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1. WO1991014626 - SYSTEME DE RECONFIGURATION DE CONTENEUR

Note: Texte fondé sur des processus automatiques de reconnaissance optique de caractères. Seule la version PDF a une valeur juridique

[ EN ]

CONTAINER RECONFIGURING SYSTEM

Cross-Reference to Related Applications
The present application is a continuation-in-part of co-pending utility application Serial No. 271,157 filed November 14, 1988 issued March 20, 1990 as Patent NO. 4,909,393 entitled CONTAINER RECONFIGURING SYSTEM (referred to hereinafter as the "Parent Utility Case") , the disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference.
The present application also is a continuation-in-part of each of the following design applications (referred to collectively hereinafter as the "Parent Design Cases"), the disclosures of which are incorporated herein by reference:
1) Serial No. 270,123 filed November 14, 1988 entitled NESTABLE CONTAINER WITH SEAMED, FLUTED SIDE WALL;
2) Serial No. 270,122 filed November 14, 1988 entitled NESTABLE CONTAINER LINER;
3) Serial No. 299,957 filed January 23, 1989 entitled NESTABLE CONTAINER WITH SEAMED, DIMPLED & FLUTED SIDE WALL; and,
4) Serial No. 372,300 filed June 23, 1989 entitled NESTABLE CONTAINER WITH SEAMED, RINGED AND FLUTED SIDE WALL.
Reference also is made to a companion design application filed (concurrently herewith) Serial No. (atty's file 2-833) , entitled NESTABLE CONTAINER WITH FLUTED AND RINGED SIDE WALL JOINED BY DEPENDING RING FORMATION EXTENDING CIRCUMFERENTIALLY ABOUT CIRCULAR BOTTOM WALL (referred to hereinafter as the "Companion Case") , the disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference.

Background of the Invention
1. Field of the Invention
The present invention relates to a system for reconfiguring generally cylindrical, open-top containers that are formed from deformable metal, to elongate the containers and to provide the containers with tapered, fluted side portions that enable the reconfigured containers to be nested for empty shipment and storage of a maximum number of containers in a minimum of space, with each reconfigured container having at least one ring-like formation extending about a peripheral portion of the container to strengthen the reconfigured container, to improve the container's stability, and/or to improve its handling characteristics. Other aspects of the invention relate to features of the nestable containers that are produced through use of the system of the invention, and to the utilization of these nestable containers to maximize the container carrying capacity of valuable cartage and storage space.
2. Prior Art
Open-top containers are well known that are of generally cylindrical shape and have circular bottom walls that are connected along circumferentially extending seams to upstanding, generally cylindrical side walls. Examples include containers that range in character from small "tin cans" of the type that are used to contain household foodstuffs, to relatively large steel drums that are utilized in industry. While the present invention is discussed principally in conjunction with its applicability to relatively large, open-top, steel drums of the type that are reused repeatedly in industry, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that features of the invention are not limited in their application to use with indus- trial drums that are formed from steel. Likewise, while the present invention is discussed principally in conjunction with its applicability to the reconfiguring of containers such as industrial drums, many of which already have seen service in industry, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that features of the invention are not limited in their application to use with "used" containers such as industrial drums, but rather can be employed quite advantageously in conjunction with the formation of nestable new containers .
Because the cost of cleaning or otherwise reconditioning open-top containers such as steel drums to enable the drums to be reused is a mere fraction of the cost of manufacturing replacement drums, it has become a widely accepted practice in industry to repeatedly reuse steel drums. Used and reconditioned drums are not only available for purchase but have come to comprise commodities having such value that large storage spaces in warehouses often are devoted to the empty storage of reusable drums. Likewise, in view of the relatively low cost that is associated with reusing existing steel drums — as compared to the much higher relatively cost that is associated with purchasing new drums for one-time use — it has become quite commonplace for relatively large volumes of expensive interstate cartage space to be utilized for the transport of empty drums to sites where the drums are to be reused.
A problem with the empty storage and empty shipment of open-top containers of standard size such as steel drums is that the generally cylindrical shape of these containers prohibits the containers from being even partially nested one within another to permit the empty containers to be stacked or otherwise grouped to make effi- cient use of the space that they occupy. Each container of standard size that is added to a storage space in a warehouse, or to a transport space in a semi-trailer truck or a railroad boxcar, does nothing to make any use whatsoever of the empty space that is defined within such other containers as already occupy the storage or transport space.
3. The Referenced Parent and Companion Cases
The referenced Parent Utility Case addresses the foregoing and other problems as by providing a system for reconfiguring generally cylindrical containers that is particularly well suited for use with reusable industrial drums formed from metal. As will be apparent from the description and claims that follow, the present invention relates to improvement features that preferably are utilized together with features of the invention of the Parent Utility Case.
The referenced Parent Design Cases relate to container shapes and appearance features that have evolved as a part of a continuing development program that has given rise to the invention of the present case. Selected features of the present invention may be utilized with such design features as are disclosed in the referenced Parent Design Cases.
The referenced Companion Case relates to container shape and appearance features that may be employed in the preferred practice of the present invention.

Syππmary of the Invention
The present invention relates to improvement features that preferably are utilized in combination with features that comprise the subject matter of the Parent Utility Case — with features of the present invention serving to provide an improved system for reconfiguring generally cylindrical, drum-like containers to provide containers having tapered, fluted side walls that are nestable when empty. Reconfigured containers that incorporate features of the present invention typically exhibit such advantages as enhanced rigidity, a high degree of stability, and/or improved handling characteristics.
One aspect of the present invention relates to the provision of a system for reconfiguring generally cylindrical, open-top containers that are formed from deformable metal, to provide the reconfigured containers with features that enable the reconfigured containers to be nested so that empty space within the interior of one container of standard size can be occupied, at least in part, by portions of an adjacent container of the same standard size. Features that are added to the containers during the reconfiguration process include tapered, fluted side portions that extend along a majority of the length of the sides of the reconfigured containers, and bottom wall portions that are repositioned so as to give the reconfigured containers enhanced height (i.e., the containers are elongated during reconfiguration) . And, in accordance with an improvement feature of the present invention, the process of reconfiguring containers includes the step of providing each container with at least one ring-like ' formation that serves to enhance container strength, container stability and/or container handling characteristics, as will be explained in greater detail in the discussion that follows.
In accordance with a further aspect of the preferred practice of the present invention, the value of new and used open-top, generally cylindrical containers formed from deformable metal is enhanced by reconfiguring the containers through a process that causes elongation of the containers , and that causes flute and ring formations to be added to side and bottom wall portions of the containers. Certain of the configuration enhancement features that are added during reconfiguration function to permit reconfigured containers to be nested for empty storage and cartage. Others of the configuration enhancement features function to enhance container rigidity, to provide a high degree of container stability, and/or to improve container handling characteristics. In preferred practice, these features are added 1) without causing a change to any significant degree in the fluid-carrying capacity, 2) without disturbing the fluid-tight character of seams that were formed when the containers were originally fabricated, and 3) without distorting upwardly opening rim portions of the containers .
A further aspect of preferred practice resides in the shape that is defined by containers that are formed as the result of the reconfiguration process — a shape that is characterized by such features as tapered flute formations that extend along the majority of the length of the sides of the reconfigured containers, by a bottom wall that has central portions thereof moved axially relative to the side wall so as to give the reconfigured containers increased height, and by peripheral bottom wall portions that are folded and drawn 1) to define a relatively smaller diameter bottom, and 2) a depending ring-like transition between a raised bottom wall portion and surrounding fluted portions.
Still another aspect of preferred practice resides in utilizing nestable containers that have the aforedescribed reconfiguration features taken in combination with other reconfiguration features such as the provision of one or more peripherally extending ring formations that function, in combination, to maximize the container carrying capacity of cartage and storage space, and to enhance the ease and efficiency with which empty, reusable containers can be handled, stored, transported, nested and separated after being nested.
Still another aspect of the preferred practice of the present invention resides in the capability that is provided to carry out the aforedescribed container reconfiguration process without causing the rims that surround the open end regions of the containers to be distorted so as to be out-of-round, and without altering the dimensions of the rims. Indeed, in preferred practice, the deep-draw pressing operation that is utilized to carry out the majority of the container reconfiguration process is carried out in a way that causes rim portions of a container that is undergoing reconfiguration to be restrained so as to counteract forces that otherwise might cause changes in rim shape and size. Thus, in preferred practice, only bottom wall and side wall portions that are spaced from the open upper end region of an open-top container are reconfigured, and such force as is applied to a container to effect its reconfiguration is applied by a ram that operates principally on the container's bottom wall, and by portions of a die that cause deformations at locations that are spaced from the rim, thereby enabling conventional closures (such as lids of a standard size that are designed to be removably attached to the rim of a container to close the open end region of the container) to continue to be used with the container.
Another aspect of the preferred practice of the present invention resides in providing one or more circumferentially extending expansion-formed rings that are provided in upper side wall portions of each reconfigured container at one or more locations atop the vertically extending flute formations that are provided in side and peripheral bottom wall portions as each container is elongated and reshaped during its reconfiguration. In most preferred practice, a pair of vertically spaced, circumferentially extending ring-like formations that are located atop upper end regions of the vertically extending flutes are provided as by radially expanding spaced, circumferentially extending side wall portions. These rings not only enhance container rigidity but also serve to provide formations that can be grasped to enable containers to be moved about from place to place. Moreover, the lowermost ring (i.e., a ring formation that is provided immediately adjacent the upper end regions of the side wall flute formations) limits the extent to which identical reconfigured containers can be inserted one into another to provide a nested stack of empty containers, whereby the nested containers are prevented from wedging together while nested — and easy separation of containers from a nested stack is assured.
A feature of the most preferred practice of the present invention is that the lowermost of the two circumferentially extending rings (that are referred to in the paragraph immediately above) is formed at a time after the tapered flute' formations have been press-formed, with this lowermost ring being formed by expanding container side wall portions that intercept the tip upper end regions of the flute formations so that the resulting reconfigured container tapers progressively inwardly starting immediately beneath the lowermost of the two expansion-formed ring-like formations. By this arrangement, reconfigured containers are permitted to "nest" one within another, with the extent to which one container can be inserted into another during nesting movement being limited by engagement of the lowermost of the two expansion-formed rings of one container with the rim formation of a surrounding container. This ring-to-rim engagement during nesting serves the function of preventing nested containers from wedging together, and thereby assures ease of separation of containers from nested relationship.
Another aspect of the preferred practice of the present invention resides in providing one press-formed, downwardly extending ring-like formation that provides a juncture between the reconfigured container's fluted side wall and a raised bottom wall portion that is of substantially circular configuration. In most preferred practice, the depending ring formation defines a ring-like bottom surface that extends within a horizontal plane for supporting the container atop a flat surface with good stability (i.e., the surface-supported container will not "wobble" or "rock" from side to side when positioned atop a flat surface) . By this arrangement, if reconfigured containers need to be moved along a roller conveyor or other conveyance that provides support elements that define closely spaced components of a flat support surface, the containers can be moved about on such a surface without causing them to be shaken from side to side during such movement' (i.e., open-top containers that are loaded with liquid will not be caused to shake during such movement such that liquid is spilled therefrom) .
Another aspect of the preferred practice of the present invention resides in forming the circular, raised bottom wall portion such that it includes a slightly raised, centrally located "crown" formation. By including such a formation in the bottom wall, an assurance is l
provided that the bottom wall will not form an unwanted configuration (e.g., a "wavy" or significantly non-planar shape) as the result of the deep-drawing action that takes place in press-forming the flutes and the depending ring that is described in the paragraph above.
A further feature of the preferred practice of the system of the present invention resides in an unexpected result, namely a determination that the type of container reconfiguration that is carried out can in fact be utilized with seamed containers of the type that have circular bottom walls that are joined along a circumferentially extending seam to the lower end region of an upwardly extending, generally cylindrical side wall. Because steel drums typically have a rolled bottom wall seam where the bottom wall is joined with a surrounding side wall, and because seamed structures of this type are ordinarily thought of as being incapable of being put through a significant amount of deformation, those skilled in the art have not viewed existing steel drums as being recon-figurable. Especially where, as here, reconfiguration involves extensive deformation of container portions adjacent to the seam and/or defining the seam itself, those skilled in the art have considered what is achieved with this invention as residing considerably outside the range of accepted, conventional practice.
A feature of the invention resides in the fact that the reconfiguration system not only can be used with containers having seamed-wall construction, but that, in fact, the reconfiguration system is found to be quite reliably usable with containers such as industrial drums that have rolled seams and the like that extend circumferentially about their bottom walls to join the bottom walls with the side walls . During the reconfiguration I I
process, the bottom rim seam (i.e., the seam that connects the sheet of metal that defines the bottom wall with the seamed roll of sheet metal that defines the side wall) of a container preferably is deformed in such a way that it forms part of a fluted side wall of the reconfigured container. The seam is not "unlocked" or otherwise "violated" during the reconfiguration process, and the fluid-tight integrity of the seam is preserved.

Brief Description of the Drawings
These and other features, and a fuller understanding of the invention may be had by referring to the following description and claims taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, wherein:
FIGURE 1 is a perspective view of an open-top, generally cylindrical container of a type that is well known in the prior art;
FIGURE 2 is sectional view thereof as seen from a plane indicated by a line 2-2 in FIGURE 1;
FIGURE 3 is a perspective view of the container of FIGURE 1 in a reconfigured form that embodies features of the present invention;
FIGURE 4 is sectional view thereof as seen from a plane indicated by a line 4-4 in FIGURE 3;
FIGURE 5 is a side elevational view of the reconfigured container of FIGURE 3;
FIGURE 6 is a top plan view thereof;
FIGURE 7 is a bottom plan view thereof;
FIGURE 8 is a sectional view as seen from a plane indicated by a line 8-8 in FIGURE 3;
FIGURE 9 is a somewhat schematic cross sectional view depicting an upstanding "nest" of four of the reconfigured containers, and showing how this nest of four /«£
reconfigured containers compares favorably in required storage space with a stack of two conventional containers of corresponding size;
FIGURE 10 is a somewhat schematic side eleva-tional view of an apparatus that is utilized in accordance with the preferred practice of the present invention to effect reconfiguration of containers of the type shown in FIGURE 1 to form containers of the type shown in FIGURE 3, with the apparatus having its ram raised above a die into which containers are pressed by the ram, one at a time, to effect their reconfiguration;
FIGURE 11 is a top plan view as seen from a plane indicated by a line 11-11 in FIGURE 10;
FIGURE 12 is a side elevational view similar to FIGURE 10 but with portions thereof broken away and shown in cross section, and with a container of the type that is depicted in FIGURE 1 being shown as it is introduced into the die of the apparatus to initiate its reconfiguration;
FIGURES 13 through 17 are side elevational views that are similar to FIGURE 12 except that selected portions of the apparatus are broken away, with this series of views depicting stages in the process by which a container of the type that is shown in FIGURE 1 is reconfigured to form a container of the type that is shown in FIGURE 3;
FIGURE 18 is a sectional view that shows one option that can be employed to remove a reconfigured container from the die of the apparatus;
FIGURE 19 shows a reconfigured container in the process of being removed from a multi-jaw expander apparatus that has been utilized in a second stage of container reconfiguration to form a pair of circumferentially extending rings in side wall portions located near the upper IS
end of a partially reconfigured container that has gone through a first stage of container reconfiguration as by utilizing the press of FIGURE 10;
FIGURE 20 is a perspective view of a fully reconfigured container that embodies the preferred practice of the present invention;
FIGURE 21 is a sectional view as seen from a plane indicated by a line 21-21 in FIGURE 20; and,
FIGURE 22 is an enlargement of selected portions of the sectional view of FIGURE 21.

Description of the Preferred Embodiment
Referring to FIGURES 1 and 2, a conventional, open-top, generally cylindrical container such as a metal drum is indicated generally by the numeral 10. The drum or container 10 has an upstanding, generally cylindrical side wall 12 that is of substantially uniform diameter. The upper end of the side wall 12 has a rolled rim 14 that defines an upwardly-facing opening 16 for admitting contents into the container 10. A circular, substantially planar bottom wall 20 closes the bottom end of the side wall 12, and is connected to the side wall 12 by a peri-metrically extending seam 22, typically a rolled seam.
While the bottom wall 20 is formed from a single piece of metal sheet or plate stock that is of generally circular shape, selected portions of the bottom wall 20 are designated by different numerals. The numeral 20b designates a "central portion" of the bottom wall 20 (i.e., a central-most region of the bottom wall 20 that can be thought of as defining about 2/3 of the diameter of the drum 10) . The numeral 20a designates "peripheral portions" of the bottom wall 20 (i.e., an annular band of material that defines the remainder of the bottom wall 20 I .
and that extends circumferentially about the central portion 20b) that are joined to the side wall 12 by the seam 22.
Referring to FIGURE 2, the container 10 has an overall length or height that is designated by the dimension L. The container 10 is of substantially uniform diameter along its length, and its diameter is designated by the dimension D. While features of the present invention are not limited in utility to applications that involve reusable industrial drums, for purposes of this discussion the container 10 will be assumed to comprise a standard, reusable industrial drum having a length L of about 34 inches, and a diameter D of about 24 inches.
Referring to FIGURES 3-8, 20 and 21, a container (of the type shown in FIGURES 1 and 2) that has been reconfigured in accordance with the preferred practice of the present invention is indicated generally by the numeral 110. The container 110 has an upstanding, generally cylindrical side wall 112 (portions of which are defined by the side wall 12 of the original container 10, and portions of which are defined by the aforementioned peripheral portions 20a of the bottom wall 20 of the original container 10) . The upper end of the side wall 112 has a rolled rim 114 that is identical to the rim 14 and defines an upwardly-facing opening 116 that is identical to the opening 16 for admitting contents into the container 110.
Spaced downwardly from the rim 114 a short distance are a pair of circumferentially extending ring-like formations 130, 132 that are formed as by expanding upper portions of the side wall 112 in a manner that will be explained in conjunction with a discussion of the use of the expander apparatus 300 that is depicted in FIGURE 19. The rings 130, 132 are vertically spaced one from another by a AT
short distance, are substantially identical one with another when viewed in cross-section (see FIGURE 21) , and have substantially uniform radially-extending cross sectional configurations at all locations extending about the circumference of the container 110.
A circular bottom wall 120 is defined by central portions 20b of the original bottom wall 20. Extending circumferentially about the circular bottom wall 120 is a depending ring-like formation 134 that provides a transition between and securely connects (in a contiguous and uninterrupted manner) the circular bottom wall 120 with upwardly curved peripheral bottom wall portions 136 that are defined principally by the peripheral portions 20a. The ring 134 provides a ring-like bottom surface 140 that extends in a horizontal plane for supporting the container 110 atop a flat, upwardly facing support surface, not shown. The ring-like formation 134 defines an upwardly opening, ring-like trough 138 (see FIGURE 22) that opens into the container 110 for receiving a quantity of such liquid as may be introduced into the container 110 for storage and/or transit.
The reconfigured container 110 has a seam 122 that is of relatively complex configuration with portions thereof tracing an outline that snakes radially inwardly and outwardly along the side wall surface among tapered flute formations 142 that are provided therein (with the seam 122 also tending to snake axially in a waveform of relatively small amplitude, depending on the character of the forces that are generated during elongation of the container 10 and on the strain response that side wall portions of the container 10 exhibit during the reconfiguration process) .

Referring to FIGURE 4, the distance between the rim 114 and the seam 122 is designated in a general way by a dimension L' (which remains substantially unchanged from the original dimension L) . It will be understood, however, that in view of the complex configuration of the seam 122 (portions of which do not necessarily extend in a common plane with other portions thereof) , the dimension that is designated by the letter L" is approximate in character and is intended to designate the general location of the seam 122 relative to the rim 114.
Referring still to FIGURE 4, the reconfigured container 110 has an overall length or height that is designated by the dimension L" . The container 110 is of non-uniform diameter along much of its length, with the diameter of the container 110 at locations within the vicinity of the rim 114 being designated by the dimension D (a dimension that remains substantially unchanged from what is depicted in FIGURE 2) , but with the maximum diameter of the container 110 within the vicinity of the seam 122 being designated by the dimension D', and with the diameter of the circular bottom wall 120 being designated by the dimension D" . When the container 110 is formed from an industrial drum having length and diameter dimensions L and D of about 34 inches and 24 inches, respectively, the resulting container 110 preferably has L" , D' and D" dimensions of about 37 1/2 inches, 21 inches, and about 16 to 17 inches, respectively.
Referring to FIGURE 22 wherein bottom portions of the container 110 are shown in cross-section on an enlarged scale, the ring-like formation 134 has an outer diameter that is indicated by the dimension J, with the height of the ring 134 being indicated by the dimension F, and with the width of the ring 134 (as measured radially) being indicated by the dimension G.
As is seen in FIGURE 22, the bottom wall 120 is raised above the ring-like bottom surface 140 by an amount that is substantially equal to the dimension F. While the bottom wall 120 extends substantially horizontally, in preferred practice, the bottom wall 120 is not entirely flat. Rather, the bottom wall 120 has an annular outer part 124 that extends radially inwardly for a distance that is indicated by the dimension P, with the material that forms the outer part 124 extending in a horizontal plane that is raised above the bottom surface 140 by an amount equal to the dimension F. Joining integrally, smoothly and contiguously with the inner diameter of the outer part 124 is an inclined annular part 126 that extends radially inwardly for a distance that is indicated by the dimension X. Joining integrally, smoothly and contiguously with the inner diameter of the annular part 126 is a circular central part 128 that extends in a horizontal plane located above the plane of the outer part 124 by a distance that is indicated by the dimension Y.
By way of example, an industrial drum of the type that is intended to contain a quantity of liquid that measures about 55 gallons, has a rim dimension D and an overall height dimension L" (see FIGURE 4 where these dimensions are depicted) of about 24 inches and 37 1/2 inches, respectively. Such a drum most preferably has dimensions J, F and G of about 16 inches, 3/8 inch and 1/2 inch, respectively (with the dimension F preferably being within the range of about 1/4 inch to about 1/2 inch, and with the dimension G preferably being within the range of about 3/8 inch to about 5/8 inch) . Such a drum preferably has dimensions M and N of about 11 inches and 8 inches, respectively, with dimensions X and P being about 1 1/2 and 2 inches, respectively. The dimension Y (the height of the crowned center part 128 above the outer part 124) is typically selected to be about 1/8 inch — an amount that will cause the metal that forms the bottom wall 120 to provide a desired configuration of predetermined shape rather than to let this metal form a wavy bottom wall which is what it often tends to do unless the bottom wall is deliberately configured to provide at least a slight, upwardly extending crown toward its center. While one type of "crown" formation has been described herein inasmuch as it is the form that is included in reconfigured containers that represent the best mode presently known to the inventors for carrying out the practice of the present invention, as will be apparent to those who are skilled in the art, other crown type configurations can be substituted without departing from the spirit and practice of the present invention.
Referring variously to FIGURES 3 through 8 wherein the elongated, fluted shape (and other features) of the reconfigured container 110 are illustrated, it will be seen that the flute formations 142 comprise a plurality of substantially identical, smoothly tapering formations that are characterized by surfaces that arc smoothly and relatively gently about the side wall 112 of the container 110. In preferred practice, the flute formations 142 are eight in number — with the flute formations 142 being arranged symmetrically in opposed pairs with respect to an imaginary center axis of the container 110. However, larger or smaller number of flute formations 142 can be utilized, as can flute formations (not shown) that are of larger and/or smaller dimensions than are the formations 142, and/or that are not identical one to another — as may be desired to accommodate various container types and shapes, and as may be desired in order to provide different degrees of taper along selected side wall portions.
As will be explained in greater detail in conjunction with FIGURES 10-18 and 19, the reconfiguration of the container 10 to form the container 110 is carried out in a two-stage process, beginning with the utilization of a press 200 (see FIGURES 10-18) that operates on containers, one at a time, to effect major configuration changes that give the resulting containers a capability to be nested, and completing the process by utilizing an expander apparatus 300 (see FIGURE 19) to expand selected upper portions of the reconfigured containers to provide a pair of circumferentially extending rings 130, 132 located near the container's rim 114.
As will be explained in greater detail in conjunction with FIGURES 10-18, the press 200 is used to force a closed bottom end region of each generally cylindrical container 10 into a die, and to carry out a drawing operation that alters bottom and side wall portions of the container 10 to elongate the container 10 during reconfiguration and to provide the reconfigured container 110 with tapered, fluted formations 142. The addition of the flute formations 142 and the elongation of the container as by providing a reconfigured end wall 120 are features that, taken in combination, enable identically reconfigured containers 110 to be nested quite efficiently for empty shipment and storage in a minimum of space.
As will be explained in greater detail in conjunction with FIGURE 19, the expander 300 is used to expand rim-end portions of the press-reconfigured containers so as to provide a pair of circumferentially extending ring-like formations 130, 132 that enhance container Ao
strength and improve container handling characteristics as by providing formations that can be engaged easily by automated container lifting and positioning equipment. Moreover, the lowermost of the ring-like formations 132 is positioned and configured such that, when reconfigured containers are nested one within another, the ring 132 of one container is engaged by the rim 114 of a surrounding container to prevent the nested containers from wedging together, whereby ease of separation of nested containers is assured.
To complete a discussion of features of reconfigured containers that embody the preferred practice of the present invention (whereafter, a discussion will follow treating the subject of how such containers are formed) , reference is made to FIGURE 9 wherein four of the reconfigured containers 110 are shown in nested relationship (i.e., with portions of three of the four reconfigured containers 110 extending into adjacent surrounding and underlying ones of the containers 110) so as to form a "nest" that is designated generally by the numeral 150. A feature of the nest 150 is that rim formations 114 of the lowermost -three containers 110 engage the ring-like formations 132 of the three uppermost containers 110 to assure that the nested containers 110 do not wedge together, whereby easy separation of the containers 110 from the nest 150 is assured. By nesting the reconfigured containers 110 in the way that is illustrated in FIGURE 9, it is possible to significantly diminish the amount of storage and/or transport space that is required to house the containers 110 when empty. In fact, the effective capacity of a given storage or transportation space can be doubled, or more than doubled.

Al
Doubling the container carrying capacity of expensive cartage space is not a matter of small import in its economic impact. In view of the many hundreds of semi-trailer trucks that daily travel the highways to haul nothing other than empty drums from locations where the drums were emptied and/or were stored to locations where the drums will be put back into service, the economic impact of being able to cut the number of these truck shipments by at least 50 percent is quite remarkable.
To better understand how the reconfigured containers 110 of the present invention can double or more than double the effective container-carrying capacity of a given shipping or storage space, one need only to compare the way in which empty containers 10 presently are stored with the way in which nested, reconfigured containers 110 (that embody features of the present invention) are stored. The resulting containers 110 can be nested one within another such that, for example (as is depicted in FIGURE 9) a nest 150 of four drums 110 will occupy a floor footprint and a height that formerly was occupied by two conventional drums 10 stacked one atop the other. Likewise, a seven-drum nest (not shown) will occupy about the same floor footprint and height that formerly was consumed by three drums stacked one atop another.
An additional factor that enhances the ease and efficiency with which the reconfigured drums can be loaded into a given storage or transportation space is the fact that a nest of several drums forms a relatively solid structure that can be handled by equipment such as fork lift trucks and the like — far more easily than can an equal number of conventional drums that must be dealt with individually inasmuch as they are not interconnected.
Thus, a nest of a dozen drums can be moved much more quickly and efficiently than a dozen drums can be moved individually.
Furthermore, inasmuch as the drums within a nest have wall portions that extend one inside the other, the drums that comprise a nest tend to reinforce each other during handling and storage, and therefore are significantly less likely to be significantly dented, punctured or otherwise damaged while empty.
Still another factor that enhances efficiency through the use of the reconfigured drums of the present invention is that relatively large nests of drums (e.g., a nest of typically eighteen to twenty four drums) can be handled as one would handle a lengthy cylindrical object, with such nests of drums being stacked like corded wood. And, inasmuch as the number of drums that are nested together can be selected to correspond with the height (or length) of a particular storage or transportation space that is to be used to contain empty drums , drums can be loaded efficiently into the available space — i.e., far more efficiently than is possible with conventional drums.
A feature of the system of the present invention resides in an unexpected result, namely a determination that the type of container reconfiguration that is carried out in accordance herewith can in fact be utilized with conventional seamed containers of the type that have circular bottom walls that are joined along a circumferentially extending seam to the lower end region of an upwardly extending, generally cylindrical side wall, e.g., the container 10 that is shown in FIGURE 1. Because steel drums typically have a rolled bottom wall seam (such as the seam 22) where the bottom wall is joined with a surrounding side wall, and because seamed structures of this type are ordinarily thought of as being incapable of being .3
put through a significant amount of deformation, those skilled in the art have not viewed existing steel drums as being reconfigurable. Especially where, as here, reconfiguration involves extensive deformation of container portions adjacent to the seam and/or defining the seam itself, those skilled in the art have considered what is achieved with this invention as residing considerably outside the range of accepted, conventional practice.
A feature of the invention resides in the fact that the reconfiguration system not only can be used with containers having seamed-wall construction, but that, in fact, the reconfiguration system is found to be quite reliably useful with containers such as industrial drums that have rolled seams and the like that extend circumferentially about their bottom walls to join the bottom walls with the side walls. During the reconfiguration process, the bottom rim seam (i.e., the seam that connects the sheet of metal that defines the bottom wall with the seamed roll of sheet metal that defines the side wall) of a container is deformed in such a way that it forms part of a fluted side wall of the reconfigured container.
While portions of the seam may be drawn out of a common plane so as to give the seam a highly complex shape that includes arc-shaped (if not S-shaped) curves when viewed in elevation, the seam is not "unlocked" or otherwise "violated" during the reconfiguration process, and the fluid-tight integrity of the seam is preserved.
An aspect of the invention that derives from the discovery that bottom-seamed containers can be reconfigured with relative ease as by using the system of the present invention, is the provision by the present invention of a means for economically fabricating new, nestable containers that incorporate the advantageous features of the containers 110. Stated in another way, one of the features of the present invention is that it enables new, relatively complexly configured, nestable containers to be manufactured quite easily and inexpensively 1) by forming conventional cylindrical containers 10 from a coil of steel that is roll-seamed to join the side wall to a circular bottom plate, and 2) by subjecting these newly formed cylindrical containers to the aforedescribed draw-forming process to reconfigure the containers 10 to provide the complex shape and the nestable features of the containers 110.
A further feature of the preferred practice of the present invention that also provides an unexpected result is the finding that, as containers such as standard 55 gallon drums are reconfigured, the decrease in fluid-carrying capacity that results as side wall portions are fluted and folded inwardly is in large part compensated for by the container elongation that takes place as peripheral bottom wall portions are folded upwardly to serve as extensions of the side walls. In the most preferred practice of the invention, the container reconfiguration process is carried out such that the volume compensation that occurs in this way results in substantially no ultimate change in the fluid-carrying capacity of the drum.
With the preferred practice of the present invention, steel drums that typically measure about 24 inches in diameter and 34 inches in height are reconfigured such that central portions of their bottom walls are moved axially relative to portions of the side walls to elongate the drums by a matter of about 3 to 4 inches so as to elongate the drum by about ten percent; side wall and peripheral bottom wall portions (including such portions thereof as define seams between the bottom and side walls) are drawn radially inwardly to define tapered flutes (preferably an array of eight identical flutes, with each of the flutes extending upwardly along the majority of the lengths of the sides of the reconfigured containers so as to reduce the maximum diameter of bottom portions of the drums by about 2 to 3 inches (i.e., by about ten percent) , and by providing a bottom wall that is diminished in diameter to about 16 to 17 inches (as compared with an original bottom wall diameter of about 24 inches) ; and, as a result of this deformation, the fluid-carrying volumes of the containers are not appreciably altered.
Referring to FIGURES 10-18, in preferred practice, container reconfiguration of the aforedescribed type is carried out as by utilizing an apparatus 200. The apparatus 200 includes an upstanding frame 210 that supports a hydraulic cylinder 220 having a downwardly extensible ram 230 — with the cylinder 220 being located above a hollow die 240 that defines an upwardly opening cavity 250, and with the ram 230 being extensible downwardly into the cavity 250.
The hydraulic cylinder 220 is supported by the frame 210 so as to centrally overlie the die cavity 250, and with movement of the ram 230 being along an imaginary axis that is designated by the numeral 260 and that extends vertically and centrally into the die cavity 250. The ram 230 has a circular end member 232 with a diameter that is selected to be about two thirds of the diameter of a cylindrical drum 10 that is to be inserted into the die cavity 250 for reconfiguration by the apparatus 200. If the container 10 is a 24 inch diameter drum (as has been described previously) , the diameter of the end member 232 of the ram 230 preferably is within the range of about 17 to 18 inches — whereby the ram 230 serves to act on the central portion 20b of the end wall 20 of the container 10 so as to permit peripheral portions 20a of the end wall 20 to be folded axially so as to define an extension of the side wall 12 of the container 10 as the container 10 is reconfigured to form the container 110.
The die 240 has a generally cylindrical side wall 242 that extends upwardly, concentrically about the axis 260 from a bottom wall 244. Inwardly extending ribs 246 are provided on the interior of the side wall 242, with the ribs 246 being of tapered, smoothly rounded configuration so as to enable the material of the container 10 to slide along the ribs 246 as the container 10 is being reconfigured to assume the shape of a fully reconfigured container 110. Preferably, tapered formations 248 also are provided adjacent the bottom wall 244 to assist the ribs 246 in properly inwardly folding, bending and reconfiguring the peripheral portions 20a of the bottom wall 20 to form a smooth transition between the bottom 120 and the fluted side wall 112.
The die 240 has bottom wall portions 245 that extend about and cooperate with features of an upwardly facing ejection ram 290 to form and define a plurality of features of the bottom region of the reconfigured container (including a majority of the features that are depicted in FIGURE -22) . The bottom wall portions 245 of the die 240 define an opening that receives an enlarged head portion of the ejection ram 290, with an annular groove 282 being defined about the circumference of the enlarged head of the ejection ram 290 so as to enable a depending ring formation 279 that is carried by the downwardly facing end portion 232 of the ram 230 to press-form the ringlike formation 134 in the bottom wall 120 of a container that is being reconfigured through use of the press 200. Likewise, the upwardly facing head portion of the ejection ram 290 and downwardly facing surface portions of the ram 230 are cooperatively configured to provide an upwardly dished "crown" formation located centrally in the bottom wall 120 of a container that is being reconfigured (in-particular, these cooperative ram surfaces are configured to form the elements 126, 128 that define a raised "crown" in the bottom wall 120) .
Referring to FIGURE 12, a follower assembly 270 is movably supported on the ram 230. The follower 270 includes a transversely extending base member 272 that has a hole 274 formed centrally therethrough to receive the ram 230 in a slip fit that enables the base member 272 to move axially along the ram 230 under the influence of gravity. An outer ring structure 276 depends from the base member 272 and is configured to be received within upper portions 252 of the die cavity 250 in a slip fit. An inner ring structure 278 depends from the interior of the outer ring member 276 and is sized to extend into the opening 16 of a container 10 in a slip fit so as to reinforce the rim 14 of a container 10 during the reconfiguration of the container 10 by the apparatus 200.
Referring still to FIGURE 12, the die cavity 250 has an upper portion 252 of substantially uniform diameter that is configured to receive the outer diameter of the outer ring structure 276 in a slip fit. The remainder of the die cavity 250 is of a relatively smaller diameter that is selected to permit the seam 22 of the container 10 to pass therethrough in a slip fit — except for the provision of the gently rounded, tapered ribs 246 that project radially into the die cavity at locations spaced substantially equally about the circumference of the die cavity 250.
In FIGURE 12, the container 10 is shown loaded into the upper portion 252 of the die cavity 250, and has slipped downwardly into the die cavity 250 under the influence of gravity to a position wherein the seam 22 engages the upper end regions of the ribs 246. In FIGURE 13, the ram 230 is shown extended to depend into the container 10 with the enlarged end region 232 of the ram being brought into engagement with the interior surface of the central portion 20b of the bottom wall 20. Also illustrated in FIGURE 13 is the fact that, as the ram 230 has been lowered into the container 10, the follower 270 has dropped with the ram 230 under the influence of gravity to a position wherein the inner ring member 278 has extended inside the container opening 16 to reinforce the side wall 12 in the vicinity of the rim 14, with the outer ring member 276 resting in engagement with the top of the rim 14. The follower 270 will remain in engagement with the upper end region of the container 10 in the manner that is depicted in FIGURE 13 throughout the process of reconfiguring the container, as will be apparent from viewing the sequence of steps that is illustrated in FIGURES 14 through 16.
Referring to FIGURES 14 through 16, as the ram 230 is progressively extended to drive the bottom wall 20 of the container 10 into the die cavity 250 (and eventually into engagement with the bottom wall 244 of the cavity 250) , the flutes 246 are formed gradually and progressively, the bottom wall 20 of the container is reconfigured to elongate the " container 10 and to define the depending ring-like formation 134 as well as the raised crown formation that is defined by bottom wall portions 126 and 128.

The rim 14 is held in its desired shape and configuration by upper portions of the die 240 which cooperate with the follower 270 to confine the upper end region of the container 10 from distorting.
Referring to FIGURE 17, when the ram 230 is withdrawn, the follower 270 moves upwardly with it, leaving the newly formed container 110 residing within the mold cavity 250, whereupon the reconfigured container 110 is removed from the die 240. The reconfigured container 110 is removed from the die 240, as is illustrated in FIGURE 18, as by moving the extractor ram 290 upwardly.
To summarize, the pressing of one of the containers into the die 240 is effected by means of the ram 230 which has an end region 232 that engages the central portion 20b of the bottom wall 20, with the central portion 232 of the ram 230 having a diameter that is about two-thirds of the diameter of the container. As the ram 230 progressively forces the container 10 into the die 240, the ribs 242 of the die 240 form progressively deeper, progressively longer flutes 142 that extend along the side wall of the container 10 that is being reconfigured. The flutes 142 extend across the seam 22 that is provided between the side wall 12 and the bottom wall portions 20a, and causes the formation of a complexly configured seam 122, but without rupturing the seam or otherwise causing a loss in structural or functional integrity.
As the ram 230 progressively forces the container 10 into the die 240, the compressive forces that are exerted on peripheral bottom portions 20a of the container 10 by the ribs 242, taken together with the axial forces that are exerted on central portions 20b of the bottom wall 20 by the ram 230, cause the peripheral portions 20a of the bottom wall 20 to fold gently, progressively, radially inwardly and to extend axially so as to thereby permit the central portions 20b of the bottom wall 20 to travel axially in the direction of movement of the ram 230 relative to the side wall 12.
As the container 10 is press-formed so as to effect its reconfiguration, the inward folding of portions of the side wall 12 to form the flutes 142 will cause some diminishing of the fluid-carrying volume of the container. However, the axial extension of central portions 20b of the bottom wall 20 (i.e., the elongation of the container 10 during its reconfiguration) causes some increase in the fluid-carrying volume of the container — with the result that, in final form, the reconfigured container 110 need not appreciably differ in fluid-carrying volume from the volume of the original container 10.
Referring to FIGURE 19 , once a container has been reconfigured as by utilizing the press 200 in the manner that has been described in conjunction with a discussion of FIGURES 10-18, a further reconfiguration procedure preferably is carried out as by positioning the rim end regions of reconfigured containers, one at a time, in surrounding relationship to a conventional multi-j w expander apparatus 300. The apparatus 300 preferably has as many as twelve or more radially movable jaws 310 that are retractable to a closely grouped array, as is depicted in FIGURE 19, to permit the rim end region of a container to be slipped over the array, whereupon the jaws 310 are simultaneously moved radially outwardly, with each of the jaws 310 carrying radially outwardly projecting bars 312 that serve to expand container side wall portions to provide the ring-like formations 130, 132. Because the use of commercially available expander apparatus such as is designated by the numeral 300 is well known to those skilled in the art, a more detailed discussion of this phase of the container reconfiguring process is not required in order to enable those skilled in the art to practice this aspect of the container reconfiguring process.
As will be apparent from the foregoing description, the system of the present invention enables nestable containers to be formed economically as by reconfiguring conventional cylindrical containers to add features that include bottom wall elongation and side wall flutes. The deep draw method by which these features are added provides an unexpected result, namely a demonstration of the fact that even industrial drums having rolled bottom wall seams can be successfully reconfigured to provide container nestability and the advantages that flow therefrom. The system of the present invention is versatile in its character, and widespread in its applicability, incorporating novel and improved features that are not taught or suggested by the prior art.
Although the invention has been described in its preferred form with a certain degree of particularity, it will be understood that the present disclosure of the preferred form has been made only by way of example, and that numerous changes in the details of construction and the combination and arrangements of parts and the like may be resorted to without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention as hereinafter claimed. It is intended that the patent shall cover, by suitable expression in the appended claims, whatever features of patentable novelty exist in the invention disclosed.