BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
This invention generally relates to reclosable containers of the
type having a cup and a removable lid; and more specifically, to containers of
this type where the cup and the lid also form a seal along the connection between
the cup and the lid when the lid is mounted on the cup.
Many food products are packaged and sold in reclosable containers
of the type comprising a shell or cup and a lid or cap that can be removed from
and then reconnected to the cup to repeatedly open and close the container. For
example, cream cheese, cottage cheese, and other products are often packaged in
Typically, the cup and the lid are both made of plastic and have
well-defined, self-sustaining shapes, although both the cup and the lid are also
slightly flexible. Normally, the cup and the lid are constructed so that when
the lid is mounted in place on the cup, the flexibility and shape of the cup and
the lid cooperate to hold the lid in place until a small force is intentionally
applied to the lid to remove it from the. cup. In use, a consumer removes the lid
to open the container, removes a portion of the food product therein, and then
replaces the lid to reclose the container, thereby to help maintain the freshness,
taste, and aroma of the food product remaining in the container.
These containers are usually designed to accomplish several objectives
simultaneously. For example, the containers are often designed so that an effective
hermetic seal is formed between the lid and the cup when the lid is mounted on
the cup to close the cup. This seal may be achieved by designing the lid and the
cup so that when the lid is connected to the cup, the lid and cup are in pressure
engagement along a line or small area extending completely around the connection
or interface between the cup and the lid.
This, in turn, may be done, for example, by providing the cup with
a small bead or lip extending around the perimeter of the cup, and by providing
the lid with a small groove extending around the perimeter of the lid and adapted
to receive the bead or lip of the cup. As the lid is placed on the cup, the lid
and cup flex slightly, allowing the groove on the lid to slide toward the bead
on the cup. The lid is moved further along cup to slide the bead into the groove;
and as this happens, the inherent resiliency of the lid and the cup cause the
lid and cup to flex back, with the bead extending into the groove, in pressure
engagement with the surfaces of the lid forming that groove. This pressure engagement
may form the desired seal between the cup and the lid, or this engagement may be
used to hold other, adjacent portions of the lid and cup together to form the
The above-described connection between the lid and the cup also tends
to hold the lid firmly on the cup. This helps to prevent the container from being
opened accidently or inadvertently during normal handling of the container or
in case the container is dropped.
Containers of the above-described type are also normally designed
so that the lid can be repeatedly removed from and then reconnected to the cup,
and this usually requires that the lid be relatively rigid. If the lid is not
rigid, repeated handling of the lid may tear or deform the lid, particularly in
view of the above-described firm pressure engagement between the lid and the cup.
In addition, containers of this type are commonly designed so that
several containers can be stacked on top of each other. This facilitate storing
and shipping the containers, as well as displaying the containers in a store or
market. In order to achieve this objective, the cup or shell of the container may
be made from a relatively strong, rigid material.
These prior art containers also usually have one or more thin membranes
that contain printed information. This printed information may, inter alia, identify
the name of the food product and the name of the manufacturer, and a membrane
may be glued or molded to the lid or the cup of the container. Typically, these
membranes do not serve any mechanical function.
The above-outlined design considerations sometimes conflict with
each other. For instance, as previously mentioned, in order to ensure that the
lid may be repeatedly removed and reconnected to the cup, it is preferred to form
the lid from a relatively rigid material. In addition, in order that a multitude
of containers be stacked one on top of another, it is also preferred to form the
cups of the containers from a relatively rigid and thick material.
However, in order to develop a good seal between the cup and the
lid, it is preferred to form the cup and lid from a more flexible material. In
this way, the areas of the cup and lid that are pressed against each other to
form the seal can closely conform to and fit against each other despite any small
irregularities or imperfections in or on those areas. Because of these conflicting
considerations, the final design of the container is a compromise.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
The present invention relates to a reclosable container and to a
method of forming and assembling a reclosable container. The cup forms an interior
and a top opening to provide access to that interior, and the lid is releasably
connected to the cup to selectively close the top opening thereof and to form a
seal with the cup that seals the interface or connection between the lid and the
cup. More specifically, the cup includes a bottom wall and a side wall; and this
side wall includes a main portion, a supporting lip portion, a connecting portion
and a sealing portion. The lid includes a base and a sealing member; and the base,
in turn, includes a lower portion, a connecting portion, and a top portion.
The side wall of the cup is connected to and extends upwards from
the bottom wall of the cup, and the side wall extends around the interior of the
cup. In particular, the main portion of the side wall is connected to and extends
upwards from the bottom wall, and the supporting lip portion of the side wall is
connected to and extends generally horizontally outward from the main portion
of the side wall. The connecting portion of the side wall is connected to and extends
upward and outward from the supporting lip portion, and the sealing portion is
connected to and extends generally horizontally outward from the connecting portion
of the side wall.
The lower portion of the base of the lid sits on and extends upward
from the supporting lip portion of the cup. The connecting portion of the lid base
is connected to and extends upward from the lower portion of the lid base, and
this connecting portion engages and is releasably connected to the connecting portion
of the side wall of the cup to releasably connect the cup and the lid together.
The top portion of the base is connected to and extends inward from the connecting
portion of the base, and the top portion extends across and over the area inside
this connecting portion. Also, the sealing member of the lid is connected to and
extends generally horizontally outward from the base of the lid, and the sealing
member seats against the sealing portion of the cup to form a seal between the
cup and the lid extending around the top opening of the cup.
Preferably, the base of the lid is formed in an injection molding
process, and this base has a relatively rigid shape, although it also is slightly
flexible. The sealing member of the lid has a thin, highly flexible shape, allowing
this member to form a very effective seal with the cup, and preferably this sealing
member is molded to the base of the lid in an in-mold molding process. In addition,
preferably, the cup of the lid is formed in an injection molding process, and
this cup also has a relatively rigid, and slightly flexible shape.
Further benefits and advantages of the invention will become apparent
from a consideration of the following detailed description given with reference
to the accompanying drawings, which specify and show preferred embodiments of
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
Figure 1 shows a container embodying the present invention.
Figure 2 illustrates the container partially opened.
Figure 3 shows the container with the lid removed.
Figure 4 is a cross-sectional view of the container, generally taken
along line IV-IV of Figure 1.
Figure 5 is a cross-sectional view of the upper portion of the container,
and showing the lid and the cup of the container slightly spaced apart.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
The drawings illustrate container 10 generally comprising cup or
shell 12 and lid or cap 14. Generally, cup 12 includes bottom wall 16 and side
wall 20; and side wall 20 includes main portion 22, supporting lip portion 24,
connecting portion 26, and sealing portion 30. Lid 14 includes base 32 and sealing
member 34; and base 32 includes lower portion 36, connecting portion 40, and top
portion 42. Preferably, connecting portion 26 of cup 12 includes annular bead
44, and connecting portion 40 of base 32 includes annular groove 46.
Bottom and side walls 16 and 20 of cup 12 are connected together
and form an interior 50 for holding a food product, and a top opening 52 to provide
access to that interior and the food product therein. More specifically, main
portion 22 of side wall 20 is connected to bottom wall 16 and extends upward therefrom,
and supporting lip portion 24 of the side wall is connected to and extends generally
horizontally outward from main portion 22. Connecting portion 26 of side wall
20 is connected to and extends upward and outward from supporting lip portion 24,
and sealing portion 30 is connected to and extends generally horizontally outward
from connecting portion 26.
With the embodiment of container 10 illustrated in the drawings,
bottom wall 16 has a generally flat, oval shape, and side wall 20 extends completely
and continuously around the interior 50 of the container. Side wall 20 and each
of the portions 24, 26, 30, and 32 thereof have a generally oval or annular shape
when viewed from the.top. Preferably, cup 12 has a relatively rigid, self-sustaining
shape, although at least side wall 20 of the cup is slightly flexible. Moreover,
side wall 20 and bottom wall 16 are preferably integrally connected together, and
even more preferably, cup 12 is formed in an injection molding process. Any suitable
mold and any suitable plastic may be used to form cup 12.
Lid 14 is releasably connected to cup 12 to selectively close top
opening 52 thereof and to form a seal with the cup that seals the interface or
connection between the lid and the cup. More specifically, base 32 of lid 14 engages
cup 12 and releasably connects the lid thereto, and the base extends across top
opening 52, closing that opening. At the same time, sealing member 34 of lid 14
is connected to and extends generally horizontally outward from base 32, and the
sealing member seats against sealing portion 30 of cup 12 to form a seal between
the lid and the cup that extends around top opening 52.
Even more specifically, lower portion 36 of base 32, specifically
lower edge 54, sits on and extends upwards from supporting lip 24 of cup 12, and
preferably edge 54 of base 32 sits on supporting lip 24 over the entire length
or circumference of lip 24. Connecting portion 40 of base 32 is connected to and
extends upward from lower portion 36; and in a manner more fully discussed below,
connecting portions 26 and 40 of cup 12 and lid 14 cooperate to releasably connect
the cup and lid together. Preferably, connecting portion 40 abuts against and
is in pressure engagement with connecting portion 26 of cup 12 over the entire
length or circumference of connecting portion 26. Top portion 42 of base 32 is
connected to and extends inward from connecting portion 40, across and over the
area inside connecting portion 40.
With the preferred embodiment of lid 14, lower portion 36 and connecting
portion 40 both have a generally annular shape when viewed from the top; and top
portion 42 has a generally flat oval shape and extends completely across the space
inside lower portion 36 and connecting portion 40, covering that area. In addition,
lower portion 36, connecting portion 40, and top portion 42 are integrally connected
together, and preferably these portions 36, 40, and 42 are all integrally formed
together also in an injection molding process. Any suitable mold and any suitable
plastic may be used to form portions 36, 40, and 42.
Sealing member 34 is connected to and extends generally horizontally
outward from base 32; and member 34 is adapted to seat against sealing portion
30 of cup 12, when the cup and lid 14 are connected together, to form a seal between
the cup and the lid that extends around the top opening of the cup. Preferably,
sealing member 34 is relatively flexible so that the sealing member closely conforms
to and seats against the top surface of sealing portion 30 of cup 12 despite any
irregularities or imperfections in that surface. Further, as illustrated in the
drawings, preferably sealing member 34 has a thin, flat shape and extends completely
over the top portion 42 of base 32.
Sealing member 34 may be made in any suitable manner and from any
suitable material. For example, sealing member 34 may be made in a manner similar
or identical to the process currently used to form the above-mentioned thin membranes
that are applied to containers of the general type of container 10, to display
printed information. These membranes are commonly made from polypropylene and formed
in an extrusion molding process.
In addition, sealing member 34 may be connected to base 32 in any
suitable manner. However, preferably sealing member 34 and base 32 are connected
together in an in-mold molding technique in a manner similar or identical to the
way in which the above-mentioned thin, printed membranes are currently applied
to containers of the general type of container 10. For instance, sealing member
34 may be placed in the mold in which base 32 is formed, and then a plastic may
be injected into that mold to form base 32. That plastic forms base 32 and, at
the same time, securely bonds to sealing member 34. In addition, if desired, information
or data may be printed on the outside surface of sealing membrane 34.
As previously mentioned, connecting portions 26 and 40 are provided
to releasably connect cup 12 and lid 14 together, and preferably this is done by
means of a connection of the type that is commonly referred to as a snap lock
or a snap fit. To elaborate, connecting portions 26 and 40 are constructed so that
when lid 14 is mounted on cup 12, in the position illustrated in Figures 1 and
4, the inherent resiliency of base 32 slightly urges connecting portion 40 outward,
and the inherent resiliency of side wall 20 slightly urges connecting portion
26 inward. As a result, connecting portions 26 and 40 are urged against each other,
and bead 44 is biased into groove 46. The inherent resiliency of base 32 and side
wall 20 help to maintain bead 44 in groove 46, and the abutting contact between
bead 44 and the surfaces of connecting portion 40 that form groove 46 inhibit
upward movement of the lid 14, away from the closed or locked position shown in
Figures 1 and 4.
To open container 10, a firm upward force is applied to lid 14 to
pull the lid upward and away from cup 12. This force tends to pull groove 46 upward
relative to bead 44, and the engagement between the bead and the surfaces of connecting
portion 40 that form the lower portion of groove 46 causes connecting portions
26 and 40, respectively, to flex outward and inward slightly. This flexing continues
until groove 46 is pulled away from bead 44; and once this happens, lid 14 is
easily pulled further away from cup 12, and the lid and the cup flex back to respective
To mount lid 14 on cup 12, base 32 of the lid is moved downward,
into the area inside connecting portion 26 of the cup. As this is done, connecting
portion 40 of lid 14 engages connecting portion 26 of cup 12; and further downward
movement of lid 14 causes connecting portions 26 and 40, respectively, to flex
slightly outward and inward. Lid 14 is moved further downward until groove 46
reaches bead 44; and when this happens, connecting portions 40 and 26, due to their
inherent resiliency, slightly flex outward and inward respectively, forcing bead
44 into groove 46 and connecting or locking lid 14 and cup 12 together.
Preferably, when lid 14 is connected or locked onto cup 12 in the
above-described manner, connecting portions 26 and 40 hold the lid and the cup
together with a firm pressure engagement between sealing member 34 of the lid
and sealing portion 30 of the cup, ensuring that an effective seal is produced
by member 34 and portion 30. In addition, when lid 14 is connected to cup 12,
the lid seats directly on supporting lip 24 of cup 12, and any load placed on the
lid is transmitted directly to the supporting lip and side wall 20 of the cup.
Side wall 20 may be, and preferably is, designed and constructed so that it may
support a substantial load, and thus a multitude of containers 10 may be stacked
on top of each other.
In accordance with the present invention, the lid of the container
is separated into two parts --base 32 and sealing member 34-- and each of these
parts is used to accomplish a respective objective. In particular, base 32 is
used to connect the lid to cup 12, and sealing member 34 is used to form a seal
with the cup. The base and the sealing member may each be designed and constructed
separately to achieve its respective objective without compromising one object
for the other. Moreover, base 32 and sealing member 34 may each be made and then
securely connected together using known, established procedures.
While it is apparent that the invention herein disclosed is well
calculated to fulfill the objects previously stated, it will be appreciated that
numerous modifications and embodiments may be devised by those skilled in the
art, and it is intended that the appended claims cover all such modifications and
embodiments as fall within the true spirit and scope of the present invention.