a tray of a container in use.

FIG. 5 shows a container according to certain embodiments of the invention being opened.

FIG. 6 shows a container according to certain embodiments of the invention after being opened.

FIG. 7 shows a container according to alternate embodiments of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Various embodiments of aspects of this invention provide a shipping container 10 that may easily be converted to a display container with minimal effort, while also providing an attractive display unit without ragged and rough edges. As shown in FIG. 1, container 10 includes a body portion 12 with a lower tray 14 and a cover 16. The lower tray 14 and cover 16 are separated by a division 18 and a tear strip 20.

Generally, certain embodiments include a container 10 (or corrugated box) having an inner liner 32, a corrugated (or fluted) middle material or medium 36, and an outer layer 34. (Although single walled corrugated material will be described throughout this application, it should be understood that various aspects of the invention may be used with materials having multiple layers of corrugated material separated by inner liners, such as double and triple walled corrugated material, each having more than one layer of corrugated material separated by inner liners.)

Attached to the inside of the inner liner 32 is a tear strip 20. The outside layer 34 is provided in at least two separate pieces (for example, from two different rolls, in two different materials, or from a single sheet that is severed). This divided outer layer 34 provides an upper portion 70 of the outer layer that forms a cover 16 of the container 10 and a lower portion 72 of the outer layer that forms a tray 14 once the tear strip 20 is removed.

As shown in FIGS. 2A and 2B, the body portion 12 is made up of a series of panels, such as wall panels 26, end flap panels 28, and a glue flap 38. (Note that the glue flap need not have upper and lower flaps, although it may, if desired.) The wall panels 26 form the sides 40 of container 10 (as shown in FIG. 5), and the end flap panels 28 fold over one another to form the top 42 and bottom 44 of the container 10, also shown in FIG. 5.

As shown in FIG. 3, container 10 is preferably formed from corrugated cardboard that includes an outer layer 34, an inner liner 32, and a corrugated material 36 disposed between the outer and inner liners. More specifically, FIG. 3 shows a portion of a container that is formed from corrugated cardboard. As shown, the outer layer 34 is provided in at least two separate pieces. (Only two portions are shown, because most shipping units only need to be divided into a tray and a cover, but if additional divisions are desired, it is possible to provide more than two portions of outer layer 34.) The pieces may be referred to as upper and lower portions, and they may be formed in any number of ways.

For example, the material that forms outer layer 34 may be fed from rolls on two different machines to form two separate layers and adhered to the inner liner 32 and corrugated material 36 so that the separate layers lie adjacent to one another. The completed blank may then be cut to the desired form. (Note that the materials may be cut to the desired form before being adhered to the inner liner and corrugated material 36, if desired.) In this embodiment, the outer layer 34 may be formed from two different types of material. For example, the lower portion 72 may be made out of a sturdy plastic (since it will form the ultimate tray 14 and may need more structure) and upper portion 72 may be made out of paperboard. This combination may be reversed, or the same type of materials may be used, or any other types of material may be used.

It is also possible to prepare the outer layer 34 by using a single piece of material and severing before it is applied to the inner liner 32 and corrugated material 36. In other words, outer layer 34 may be pre-cut prior to application. One way to provide such a pre-cut is by a knife cut or any other device that can sever the outer layer into two separate portions 70 and 72. For example, during the manufacturing process, the inner liner 32 (shown in FIG. 2B) and the corrugated material 36 may be adhered to one another. As shown in FIG. 2A, the outer layer 34 may be cut into two separate portions—an upper portion 70 and a lower portion 72—by a knife or other cutting device (non-limiting examples of which include a water jet, a laser, or scissor rollers) along the desired location.

Any appropriate method of cutting, dividing, or using separate pieces of material for outer layer 34 will be referred to throughout this document as providing a divided outer layer 34 or a division 18. In short, whereas previous containers were made out of three continuous layers, the present container comprises three layers, but the third layer is provided in two separate pieces. This severing or dividing of outer layer 34 facilitates pulling the tear strip 20 through the container 10 to separate the cover 16 from the tray portion 14, which will be described in more detail below.

Referring generally to FIGS. 1A, 1B, and 2A, a division 18 is formed along an outer portion of container 10. Division 18 may be created to provide an upper portion 70 and a lower portion 72 using any of the above-described methods. The upper and lower portions 70, 72 are then adhered to the corrugated material 36, leaving a slit or a division 18 between the two portions 70 and 72. Although some manufacturers may prefer a small and barely noticeable slit between the portions 70 and 72, there may be some instances when a larger space is desired. Accordingly, it is possible to adhere upper and lower portions 70 and 72 in positions that are further apart from one another, for example, a few centimeters apart to a few inches apart or even wider, if desired.

Manufacturing the container 10 by providing separate pieces of outer layer 34 or by separately cutting the outer layer 34 and then attaching it to the container to create a division 18 helps protect the structural integrity of the container. Other containers that are manufactured by scoring the outer liner once it has already been attached to the corrugated material crush and damage the corrugated flutes, deforming the material and compromising its strength. By contrast, the present invention maintains the box strength and provides enhanced structural integrity to the container 10. With the outer layer 34 completely separated from the corrugated material 36 during the cutting process, no tearing of the outer layer 34 takes place when the container 10 is opened. During use, the completely severed or divided outer layer prevents delamination and tearing of the graphics that typically occurs without the use of the present invention. This is because the tear strip 20 does not ever have to actually tear through any part of the outer layer 34 since it is already divided from itself along division 18.

In certain embodiments, the division 18 is preferably a relatively thin cut, e.g., a knife cut as shown in FIGS. 1A and 1B. This sever occurs before the outer layer is adhered to the corrugated material, which protects the corrugated material from the knife cut, prevents it from being nicked during manufacture, and prevents the corrugated material 36 from being easily cut or crushed during shipping, helping to maintain the strength of the box. In other embodiments, the division 18 may be wider than a knife cut. Likewise, by providing upper and lower portions 70 and 72 out of two different rolls of material that are pre-cut or that are cut immediately before being applied to inner liner 32 and corrugated material 36, there is no need to cut outer layer 34 while it is applied to the corrugated material 36, preventing the risk of damaging the flutes of the material 36.

Although not shown, it is also possible to provide more than one division 18 (for example, if it is desired to protect the cover from being delaminated and torn, providing two severed portions, or a division between two separate pieces of material may help prevent tearing of the cover as well.)The division 18 may be in a relatively straight line, to provide a lower tray 14 and cover 16 of similar shape, (for example, the rectangular shape as shown in FIG. 5), or it may be diagonal across body to provide a tray 14 and cover 16 having different shapes (such as those shown in FIG. 6), or it may travel in any other desired direction.

It is particularly preferred that the division extend entirely around the periphery of the container and provide two distinct portions 70 and 72. It is also particularly preferred that the division 18 be located at a lower portion of the container, such that a shallow tray 14 is formed, as shown in FIG. 4.

However, as shown in FIG. 7, it is also possible to use to present invention to create stadium-type trays, with high sides and a low front. In these embodiments, the division 18 is preferably provided at an upper area 80 of container so that the upper lid 82 (or cover) is removed, leaving high sides 84. High sides 84 form the sides of tray 14. There is a removable section 86 at the front portion 92 of the container that can be removed to provide an opening 88 and a low front 90 for the stadium-tray, making it easier for a consumer to access a product contained therein. The removable section 86 may be provided by perforations, another tear strip (for example, using the same division 18 concept) or any other method that is appropriate for removing material.

Again, using the division 18 on this type of tray helps stabilize the strength of the container during shipping and allows the lid 82 to be removed without ruining or delaminating the graphics of the container. If a division 18 is used to create the removable area 86, it can provide for increased strength of that area and again, can help protect the graphics that could otherwise be disturbed during removal of removable section 86.

As shown in FIG. 2B, a tear strip 20 is applied along the inside of the wall panels 26 on the inner liner 32. The tear strip 20 is adhered to the liner 32 such that it runs substantially parallel to the division 18 that is located on the outside of the container. Tear strip 20 may be formed from the same material as the inner liner and outer layer, such as paperboard or plastic or any other desired material, or it may be formed from a different material, such as wire, plastic ribbon, or any other type of material that is strong enough to cut through corrugated material but malleable enough to be adhered to the inside of a container. Tear strip 20 may be applied using glue or any other appropriate securing mechanism. It is particularly preferred that the tear strip 20 be located on the inside of container 10 about even or parallel to the area where the division 18 is located on the outside of container 10 (as shown in FIG. 2A), or slightly above it. In other words, the tear strip on the inside of the container runs about parallel to the division 18 on the outside of the container. The tear strip 20 has a top edge 60 and a bottom edge 62, and the bottom edge 62 is preferably aligned with or slightly above the division 18 of the outer layer.

When the tear strip is pulled, it tears through the inside liner or liner/s and the corrugated medium/s, and then pulls through the division 18, which avoids the tearing of the outside liner. As described above, the division 18 is slit in such a way that only the outside liner has been cut and no weakening to any other part of the substrate occurs. This allows the tearing to be clean, preventing delamination of the graphics on the tray 14 and preventing the formation of ragged edges.

In order to fully understand the cooperation between tear strip 20, the division 18, and the tray 14 and cover 16, it is useful to refer to blank 30 prior to assembly of container 10, shown in FIGS. 2A and 2B. FIG. 2A shows the outer layer 34 of blank 30 and FIG. 2B shows the inner layer 32 of blank 30. Both figures show wall panels, end flap panels 28 and glue flap 38 prior to assembly.

The glue flap 38 is used to secure the wall panels 26 together and is shown in phantom lines in FIG. 5 (to illustrate that glue flap 38 is preferably on the inside of the last body panel, although it may also be adhered to the outside of the body.) Glue flap 38 has one or more die cuts 46 (which are shown as forming a triangular shaped tab) that form a pull tab 24, which is connected to an end of the tear strip 20. A user accesses the die cuts 46 to pull out the pull tab 24.

Once the container 10 has been assembled, there is a need to protect the die cut pull tab 24 and tear strip 20 in order to prevent the tear strip from being torn before the container should be opened, for example, during shipping or storage. Accordingly, it is preferred for pull tab 24 to be protected by an optional cover flap 48 formed in one of the body panels, and preferably the last body panel 50.

As shown in FIG. 2A, cover flap 48 may be die cut out of one of the body panels, and is preferably die cut out of the last body panel 50. The cover flap 48 may be cut out of the end edge of the panel 50 or it may be cut out from anywhere on the panel. It is preferred that the die cut be made around the cover flap 48, leaving a small portion 54 where cover flap 48 remains attached to panel once separated around the remaining die cut area. This small portion 54 that remains attached to the panel 50 allows the cover flap 48 to be placed back into alignment with the panel to complete the tray 14. It is also possible for the cover flap 48 to be completely removable.

As shown in FIG. 1B, once the die cut cover flap 48 is pulled back from the container 10, it presents the die cut portion 46 and opening 66. (Opening 66 is formed at the end of glue panel 38, which is shown in phantom on FIG. 1B.) Opening 66 provides an area for the user's finger to grasp underneath the die cut member 46 and release it from glue flap 38, thus providing a pull tab 24. The use then grasps the pull tab, to which tear strip 20 is attached, and opens the container 10. It is also possible for the user to access the tear strip 20 directly, once cover flap 48 is pulled back.

In another embodiment, the tear strip 20 is connected directly to cover flap 48. The user grasps the cover flap 48 and by pulling on it, rips the tear strip 20 across the container and through the division 18 to open the container 10. Although the die cuts 46 and pull tab 24 are preferably formed on the glue flap 38 and although the cover flap 48 is preferably formed on the last body panel 50, it should be understood that the die cut member 46, pull tab 24, and/or cover flap 48 may be formed on any of wall panels 26.

In other embodiments, the tear strip 20 need not be covered by a flap, but is secured in place and covered by a removable section, such as piece of tape or so forth, that helps prevent the tear strip 20 from being torn during shipping or any time prior to when separation of the tray 14 and cover 16 is desired.

Although a preferred embodiment of a die cut pull tab 24 has been described as formed directly from the blank 30 (and thus, is comprised of the same material as container), it should also be understood the pull tab may be formed from a separate structure that is connected to the tear strip or it just may be an end of tear strip, that is, for example, enlarged. In still other embodiments, the tear strip may protrude from the box and be formed into a loop to facilitate pulling the tear strip to open the box. If provided outside the container, there may be a piece of adhesive or tape the prevents it from being pulled before disassembly of the container is desired.

In other embodiments, the tear strip 20 need not be covered by a flap, but is secured in place and covered by a removable section, such as piece of tape or so forth, that helps prevent the tear strip 20 from being torn during shipping or any time prior to when separation of the tray 14 and cover 16 is desired.

Once the upper and lower portions 70 and 72 of the outer layer 34 have been adhered to the inner liner 32 and the corrugated material 36, the container 10 may be assembled by folding the panels 26 to create sides 40 and adhering the glue flap 38 to the inside of the last body panel 50. End flap panels 28 on one side are folded over one another to form a bottom 44. The container 10 may then be filled with the desired product. Once ready for closure, the end flap panels 28 on the other side are folded over one another to form a top 42. (Note that the blank 30 may be manufactured and shipped in a flattened position to a distributor who assembles and packs the container for shipping to the ultimate retailer.)

Once the container 10 arrives at its desired location, a user may separate cover flap 48 that is formed in one of the body panels (and preferably from the last body panel 50) to reveal die cut area 46 and opening 66, as shown in FIG. 1B. The user lifts the die cut portion 46, which forms a pull tab 24. The user grasps and pulls the tab 24 to activate the tear strip 20 to tear strip 20 tears through the inner liner 32 and the corrugated material 36. The tear strip 20 does not cut through the outer layer 34 because, as discussed, the outer layer 34 features the division 18 that allows tear strip 20 to pass without roughing up the edges or ruining the graphics on outer layer 34. In other words, the inner liner 32 and corrugated material 36 remain intact while the outer layer 34 has separate upper 70 and lower 72 portions. This division or separation makes separating the tray 14 and cover 16 easier than current methods because there is less resistance. This feature also allows the container to be torn open without ruining the graphic image and the structural integrity of the remaining tray.

Changes and modifications, additions and deletions may be made to the structures and methods recited above and shown in the drawings without departing from the scope or spirit of the invention and the following claims.

Claims

1. A container having a tray portion and a cover portion, comprising:

a body comprising an inner liner and an outer layer with a corrugated material disposed between the inner liner and the outer layer;
the outer layer provided in separate upper and lower portions, the upper and lower portions separately applied to the corrugated material to provide a division between the upper and lower portions and to prevent the corrugated material from being deformed from pressure of cutting of the outer layer once applied, the division of the outer layer extending around the body to define the tray portion and the cover portion; and
a tear strip adhered to the inner liner such that the tear strip is substantially parallel to the division of the outer layer.

2. The container of claim 1, further comprising a glue flap and a series of wall panels, the glue flap forming a pull tab attached to the tear strip.

3. The container of claim 2, wherein one of the wall panels forms a cover flap that is adapted to cover the pull tab of the glue flap, wherein pulling back the cover flap reveals the pull tab, and wherein pulling the pull tab separates the tray portion from the cover portion.

4. The container of claim 2, wherein the tear strip has an end that originates at the pull tab.

5. The container of claim 1, wherein the tear strip has a bottom edge that is in line or slightly above the severed lower portion of the outer layer.

6. The container of claim 1, wherein when the tear strip is pulled, it tears through the inner liner and the corrugated material, but avoids tearing the outer layer because the severed outer layer is already completely separated from itself along the tear strip line.

7. The container of claim 1, wherein the division is angled on one or more portions of the body.

8. The container of claim 1, wherein the upper and lower portions of the outer layer are provided from different types of material.

9. The container of claim 1, wherein the division is provided at an upper area of the container and further comprising a removable section at a front portion of the container to provide a container with high walls and a low front.

10. A method of manufacturing an easy open container, comprising:

(a) providing an inner liner, an outer layer, a corrugated material, and a tear strip;
(b) cutting the inner liner, the outer layer, and the corrugated material in the form of a box-shaped blank having wall panels and end flaps, with the outer layer divided into an upper and a lower portion;
(c) adhering the inner liner and the corrugated material to one another;
(d) adhering the upper portion and the lower portion of the outer layer to the corrugated material such that a slit is left between the upper and lower portions; and
(e) adhering the tear strip to the inner liner, the tear strip aligned with the slit of the outer layer.

11. The method of claim 10, further comprising:

(f) cutting a glue flap at the end of box-shaped blank;
(g) cutting a pull tab shaped member in the glue flap; and
(h) aligning the tear strip so that it is attached to the pull tab.

12. The method of claim 11, further comprising cutting a cover flap in a wall panel at an end of the blank opposite the glue flap, such that the cover flap covers the glue flap upon assembly.

13. The method of claim 10, further comprising assembling the wall panels and end flaps to form a box-shaped container having a tray and a cover that are connected to one another but separated at their outermost portions by the division in the outer layer.

14. The method of claim 10, wherein the outer layer is provided from two different types of material.

15. The method of claim 10, wherein the container is provided with a series of wall panels and cutting at least one of the wall panels to provide a removable section.

Patent History

Publication number: 20060054676
Type: Application
Filed: Aug 12, 2005
Publication Date: Mar 16, 2006
Inventor: Henry Wischusen (Duluth, GA)
Application Number: 11/202,524

Classifications

Current U.S. Class: 229/235.000; 229/239.000
International Classification: B65D 17/46 (20060101); B65D 17/00 (20060101);