SPRING-LOADED CONTAINERS AND METHODS THEREOF

A container is provided. In exemplary embodiments, a container may comprise side wall, a top edge surrounding an opening, bottom portion; a voluminous body defined by a volume within the side wall and the bottom portion; a support platform for supporting a product within the container; and a spring positioned between an inner surface of the bottom portion and a bottom surface of the support platform.

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Description

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

The present application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 61/582,186 entitled “Spring-Loaded Containers and Methods Thereof,” filed Dec. 30, 2011, the disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

Embodiments of the present invention generally relate to spring-loaded containers and methods thereof. More specifically, embodiments of the present invention relate to improved containers for food and other edible products, having spring-loaded support means provided therein, allowing for ease of access to the food or product inside the container, as needed.

2. Description of the Related Art

Product manufacturers and retailers package products for sale in various types of containers. Many of these product containers are designed for storage purposes and are not designed for ease of product access by consumers and/or users. Some existing product packages make it particularly difficult for a user to access products. For example, it is difficult to access some of the products stacked and stored within elongated tubes, cylinders, deep bags, deep cans, and/or the like. When using these types of containers, products at the top of the container may be easily accessible to the user, but as the products are removed, the products closer to the bottom of the container are more difficult to access. As more products are removed from the container, the user much reach deeper and deeper down into the container. When the user has removed all but the last products in these containers, the user must reach to the very bottom of the container. When the opening of the container is smaller than the width of the hand of the user, the user may not be able to reach inside the container and access the last remaining products at the bottom. In these instances, users are forced to tip the container at an angle or turn it upside down so that the remaining products slide out of the container opening. This is not ideal for users, however, because it requires the user to catch and/or grasp the products as they leave the container, sometimes at considerable speed. When the user fails to catch the products exiting the container, many times these products wind up falling to the floor and/or ground and breaking or becoming unusable. In the case of potato chips, for example, many potato chips and crumbs may miss the hand of the user and wind up on the floor, making them unsafe to consume and creating an undesirable mess.

Thus, there is a need for an improved container for making products easier to access for the user.

SUMMARY

Embodiments of the present invention generally relate to a container and methods thereof. In exemplary embodiments, A spring-loaded container may comprise: a side wall; a top edge surrounding an opening; a bottom portion; a voluminous body defined by a volume within the side wall and the bottom portion; a support platform for supporting a product within the container; and a spring positioned between an inner surface of the bottom portion and a bottom surface of the support platform.

In exemplary embodiments, a container may also comprise a side wall; a top edge surrounding an opening; a bottom portion; a voluminous body defined by a volume within the side wall and the bottom portion; a support platform for supporting product contents within the container; and a track having a button attached to the support platform, the button engageable by the user to raise and lower the support platform.

In exemplary embodiments, a method for packaging a product, may comprise: providing a product; providing a container comprising: a side wall; a top edge surrounding an opening; a bottom portion; a voluminous body defined by a volume within the side wall and the bottom portion; a support platform for supporting a product within the container; and a spring positioned between an inner surface of the bottom portion and a bottom surface of the support platform, the spring comprising a spring constant; and placing the product in the container.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

So the manner in which the above recited features of the present invention can be understood in detail, a more particular description of embodiments of the present invention, briefly summarized above, may be had by reference to embodiments, which are illustrated in the appended drawings. It is to be noted, however, the appended drawings illustrate only typical embodiments of embodiments encompassed within the scope of the present invention, and, therefore, are not to be considered limiting, for the present invention may admit to other equally effective embodiments, wherein:

FIG. 1 depicts a perspective view of a spring-loaded container in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2 depicts a cross-sectional view of a spring-loaded container in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 3 depicts a cross-sectional view of a spring-loaded container in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention;

FIGS. 4A and 4B depict side views of alternative embodiments of a spring-loaded container in accordance with embodiments of the present invention; and

FIG. 5 depicts a flowchart of a method of packaging a product in accordance with embodiments of the present disclosure.

The headings used herein are for organizational purposes only and are not meant to be used to limit the scope of the description or the claims. As used throughout this application, the word “may” is used in a permissive sense (i.e., meaning having the potential to), rather than the mandatory sense (i.e., meaning must). Similarly, the words “include”, “including”, and “includes” mean including but not limited to. To facilitate understanding, like reference numerals have been used, where possible, to designate like elements common to the figures.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Embodiments of the present invention generally relate to spring-loaded containers and methods thereof. More specifically, embodiments of the present invention relate to improved containers for food and other edible products, having spring-loaded support means provided therein, allowing for ease of access to the food or product inside the container, as needed.

FIG. 1 depicts a perspective view of a spring-loaded container in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. A spring-loaded container 100 generally comprises a side wall 110, a bottom portion 120 and a voluminous body 130. The voluminous body 130 is generally defined by the volume within the side wall 110, and the bottom portion 120.

The spring-loaded container 100 may comprise any materials suitable for embodiments of the present invention. In one embodiment, the spring-loaded container 100 comprises at least one of a polymer, a metal, a metal alloy, glass, combinations thereof or the like.

Generally, the side wall 110 has the bottom portion 120 on a first end and a top edge on a second end, near an opening to the interior volume of the voluminous body 130. In many embodiments, a sealing means (not shown) may be fitted over the top edge to effectively seal the interior volume. The sealing means may comprise any structure suitable to control access to an interior of the voluminous body 130. In one embodiment, the sealing means comprises a lid or cap for fitting thereover. In further embodiments, the sealing means 114 may comprise a peelable tab, wherein the peelable tab is removably affixed over the opening 112 by an adhesive or similar type of cohesion agent. Such type of peelable tabs are commonly utilized as security or tampering devices on various food and beverage products. In further embodiments, combinations of such devices may be used.

Generally, the spring-loaded container 100 additionally comprises a support platform 140 and a spring 150, wherein the spring 150 is positioned between an inner surface of the bottom portion 120 and a bottom surface of the support platform 140. The support platform 140 may comprise any substantially planar apparatus suitable to support food or product contents (not shown) within the spring-loaded container 100. In one embodiment, the support platform 140 comprises a substantially planar disc. In such an embodiment the diameter of the disc may be substantially similar to the diameter of an inner surface of the sidewall 110. Such similar dimensions would allow there to be minimal spacing between the disc and the inner surface of the sidewall 110.

The support platform 140 may comprise any material suitable for embodiments of the present invention. In many embodiments, the support platform comprises a material considered food-grade acceptable, such that it has been determined not to interfere with or alter food if placed thereagainst. Generally, any of such materials approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration are deemed acceptable for embodiments of the present invention.

The spring 150 may generally comprise any type of spring or similarly supportive mechanical device, suitable for embodiments of the present invention. In one embodiment, the spring 150 comprises a type of compression spring—i.e., the spring is designed to operate with a compression load, so the spring gets shorter as the load is applied to it. As understood by embodiments of the present invention, such compression springs may comprise a coil spring, a flat spring, a helical spring, or the like. The spring 150 may generally be made from any material capable of providing the necessary spring-like function suitable for embodiments of the present invention.

In an alternative embodiment of the present invention, a cap or bar (not shown) to hold down food product or other contents may be provided. In another alternative embodiment, the interior volume may provide grooves in the container (not shown) that would hold a bottom platform, and allow it to be supported at various positions within the container.

FIG. 2 depicts a cross-sectional view of a spring-loaded container in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. Similar to the container shown in FIG. 1, the spring-loaded container 200 generally comprises a side wall 210, a bottom portion 220 and a voluminous body 230, a support platform 240 and a spring 250, wherein the spring 250 is positioned between an inner surface of the bottom portion 220 and a bottom surface of the support platform 240. As shown in the Figure, a food product, such as potato chips (shown as 260a, 260b, 260c and up to 260n, where n is representative of any number of products suitable for embodiments of the present invention) (listed generally and/or collectively as 260) is placed within the spring-loaded container 200 on a top surface of the support platform 240.

One of the relevant purposes of an embodiment of the present invention is to be able to decrease the effective distance (H) between the top edge of the container 200 and the next food product 260, as food product 260 is removed from the container 200. As understood by embodiments of the present invention, Hooke's Law generally governs the nature of the performance of the spring 150 described herein. The most basic form of Hooke's Law is written as:


F=−kx

where, x is the displacement of the spring's end from its equilibrium position; F is the restoring force exerted by the spring on that end; and k is the spring constant.

Thus, in many embodiments of the present invention, using Hooke's Law, the force, F, is equal to the mass of the food product within the container multiplied by gravity; the intended distance travelled (or to be travelled), x, is about the height of a food product within the container (i.e., to keep the food product near the top edge, once one is removed, the support platform may ideally move substantially the height of one food product per food product removed); and the constant k, must be determined based on the nature of the food product within the container.

From a design perspective, modifying Hooke's Law to solve for the spring constant, k=−F/x, or written out:

the design spring constant , k = ( gravity * mass of one unit of food product ) ( height of one unit of food product )

Thus, the particular spring constant chosen for a particular application of an embodiment of the present invention is a choice based upon the nature of the food product within the container 200. For example, in the embodiment shown, the spring constant may be written as k=the weight of a potato chip/the height of a potato chip when laying flat.

It should be noted, however, there may be a maximum height (D) at which the spring 250 is at its equilibrium point; that is, it will no longer push upward on the support platform 240 due to having no potential energy left therein. In many embodiments, so long as an acceptable effective distance (H) is provided when no food product is left (i.e., it is sufficiently small that a user may easier reach a hand into the container to retrieve the last food product), the maximum height (D) may not be largely relevant.

FIG. 3 depicts a cross-sectional view of a spring-loaded container in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention. As shown in the Figure, the spring-loaded container 300 may comprise substantially the same elements as the embodiments depicted above; however, such embodiment may be significantly more wide than tall, such as in a cookie tin, a serving dish, or the like.

In such an embodiment, it may be desirable to provide a plurality of springs 350, so that the support platform 340 is not balanced over one single spring. However, if a large coil spring were used, balance issues may not arise with such a large diameter support platform 340.

The food product 360 may comprise any type of food product suitable for embodiments of the present invention. As shown, the food product 360 comprises peanuts, or a mixed nut collection. Unlike the embodiment described above, where one food product was stacked on top of another, and so on, calculating a correlation between the mass of one food product and its height is not as relevant. If such an equation were used for such type of food product as shown, after about three peanuts being removed, the support platform 340 may be pushed to the top edge of the container and all the remaining peanuts would spill out.

Accordingly, in such an embodiment where the food product is small and/or multiple springs are used, the following variation of Hooke's Law may be more appropriate:


F/n=−kx

where, x is the displacement of the spring's end from its equilibrium position; F is the restoring force exerted by the spring on that end; k is the spring constant, and n is the number of springs present.

In this instance, however, the force, F, is not simply a single food product's mass multiplied by gravity; rather, it is a bit more difficult to calculate. For one embodiment of the present invention, an approximation may be used for the requisite force to calculate the spring constant. Such approximation may first comprise an estimation of volume of the portion of the voluminous body determined by the side wall and the effective distance (H), and an estimation of the volume of one food product, and by dividing the overall volume by the volume of one food product, an approximate number of food products within the container may be calculated when loaded. It should be noted, in certain embodiments, the approximate quantity of food product may already be known.

Once the quantity is obtained, the effective distance (H) may be divided by the average height of one food product to obtain the approximate quantity of stacked food products may be positioned at any given point within the voluminous body. Subsequently, the total quantity of food product may be divided by the quantity of stacked food products at any given point within the voluminous body, such resulting number is the estimated quantity of food products at any given cross-sectional row within the voluminous body.

From a design perspective, modifying Hooke's Law to solve for the spring constant, k=−F/nx, or written out:

k = ( gravity * mass of one unit of food product * estimated quantity in row ) ( height of one unit of food product )

FIGS. 4A and 4B depict side views of alternative embodiments of a spring-loaded container in accordance with embodiments of the present invention. Although embodiments of the present invention are generally called “spring-loaded” containers, alternative embodiments of the present invention provide non-spring versions of containers to provide similar function in a more manual fashion than those described hereinabove.

As shown in FIGS. 4A and 4B, a container 400 may be provided with a support platform 440, similar to those described herein. However, rather than a spring, the container 400 may comprise a track 470, and in certain embodiments, a pair of opposing tracks, one positioned opposite the other.

In FIG. 4A, the track may be similar to the type of track provided for the opening means of a box cutter device. For example, by having a button/trigger 472 which is engageable by a user, the user may be able to controllably raise and lower the button/trigger at will. By connecting such a button/trigger 472 to the support platform 440, the user may be able to mechanically raise and lower the support platform as desired. Similar to the box cutter mechanism, once the user releases the button/trigger 472, the device would lock in place.

In FIG. 4B, a similar track 470 is provided, albeit such locking mechanism is more elementary. In the embodiment shown, the support platform 440 may be raised and lowered via a twist-style locking mechanism. As shown, there are three positions in which a user may be able to set the height of the support platform 440. By twisting the button/trigger 472 in small increments, the user may be able to freely raise and lower the support platform, and at the set locations with a counter-twist, the can freely lock the same in place.

FIG. 5 depicts a flowchart of a method 500 of packaging a product in accordance with embodiments of the present disclosure. The method begins at step 510. In exemplary embodiments, at step 520, a container and a product, such as the examples disclosed herein with respect to FIGS. 1-4B is provided. For example, the container may generally comprise a side wall, a top edge surrounding an opening, a bottom portion, a voluminous body defined by a volume within the side wall and the bottom portion, a support platform for supporting a product within the container, and a spring positioned between an inner surface of the bottom portion and a bottom surface of the support platform, wherein the spring comprises a spring constant. In exemplary embodiments, the product may comprise any product consistent with the present disclosure. For example, the product may comprise potato chips, peanuts, and/or the like. In exemplary embodiments, the spring constant may be adapted to support the platform and product at a predetermined height, and the spring constant may be determined by multiplying the mass of one product by gravity and dividing by the height of one product. Alternative methods for determining the spring constant consistent with the present disclosure may also be used. For example, the spring constant may be determined by multiplying the mass of one product by gravity, multiplying by an estimated quantity of product in one row, and dividing by the height of one product multiplied by a number of springs used in the container.

In exemplary embodiments, at step 530 a quantity of product may be added to the container. The quantity of product may be an amount, weight, and/or number of the product wherein when the product is stacked on the support platform, a predetermined distance exists between the top of a product stored closest to the opening and the opening. For example, if potato chips are to be stacked in the container, the quantity of potato chips to be stacked in the container may be the number of potato chips that may be supported by the support platform wherein a 0.5 inch, 1 inch, 2, inch, or the like, space exists between the opening and the top of a potato chip closest to the opening. In exemplary embodiments, the quantity of product may be determined by any method consistent with the present disclosure. After the quantity of product is added to the container, the container may be sealed, for example, with a top, cap, cover, and/or the like and the method may end at step 540.

It should be appreciated that a plurality of similar types of mechanical structures may function to operate similar to those described herein. As such, such known variations of simple locking and control mechanisms should be deemed within the scope of embodiments of the present invention.

While the foregoing is directed to embodiments of the present invention, other and further embodiments of the invention may be devised without departing from the basic scope thereof. For example, although numerous embodiments having various features have been described herein, combinations of such various features in other combinations not discussed herein are contemplated within the scope of embodiments of the present invention.

Claims

1. A spring-loaded container comprising:

a side wall;
a top edge surrounding an opening;
a bottom portion;
a voluminous body defined by a volume within the side wall and the bottom portion;
a support platform for supporting a product within the container; and
a spring positioned between an inner surface of the bottom portion and a bottom surface of the support platform.

2. The spring-loaded container of claim 1, further comprising:

a sealing means adapted to fit over the top edge and seal the voluminous body.

3. The spring-loaded container of claim 2, wherein the sealing means comprises at least one of a lid, a cap, and a peelable tab.

4. The spring-loaded container of claim 2, wherein the sealing means is removably affixed over the opening by an adhesive.

5. The spring-loaded container of claim 1, wherein the support platform comprises a substantially planar disc having a diameter substantially similar to the diameter of an inner surface of the side wall.

6. The spring loaded container of claim 1, wherein the support platform comprises a food grade acceptable material.

7. The spring-loaded container of claim 1, wherein the side wall and bottom portion comprise at least one of a polymer, a metal, a metal alloy, and glass.

8. The spring-loaded container of claim 1, wherein the spring is a compression spring adapted to operate with a compression load.

9. The spring-loaded container of claim 8, wherein the compression spring comprises at least one of a coil spring, a flat spring, and a helical spring.

10. The spring-loaded container of claim 1, further comprising:

a plurality of grooves adapted to hold the support platform and allow it to be supported at two or more positions within the container.

11. The spring-loaded container of claim 1, wherein a spring constant of the spring for supporting the platform and product at a predetermined height is determined by multiplying the mass of one product by gravity and dividing by the height of one product.

12. The spring-loaded container of claim 1, wherein a spring constant of the spring for supporting the platform and product at a predetermined height is determined by multiplying the mass of one product by gravity, multiplying by an estimated quantity of product in one row, and dividing by the height of one product multiplied by a number of springs in the container.

13. The spring-loaded container of claim 1, wherein when the spring is at an equilibrium point, the spring is adapted to support the support platform at a predetermined distance from the top edge.

14. The spring-loaded container of claim 1, further comprising a second spring.

15. A container comprising:

a side wall;
a top edge surrounding an opening;
a bottom portion;
a voluminous body defined by a volume within the side wall and the bottom portion;
a support platform for supporting product contents within the container; and
a track having a button attached to the support platform, the button engageable by the user to raise and lower the support platform.

16. The container of claim 15, wherein the button is locked into place when the button is released.

17. The container of claim 15, wherein the button is rotatable and adapted to raise and lower the support platform when rotated.

18. A method for packaging a product, comprising:

providing a product;
providing a container comprising: a side wall; a top edge surrounding an opening; a bottom portion; a voluminous body defined by a volume within the side wall and the bottom portion; a support platform for supporting a product within the container; and a spring positioned between an inner surface of the bottom portion and a bottom surface of the support platform, the spring comprising a spring constant; and
placing the product in the container.

19. The method of claim 18, wherein the spring constant is adapted to support the platform and product at a predetermined height; and

wherein the spring constant is determined by multiplying the mass of one product by gravity and dividing by the height of one product.

20. The method of claim 18, wherein the spring constant is adapted to support the platform and product at a predetermined height; and

wherein the spring constant is determined by multiplying the mass of one product by gravity, multiplying by an estimated quantity of product in one row, and dividing by the height of one product multiplied by a number of springs in the container.

Patent History

Publication number: 20130206774
Type: Application
Filed: Dec 31, 2012
Publication Date: Aug 15, 2013
Inventors: JEROME MENCHEL (Lakewood, NJ), Yaakov Hoch (Lakewood, NJ), Shimi Nussbaum (Lakewood, NJ)
Application Number: 13/731,598

Classifications

Current U.S. Class: Compartment Partition Is Movable Or Removable (220/529); Filling Preformed Receptacle (53/473)
International Classification: B65D 83/00 (20060101); B65B 1/04 (20060101);