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Additive vessel having the means for dispensing additives into a package's contents

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Title: Additive vessel having the means for dispensing additives into a package's contents.
Abstract: This invention provides an additive vessel assembly having means for dispensing additives into a package's contents. The additive vessel assembly maintains additives in one or more additive vessels, separate from the contents of a container, until a user releases one or more of the additives into the contents of the container. The release of the additives is achieved by applying force against an appropriate additive vessel. Means are presented to incorporate the invention into a crown closure, screw-on closure, can lid and the container body. Means are also presented to amplify the force applied by a user to open the additive vessel, which is especially useful in pressurized containers. The invention supports filling additive vessels separate from the non-sterile packaging manufacture area. The invention is designed to utilize existing packaging components or be designed into new packaging. This invention can utilize current package equipment and filling equipment, with modification. ...


- Carmel, CA, US
Inventor: George Harold Hoover
USPTO Applicaton #: #20070261758 - Class: 141098000 (USPTO) - 11/15/07 - Class 141 


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Related Patent Categories: Fluent Material Handling, With Receiver Or Receiver Coacting Means, Combined
The Patent Description & Claims data below is from USPTO Patent Application 20070261758, Additive vessel having the means for dispensing additives into a package's contents.

Crown   

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0001] This invention relates generally to the field of packaging and more specifically to liquid packaging.

BACKGROUND AND ADVANTAGES OF THIS INVENTION

[0002] For illustrative purposes, this background and following specifications and claims focus on the area of beverage packaging. It is not intended to define this area as the only, or even the best use for this patent.

[0003] Packaged beverages traditionally were comprised of core brands such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, Miller, Budweiser, etc. In recent decades there has been an explosion of light or lower calorie versions of these core brands, additionally many flavor additive extensions such as cherry, vanilla, caffeine free, etc. have been introduced. For some products, for example colas, bottlers may have to produce and distribute ten or more versions of a once single core brand. The bulk of this product is distributed in multi-paks, generally containing 12 cans of a single product. The large number of different additives & flavors is further complicated by the fact that many beverages are sold in three or more package types, including cans, glass bottles, and PETG bottles; plus they are sold in various sizes. Out of date stock, due to slow movement of less popular brand extensions and package types, represents a considerable cost to beverage companies.

[0004] Beverage companies historically have used packages developed by packaging companies. Little technology difference exists among the packages offered by beverage companies. The cost to develop a new package is extremely high, as is evidenced by the huge development and capital costs associated with the introduction of aluminum cans and PETG bottles. Given the ever reduced margins experienced by packaging and beverage companies, major new package developments are few.

[0005] Overall the invested capital in both package production and beverage filling makes it prohibitively expensive to introduce new packaging developments--unless the new packages are compatible with the installed equipment base.

[0006] In supermarkets and convenience stores where the highest volume of soft drinks and beer are sold, consumers face a wall of competing products on the shelves. The result is difficulty in locating desired brands, and even deciding which to purchase. In the case of soft drink multi-paks, consumers have difficulty satisfying the entire family's primary and second choices without purchasing many different multi-paks.

[0007] Beverage companies currently utilize single flavor packages for all of their products. These packages are sold individually or in multi-paks. Single packages typically are sold cold, ready to drink. The majority of products are packaged in secondary packaging and sold at a lower price per package than single serve. Over 50% of soft drinks are sold in 12 can cartons.

[0008] The most common packaging in the market is aluminum cans, followed by PETG blown bottles. Package volumes are typically between six ounces to 2-liters, though smaller and larger packages are available.

[0009] Although cans sold in multi-paks account for the bulk of volume of soft drinks and beer sold. The packages that create the largest dollar income are those sold single serve, cold and ready to drink. Much of this product is sold through venders and coolers. Established brands have lost considerable market share in this arena as new age and super premium beverages have been introduced through this venue. These new age and super premium brands move into the bulk supermarket shelves once they have established a strong single serve following. The opportunity exists for established brands to reassert a premium image with a package that provides a distinct consumer benefit. The additive vessel presents such an opportunity.

[0010] It is expensive for a company to introduce new beverage products. New primary and secondary package decoration must be executed and inventoried. A company then must heavily advertise and promote in order to convince, typically, consumers to purchase 12 of a product they are unsure of. At the same time, the beverage company must give up shelf space of one of its other products.

[0011] The manufacture of beverage containers and closures requires heavy equipment and occurs in a non-food grade environment. Packages are filled with beverage in a separate food grade filling facility.

[0012] Several companies have attempted to provide flavor choice by including a mix of different flavors in a secondary package; say 4 orange cans, 4 fruit punch cans, and 4 lemonade cans in a 12 pak. These attempts have been largely unsuccessful because consumers found the mix did not meet their personal preference.

[0013] No packages which incorporate the option of adding flavors or other additives has been successfully commercialized, though a number which are referenced in the following paragraphs have been patented. Some of the limitations of previous inventions have been: [0014] a) too expensive to add to a low cost product (beverages). [0015] b) a requirement of extensive development and capital cost for new manufacturing & filling equipment. [0016] c) not compatible with cans, the most popular beverage package. [0017] d) not suitable for use in packages under pressure or vacuum--the most common package condition. [0018] e) a solution for filling additive packages separate from the package manufacturing facility has not been addressed.

[0019] In addition to beverages, this invention has applications for many other liquid products. Some examples are: [0020] spray paint where additives can adjust shades, colors, finishes and other paint characteristics. [0021] Spray air fresheners where the user can select a preferred scent. [0022] Soups and other liquid based foods where spices and other ingredients can be added. [0023] Dry materials such as peanuts, chips, and pretzels where a dry additive can be added to the contents of a package, which can then be shaken to disperse the additives.

[0024] This patent will allow smaller retailers such as drug stores, convenience stores, and smaller grocers to offer more choice than their current space allows.

[0025] Prior inventions related to the concept covered by this patent have not been commercially successful, which demonstrates shortcomings. Some previous patents pertain only to screw-on closures for bottles (U.S. Pat. No. 6,152,296 Shih; U.S. Pat. No. 6,854,595 Kiser; U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,609,612 and 6,959,841 Vlodek). These patents reference use with products that are not pressurized when packaged. No references to introducing additives to beverage in a can or glass bottle were identified. This present invention is applicable to cans and bottles, plus is designed to be used with containers under pressure or vacuum.

[0026] Kenihan's patent (U.S. Pat. No. 6,976,578) describes a lid having the ability to release additives into a beverage; however its claims and descriptions refer to plastic lids for use with beverage cups (non-pressurized). These lids are added to a cup by store personnel or consumers at the time of purchase. Kenihan's patent does not reference or provide guidance for applying it to beverages packaged on filling lines. As patented, Kenihan's design will not work with packages under pressure or vacuum.

[0027] Vlodek's U.S. Pat. No. 6,959,841 references possibilities with "sports drinks, fruit juice, flavored milk, pudding, soups and candy/novelty" which are low pressure packaged products. Vlodek's patent presents no teaching to withstand the 35 psig plus pressures encountered in soft drink and beer containers, nor does it indicate methods to overcome high pressure in order to activate the blister containing the additive.

[0028] Vlodek's patent independently claims 1) a complete cap, 2) a cap with threads, 3) a retainer ring or bore seal, and 4) the retainer ring or bore seal supporting the blister pack in the cap. This patent requires none of these claims. Vlodek's earlier U.S. Pat. No. 6,609,612 also references the design of a system for a monolithic cylindrical body, plus plungers containing additives, and a dispensing valve that can be opened an closed. These claims do not pertain to the current invention.

[0029] This new patent provides descriptions of additive vessels that will withstand high pressures and vacuum, plus provides means to overcome the internal pressure of a package in order to open an additive vessel. The additive vessel assembly of this patent does not require a cap or seals to secure it. Nor is it limited to threaded closures. This patent teaches the addition of the additive vessel assembly to existing packaging components--both closures and container bodies, without retainer rings or bore seals. Closure types can be crowns, can lids, or screw-on closures. New package design for carbonated and vacuum packaged beverages is complex and requires extensive testing to verify its suitability. The claims of this patent are also anticipated to be incorporated into new closure designs.

[0030] Previous patents describe articles that require a new closure design and tooling. A new closure design requires development of the closure, closure manufacturing equipment, plus the equipment needed to handle and apply the closure at filling. The preferred embodiment of this patent utilizes existing beverage packaging; therefore it will work with the installed base of beverage equipment. Lastly, this patent provides fewer potential leak points than previous patents.

[0031] Since this patent describes applications for cans, it can be used to introduce 12 paks of multi-flavor beverages. This packaging comprises the majority of soft drink purchases--the largest potential market for a multi-flavor package. It can also be used to provide a point of difference for higher priced single serve products.

[0032] This patent provides an embodiment that provides a means for maintaining the assembly of the ingredient additives and ingredient additive system separate from the heavy industrial manufacturing of packaging containers and their closures.

[0033] This patent also claims a method for automatically adding ingredients to a beverage after a period of time has passed since filling the package. Sensitive flavors and some diet sweeteners lose their effectiveness over time. This patent teaches a means to increase product shelf life and reducing the amount of out of date product destroyed.

[0034] This patent also claims a method for activating an additive vessel when the pop-top of a can is opened.

[0035] Aside from the ability to utilize this patent in many types of beverage packaging and its compatibility with existing manufacturing and distribution infrastructures; this patent provides benefit to brand owners, bottlers, retailers, and consumers.

[0036] For example, consumers will be able to purchase a 12 pack of cola packaged in cans, each can having one or more additive vessels. Once home they will have the choice of making 8 or more different beverages. By using one additive vessel for a new flavor extension (say mango), consumers will be able to try one package and decide if they want more, they will not need to purchase a full 12 pak to try it. Past patents do not address this area of the market since they are not designed for pressure or cans.

[0037] This invention provides a means to add real juice to beer and soft drinks. For beer which is sold in glass bottles and cans, it is now possible to add real lime juice to packaged beer. The lime juice would discolor and lose its crisp citrus taste if mixed with the beer at the time of filling, however if the juice is packaged aseptically in an additive vessel it will remain high quality until ready to drink. This application is especially applicable to Mexican style beers.

[0038] The cost to brand owners to introduce new flavors in this manner will be less than 1/2 of current introductory costs for new beverages. Aside from flavors, additives such as caffeine, sweeteners, nutritional additives, and colors can be included in the additive vessel. Brand owners will also be able to satisfy the choice demanded by consumers without having to risk placement of slow moving products on the shelves. Slow moving products are the products most prone to becoming out of date.

[0039] Brand owners and consumers will benefit from the variety and excitement of brand owners introducing exciting product possibilities using the teachings of this patent. For example, a flavor of the month additive could be utilized to create interest in cola packages. This will drive volume for brand owners and give consumers variety.

[0040] This patent has ready application for carbonated and non-carbonated beverages of all types, including soft drinks, beer, water, teas, sports beverages, energy beverages, coffees, milk, liquor, juices and others.

[0041] This patent is applicable to applications such as spray and bulk paint containers, soups, fragrances, household products and any liquid product or product mix that will benefit from the addition of additive options.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0042] The primary object of the invention is to provide consumers more flavor and additive choices, while reducing the total number of different packages that must be purchased.

[0043] Another object of the invention is to provide consumers fresher, more flavorful beverages by keeping sensitive ingredients, which degrade when in contact with a base beverage, separate until ready to drink.

[0044] Yet another object of the invention is to provide a method of manufacture that permits brand owners to incorporate this patent's teachings into their existing packaging and filling equipment, with modifications.

[0045] Another object of this invention is to provide a lower cost option for providing additive vessels to beverage closures than previous solutions.

[0046] Another object of the invention is to provide a method to keep the area of heavy manufacture of the container and closure separate from the sanitary area required to fill additive vessels.

[0047] Another object of this invention is to provide methods to reduce the force needed overcome the high internal pressure of the liquid container, in order to open the additive vessel(s). A method is also provided whereas the additive vessel is strong enough to support the internal pressure, but easy to open.

[0048] Other objects and advantages of the present invention will become apparent from the following descriptions, taken in connection with the accompanying drawings, wherein, by way of illustration and example, an embodiment of the present invention is disclosed.

[0049] In accordance with a preferred embodiment of the invention, there is disclosed a container closure having the means for dispensing additives into a container's contents.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

[0050] Detailed descriptions of the preferred embodiment are provided herein. It is to be understood, however, that the present invention may be embodied in various forms. Therefore, specific details disclosed herein are not to be interpreted as limiting, but rather as a basis for the claims and as a representative basis for teaching one skilled in the art to employ the present invention in virtually any appropriately detailed system, structure or manner.

[0051] While the invention has been described in connection with a preferred embodiment, it is not intended to limit the scope of the invention to the particular form set forth, but on the contrary, it is intended to cover such alternatives, modifications, and equivalents as may be included within the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims.

[0052] The drawings constitute a part of this specification and include exemplary embodiments to the invention, which may be embodied in various forms. It is to be understood that in some instances various aspects of the invention may be shown exaggerated or enlarged to facilitate an understanding of the invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

[0053] FIG. 1 is a can incorporating additive vessels

[0054] FIG. 2 is an additive vessel assembly

[0055] FIG. 3 is an additive assembly sealed at a can seam

[0056] FIG. 4 is an additive vessel assembly with a force concentrator and optional scoring

[0057] FIG. 5 is snap dimple to assist in opening additive vessel

[0058] FIG. 6 is a threaded member to assist in opening additive vessel

[0059] FIG. 7 is a force reducing bellow to assist in opening additive vessel

[0060] FIG. 8 is an additive vessel protruding through the surface of a closure

[0061] FIG. 9 is an additive vessel assembly mechanically sealed to the closure

[0062] FIG. 10 is an additive vessel assembly having strike button in a crown closure

[0063] FIG. 11 is an additive vessel assembly in a plastic closure

[0064] FIG. 12 is an additive vessel assembly in the formed bottom of a can

[0065] FIG. 13 is a combination tamper seal and load carrier for the activating mechanism for an additive assembly

[0066] FIG. 14 is a seamed package end with holes to accept an additive vessel assembly

[0067] FIG. 15 is an automatic additive vessel

[0068] FIG. 16 is a second version of an automatic additive vessel

[0069] FIG. 17 is self opening additive vessel

[0070] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the invention in a beverage container assembly 10. In this figure it is shown in a can application. The beverage container assembly 10 separately stores a base liquid 20 and additives(s) 22. The beverage container assembly 10 includes a container 30 and a lid closure 32 which are attached together. The base liquid 20 is stored within a chamber 24 formed by the container 30 and the attached lid closure 32. A gas space 25 is also shown in the chamber. With carbonated products a pressure 26 in the chamber 24 can exceed 50 psig. Also shown is an additive vessel 42, and an additive vessel assembly 43.

[0071] FIG. 2 shows an additive vessel 42 with a moveable portion 52 on its non-pressure side 50. A pressure side 56 of the additive vessel 42 is exposed to the base liquid 20 and gas space 25. The pressure side 56 has an opening portion 57. The additive 22 is stored within the additive vessel 42. The structure of the lid closure 32 provides structural support for the additive vessel assembly 43 from the pressure 26 within the chamber 24, allowing the lightweight design of the additive vessel assembly 43. Also shown is a dimple 35 in the lid closure 32. This support provides a means for the additive vessel assembly to be designed less robust than the lid closure 32, though not necessarily. The preferred embodiment of the additive vessel assembly 43 is two piece aluminum sheet with appropriate surface coatings, though various injection molded and other configurations are anticipated.

[0072] The lid closure 32, as shown in FIG. 3 and a seam joint 36 for attaching said lid to the container 30. The seam joint 36 is typical of seams utilized in conventional can packaging. The lid closure 32 also includes a seal 38, which may be an elastomeric material, for restricting leakage from the beverage container assembly 10, a dimple(s) 35 is shown in the lid closure 32, and an additive vessel assembly 43. One or more additive vessels 42 are incorporated into the additive vessel assembly 43. As shown, a portion the additive vessel(s) 42 protrudes into the dimple(s) 35 in the lid closure 32, although this is not required. The design shown is for use with existing and new closures. With current closure designs, the dimples can be formed by stamping or modifying injection molds. The additive vessel assembly 43 is designed to cover the entire area of the closure exposed to the chamber 24 of the package, plus include the seal material for the closure. Alternatively the additive vessel assembly 43 can be secured to the lid closure 32 using adhesives or mechanical designs.

[0073] FIG. 4 shows a force concentrator 58 in an additive vessel 42. Upon applying force 72 to the dimple 35 it deflects, delivering a resultant force 73 to the moveable portion 52 of the additive vessel 42 causing it to apply force to the opening portion 57. The force concentrator 58 which is shown integral with moveable portion 52, concentrates a high force on a portion of the opening portion 57 which is designed to fail under this concentrated force. Once it fails, gas 25 or base liquid 20 from the chamber 24 flow into the additive vessel 42, removing the gas pressure 25 differential from the pressure side 56 of the additive vessel 42 the opening portion 57 to open. Once the opening portion 57 is cracked and pressure 25 equalizes, the remainder of the opening portion 57 can be opened, without having to overcome a differential pressure. This allows the additive 22 to flow into the base liquid 20. The force concentrator 58 can be incorporated into any part of the additive vessel 42. The force concentrator can also be a pin or knife edge. It can also be designed to peal the opening portion 57 open. Space between lid closure 32 and the additive vessel assembly 43 are shown for clarity only. To assist in failure of the opening portion 57, a score 59 can be added to its surface.

[0074] FIG. 5 illustrates a snap dimple 38 to assist in opening the additive vessel 42. Force 72 is applied to the snap dimple 38 to deflect it past the lid plane 51 of the lid closure 32. Once past the lid plane 51, the snap dimple 38 attempts to form a dimple below the plane 51 of the lid closure 32. The action of forming this dimple results in a resulting force 73 on the moveable portion 52 of the additive vessel 42. The required applied force 72 by the user is reduced by the force resulting from the snap action of the snap dimple 38--making activation of the additive vessel 42 easier. Note that this incorporation (using dimples) of additive vessels 42 does not add potential leak points to the container assembly. This figure illustrates the snap dimple 38 after activation.

[0075] FIG. 6 shows a threaded actuator 60 secured to a lid closure 32. When the threaded actuator 60 is turned clockwise it applies force to the moveable portion 52 of the additive vessel 42. The mechanical advantage gained by the turning of the threaded actuator 60, amplifies the force applied by the user, thus making opening of the additive vessel 42 easier. Though shown in a lid closure 32, the threaded actuator 60 can be used in crowns, plastic closures, and container bodies. Knurls, lugs, and levers can be added to the external portion of the threaded actuator 60 to further increase mechanical advantage. Additive identification 61 can be marked on the threaded actuator 60. Though not illustrate the additive vessel 42 can protrude into the body of the threaded actuator 60 and the same effect obtained. Other means of obtaining mechanical advantage by threads or slopes are anticipated.

[0076] FIG. 7 illustrates a method for reducing the force required to activate the additive vessel 42, by including a force reducing bellows 62 into the moveable portion 52 of the additive vessel 42. The smaller the effective surface of the force reducing bellows 62, the less force 72 is required to move it against a given pressure. FIG. 7 illustrates an additive vessel 42 with force reducing bellows 62, and a force concentrator 58. Assuming a pressure 26 in the chamber 24 of 35 psig, if the effective surface of the force reducing bellows 62 is 0.15 square inches, only 5.25 pounds force is required to open the additive vessel 42. Similar designs may be included in lid closures 32 to reduce the force 72 required to activate a dimple 35.

[0077] FIG. 8 shows an additive vessel 42 protruding through a hole 40 in the lid closure 32. In this execution the user applies force 72 directly to the moveable portion 52 of the additive vessel 42 and the vessel opens. This application can be used in all closures and container bodies.

[0078] FIG. 9 shows an additive vessel assembly 43 mechanically secured to a lid closure 32. The permanent seal 68 is similar to a seam found commonly used can and can lids. The lid closure 32 is punched forming a pocket 66 of which the end is removed. The additive vessel assembly 43 is pressed onto the resulting protrusion from the lid closure 32. Tooling causes the metal of the two parts to curl together, and then the curl is stamped, producing a permanent seal 68. Soft sealing agents 69 can be used to improve the sealing of the two parts. In the case of plastic closures a similar approach can be used, or welding by sonic or adhesive means may be used to accomplish a similar result. The bottom of a formed metal can also is suitable for incorporating additive vessels assemblies 43 using the approach for metal lids.

[0079] FIG. 10 is a crown closure 70 with a striking button 37. A user sharply strikes the flat surface 39 of the striking button 37, resulting in a larger resultant force 73 than will be obtained by using one's finger to press on the striking button 37. The striking button 37 is secured to the crown closure 70. The striking button 37 can incorporated into other type closures.

[0080] FIG. 11 illustrates the preferred embodiment of an additive vessel 42 in a plastic screw-on closure 27. For this application the additive vessel assembly 43 includes a flange 44 that snaps into the screw-on closure 27, as the current closure seal. A soft elastomer 46 can be applied to the circumference of the flange 44. This elastomer 46 serves to facilitate sealing of the container 10, screw-on closure 32, and additive vessel assembly 43. The additive assembly 43 may or may not be secured to the flat surface of the screw-on closure 32. In the case of carbonated beverages, pressure 26 from the chamber 24 will maintain the additive vessel assembly against the screw-on closure 32. Optional dimples are shown in the closure.

[0081] FIG. 12 is an additive vessel assembly 43 secured in the base 77 of a formed can body 76. Either dimples 35 or holes 40 are placed in the base 77 of the container 30 to accommodate the additive vessel 42. The additive vessel assembly 43 is shaped to fit tightly against the shape of the formed can body 76. It is positioned in the container to match the corresponding dimples 35 or holes 40 and secured with a sealing adhesive 78. Pressure 26 from the chamber 24 assists is maintaining a leak resistant seal 79.

[0082] FIG. 13 is a tamper proof seal 78 for striking a striking button 37 or threaded actuator 60. The seal is pealed away from the said button/actuator allowing it to move toward an additive vessel 42. The seals preferred material is plastic or metal. An important function of the seal is to provide structure for stacking packages.

[0083] FIG. 14 illustrates a method for securing the additive vessel assembly 43 between sheets 80 of metal or plastic. To form a closure or package bottom. Holes 40 or dimples 35 in the sheets 80 accommodate additive vessels 42. Sealing agents 69 may be used to reduce leakage. Also one of the sheets 80 may be eliminated. The assembly 81 is sealed to the container using traditional means. The application can be used in many 3 plus piece cans and packages for items such as spray paint, spray fragrances, soups and many others.

[0084] FIG. 15 is an automatic additive vessel 86 secured to a can lid 32. The method of attachment shown is adhesive 87. A dissolvable seal 88 is designed to fail after a predetermined time period, opening a preloaded opening portion 57; and releasing additive 22. Alternatively, the body of the automatic additive vessel 86 can be designed to dissolve and release additive 22.

[0085] FIG. 16 is another method for implementing an automatic additive vessel 86. In this example an elastomeric member 89 expands after exposure to a base liquid 20, causing the opening portion 57 to fail releasing additive 22.

[0086] FIG. 17 is a self opening additive vessel 90 which is opened when the pull tab 98 of a liquid closure 32 is activated. The action of the pull tab 98 moving toward the base liquid 20 either shears the self opening additive vessel 90, or mechanically opens it using the same action on the opening portion 57 as described in FIGS. 15 and 16. The opening action causes additive 22 to flow into the base liquid 20.

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stats Patent Info
Application #
US 20070261758 A1
Publish Date
11/15/2007
Document #
11648068
File Date
12/30/2006
USPTO Class
141098000
Other USPTO Classes
International Class
65B1/30
Drawings
9


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