Insulation sleeve for beverage containers

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An insulating sleeve for a beverage container includes a flexible shell member that is collapsible into a flat panel configuration when not in use. The shell member includes a foam layer, and a liquid permeable skin layer applied to the foam layer at an inner circumferential surface thereof. The shell member is relatively thin yet provides the thermal insulating efficiency of heaver and thicker beverage container sleeves.

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Description

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to a thermal insulation sleeve configured for beverage containers.

Various types of conventional insulating sleeves are known in the art for thermally insulating a beverage container to maintain the liquid in the container at a cool temperature. These devices also serve to protect the user's hand from the discomfort of holding extremely cold containers. Typically, the conventional insulating sleeves incorporate one or more layers of insulating material, such as a foam material, that dictate the thermal insulating efficiency of the sleeve.

Relatively thick and bulky beverage container sleeves are known that provide a significant insulating benefit. These devices are typically molded or otherwise formed into open-ended cylindrical devices sized for receipt of a beverage container therein. These devices maintain their three-dimensional shape when the container is removed and, thus, require significant space for transport and storage. However, in recreational and other environments wherein such devices are typically desired, space is a valuable commodity.

Beverage container sleeves are also known that are relatively thin and collapsible. These devices are readily stored and transported, but do not offer the thermal insulating efficiency of the larger, more substantial devices.

Accordingly, the art is in need of an insulation sleeve for beverage containers that offers the portability and convenience of a thin, collapsible sleeve with the thermal efficiency of a much larger device having substantially more insulation. The present invention relates to just such a device.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Objects and advantages of the invention will be set forth in part in the following description, or may be obvious from the description, or may be learned through practice of the invention.

In accordance with one embodiment of the present invention, an insulating sleeve specifically designed for a beverage container is provided. The sleeve includes a flexible shell member that collapses into a flat panel configuration when not in use. The shell member is opened into a generally tubular or cylindrical configuration for receipt of a beverage container inserted into the sleeve. The shell member in this particular embodiment includes a foam insulation layer having a basis weight of, for example, less than about 180 gsm. Other basis weights are also contemplated within the scope of the invention. A skin layer may be applied to the foam layer at the inner circumferential surface that lies adjacent to the beverage container. This skin layer may be, for example, a nonwoven material, particularly a hydrophobic nonwoven web. The shell member comprises a total basis weight of less than about 400.0 gsm and a thermal efficiency factor “A” that is determined as a function of the basis weight. This thermal efficiency factor is at least about 0.050. In particular embodiments, the thermal efficiency factor “A” is at least about 0.075, and is at least about 0.090 in still other embodiments. As described in greater detail herein, the thermal efficiency factor “A” is determined from a change in temperature of a liquid within a beverage container over a specified period of time divided by the total basis weight of the insulating sleeve.

In certain embodiments, the insulating sleeve may comprise a total basis weight of less than about 200.0 gsm and have a thermal efficiency factor “A” of at least about 0.090.

The insulating sleeve of the present invention is particularly unique in that it provides significant insulation while maintaining a relatively thin profile, particularly in the folded flat panel configuration of the sleeve. For example, the sleeve may have a bulk measurement in the flat panel configuration of less than about 7.0 mm, and particularly less than about 5.0 mm, or less than about 4.0 mm in alternate configurations. The sleeve member may have a single layer thickness of less than about 4.0 mm, and more particularly less than about 3.0 mm.

In embodiments of the insulating sleeve particularly configured for conventional sized beverage cans, the sleeve may have a total weight of less than about 6.0 grams, and more particularly less than about 5.0 grams, or less than about 4.0 grams in alternate configurations. The sleeve may have an additional thermal efficiency factor “B” that is determined as a function of the total weight of the sleeve. This thermal efficiency factor “B” is desirably at least about 2.50. In certain embodiments, the sleeve has a total weight of less than about 4.5 grams and a thermal efficiency factor “B” of at least about 3.50. In still other embodiments, the sleeve has a total weight of less than about 5.5 grams and a thermal efficiency factor “B” of at least about 3.00. As described in greater detail below, the thermal efficiency factor “B” is determined by dividing the change in temperature of a beverage within a container over a specified period of time by the total weight of the sleeve. The thermal efficiency factor “B” thus gives a measure of efficiency for products sized specifically for beverage containers of a particular configuration and size.

The insulating sleeve may be extensible in order to expand and receive a beverage container of a particular diameter. For example, in an embodiment of a sleeve designed for standard sized beverage cans, the sleeve has an inner diameter in its relaxed state of less than about 210 mm, and particularly less than about 204 mm. To use the sleeve, a user expands the sleeve to encircle a beverage can having a diameter of at least about 204 mm. The sleeve may have a circumferential extension of less than about 10%, and less than about 5% in certain configurations.

To allow for expansion of the sleeve, any combination of the foam and skin layers is extensible. In certain embodiments, one or more of the layers may be elastomeric. In other embodiments, the foam layer is rendered extensible by passages, such as apertures or slits, defined completely through the foam layer. Upon donning the sleeve on a beverage container, the apertures open into cells to accommodate the expansion. The inner skin layer is extensible to at least a degree necessary to also accommodate the expansion. In this regard, the skin layer may comprise a liquid permeable elastomeric nonwoven material.

The insulating sleeve may include a second outer skin layer applied to the outer circumferential surface of the foam layer. In one configuration, this second skin layer may be a hydrophobic nonwoven material. This material may further include a textured surface to provide a grip-enhancing surface for the user. In embodiments wherein the sleeve member is extensible, the outer skin layer is also extensible.

In a further embodiment of the invention, an insulating sleeve for a beverage container is provided. The sleeve includes an extensible shell member that expands in the circumferential direction to accommodate a beverage container inserted into the sleeve. The shell member includes a foam layer having a pattern of passages, such as slits, defined therethrough. A skin layer is applied to the inner and outer circumferential surfaces of the shell member such that the foam layer is sandwiched between the skin layers. The inner and outer skin layers are formed of an extensible material to accommodate expansion of the sleeve member, and in a particular embodiment may comprise liquid permeable nonwoven materials. The skin layers may be elastomeric. Upon expanding the shell member, the passages in the foam layer open to define expanded cells in the foam layer. These cells defined by the walls of the passages are closed at the opposite ends thereof by the skin layers such that the expanded cells and skin layers define a network of relatively large closed cells in the foam layer. The foam material is, in turn, defined by smaller open cells, closed cells, or a combination of open and closed cells. Thus, it should be appreciated, that the foam material and system of closed expanded cells provide the sleeve with an overall total thermal insulating efficiency.

The insulating sleeve having the expanded closed cell configuration may also include any one or combination of the thermal or physical characteristics set forth above. For example, the foam layer may have a basis weight of less than about 180 gsm, with the shell member comprising a total basis weight of less than about 400.0 gsm. The sleeve may have a bulk thickness in its flat panel configuration of less than about 7.0 mm, and more particularly less than about 5.0 mm or 4.0 mm. The sleeve may have a single layer thickness of less than about 4.0 mm, and more particularly less than about 3.0 mm.

In still a further embodiment of the invention, an insulating sleeve for a beverage container is provided with an extensible shell member that is collapsible into a flat panel configuration. The shell member expands in a circumferential direction to accommodate a beverage container inserted into the sleeve. The shell member includes a foam layer with a pattern of passages, such as a slits, defined therethrough. An inner skin layer is applied to the inner circumferential surface of the shell member, while the outer circumferential surface of the foam layer remains exposed. In other words, a skin layer is not applied to the outer circumferential surface of the foam. In use of the device, the shell member expands in the circumferential direction to accommodate a beverage container inserted into the sleeve. The passages in the foam layer open to accommodate this expansion and provide a textured, grip-enhancing surface to a user on the outer circumferential surface of the foam layer. Depending on the length, shape, and configuration of the passages, the outer surface of the foam layer may be provided with an “alligator skin” surface. This type of grip enhancing surface may be particularly desired in certain recreational environments, such as a marine environment.

Other features and aspects of the present invention are described in more detail below with reference to particular embodiments illustrated in the figures.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

A full and enabling disclosure of the present invention, including the best mode thereof, directed to one of ordinary skill in the art, is set forth more particularly in the remainder of the specification, which makes reference to the appended figures in which:

FIGS. 1A, 1B, and 1C are perspective views of an embodiment of an insulating sleeve for a beverage container in accordance with the invention.

FIG. 1D is a cross-sectional view of a portion of the sleeve shown in FIG. 1C taken along the indicated lines.

FIG. 1E is a cross-sectional view of single panel of an alternate embodiment of a sleeve incorporating inner and outer sleeve members.

FIG. 2A is a perspective view of an alternate embodiment of an insulating sleeve in accordance with the invention.

FIG. 2B is a partial cut-away view of a portion of the sleeve indicated in FIG. 2A.

FIG. 3 is a partial cut-away view of a portion of an alternate embodiment of a sleeve member according to the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF REPRESENTATIVE EMBODIMENTS

Definitions

“Elastomeric” and “elastic” refer to materials having elastomeric or rubbery properties. Elastomeric materials, such as thermoplastic elastomers, are generally capable of recovering their shape after deformation when the deforming force is removed. Specifically, as used herein, elastomeric is meant to be that property of any material which upon application of an elongating force, permits that material to be stretchable to a stretched length which is at least about 20 percent greater than its relaxed length, and that will cause the material to recover at least 30 percent of its elongation upon release of the stretching elongating force.

“Extensible” or “Extensibility” generally refers to a material that stretches or extends in the direction of an applied force by at least about 200% of its relaxed length or width. An extensible material does not necessarily have recovery properties. For example, an elastomeric material is an extensible material having recovery properties. A meltblown web may be extensible, but not have recovery properties, and thus, be an extensible, non-elastic material.

As used herein, the term “bonded carded web” refers to a web made from staple fibers that are sent through a combing or carding unit, which separates or breaks apart and aligns the staple fibers in the machine direction to form a generally machine direction-oriented fibrous nonwoven web. Such fibers are usually obtained in bales and placed in an opener/blender or picker, which separates the fibers prior to the carding unit. Once formed, the web may then be bonded by one or more known methods.

As used herein the term “nonwoven web or fabric” means a web having a structure of individual fibers or threads which are interlaid, but not in an identifiable manner as in a knitted fabric. Nonwoven fabrics or webs have been formed from many processes such as for example, meltblowing processes, spunbonding processes, bonded carded web processes, etc.

“Cell” refers to a cavity defined in a foam. A cell is closed when the cell membrane surrounding the cavity or enclosed opening is not perforated and has all membranes intact. A cell is open when the cell membrane is perforated or not intact.

Test Methods

Caliper (Bulk) Test Method

The caliper or thickness of a material, in millimeters, is measured at 0.05 PSI (0.345 KPa) using a Frazier spring model compresometer #326 bulk tester with a 2 inch (50.8 mm) diameter circular platen or foot (Frazier Precision Instrument Corporation, 925 Sweeney Drive, Hagerstown, Md. 21740). Each type of sample is subjected to three repetitions of testing and the results are averaged to produce a single value.

Thermal Efficiency Factor “A”

The thermal insulation efficiency factor “A” of sleeves according to the invention is a factor dependent on the total basis weight of the sleeve materials. For any sleeve, the total basis weight of the sleeve material includes the weight of the foam layer, any skin layers, and any adhesives. An “ets” brand environmental chamber model # 506C-6117 is set for 80% relative humidity and 80° F. A beverage container with liquid beverage is submerged in ice for a specified period of time to reduce the beverage temperature. The container is removed and the initial temperature of the beverage is recorded with a digital thermometer. The thermometer is attached to the container through the top opening and secured with a clip, paraffin film or other suitable means, with care being taken not to contact the bottom or sides of the can with the thermometer. The container is placed within the chamber as soon as possible after removal from the ice and placement of the thermometer. The temperature is tracked as a function of time, for example over a 30 minute time period, or until the liquid beverage reaches an equilibrium temperature. The change in temperature over the specified time is divided by the total basis weight of the sleeve to determine the thermal efficiency factor “A” as a function of basis weight.

Thermal Efficiency Factor “B”

The thermal insulation efficiency factor “B” of sleeves according to the invention is a factor dependent on the total weight of the sleeve. For any sleeve, the total weight includes the weight of the foam layer, any skin layer, and any adhesives. The factor is determined as set forth above in the discussion the Thermal Efficiency Factor A, except that the change in temperature over the specified time is divided by the total weight of the sleeve.

Materials

Non-limiting examples of suitable materials that may be used in insulating sleeves made in accordance with the invention are presented below.

Either of the skin layers that are laminated or otherwise attached to the foam insulation layer may include a wettable (hydrophilic) material or a non-wettable (hydrophobic) material. A non-wettable material may be desired in that condensation will be drawn away from the skin layers and absorbed into the foam layer. Suitable materials include a spunbond web, a coform web, a tissue web, a meltblown web, a bonded carded web, film layers, and laminates thereof. A nonwoven material can be made from various fibers, such as synthetic or natural fibers. For instance, in one embodiment, synthetic fibers, such as fibers made from thermoplastic polymers, can be used to construct the skin layer of the present invention. For example, suitable fibers could include melt-spun filaments, staple fibers, melt-spun multi-component filaments, and the like. These synthetic fibers or filaments used in making the nonwoven material may have any suitable morphology and may include hollow or solid, straight or crimped, single component, conjugate or biconstituent fibers or filaments, and blends or mixtures of such fibers and/or filaments, as are well known in the art.

Synthetic fibers added to the nonwoven web can also include staple fibers that can be added to increase the strength, bulk, softness and smoothness of the base sheet. Staple fibers can include, for instance, various polyolefin fibers, polyester fibers, nylon fibers, polyvinyl acetate fibers, cotton fibers, rayon fibers, non-woody plant fibers, and mixtures thereof.

A particularly useful material for use as an inner and outer skin layer is a hydrophobic bonded carded web designated 336D from BBA Nonwovens, Inc. of Simpsonville, S.C., USA, having a basis weight of 31 gsm.

The skin layers may comprise a laminate containing two or more webs. For instance, the web may comprise a spunbonded/meltblown/spunbonded laminate, a spunbonded/meltblown laminate and the like.

The outer skin layer may define a texturized surface that presents a grip-enhancing surface to a user. The manner in which a texturized surface is formed on a nonwoven web can vary depending upon the particular application of the desired result. The outer skin layer may be made from a nonwoven web that has been thermally point unbonded to form a plurality of tufts. As used herein, a substrate that has been “thermally point unbonded” refers to a substrate that includes raised unbonded areas or lightly bonded areas that form bumps or tufts surrounded by bonded regions.

Besides point unbonded materials, there are many other methods for creating texturized surfaces on base webs and many other texturized materials can be utilized. Examples of known nonwoven, texturized materials, include rush transfer materials, flocked materials, wireformed nonwovens, creped nonwovens, and the like. Moreover, through-air bonded fibers, such as through-air bonded bicomponent spunbond, or point unbonded materials, such as point unbonded spunbond fibers, can be incorporated into a base web to provide texture to the web.

In one embodiment, the texturized material can be a loop material. As used herein, a loop material refers to a material that has a surface that is at least partially covered by looped bristles that can vary in height and stiffness depending upon the particular application. Further, the looped bristles can be sparsely spaced apart or can be densely packed together. The loop material can be made in a number of different ways. For example, the loop can be a woven fabric or a knitted fabric. In one embodiment, the loop material is made by needle punching loops into a substrate. In other embodiments, the loop material can be formed through a hydroentangling process or can be molded, such as through an injection molding process. Of course, any other suitable technique known in the art for producing looped bristles can also be used.

In certain embodiments of the insulating sleeve, the outer skin layer may be liquid impermeable. This liquid impermeable layer(s) can be made from liquid-impermeable plastic films, such as polyethylene and polypropylene films. Generally, such plastic films are impermeable to gases and water vapor, as well as liquids. In some embodiments, breathable, liquid-impermeable barriers are desired. As used herein, the term “breathable” means that the barrier or film is pervious to water vapor and gases. In other words, “breathable barriers” and “breathable films” allow water vapor and gases to pass therethrough, but not necessarily liquids. Various breathable, liquid-impermeable materials are well known to those skilled in the art.

The skin layers may be elastomeric so as to accommodate expansion of the insulating sleeve, and to provide a positive gripping force against the sides of the beverage container. In this regard, the skin layers may contain elastic strands or sections uniformly or randomly distributed throughout the material. Alternatively, the elastic component can be an elastic film or an elastic nonwoven web. In general, any material known in the art to possess elastomeric characteristics can be used in the present invention as an elastomeric component. Useful elastomeric materials can include, but are not limited to, films, foams, nonwoven materials, etc. An elastomeric component may form an elastic laminate with one or more other layers, such as foams, films, apertured films, and/or nonwoven webs. The elastic laminate generally contains layers that can be bonded together so that at least one of the layers has the characteristics of an elastic polymer. Examples of elastic laminates include, but are not limited to, stretch-bonded laminates and neck-bonded laminates. In one embodiment, the elastic member can be a neck stretched-bonded laminate. As used herein, a neck stretched bonded laminate is defined as a laminate made from the combination of a neck-bonded laminate and a stretch-bonded laminate. Examples of necked stretched bonded laminates are disclosed in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,114,781 and 5,116,662, which are both incorporated herein by reference. Of particular advantage, a neck stretch bonded laminate is stretchable in the machine direction and in a cross machine direction. Further, a neck stretch-bonded laminate can be made with a nonwoven basing that is texturized. In particular, the neck stretched bonded laminate can be made so as to include a nonwoven facing that gathers and becomes bunched so as to form a textured surface.

Various foam materials may be utilized as the insulating foam layer in sleeves according to the invention. A particularly well-suited foam is a styrene based, low-density, open-cell foam made with balanced amounts of one or more surfactants and a plasticizing agent in a foam polymer formula. Thermoplastic elastomers can be added to the foam polymer formula to improve softness, flexibility, elasticity, and resiliency of the foam layer. The open-cell content of the foam is controlled by adjusting the amount of surfactant and/or plasticizing agent included in the foam polymer formulation, and in particular embodiments suited for the present invention, the open-cell content can be at about 80% or greater. The density of the foam is less than about 0.1 g/cc, and desirably less than about 0.07 g/cc (before any compression is applied to meet packaging or use requirements). This particular type of foam is described in detail in the published U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/729881 (Publication No, 20050124709) and U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/218825 (Publication No. 20060030632), both of which are incorporated herein for all purposes.

Another commercially available foam believed to be suitable for use in sleeves according to the present invention is a closed-cell polyethylene based foam from by Sealed Air Corp. of Saddle Brook, N.J., USA, identified as product codes “CA 90” and “CA 125.” The CA 90 code has a thickness of 3/32 inches (2.38 mm), and the CA 125 code has a thickness of ⅛ inches (0.18 mm).

In particular embodiments, the foam layer includes a plurality of passages defined completely through the layer. These passages may be defined by a pattern of slit apertures. A detailed description of a slit aperturing process is provided, for example, in U.S. Pat. No. 5,714,107, which is incorporated herein by reference for all purposes. The passages or apertures provide the foam layer with a desired degree of extensibility. Also, when sealed by the skin layers, the apertures define relatively large closed-cell formations within the foam layer that provide additional beneficial thermal insulating characteristics

Detailed Description

Reference now will be made in detail to various embodiments of the invention, one or more examples of which are set forth below. Each example is provided by way of explanation, not limitation of the invention. In fact, it will be apparent to those skilled in the art that various modifications and variations may be made in the present invention without departing from the scope or spirit of the invention. For instance, features illustrated or described as part of one embodiment, may be used on another embodiment to yield a still further embodiment. Thus, it is intended that the present invention cover such modifications and variations.

Referring to FIGS. 1A through 1C in general, an embodiment of an insulating sleeve 10 is illustrated. The sleeve 10 is specifically designed to encircle a beverage container, for example the beverage can 20. It should be appreciated that the sleeves 10 according to the invention are not limited by the type, size, or configuration of the beverage container, and may be designed to accommodate a wide variety of conventional beverage containers. The sleeve 10 includes a flexible shell member 12 with a side wall 18 that collapses into a flat panel configuration illustrated in FIG. 1A when not in use. The side wall 18 opens into a generally tubular or cylindrical configuration for receipt of a beverage container inserted into an opening 14 defined by the side wall 18, as illustrated in FIG. 1C.

The shell member 10 may include an integrally formed bottom panel 16 that defines a bottom wall when the sleeve 10 is opened into the configuration of FIG. 1C. This bottom wall 16 serves to insulate the bottom of the beverage container, and also functions as a coaster to protect the surface upon which the container is placed, or to prevent the container from slipping off of the surface. Construction of collapsible insulating sleeves with the bottom wall configuration illustrated in FIG. 1A is described in greater detail in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/300791 incorporated herein by reference for all purposes.

The shell member 12 includes a foam insulation layer 22. This foam layer may be an open-cell, closed-cell, or combination of open and closed-cell material, and is desirably one of the types of foams described above. In particular embodiments, the foam layer 22 has a basis weight of less than about 150 gsm.

An inner circumferential skin layer 24 is applied to the foam layer 22 at the inner circumferential surface of the foam layer that lies adjacent to the beverage container 20. In the illustrated embodiment, this skin layer 24 is a nonwoven material, particularly a hydrophobic nonwoven web. A hydrophobic web may be desired in relatively humid environments in that it tends to wick condensation from the can to the relatively absorbent foam layer 22. In alternate embodiments, the skin layer 24 may be any one or combination of the materials discussed above. The skin layer 24 may be applied to the foam layer 22 by any suitable means. For example, the skin layer 24 may be laminated to the foam layer 22, or bonded to the foam layer 22 by conventional bonding techniques.

As discussed above, the shell member 12 comprises a total basis weight of less than about 400.0 gsm and a thermal efficiency factor “A” that is a function of the basis weight and is derived as set forth above. The thermal efficiency factor “A” is at least about 0.050. In particular embodiments, the thermal efficiency factor “A” is at least about 0.075, and is at least about 0.090 in still other embodiments. In certain embodiments, the insulating sleeve may comprise a total basis weight of less than about 200.0 gsm and have a thermal efficiency factor “A” of at least about 0.090. Examples of sleeves 10 having the desired thermal efficiency factor “A” and total basis weight combination are set forth below.

Referring to FIG. 1A, the insulating sleeve 10 is in its folded flat panel configuration, as it would be for packaging, storing, and so forth. In this configuration, the sleeve 10 may have a bulk measurement of less than about 7.0 mm, and particularly less than about 5.0 mm in certain embodiments, or less than about 4.0 mm in certain other embodiments. The sleeve 10 may have a single layer thickness (one layer of the shell member 12) of less than about 4.0 mm, and more particularly less than about 3.0 mm.

In embodiments of the insulating sleeve 10 particularly configured for conventional sized beverage cans 20, the sleeve may have a total weight of less than about 6.0 grams, and more particularly less than about 5.0 grams, or less than about 4.0 grams in alternate configurations.

As described, the sleeve 10 may have an additional thermal efficiency factor “B” that is determined as a function of the total weight of the sleeve. This thermal efficiency factor “B” is desirably at least about 2.50. In certain embodiments, the sleeve 10 has a total weight of less than about 4.5 grams and a thermal efficiency factor “B” of at least about 3.50. In still other embodiments, the sleeve 10 has a total weight of less than about 5.5 grams and a thermal efficiency factor “B” of at least about 3.00. The thermal efficiency factor “B” provides a means of comparing different sleeves that are specifically designed for the same type of beverage container.

The insulating sleeve 10 may be extensible in order to expand and receive a beverage container of a particular diameter. In the illustrated embodiments of the sleeve 10, the opening 14 in the sleeve may have an inner diameter in its relaxed state (FIG. 1B) that is less than the diameter of can 20. For example, conventional 12 oz. beverage cans have a diameter of about 204 mm. Sleeve 10 may have an opening 14 with a relaxed diameter of less than 204 mm such that the sleeve must be expanded circumferentially to be placed onto the can 20. This relationship may be desired in that it ensures a relatively tight friction fit between the can 20 and sleeve 10. The sleeve may have a circumferential extension of less than about 10 percent, and less than about 5 percent in certain configurations.

To allow for expansion of the sleeve 10, the combination of the foam layer 22 and skin layer 24 is extensible. In certain embodiments, and in any one or combination of the foam layer and skin layers(s), the materials may be elastic and formed by any one or combination of the elastomeric materials discussed above. In other embodiments, the materials may be inherently extensible to the degree needed to place the sleeve 10 around the container 20 without tearing or otherwise compromising the integrity of the materials.

As stated above, an elastic material or device is one capable of stretch and recovery; that is, at a minimum an elastic material or device is capable of being extended or elongated upon the application of force to an extended length at least about 20 percent greater than its relaxed, original length, and is also capable of recovering at least 30 percent of its elongation upon release of the stretching elongating force. However, it may be desired to provide higher levels of stretchability and/or recovery. As an example, it may be desired to provide an insulating sleeve as a “one size fits all” or “one size fits most” device, where a single size insulating sleeve is capable of stretching and/or recovering to such an extent that a variety of shapes and/or sizes of beverage containers may be accommodated by the insulating sleeve. In terms of extensibility or stretchability, an elastic material or device may have greater capacity for stretch or elongation without rupture, such as being capable of being stretched to an extended, biased length that is at least about 50 percent greater than its relaxed, unstretched length. For some uses or applications, it may be desirable for an elastic material or device to be capable of being stretched without rupture to a biased length that is at least about 100 percent greater than its unstretched length or dimension, and for other uses it may be desirable for the elastic material to be capable of being stretched without rupture to a biased length that is at least 150 percent greater, or even 200 percent (or even more) than its unstretched length or dimension.

In terms of the level of elastic recovery, an elastic material may additionally be capable of recovering at least about 50 percent or more of the extension length. Depending on the desired use or application, an elastic material may desirably be capable of recovering about 75 percent, or even about 85 percent or more of the extension length, and for still other uses an elastic material may desirably be capable of recovering substantially all of the extension length. As a particular numerical example to aid the understanding of the foregoing, for an elastic material capable being stretched to a biased length that is 100 percent greater than its original length and having a 75 percent recovery, if the material has a relaxed, unstretched length of 10 centimeters, the material may be stretched to at least 20 centimeters by a stretching force, and upon release of the stretching force will recover to a length of not more than 12.5 centimeters.

In the illustrated embodiments, the foam layer 22 is rendered extensible by passages 28, such as apertures or slits, defined completely through the foam material 30. Referring to FIGS. 1C through 1E, upon donning the sleeve 10 on a beverage container, the apertures 28 open into relatively large cells 32, 34 to accommodate the expansion. The inner skin layer 24 defines a wall of the expanded cells 32, 34, and is extensible to at least a degree necessary to accommodate this expansion. For example, the skin layer 24 may be an extensible bonded carded web.

In the embodiment of FIGS. 1A through 1D, the sleeve 10 does not include an outer skin layer, and the foam layer 22 is exposed around the outer circumferential surface of the sleeve 10. Thus, referring to FIG. 1D, the expanded cells 32 are open at the outer circumferential surface of the sleeve 10. This configuration is unique in that the open cells 32 define a particularly effective grip-enhancing surface for a user. The tested samples of the sleeve 10 having only an inner skin layer 24 presented an “alligator skin” texture to the foam layer 22. This feature may be desired in particular embodiments, such as a marine or other recreational environment, wherein the sleeve 10 is subjected to moisture or other elements that would tend to render a smooth surface slippery.

In other embodiments of sleeves 10, a second outer skin layer 26 may be applied to the outer circumferential surface of the foam layer 22 such that the foam layer is sandwiched between skin layers 24, 26. This second skin layer 26 may be a hydrophobic nonwoven material, as illustrated in FIG. 2B. A hydrophobic skin layer 26 may be desired in that it tends to prevent condensation from migrating out of the absorbent foam layer to the outer surface of the sleeve. The outer skin layer 26 may be any one or combination of the materials discussed above, and may the same material as the inner skin layer 24, or a different material. In embodiments wherein the sleeve member 10 is extensible, the outer skin layer 26 is also extensible to accommodate expansion of the foam layer 22.

The outer skin layer 26 may be provided with a texturized surface to provide a grip-enhancing surface for the user. Any one or combination of the texturized materials discussed above may be utilized for this purpose.

Referring to FIG. 1E, the presence of the outer skin layer 26 results in the expanded cells 34 in the foam material 30 becoming closed-cells. These relatively large closed-cells 34 provide an enhanced thermal insulating benefit to the sleeve 10.

The present invention may be better understood with reference to the following examples.

EXAMPLE 1

Various samples of insulating sleeves according to the invention were produced and compared to conventional beverage can insulating sleeves. The inventive sleeves and comparative sleeves had the following characteristics:

TABLE 1 Total Basis Density Total Single Weight of of Weight of Layer Sleeve Sleeve Whole Sleeve Thickness Material Material Sleeve Sample (g) (mm) (gsm) (g/cc) Bulk (mm) Comp A 16.3 5.6 729.9 1.31 Comp B 25.1 3.5 1262.9 3.60 Comp C 10.5 4.4 458.8 1.04 Sample 1 3.9 2.0 191.0 0.98 3.57 Sample 2 3.8 2.0 189.0 0.97 3.63 Sample 3 3.9 2.0 191.0 0.98 3.97 Sample 4 4.9 2.2 240.6 1.08 4.45 Sample 5 4.8 2.3 236.1 1.04 4.68 Sample 6 4.9 2.3 244.1 1.07 4.71

Comparative examples A through C were various commercially available, collapsible, neoprene beverage can sleeves.

Samples 1 through 3 were sleeves according to the invention having the configuration of FIG. 1A, and with an apertured foam layer. This foam was the low density, open-cell styrene based film described in the U.S. patent application Ser. Nos. 10/729881 and 11/218825 cited above, with a basis weight of about 160 gsm, an open-cell content of at least 80%, and a thickness of between 2.032 and 2.54 mm. The apertures were ¼ inch slits having an aperture density of 3.6 per cm2. Samples 1 through 3 included a 31 gsm hydrophobic bonded carded web as an inner skin layer laminated to the foam layer with an adhesive add-on level of from 2 gsm to 5 gsm. Samples 1 through 3 did not include an outer skin layer.

Samples 4 through 6 were identical to Samples 1 through 3, but included an outer skin layer of the same bonded carded web material and adhesive add-on levels.

The Comparative examples and Sample specimens were tested to determine the Thermal Efficiency Factors “A” and “B” as set fort in the Test Method described above. The beverage containers (and beverage) used in the tests were 12 oz. cans of Coke®. Once the cans were removed from the ice bath and applied with the insulating sleeves, the temperature of the beverage was recorded every 3-4 minutes over a period of 30 minutes. Control samples of uninsulated cans were also tested. The results are set forth below:

TABLE 2 Total Basis Weight Weight Delta of of Temperature Thermal Thermal Sleeve Sleeve Over 30 mins. Efficiency Efficiency Sample (g) (gsm) (° F.) Factor “A” Factor “B” Control I 31.4 Control II 29.3 Control III 28.8 Comp A 16.3 729.9 20 .027 1.23 Comp B 25.1 1262.9 16.2 .013 0.65 Comp C 10.5 458.8 19.3 .042 1.84 Sample 1 3.9 191.0 19 .099 4.87 Sample 2 3.8 189.0 18 .095 4.74 Sample 6 4.9 244.1 16 .066 3.27

While the invention has been described in detail with respect to the specific embodiments thereof, it will be appreciated that those skilled in the art, upon attaining an understanding of the foregoing, may readily conceive of alterations to, variations of, and equivalents to these embodiments. Accordingly, the scope of the present invention should be assessed as that of the appended claims and any equivalents thereto.

Claims

1. An insulating sleeve for a beverage container, comprising

a shell member, said shell member collapsible into a flat panel configuration when not in use;
said shell member comprising a foam layer, and a skin layer applied to said foam layer at an inner circumferential surface;
said shell member comprising a total basis weight of less than about 400.0 gsm and a thermal efficiency factor A determined as a function of said basis weight of least about 0.05.

2. The insulating sleeve as in claim 1, further comprising a second skin layer applied to an outer circumferential surface of said foam layer.

3. The insulating sleeve as in claim 1, wherein said shell member comprises a total basis weight of less than about 200.0 gsm.

4. The insulating sleeve as in claim 2, wherein said thermal efficiency factor A is at least about 0.075

5. The insulating sleeve as in claim 4, wherein said thermal efficiency factor A is at least about 0.09

6. The insulating sleeve as in claim 1, wherein said sleeve has a bulk in its flat panel configuration of less than about 7.0 mm.

7. The insulating sleeve as in claim 1, wherein said sleeve has a bulk in its flat panel configuration of less than about 5.0 mm.

8. The insulating sleeve as in claim 1, wherein said sleeve has a bulk in its flat panel configuration of less than about 4.0 mm.

9. The insulating sleeve as in claim 1, wherein said sleeve has a single layer thickness of less than about 4.0 mm.

10. The insulating sleeve as in claim 1, wherein said sleeve has a single layer thickness of less than about 3.0 mm.

11. The insulating sleeve as in claim 1, wherein said sleeve has a total weight of less than about 6.0 grams.

12. The insulating sleeve as in claim 11, wherein said sleeve has a thermal efficiency factor B determined as a function of said total weight of less of least about 2.50.

13. The insulating sleeve as in claim 12, wherein said sleeve has a total weight of less than about 4.5 grams and a thermal efficiency factor B of at least about 3.50.

14. The insulating sleeve as in claim 12, wherein said sleeve has a total weight of less than about 5.5 grams and a thermal efficiency factor B of at least about 3.00.

15. The insulating sleeve as in claim 12, wherein said sleeve has an inner diameter of less than about 210 mm.

16. The insulating sleeve as in claim 15, wherein said sleeve is extensible and has an inner diameter of less than about 204 mm, wherein said sleeve extends in use to encircle a beverage can having a diameter of at least about 204 mm.

17. The insulating sleeve as in claim 16, wherein said sleeve has a circumferential extension of less than about 5%.

18. The insulating sleeve as in claim 16, wherein said foam layer comprises an apertured foam having a pattern of apertures defined therethrough.

19. The insulating sleeve as in claim 18, further comprising a second skin layer applied to an outer circumferential surface of said foam layer.

20. The insulating sleeve as in claim 18, wherein said outer circumferential surface of said foam layer is exposed such that upon extending said sleeve around a beverage container, said apertures open and provide said sleeve with a grip enhancing surface.

21. An insulating sleeve for a beverage container, comprising

an extensible shell member, said shell member collapsible into a flat panel configuration when not in use, said shell member extensible in a circumferential direction to accommodate a beverage container inserted into said sleeve;
said shell member further comprising a foam layer, and further comprising a pattern of passages defined therethrough;
skin layers applied to inner and outer circumferential surfaces of said shell member such that said foam layer is sandwiched between said skin layers; and
wherein upon said shell member extending, said passages open to define expanded cells in said foam layer closed at opposite ends thereof by said skin layers, said closed expanded cells and foam layer providing said sleeve with a total thermal insulating efficiency.

22. The insulating sleeve as in claim 21, wherein said foam layer comprises a slit apertured foam with a pattern of slits defined therethrough.

23. The insulating sleeve as in claim 21, wherein said inner skin layer comprises an extensible liquid permeable material.

24. The insulating sleeve as in claim 21, wherein said outer skin layer comprises an extensible liquid impermeable material.

25. The insulating sleeve as in claim 21, wherein said foam layer has a basis weight of less than about 180 gsm, and said shell member comprises a total basis weight of less than about 400.0 gsm.

26. The insulating sleeve as in claim 25, wherein said shell member comprises a total basis weight of less than about 200.0 gsm.

27. The insulating sleeve as in claim 21, wherein said sleeve has a bulk in its flat panel configuration of less than about 7.0 mm.

28. The insulating sleeve as in claim 21, wherein said sleeve has a bulk in its flat panel configuration of less than about 5.0 mm.

29. The insulating sleeve as in claim 21, wherein said sleeve has a bulk in its flat panel configuration of less than about 4.0 mm.

30. The insulating sleeve as in claim 21, wherein said sleeve has a single layer thickness of less than about 4.0 mm.

31. The insulating sleeve as in claim 21, wherein said sleeve has a single layer thickness of less than about 3.0 mm.

32. The insulating sleeve as in claim 21, wherein said sleeve has a total weight of less than about 6.0 grams.

33. The insulating sleeve as in claim 21, wherein said sleeve has a total weight of less than about 4.5 grams.

34. The insulating sleeve as in claim 33, wherein said sleeve has a circumferential extension of less than about 10%.

35. An insulating sleeve for a beverage container, comprising

an extensible shell member, said shell member collapsible into a flat panel configuration when not in use, said shell member extensible in a circumferential direction to accommodate a beverage container inserted into said sleeve;
said shell member further comprising a foam layer with a pattern of passages defined therethrough;
a inner skin layer applied to an inner circumferential surface of said shell member, an outer circumferential surface of said foam layer being exposed; and
wherein upon said shell member extending, said passages open and provide a grip enhancing surface to a user on said outer circumferential surface of said foam layer.

36. The insulating sleeve as in claim 35, wherein said foam layer comprises a slit apertured foam with a pattern of slits defined therethrough.

37. The insulating sleeve as in claim 35, wherein said inner skin layer comprises an extensible liquid permeable material.

38. The insulating sleeve as in claim 35, wherein said foam layer has a basis weight of less than about 180 gsm, and said shell member comprises a total basis weight of less than about 400.0 gsm.

39. The insulating sleeve as in claim 38, wherein said shell member comprises a total basis weight of less than about 200.0 gsm.

40. The insulating sleeve as in claim 35, wherein said sleeve has a bulk in its flat panel configuration of less than about 4.0 mm.

41. The insulating sleeve as in claim 35, wherein said sleeve has a single layer thickness of less than about 3.0 mm.

42. The insulating sleeve as in claim 35, wherein said sleeve has a total weight of less than about 4.5 grams.

43. The insulating sleeve as in claim 32, wherein said sleeve has a circumferential extension of less than about 10%.

Patent History

Publication number: 20080047967
Type: Application
Filed: Aug 24, 2006
Publication Date: Feb 28, 2008
Applicant:
Inventors: Michael S. Brunner (Roswell, GA), Tamara L. Mace (Marietta, GA), Paul W. Estey (Blue Ridge, GA)
Application Number: 11/509,791

Classifications

Current U.S. Class: Container Holder (220/737)
International Classification: B65D 25/00 (20060101);