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Publication numberWO2017027727 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberPCT/US2016/046598
Publication date16 Feb 2017
Filing date11 Aug 2016
Priority date11 Aug 2015
Publication numberPCT/2016/46598, PCT/US/16/046598, PCT/US/16/46598, PCT/US/2016/046598, PCT/US/2016/46598, PCT/US16/046598, PCT/US16/46598, PCT/US16046598, PCT/US1646598, PCT/US2016/046598, PCT/US2016/46598, PCT/US2016046598, PCT/US201646598, WO 2017/027727 A1, WO 2017027727 A1, WO 2017027727A1, WO-A1-2017027727, WO2017/027727A1, WO2017027727 A1, WO2017027727A1
InventorsJames Baker, Jeff BAKEMAN
ApplicantJames Baker, Bakeman Jeff
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: Patentscope, Espacenet
Canned beverage can orientation for viewing beverage brand
WO 2017027727 A1
Abstract
Examples of the present disclosure aim to provide various alignment techniques that purposefully orient the lid with the branded art of the beverage container. As will be described in more detail below, purposeful orientation of the lid with respect to its associated beverage can may be affected by various methods, including: (1) rotating each can to match the orientation of the can's respective lid; (2) rotating each lid to match the orientation of the lid's respective can; and (3) rotating both the can and the lid to the same orientation.
Claims  (OCR text may contain errors)
CLAIMS The embodiments of the invention in which an exclusive property or privilege is claimed are defined as follows:
1. A method, comprising:
obtaining a beverage can having indicia on at least a portion of the beverage can; purposefully orienting a lid having a lid opening with respect to the indicia of the beverage can; thereafter,
associating the beverage can with the purposefully oriented lid; and
attaching the purposefully oriented lid to the beverage can, wherein said indicia are viewable when the beverage can is in the drinking orientation.
2. The method of Claim 1, wherein said positioning a lid includes
determining the orientation of the lid at a first position; and
rotating the lid about a center axis of said lid to a purposeful orientation based on said determining the orientation of the lid.
3. The method of Claim 2, wherein said determining the orientation of the lid includes
capturing an image of the lid; and
analyzing the image of the lid.
4. The method of Claim 2, wherein said determining the orientation of the lid includes
sensing the orientation of the lid.
5. The method of Claims 2, 3 or 4, wherein said determining the orientation of the lid is based on can orientation information.
6. The method of Claims 1-5, further comprising
positioning the lid to be removed by the can and associated therewith, the orientation of the lid being maintained during said positioning the lid to be removed.
7. The method of Claim 1, wherein said purposefully orienting a lid with respect to the beverage can includes one of:
rotating the lid about a central axis of the lid; rotating the can about a central axis of the can; and
rotating both the lid and the can about a central axis of the respective lid and can.
8. The method of Claims 1 or 7, wherein said purposefully orienting a lid includes
sensing the orientation of the beverage can.
9. The method of Claim 1, wherein said purposefully orienting a lid includes determining the orientation of the beverage can; and
rotating the beverage can about a center axis of said can based on said determining the orientation of the beverage can.
10. The method of Claim 9, wherein said determining the orientation of the beverage can includes
capturing an image of the beverage can; and
analyzing the image of the beverage can.
11. The method of Claim 8 or 9, wherein said determining the orientation of the beverage can includes
sensing an attribute of the beverage can as the beverage can is rotated about a central axis of said can.
12. The method of Claim 11, wherein said attribute includes one of a notch, a protrusion, a UV ink symbol, an IR ink symbol, and a magnetic ink symbol.
13. The method of Claim 1, wherein said purposefully orienting a lid with respect to the beverage can includes
attaching a post to the lid;
guiding the lid to said orientation position based on interaction with the post.
14. The method of Claim 1-13, further comprising
after said attaching the purposefully oriented lid to the beverage can, inspecting the orientation of the indicia with respect to the lid opening.
15. The method of Claim 1-14, wherein the lid opening is purposefully oriented with respect to the indicia of the beverage can such that the centerline of the indicia is at an angle of about 70-170 degrees from the centerline of the lid opening.
16. The method of Claims 1-14, wherein the lid opening is purposefully oriented with respect to the indicia of the beverage can such that the centerline of the indicia is at an angle of about 190-290 degrees from the centerline of the lid opening.
17. The method of Claims 1-14, wherein the lid opening is purposefully oriented with respect to the indicia of the beverage can such that the centerline of the indicia is at an angle of about 170-190 degrees from the centerline of the lid opening.
18. The method of Claims 1-14, wherein the lid opening is purposefully oriented with respect to the indicia of the beverage can such that the indicia are aligned with the lid opening.
19. In a canning system having a canning line that conveys a plurality of beverage cans in a sequential order, each can having an indicia, and a lid distributer that provides a lid for each conveying beverage can, each lid having a spout, a method for attaching a lid to a can, comprising:
rotating the beverage cans such that the indicia face a first direction; and rotating the lids such that the spout of each lid faces a second direction, wherein the first direction relates to the second direction such that said indicia is viewable when the beverage can is in the drinking orientation.
20. The method of Claim 19, wherein the lid opening is purposefully oriented with respect to the indicia of the beverage can such that the centerline of the indicia is at an angle of about 70-170 degrees from the centerline of the lid opening.
21. The method of Claim 19, wherein the lid opening is purposefully oriented with respect to the indicia of the beverage can such that the centerline of the indicia is at an angle of about 190-290 degrees from the centerline of the lid opening.
22. The method of Claims 19-21, further comprising
sensing the orientation of the beverage can with respect to the indicia.
23. The method of Claims 19-21, further comprising
sensing the orientation of the lid with respect to the lid opening.
24. In a canning system having a canning line that conveys a plurality of beverage cans in a sequential order, each can having indicia, and a lid distributer that provides a lid for each conveying beverage can, each lid having a spout, a method for attaching a lid to a can, comprising:
determining the orientation of each beverage can based on the location of the indicia, and
rotating the each lid based on the determined orientation of each respective beverage can, such that the spout of each lid is oriented with respect to the indicia so that said indicia are viewable when the beverage can is in the drinking position.
25. The method of Claim 24, wherein said determining the orientation of each beverage can includes
sensing with one or more sensors the beverage can.
26. The method of Claim 25, wherein said beverage can includes an attribute configured to be sensed by the one or more sensors.
27. The method of Claim 26, wherein said attribute includes one of a notch, a protrusion, a UV ink symbol, an IR ink symbol, and a magnetic ink symbol.
28. In a canning system having a canning line that conveys a plurality of beverage cans in a sequential order, each can having an indicia, and a lid distributer that provides a lid for each conveying beverage can, each lid having a spout, a method for attaching a lid to a can, comprising:
determining the orientation of each lid based on the location of the spout, and rotating the each beverage can based on the determined orientation of each respective lid, such that the spout of each lid is oriented with respect to the indicia so that said indicia are viewable when the beverage can is in the drinking position.
29. The method of Claim 28, wherein said determining the orientation of each lid includes
sensing with one or more sensors the lid.
30. The method of Claim 28, wherein said determining the orientation of each lid includes
capturing with a vision sensor an image of the lid;
analyzing the image of the lid.
31. A beverage canning system, comprising:
a canning line that conveys a plurality of beverage cans in a sequential order, each beverage can including an indicia that includes a brand;
a lid distributor that provides a lid for each conveying beverage can, each lid having a spout;
means for orienting the lid to a predetermined position;
means for orienting the beverage can to a predetermine position,
wherein the canning line and the lid distributor cooperatively operate to associate the lid in the lid orientation position and the beverage can in the can orientation position, wherein the centerline of the lid opening is positioned at an angle of about 70-170 degrees or 190-290 degrees to the centerline of the indicia.
32. The system of Claim 31, further comprising
means for generating can orientation information.
33. The system of Claims 31 or 32, further comprising
means for generating lid orientation information.
34. A beverage canning system configured to carry out the method of Claims 1-18.
35. A beverage canning system, comprising:
a canning line that conveys a plurality of beverage cans in a sequential order, each beverage can including an indicia that includes a brand;
a lid distributor that provides a lid for each conveying beverage can, each lid having a spout;
means for determining the orientation of the beverage can;
means for orienting the lid based on the determined orientation of the beverage can, wherein the canning line and the lid distributor cooperatively operate to associate the lid in the lid orientation position with the beverage can.
36. A beverage canning system, comprising:
a canning line that conveys a plurality of beverage cans in a sequential order, each beverage can including indicia that includes a brand;
a lid distributor that provides a lid for each conveying beverage can, each lid having a spout;
means for determining the orientation of the lid;
means for orienting the can based on the determined orientation of the lid, wherein the canning line and the lid distributor cooperatively operate to associate the can in the can orientation position with the lid.
37. A beverage canning system, comprising:
a canning line that conveys a plurality of beverage cans in a sequential order, each beverage can including indicia that include a brand;
a lid distributor that provides a lid for each conveying beverage can, each lid having a spout;
means for orienting the lid to a predetermined position;
means for orienting the beverage can to a predetermine position,
wherein the canning line and the lid distributor cooperatively operate to associate the lid in the lid orientation position and beverage can in the can orientation position.
38. A method comprising the steps of:
(a) obtaining a beverage can having indicia on at least a portion of the beverage can;
(b) purposefully orienting a lid having a lid opening with respect to the indicia of the beverage can; thereafter,
(c) associating the beverage can with the purposefully oriented lid, and
(d) attaching the purposefully oriented lid to the beverage can, wherein said indicia are viewable when the beverage can is in the drinking orientation.
(e) repeating steps (a)-(d) for a plurality of cans and lids.
39. A package of beverage cans assembled by the method of Claims 1-18 and
38.
40. A system for increasing brand awareness via a canned beverage, said system configured to carry out the method of Claims 1-18 and 38.
41. A system for influencing people via a canned beverage, said system configured to carry out the method of Claims 1-18 and 38.
42. A system for increasing consumption of a beverage by influencing people via a canned beverage, said system configured to carry out the method of Claims 1-18 and 38.
43. A measuring device, comprising: a device body having a central bore therethrough, the bore configured to receive a beverage can within the bore;
measurement indicia extending around the perimeter of the device body.
44. The measurement device of 43, wherein the measurement indicia include a plurality of equally sized segments.
45. A canning system as shown and described.
Description  (OCR text may contain errors)

CANNED BEVERAGE CAN ORIENTATION FOR VIEWING BEVERAGE BRAND

CROSS-REFERENCE(S) TO RELATED APPLICATIONS The present application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Application No. 62/285,834, filed November 10, 2015, and U.S. Provisional Application No. 62/282,799, filed August 11, 2015, both of which are hereby incorporated by reference in their entirety.

FIELD OF THE DISCLOSURE

This present application relates to canned beverages such as beer, wine, soda, and bottled water, specifically in preprinted cans with pop-tops, pour spouts, or similar built- in opening and pouring mechanisms.

BACKGROUND

Beverage makers put considerable effort into branding beverage cans with art printed on the visible outside surface of beverage cans. Usually the art is applied to the cylindrical outside surface of the can. Usually the bottom is devoid of branding information and the top is a pop-top or the like, made to be opened by the drinker of the beverage.

Beverage makers and distributors spend money to promote their particular brands of beverage through advertising, promotions, discounts, vending machines, locations (shelf space at retailers), and other ways. The promotional efforts tie into the labeling of beverage cans by using similar designs, colors, art, logos, and/or by showing images of the branded cans.

Yet one of the most powerful influences on a person's choice of beverage is the choice(s) of other people nearby. When a new member joins a group (for example when arriving at a social event) he or she is overtly and subliminally influenced in such a way that he or she is more likely to drink what the other people nearby are drinking. Yet the ability to identify beverages in the hands of others varies widely, depending on whether the can is oriented in such a way that the branding is visible. For example, if the members of a gathered group are all holding identical cans in such a way that the can contents are not obvious, then newcomers are less likely to choose the same beverage. SUMMARY

The present disclosure relates to the intentional orientation of beverage-can branding with respect to the can's opening (e.g., pop-top or pour spout) in the lid. In accordance with one or more aspects of the present disclosure, the orientation between the lid opening and the branding-art on beverage cans is purposefully and consistently aligned in such a way that when the can is held by a drinker so that the pop-top opening aligns with the drinker's mouth (referred to herein as the "drinking orientation"), the branding-art aligns with respect to the drinker's hand in such a way that the branding-art is clearly visible to, and identifiable by, other nearby people. To the degree that branding beverages by labeling the cans (alone or combined with other promotional methods) promotes the brand, some embodiments of the present disclosure aim to increase the promotional effect(s) of these brands.

The present disclosure includes methods and apparatus for purposefully aligning branding art printed on beverage cans with pop-tops in the manufacturing or canning process. In embodiments of the present disclosure, purposeful orientation of the lid with respect to its associated beverage can may be affected by various methods and/or apparatus, including: (1) rotating each can to match the orientation of the can's respective lid; (2) rotating each lid to match the orientation of the lid's respective can; and (3) rotating both the can and the lid to the same orientation.

In accordance with an aspect of the present disclosure, a method is provided, comprising obtaining a beverage can having indicia on at least a portion of the beverage can, purposefully orienting a lid having a lid opening with respect to the indicia of the beverage can, thereafter associating the beverage can with the purposefully oriented lid, and attaching the purposefully oriented lid to the beverage can, wherein said indicia are viewable when the beverage can is in the drinking orientation.

In one embodiment, positioning a lid includes determining the orientation of the lid at a first position, and rotating the lid about a center axis of said lid to a purposeful orientation based on said determining the orientation of the lid. In this and other embodiments, determining the orientation of the lid includes capturing an image of the lid, and analyzing the image of the lid. In other embodiments, said determining the orientation of the lid includes sensing the orientation of the lid. In these and other embodiments, said determining the orientation of the lid is based on can orientation information. In some embodiments, the method also includes positioning the lid to be removed by the can and associated therewith, wherein the orientation of the lid is maintained during said positioning the lid to be removed.

In some embodiments, said purposefully orienting a lid with respect to the beverage can includes one of: rotating the lid about a central axis of the lid; rotating the can about a central axis of the can; and rotating both the lid and the can about a central axis of the respective lid and can. In these embodiments and others, said purposefully orienting a lid includes sensing the orientation of the beverage can.

In some embodiments, said purposefully orienting a lid includes determining the orientation of the beverage can; and rotating the beverage can about a center axis of said can based on said determining the orientation of the beverage can. In these embodiments and others, said determining the orientation of the beverage can includes capturing an image of the beverage can; and analyzing the image of the beverage can. In other embodiments, said determining the orientation of the beverage can includes sensing an attribute of the beverage can as the beverage can is rotated about a central axis of said can. In these and other embodiments, said attribute includes one of a notch, a protrusion, a UV ink symbol, an IR ink symbol, and a magnetic ink symbol.

In some embodiments, said purposefully orienting a lid with respect to the beverage can includes attaching a post to the lid, and guiding the lid to said orientation position based on interaction with the post.

In some embodiments, the method includes inspecting the orientation of the indicia with respect to the lid opening after said attaching the purposefully oriented lid to the beverage can.

In some embodiments, the lid opening is purposefully oriented with respect to the indicia of the beverage can such that the centerline of the indicia is at an angle of about 70-170 degrees from the centerline of the lid opening.

In some embodiments, the lid opening is purposefully oriented with respect to the indicia of the beverage can such that the centerline of the indicia is at an angle of about 190-290 degrees from the centerline of the lid opening.

In some embodiments, the lid opening is purposefully oriented with respect to the indicia of the beverage can such that the centerline of the indicia is at an angle of about 170-190 degrees from the centerline of the lid opening. In some embodiments, the lid opening is purposefully oriented with respect to the indicia of the beverage can such that the indicia are aligned with the lid opening.

In a canning system having a canning line that conveys a plurality of beverage cans in a sequential order, each can having an indicium, and a lid distributer that provides a lid for each conveying beverage can, each lid having a spout, a method for attaching a lid to a can is provided. The method includes rotating the beverage cans such that the indicia face a first direction, and rotating the lids such that the spout of each lid faces a second direction, wherein the first direction relates to the second direction such that said indicia are viewable when the beverage can is in the drinking orientation.

In some embodiments, the lid opening is purposefully oriented with respect to the indicia of the beverage can such that the centerline of the indicia is at an angle of about 70-170 degrees from the centerline of the lid opening.

In some embodiments, the lid opening is purposefully oriented with respect to the indicia of the beverage can such that the centerline of the indicia is at an angle of about 190-290 degrees from the centerline of the lid opening.

In some embodiments, the method further includes sensing the orientation of the beverage can with respect to the indicia.

In some embodiments, the method further includes sensing the orientation of the lid with respect to the lid opening.

In a canning system having a canning line that conveys a plurality of beverage cans in a sequential order, each can having indicia, and a lid distributer that provides a lid for each conveying beverage can, each lid having a spout, a method is provided for attaching a lid to a can. The method includes determining the orientation of each beverage can based on the location of the indicia, and rotating each lid based on the determined orientation of each respective beverage can, such that the spout of each lid is oriented with respect to the indicia so that said indicia are viewable when the beverage can is in the drinking position.

In some embodiments, said determining the orientation of each beverage can includes sensing with one or more sensors the beverage can. In some embodiments, said beverage can includes an attribute configured to be sensed by the one or more sensors. In these and other embodiments, the attribute includes one of a notch, a protrusion, a UV ink symbol, an IR ink symbol, and a magnetic ink symbol. In a canning system having a canning line that conveys a plurality of beverage cans in a sequential order, each can having an indicia, and a lid distributer that provides a lid for each conveying beverage can, each lid having a spout, a method is provided for attaching a lid to a can. The method includes determining the orientation of each lid based on the location of the spout, and rotating the each beverage can based on the determined orientation of each respective lid, such that the spout of each lid is oriented with respect to the indicia so that said indicia are viewable when the beverage can is in the drinking position.

In some embodiments, said determining the orientation of each lid includes sensing with one or more sensors the lid.

In some embodiments, said determining the orientation of each lid includes capturing with a vision sensor an image of the lid, and analyzing the image of the lid.

In accordance with an aspect of the present disclosure, a beverage canning system is provided. The system includes a canning line that conveys a plurality of beverage cans in a sequential order, each beverage can including an indicia that includes a brand. The system also includes a lid distributor that provides a lid for each conveying beverage can, each lid having a spout. The system also includes means for orienting the lid to a predetermined position and means for orienting the beverage can to a predetermined position. In some embodiments, the canning line and the lid distributor cooperatively operate to associate the lid in the lid orientation position and the beverage can in the can orientation position, wherein the centerline of the lid opening is positioned in some embodiments at an angle of about 70-170 degrees or 190-290 degrees to the centerline of the indicia.

In some embodiments, the system also includes means for generating can orientation information.

In some embodiments, the system also includes means for generating lid orientation information.

In accordance with another aspect of the present disclosure, a beverage canning system is provided that is configured to carry out the method of Claims 1-18.

In accordance with another aspect of the present disclosure, a beverage canning system is provided. The system includes a canning line that conveys a plurality of beverage cans in a sequential order, each beverage can including indicia that include a brand, a lid distributor that provides a lid for each conveying beverage can, each lid having a spout, means for determining the orientation of the beverage can, and means for orienting the lid based on the determined orientation of the beverage can. In some embodiments, the canning line and the lid distributor cooperatively operate to associate the lid in the lid orientation position with the beverage can.

In accordance with another aspect of the present disclosure, a beverage canning system is provided. The system includes a canning line that conveys a plurality of beverage cans in a sequential order, each beverage can including an indicia that includes a brand, a lid distributor that provides a lid for each conveying beverage can, each lid having a spout, means for determining the orientation of the lid, and means for orienting the can based on the determined orientation of the lid. In some embodiments, the canning line and the lid distributor cooperatively operate to associate the can in the can orientation position with the lid.

In accordance with another aspect of the present disclosure, a beverage canning system is provided. The system includes a canning line that conveys a plurality of beverage cans in a sequential order, each beverage can including indicia that include a brand, a lid distributor that provides a lid for each conveying beverage can, each lid having a spout, means for orienting the lid to a predetermined position, and means for orienting the beverage can to a predetermined position. In some embodiments, the canning line and the lid distributor cooperatively operate to associate the lid in the lid orientation position and beverage can in the can orientation position.

In accordance with another aspect of the present disclosure, a method is provided. The method includes the steps of (a) obtaining a beverage can having indicia on at least a portion of the beverage can; (b) purposefully orienting a lid having a lid opening with respect to the indicia of the beverage can; thereafter, (c) associating the beverage can with the purposefully oriented lid, (d) attaching the purposefully oriented lid to the beverage can, wherein said indicia are viewable when the beverage can is in the drinking orientation, and (e) repeating steps (a)-(d) for a plurality of cans and lids.

In accordance with another aspect of the present disclosure, a package of beverage cans assembled by the method of Claims 1-18 and 38 is provided.

In accordance with another aspect of the present disclosure, a system is provided for increasing brand awareness via a canned beverage, said system configured to carry out the method of Claims 1-18 and 38. In accordance with another aspect of the present disclosure, a system is provided for influencing people via a canned beverage, said system configured to carry out the method of Claims 1-18 and 38.

In accordance with another aspect of the present disclosure, a system is provided for increasing consumption of a beverage by influencing people via a canned beverage, said system configured to carry out the method of Claims 1-18 and 38.

In accordance with another aspect of the present disclosure, a measuring device is provided that comprises a device body having a central bore therethrough, the bore configured to receive a beverage can within the bore, and measurement indicia extending around the perimeter of the device body. In some embodiments, the measurement indicia include a plurality of equally sized segments.

This summary is provided to introduce a selection of concepts in a simplified form that are further described below in the Detailed Description. This summary is not intended to identify key features of the claimed subject matter, nor is it intended to be used as an aid in determining the scope of the claimed subject matter.

DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The foregoing aspects and many of the attendant advantages of disclosed subject matter will become more readily appreciated as the same become better understood by reference to the following detailed description, when taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, wherein:

FIGURE 1 depicts a group of people holding beverage cans of the prior art with a variety of branding-art alignments relative to the orientation of the cans' pop-tops;

FIGURE 2 depicts a group of people holding beverage cans according to embodiments of the present disclosure with consistent branding art alignment relative to the orientation of the cans' pop-tops;

FIGURE 3A is a schematic representation of one intentional alignment between branding-art and pop-top in accordance with an aspect of the present disclosure;

FIGURE 3B depicts the same can of FIGURE 3 A from a different angle so that the message to the drinker is exposed;

FIGURE 4 depicts a conventional canning system in which a lid hopper is configured for placing lids on associated cans as the cans travel along a canning line; FIGURES 5A-5C depict one representative embodiment of a lid hopper in accordance with an aspect of the present disclosure that purposefully orients pop-top lids before the lids are attached to beverage cans;

FIGURE 6 depicts one representative embodiment of a canning line suitable for use with the lid hopper of FIGURES 5A-5C;

FIGURE 7 is a block diagram of one representative embodiment of a control system suitable for use with the lid hopper of FIGURES 5A-5C;

FIGURE 8 is another representative embodiment of a lid hopper in accordance with an aspect of the present disclosure that purposefully orients pop-top lids before the lids are attached to beverage cans;

FIGURE 9A is a representative embodiment of a lid in accordance with an aspect of the present disclosure,

FIGURE 9B is a representative embodiment of a lid hopper in accordance with an aspect of the present disclosure and suitable for use with the lid of FIGURE 9A, which purposefully orients pop-top lids before the lids are attached to beverage cans;

FIGURE 10 is another representative embodiment of a lid hopper in accordance with an aspect of the present disclosure that purposefully orients pop-top lids before the lids are attached to beverage cans;

FIGURES 11 and 12A-12B is yet another representative embodiment of a lid hopper in accordance with an aspect of the present disclosure that purposefully orients pop-top lids before the lids are attached to beverage cans;

FIGURE 13 A depicts a top view of one embodiment of a canning line that purposefully orients beverage cans before the lids are attached to beverage cans;

FIGURE 13B depicts a side view of the canning line of FIGURE 13 A;

FIGURE 14 is a block diagram of one representative embodiment of a control system suitable for use with the canning line of FIGURES 13A-13B.

FIGURES 15A-15D depict one embodiment of a process carried out by the canning line of FIGURES 13A-13B;

FIGURE 16 depicts one embodiment of a can in accordance with an aspect of the present disclosure;

FIGURE 17 depicts another embodiment of a can in accordance with an aspect of the present disclosure; FIGURE 18 depicts another embodiment of a can in accordance with an aspect of the present disclosure;

FIGURES 19A-19B depict a side view and top view, respectively, of one embodiment of a canning line suitable for use with the can of FIGURE 18;

FIGURE 20 depicts yet another embodiment of a can in accordance with an aspect of the present disclosure;.

FIGURE 21 depicts a side view of one embodiment of a canning line suitable for use with the can of FIGURE 20;

FIGURES 22A-22D illustrate an embodiment suitable for purposely orienting a lid with respect to a can in which the lid and the can having mating features;

FIGURE 23 depicts the top view of one embodiment of an automatic inspection machine that checks the alignment between lid and branding art;

FIGURE 24 is a block diagram of one representative embodiment of a control system suitable for use with the inspection apparatus of FIGURE 23;

FIGURE 25 depicts actual can and lid alignment measurements of a series of commercially distributed beverage cans bought from the retail shelves of a local beverage retail outlet; and

FIGURE 26 depicts a manual alignment-measuring device used to determine the alignment between lids and branding-art of FIGURE 25.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

The detailed description set forth below in connection with the appended drawings where like numerals reference like elements is intended as a description of various embodiments of the disclosed subject matter and is not intended to represent the only embodiments. Each embodiment described in this disclosure is provided merely as an example or illustration and should not be construed as preferred or advantageous over other embodiments. The illustrative examples provided herein are not intended to be exhaustive or to limit the claimed subject matter to the precise forms disclosed.

As will be appreciated by those familiar with beverage canning plants, cans flow along conveyor systems in such a way that the cans do not always remain oriented in the same orientation as they move along the line. In other words, sometimes the cans rotate to arbitrary orientations due to the normal operation of the conveyor system in a canning plant. To determine the randomness of branding indicia on beverage cans with respect to the placement of the lid's opening caused in part by the arbitrary orientations of the cans and lids along the canning system, measurements were taken on a random sample of 48 purchased beer cans. FIGURE 25 is a table of orientation-measurement results of the measurements taken on the 48 purchased beer cans. FIGURE 25 shows that for the cans purchased there is no consistent orientation between can and lid.

FIGURE 26 illustrates a measurement apparatus 2600 used to perform the orientation-measurement of FIGURE 25. As shown in FIGURE 26, the apparatus includes a clear drinking-cup 2604 having vertical sides with an inside diameter just slightly larger than can under measurement 2603, a standard beverage can. To use measurement apparatus 2600, the user places measurement apparatus 2600 over the top of a beverage can and aligns a felt-pen spot 2601 directly over the pull-tab 2605 of the can under measurement 2603. Next, the user reads the number on number-strip 2602 at the left edge of the indicia, shown as the ingredients list 2606, of can under measurement 2603. The user records the reading from number-strip 2602 rounded to the nearest five degrees. In some cases, the user will interpolate between numbers printed on number- strip 2602. For example, the left edge of the ingredients list 2606 of can under measurement 2603 in FIGURE 26 falls approximately mid-way between the numbers 220 and 230 on number strip 2602. In this example, for this can, the user records a reading of 225 degrees.

Examples of the present disclosure aim to provide various alignment techniques that purposefully orient the lid with the branded art of the beverage container. As will be described in more detail below, purposeful orientation of the lid with respect to its associated beverage can may be affected by various methods, including: (1) rotating each can to match the orientation of the can's respective lid; (2) rotating each lid to match the orientation of the lid's respective can; and (3) rotating both the can and the lid to the same orientation. When both the can and lid are rotated, the desired orientation may be, for example, always north, or the desired orientation can be some other orientation such as whatever orientation could be most rapidly reached by both the can and the lid.

Several examples of apparatus provided herein are intended to fit in with existing, conventional, canning equipment in existing canning lines as well as new canning lines, and will be installed at the place in the line where filled, lidless, cans are fitted with lids and just before those lids are permanently attached, usually by an apparatus that presses the lids onto the cans.

Described herein are various embodiments of systems that include, and methods implemented by, for example, two types of apparatus that can be used in combination or individually. When used in combination, the first apparatus can be used to orient the lids to a consistent direction, such as north, and the second apparatus can be used to orient the filled, lidless, cans so that the cans' branding-art faces the appropriate direction, such as between 70 degrees and 170 degrees from north in some embodiments, between 80 and 160 degrees from north in other embodiments, between 90 and 150 degrees from north in other embodiments, between 100 and 140 degrees from north in other embodiments, between 110 and 130 degrees from north in other embodiments. In one embodiment, the second apparatus can be used to orient the filled, lidless, cans so that the cans' branding- art faces about 125 degrees from north. When the two apparatus are thus used in combination, no coordination information is needed between first and second apparatus.

In other embodiments, when used in combination, the first apparatus can be used to orient the lids to a consistent direction, such as north, and the second apparatus can be used to orient the filled, lidless, cans so that the cans' branding-art faces the appropriate direction, such as between 190 degrees and 290 degrees from north in some embodiments, between 200 and 280 degrees from north in other embodiments, between 210 and 270 degrees from north in other embodiments, between 220 and 260 degrees from north in other embodiments, between 230 and 250 degrees from north in other embodiments. In one embodiment, the second apparatus can be used to orient the filled, lidless, cans so that the cans' branding-art faces about 235 degrees from north. It will be appreciated that other orientation angles may be employed in embodiments of the present disclosure so that the indicia are easily viewable. These orientation angles may be influence by the types and sizes of the indicia. In one embodiment, the indicia may be aligned between angles of 170-190 degrees from north.

Alternatively, a first apparatus in accordance with some embodiments can be used alone to orient lids, such that each lid is rotated, if necessary, so as to align each lid with each lid's corresponding lidless can. In these embodiments, the first apparatus may employ lidless can orientation information obtained by any one of number of techniques or methodologies described below or others that determine the orientation of each lidless can. In a second alternative, a second apparatus in accordance with some embodiments can be used alone to orient lidless cans so that the branding art on each lidless can is rotated, if necessary, to align with the corresponding lid. In these embodiments, the second apparatus employ lid orientation information obtained by any one of number of techniques or methodologies described below or others that determine the orientation of each lid.

In the following description, numerous specific details are set forth in order to provide a thorough understanding of one or more embodiments of the present disclosure.

Many of the details, dimensions, angles and other features shown in the figures are merely illustrative of particular embodiments of the disclosure. Accordingly, other embodiments can have other details, dimensions, angles and features without departing from the spirit or scope of the present disclosure. In addition, it will be apparent to one skilled in the art that many embodiments of the present disclosure may be practiced without some or all of the specific details. Further, it will be appreciated that embodiments of the present disclosure may employ any combination of features described herein.

Throughout the present disclosure, reference will be made regarding branding art or indicia on lidless cans and its respective orientation with respect to, for example, the pour spout or opening of the respective lid. In that regard, it is assumed in FIGURES 1, 2, 3A, and 3B, as is typical, that people hold open beverage cans oriented in a direction where the pour spout faces the drinker's mouth. Any other orientation would make drinking from the can awkward and possibly lead to spilling. Therefore, such an orientation is sometimes referred to herein as the drinking orientation of the can.

FIGURE 1 shows people holding conventional cans with branding art facing various orientations when holding the beverage can in the drinking orientation. On the other hand, FIGURE 2 shows people holding cans in the drinking orientation. The cans depicted in FIGURE 2 are formed in accordance with an aspect of the present disclosure such that the branding art is facing a consistent, intentional, orientation so that other people nearby will be exposed to and see the cans' branding art when the can is in the drinking orientation.

FIGURE 3A shows an example of the intentional orientation arranged such that both right-handed drinkers who hold the can in their right hands and left-handed drinkers who hold the can in their left hands will expose the branding art to others nearby. In this example, with branding art that is 75 degrees wide, a 125-degree angle between the drinker's mouth direction and the center of the brand image for right-handed drinker would be preferable. Similarly a 235-degree angle between the drinker's mouth direction and center of the brand image for left-handed drinker would be preferable.

FIGURE 3B shows the same can as FIGURE 3 A but at an angle exposing art or a message that faces the drinker and has information intended for the drinker.

FIGURE 4 is a partial perspective view of an existing, conventional, beverage canning system surrounding the location where lids are applied to filled, lidless, cans. As shown in FIGURE 4, a lid hopper 400 feeds a row of lids 402 downward by gravity and by the combined weight of multiple lids to friction springs 404. The friction springs 404 are configured to hold the bottom lid, depicted as lid 402c, in place until a moving can 403 forces lid 402c to deflect the friction springs 404 in such a way that lid 402c is released onto can 403 as the can 403 moves along the conveyor 405 in direction toward the bottom left of FIGURE 4.

When the lid 402c is thus removed from lid hopper 400, the next lid within the lid hopper, depicted as lid 402b, falls by gravity into the bottom position held by the friction springs 404 until the next can 407 from the canning line moves to a position where the can 407 removes the lid 402b from the friction springs 404. This process is continuously repeated for associating lids with their respective cans.

During this process, multiple rails 408 force the lids and cans to remain facing up so that no liquid spills, and so that the lids always face the cans. However, nothing in the system of FIGURE 4 controls or maintains the orientation around the cylinder centerline of the cans or the circle center of the lids. In FIGURE 4, both the cans and the lids have assumed arbitrary rotational orientations as is common in conventional, existing, canning plants, due at least in part to occasional friction between the edges of cans and conveyor system side-rails or, in the case of lids, between the edges of the lids and the rails 408 of the lid hopper 400. Cans made from the canning system 400 are shown in FIGURE 1.

FIGURES 5A-5C depict one embodiment of an apparatus, such as lid distributor or hopper 500, that orients lids in accordance with an aspect of the present disclosure. As shown in FIGURE 5A, the lid hopper 500 is configured to deliver a plurality of lids 502, one lid at a time, to a moving line of cans on a canning line, such as canning line 600 (See FIGURE 6). As the lids 502 move through the lid hopper 500, the lid hopper 500 is also configured to orient each lid when the lid attains a position 515 that is, for example, one lid prior to the bottom lid position 517 (i.e., the last position of a lid in the lid hopper before the lid is pulled from the lid hopper by a can on a canning line).

To purposefully orient the lid 502, the lid hopper 500 in one embodiment includes belts 503 that are configured to grip the edges of a lid 502, such as lid 502c in FIGURE 5 A, positioned between the belts 503. Each belt 503 is driven by a motor 504 through a pulley 509. The motors 504 are driven independently and under motion-control such that each individual motor 504 can be driven at a precise speed for a precise duration through a precise number of degrees of rotation. When both motors 504 are driven at the same speed in opposite directions, the belts 503 move the engaged lid straight up or down the lid hopper 500. When both motors 504 rotate at the same speed in the same direction, the lid positioned between and gripped by the belts 503 is rotated in place. Other combinations of speed and duration can simultaneously rotate and move a lid up or down the lid hopper 500. As such, the belts, motors, and pulleys form a means for orienting a lid.

One representative process for moving the lids 502 down the lid hopper 500, rotated to a desired orientation, and positioned to be removed by a can on the canning line will now be described in some detail. During this continuous process, a plurality of lids 502 are positioned within the lid hopper 500 and descend through slot 501 under the force of gravity and stop at a stopper, such as release latch 512. The lids 502 are held in place along the slot 501 until the lid 502d (see FIGURE 5 A) positioned at the bottom lid position 517 is engaged and removed from friction springs 514 by a can from the associated canning line, such as canning line 600 (See FIGURE 6).

A first sensor 513 detects when the lid 502d has been withdrawn from the lid hopper 500 by the respective beverage can as the beverage can moves along the conveyer of the canning line. When the first sensor 513 detects that the lid 502d has been engaged and removed by the respective can, the release latch 512 is actuated, allowing the remaining lids 502 to descend by gravity one lid position along the lid hopper 500, as shown in FIGURE 5B. The release latch 512 can remain actuated until a second sensor 511 detects that the next lid 502b has moved past the release latch 512. When the second sensor 511 detects that the lid 502b has cleared the release latch 512, the release latch 512 is de-actuated in time to stop the leading edge of the lid 502a, which is next in line to be purposefully oriented. Side belts 503 in FIGURE 5B are then moved rapidly by motors 504 in opposite directions such that the engaged lid 502b is forced down past a third sensor 510 into the position 515, which is directly under a camera/light hood arrangement 505. The motors 504 are controlled to stop when the lid 502b has attained the position 515. As soon as the third sensor 510 detects that the lid 502b has attained the position 515, and the motors 504 have stopped, the camera 506 flashes one or more lights 507 and captures a digital image of the lid 502b. In one embodiment, a motion control system 702 of a control system 700 associated with the lid hopper 500 signals an image-processing/vision system 1401 to flash lights 507 and capture a digital image with a lid-camera 506 (See FIGURE 7).

Referring to FIGURE 7, a lid orientation determination system, such as the image- processing/vision system 701, then determines the lid-orientation of the lid 502b and feeds this lid-orientation information to a motion-control system, such as the motion- control system 702. In one embodiment, the image-processing/vision system 701 analyzes the digital image taken by the camera 506 and determines the initial orientation of the lid 502b depicted in the digital image. The image-processing/vision system 701 then feeds orientation information to the motion control system 702. Based on this information, the motion-control system 702 operates motors 504 in a suitable manner to orient the lid 502b to the desired orientation. In one embodiment, the motion control system 702 uses the initial orientation information from the digital image to select from a table of velocity/duration/direction profiles. Each velocity/duration/direction profile signals the rotation of a lid just enough and in the right direction such that the lid can be suitably moved to attain the desired lid orientation. In one embodiment, the motors 504 may rotate rapidly in the same direction and at the same speed just enough to orient the lid to the desired orientation. As will be described in more detail below, the motion- control system 702 can also utilize optional can orientation information 703 (see FIGURE 7) obtained by cameras 606 (see FIGURE 6) in conjunction with the information from the image-processing/vision system 701 to operate motors 504 in a suitable manner to orient the lid 502b (See FIGURE 5B) to the desired orientation.

Next, when the first sensor 513 detects that a lid, such as lid 502c located at the bottom position 517, has been pulled out of the lid hopper 500 by an associated beverage can, the motors 504 are operated in a suitable manner (e.g., rotate rapidly the same speed and duration but in opposite directions) under control of the motion control system 702 so that the lid 502b maintains its purposeful orientation as it is pushed beyond the side belts 503 and propelled into the bottom position 517 under friction springs 514, as shown in FIGURE 5C. After the purposefully oriented lid 502b is in the bottom position 517 under friction springs 514, the purposefully oriented lid 502b is ready to be engaged and removed from the lid hopper 500 by the next beverage can that moves along the canning line. Thereafter, a press (not shown) is operated to permanently attach the lid to the associated beverage can. Cans made with the lid hopper and canning line of FIGURES 5 and 6, respectively, are shown in FIGURE 2.

Each time a lid is removed by the canning line, the aforementioned process is repeated such that the overall pacing is determined by can movement along the canning line and the next lid is always ready each time a can arrives beneath the lid hopper. It will be appreciated that some steps of the process set forth above can be carried out sequentially while others can be carried out contemporaneously with one another.

As will be apparent, lid orientation can be programmed in the above process to be any desired orientation. For example, all lids can be oriented to face down so that the leading edge of each can joins the pour-spout side of each lid as lid 502d is illustrated in FIGURE 5A. Alternatively, each lid can be aligned to match the orientation of each lid's respective can.

FIGURE 8 illustrates another embodiment of an apparatus, such as lid hopper 800, for distributing and/or orienting lids in accordance with an aspect of the present disclosure. The lid hopper 800 is substantially similar in construction and operation as the lid hopper 500 described above with regard to FIGURE 5 except for the differences that will now be described. Like lid hopper 500, the lid hopper 800 can be used with the canning line 600. Where the lid hopper 500 uses belts, the lid hopper 800 uses rollers 803, and where the lid hopper 500 uses a single release-latch 512, the lid hopper 800 uses a pair of release latches 812. As such, the rollers, motors, and pulleys form another means for orienting a lid.

While the embodiment of FIGURE 8 is suitable for use with the canning line 600, it will be appreciated that this embodiment can be used with other canning lines, such as the canning line described below with regard to FIGURES 13A and 13B.

FIGURE 9B illustrates another embodiment of an apparatus, such as lid hopper 900, for distributing and/or orienting lids in accordance with an aspect of the present disclosure. As shown in FIGURE 9B, a plurality of lids 902 are pre-fitted with removable pull-tab posts 910 and are loaded into the lid hopper 900. The removable pull- tab posts 910 have been attached to the lids in a prior step (not shown) and inserted into the openings of each pull-tab where friction holds the removable pull-tab posts 910 into the openings, as shown in FIGURE 9A. After the lids are attached to their respective cans, the removable pull-tab posts 910 can be removed.

Referring to FIGURE 9B, lids 902a-902e, and others slide via gravity down slot 901 of the lid hopper 900 and arrive in various orientations. Note for example that lids 902a and 902b are in opposite orientations. As the lids pass spring 916, the spring 916 catches the post 910 of each lid in the cusp of spring 916 and forces each lid to rotate into an orientation where post 910 is facing up or close to up. For example, the post 910 of the lid 902c is facing slightly to the right of up. As the lid 902c advances down the lid hopper 900 through slot 901, the post 910 of the lid 902c slides into a Y shaped slot 915 and is held in an orientation where post 910 remains facing up until the lid 902c reaches the bottom lid position 917. As a result of the slot 915, the lid 902c becomes purposefully oriented. The lid 902e is then removed from the lid hopper 900 via an associated can from the canning line and pressed permanently onto a can.

A further purpose of the spring 916 is to catch lids where the removable pull-top post 910 arrives facing directly down as shown by the lid in position 902a. Without the action of the spring 916, the lid 902a would slide directly into the tapered guide-slot 915 and would get attached to a can 180 degrees away from the desired orientation. Instead, the spring 916 holds the post 910 in the cusp of the spring 916 and flexes in such a way as to pull the post 910 to the right, thereby rotating the lid in such a way that tapered guide- slot 915 can align the lid in the correct orientation. It is also anticipated that the lid hopper 900 could contain multiple springs 916 for redundancy or so that each of the several springs 916 incrementally rotates each lid through part of the lid's required rotation. As such, one or more of the springs, Y-shaped slot, and the pull-top post form another means for orienting a lid.

While the embodiment of FIGURE 9 is suitable for use with the canning line 600, it will be appreciated that this embodiment can be used with other canning lines, such as the canning line described below with regard to FIGURES 13A and 13B.

FIGURE 10 illustrates another embodiment of an apparatus, such as lid hopper 1000, for distributing and/or orienting lids in accordance with an aspect of the present disclosure. The lid hopper 1000 is substantially similar in construction and operation to the lid hopper 500 except for the differences that will now be described. As shown in FIGURE 10, instead of a camera and image recognition/vision system, the lid hopper 1000 uses a sensing apparatus in the form of a series of magnetic/eddy current sensors 1006 to determine the orientation of the lid that is in the lid orientation position. Each magnetic/eddy current sensor 1006 detects, for example, the presence of the aluminum pull-tab material in a position directly beneath the respective sensor 1006 if present. In FIGURE 10, twelve sensors 1006 are used to detect pull-tabs in any of 24 positions (depending on whether one or two sensors detect material) for a resolution of 15 degrees. More or fewer magnetic/eddy current sensors can be used for greater or less resolution. In some embodiments, the output of the sensors 1006 can be employed by a system to determine the orientation of the lid.

FIGURE 11 illustrates another embodiment of an apparatus, such as lid hopper 1100, for distributing and/or orienting lids in accordance with an aspect of the present disclosure. The lid hopper 1100 is substantially similar in construction and operation as the lid hopper 500 described above with regard to FIGURE 5 except for the differences that will now be described. For example, instead of sensing the lid position with a camera/vision system, the lid hopper 1100 rotates each lid 1102 via a lid rotation means a full 360 degrees in one direction or until the pull-tab of the lid that is centered between belts 1103 resists rotation because the pull tab hits the edge of retractable plunger 1200 of an associated plunger apparatus (See FIGURE 12).

Another representative process for moving the lids 1102 down the lid hopper 1100, rotated to a desired orientation, and positioned to be removed by a can on the canning line will now be described in some detail. During this continuous process, a plurality of lids 1102 positioned within the lid hopper 1100 descend through slot 1101 under the force of gravity and stop at a stopper, such as release latch 1112. The lids 1102 are held in place along the slot 1101 until the last lid 1102d is engaged and removed from friction springs 1114 by a can from the associated canning line, such as canning line 600 (See FIGURE 6).

A first sensor 1113 detects when the lid 1102d has been withdrawn from the lid hopper 1100 by the respective beverage can as the beverage can moves along the conveyer of the canning line. When the first sensor 1113 detects that the lid 1102d has been engaged and removed by the respective can, the release latch 1112 is actuated, allowing the remaining lids 1102 to descend by gravity one lid position along the lid hopper 1100. The release latch 1112 can remain actuated until a second sensor 1111 detects that the next lid 1102b has moved past the release latch 1112. When the second sensor 1111 detects that the lid 1102b has cleared the release latch 1112, the release latch 1112 is de-actuated in time to stop the leading edge of the lid 1102a that is next in line to be oriented.

Side belts 1103 are then moved rapidly by motors 1104 in opposite directions such that the engaged lid 1102b is forced down past a third sensor 1110 into the orientation position 1115, which is directly under stop-plunger plate 1105. The motors 1104 are controlled to stop when the lid 1102 has attained the orientation position 1115 (i.e., is positioned directly under stop-plunger plate 1105).

As soon as a third sensor 1110 detects that the lid 1102b has reached the position 1115, and the motors 1104 have stopped, a solenoid 1204 releases, thereby allowing springs 1203 to push the retractable plunger 1202 out with a gentle force (See FIGURES 12A-12B). If plunger 1202 is above the pull-tab, the plunger 1102 rests gently on top of the pull-tab with a force low enough that belts 1103 can rotate the lid clockwise until the pull-tab is no longer beneath plunger 1202. When the pull-tab is no longer beneath plunger 1202, the plunger 1202 extends due to the spring force of springs 1203 and remains extended while the lid is rapidly rotated. If no pull-tab is below plunger 1202 when solenoid 1204 releases, springs 1203 push plunger 1202 out immediately. As the lid is rapidly rotated clockwise, the edge of the pull-tab hits the edge of the extended plunger 1202 causing resistance to further clockwise rotation. When motors 1104 encounter resistance to clockwise rotation, the motor controller (not shown) ceases clockwise rotation and the lid is correctly aligned. Next, solenoid 1204 is energized, thereby retracting plunger 1202. The solenoid 1204 remains energized, holding plunger 1202 retracted until the next lid is detected in position 1115.

Next, when the first sensor 1113 detects that a lid, such as lid 1102d located at the bottom position 1117, has been pulled out of the lid hopper 1100 by an associated beverage can, the motors 1104 are operated in a suitable manner (e.g., rotate rapidly the same speed and duration but in opposite directions) under control of the motion control system so that the lid 1102c maintains its purposeful orientation as it is pushed beyond the side belts 1103 and propelled into the bottom position 1117 under friction springs 1114. After the purposefully oriented lid 1102c has reached the bottom position 1117, the purposefully oriented lid 1102c is ready to be engaged and removed from the lid hopper 1100 by the next beverage can that moves along the canning line. Thereafter, a press (not shown) is operated to permanently attach the lid to the associated beverage can.

Each time a lid is removed by the canning line, the aforementioned process is repeated such that the overall pacing is determined by can movement along the canning line and the next lid is always ready each time a can arrives beneath lid hopper 1100. Again, it will be appreciated that some steps of the process can be carried out sequentially while others can be carried out contemporaneously.

While the embodiment of FIGURES 11-12 is suitable for use with the canning line 600, it will be appreciated that this embodiment can be used with other canning lines, such as the canning line described below with regard to FIGURES 13A and 13B.

In the embodiments previously described, the lids are rotated so as to be purposefully oriented to a desired orientation, such as for example, with respect to the branded art on its associated beverage can. In that regard, the control system of FIGURE 7 may optionally include can-orientation information 703 in order to orient the lid to the desired orientation. In some configurations, as will be described in more detail below, the lid hopper, such as hoppers 500, 800, 900 1000, etc., and the canning line, such as line 1300 (See FIGURES 13A-13B), etc., both rotate their respective lids and cans to a predetermined orientation, such as north or toward the end of the canning line, are such that the indicia are viewable when the finished can is in the drinking orientation. In these embodiments, no coordination between the lid hopper and the canning line regarding orientation is needed and optional can-orientation information 703 can be omitted. In other embodiments, the canning line, such as canning line 600, includes means for determining the orientation of each can but omits a can-rotation means. In some embodiments, the means for determining the orientation of each can includes a camera and vision system that determines the orientation of the can based on the image capture by the camera. Other means for determining the orientation of the can described below may be also employed in embodiments of the disclosure. In these embodiments and others, each lid's orientation is affected by a lid orientation means so as to purposefully align each lid with each corresponding can's branding art even though each successive can on the canning line 600 may have a different alignment of branding art. Thus, in these embodiments, each can's individual orientation is determined and signaled as can- orientation information 703 to a control system, such as motion/sensor/vision system 700, so that the lid orientation means can orient the respective lid based on the can-orientation information 703.

In the embodiments previously described, the lids are rotated, for example, so as to be purposefully oriented with respect to the branded art on its associated can. However, embodiments of the present disclosure can alternatively or additional include means for rotating the beverage can on the canning line to purposely orient the can with respect to its associated lid. In that regard, and referring now to FIGURES 13A, 13B, 14 and 15A-15D, there is illustrated one example of a canning line configured to rotate and distribute filled cans without lids. In the embodiment described below, all cans are oriented such that the cans' branding art faces north. In alternate embodiments, each can could be oriented to any desired orientation such as south, toward the end of the canning line, or each beverage can could be individually oriented to match each can's respective lid. In the case where each can is oriented to match the can's respective lid, optional lid- orientation information 1403 (See FIGURE 14) can be employed, which contains information about each lid from a lid orientation determination means, such as vision system, sensor system, etc., associated with the lid hopper. In other cases, the optional lid orientation information 1403 can be omitted.

FIGURE 13 A is a top view of one embodiment of a canning line, generally designated 1300, in accordance with an aspect of the present disclosure. As shown in FIGURE 13 A, the canning line 1300 includes a conveyer belt 1305 configured to move a plurality of cans 1307, 1308, 1309, etc., at a constant speed in direction 1317. The cans arrive at the top of FIGURE 13 A in a variety of orientations and travel to position 1301 along conveyer belt 1305. When the cans arrive at position 1301, a first sensor 1315 detects the arrival of a can and signals an image-processing/vision system 1401. In some embodiments, the image-processing/vision system 1401 is signaled via a motion control system, such as the motion control system 1402 (See FIGURE 14). In response to such signaling from the first sensor 1315, the image-processing/vision system 1401 flashes lights 1318 and captures digital images of one or more sides of the can in position 1301 with one or more cameras 1306.

The image-processing/vision system 1401 then determines the can's orientation in position 1301 and communicates this orientation information to the motion control system 1402. The motion control system 1402 looks up a velocity/distance/direction profile corresponding to the observed orientation and stores this observed orientation and corresponding velocity/distance/direction profile in, for example, a first-in-first-out memory. The memory can be a part of the motion control system 1402 and is not shown separately.

The can in position 1301 continues to move along conveyer belt 1305 until the can passes a second sensor 1316 and enters position 1302. In position 1302, target can 1310 is moved by conveyer belt 1305 and also by side-belts 1303. Side belts 1303 are spaced apart far enough to apply friction to the sides of can 1310 in position 1302. As illustrated in FIGURE 15, the side-belts 1303, driven by motors 1304 and controlled by motion-control system 1402, orient the can 1310 in position 1302, and then pass the now- oriented can 1310 from position 1302 to the position of can 1309 in FIGURE 13B, which is under the lid hopper 500, and then further along the canning line 1300. The canning line 1300 next typically passes the can to a lid-press apparatus (not shown) where the associated lid is permanently pressed onto its respective can. When the lid press apparatus presses a lid permanently onto a can, each lid faces a desired orientation with respect to the can's branding art.

As mentioned above, side-belts 1303 apply friction to the vertical sides of filled cans as the filled cans move along conveyer belt 1305. The operation of the side-belts 1303 will now be explained in detail with regard to FIGURES 15A-15D. A possible problem could occur when one can on a canning line is rotated. The problem is that intentional rotation of one lidless beverage can may impart rotation to adjacent cans via friction at the surface where one can touches another can.

Referring to Figure 15A-15D, a method for rotating one lidless can while not rotating adjacent cans will now be described. In general, gaps are introduced to prevent the target can being rotated from touching other cans while the target can is being rotated. As shown in FIGURE 15 A, the target can 1505 is moved along the canning line on conveyor 1502 in the direction of arrow 1503 at the speed of the conveyer-belt. As the can 1505 moves along the conveyor, the side belts 1501 move in opposite direction at the same speed as the conveyor 1501. Based on an earlier process, a gap 1504 has been formed between the cans 1505 and 1506.

Next, as shown in FIGURE 15B, the target can 1505 is moved slightly faster than the conveyer belt speed and a gap 1509 is formed between the target can 1505 and the following can 1508. Next, intentional rotation is imparted to the target can 1505 while the target can 1505 is simultaneously moved along the canning line at the conveyer belt speed, as shown in FIGURE 15C. In FIGURE 15C, the side belts 1501 both move fast in the same direction and velocity and duration suitable to rotate the can 1505 to its desired orientation. The direction of rotation can be selected so that the can 1505 is rotated through the smallest angle in some embodiments. It will be appreciated that the gaps 1504 and 1509 prevent rotation being imparted to adjacent cans.

As shown in Figure 15D, the now-rotated can 1505 is moved along the canning line at faster-than-conveyer-belt-speed to advance the already-rotated can 1505 in such a way as to close the gap between the target can 1505 and the previously rotated can. Once the can 1505 passes the side belts 1501, the side belts slow to conveyor belt speed. After exiting the area between the side-belts, the cans move along the canning line by the conveyer belt towards the lid hopper.

FIGURE 16 illustrates a beverage can 1600 suitable for use with a canning line configured for determining the orientation of the can and/or rotating the can to a desired position. The canning line used with beverage can 1600 is substantially similar in construction and operation as canning line 1300 described above with regard to FIGURES 13 A and 13B except for the differences that will now be described. As best shown in FIGURE 16, the beverage can 1600 include a removable protrusion or bump 1602 positioned relative to the branding art 1601. In some embodiments, the bump 1602 is affixed on each can in the same position relative to the branding art 1601.

The bump 1602, an adhesive stick-on protrusion in one embodiment, can be applied at the stage where branding art is applied to the can or after, and the bump 1602 can be potentially removed for reuse after this alignment step. In this embodiment, one or several mechanical, magnetic, or optical sensors can be employed to detect the orientation of the can via sensing of the bump 1602. It will be appreciated that the beverage can in these embodiments can be rotated in a process substantially similar to that described in connection with FIGURE 13A-13B, except that the orientation of the can is determined by the sensor(s) simultaneously with rotation of the beverage can instead of in advance of rotation as set forth in the canning line of FIGURE 13A-13B. In other embodiments, the associated data processing system can determine the orientation of the can via the output of the sensor(s) without rotation of the can.

The beverage can 1600 and associated canning line can be used to provide can orientation information 703 (See FIGURE 7) to the control system of the lid hopper 500, 800, 1000, etc., described above in embodiments that employ a lid hopper that orients the lid based on the orientation of the can. It will be appreciated that the beverage can 1600 and associated canning line can be also used in some embodiments that rotate both the can and the lid to the same predetermined orientation.

FIGURE 17 illustrates another beverage can 1700 suitable for use with a canning line configured for determining the orientation of the can and/or rotating the can to a desired position. The canning line used with beverage can 1700 is substantially similar in construction and operation as canning line 1300 described above with regard to FIGURES 13 A and 13B except for the differences that will now be described. As best shown in FIGURE 17, the beverage can 1700 includes branding art 1701 and a pattern of invisible stripes in magnetic ink 1702. In this example, the horizontal spacing between each stripe varies but the pattern of stripes is printed in a fixed orientation relative to branding art 1701, usually as part of the printing process where invisible magnetic ink is applied as a color by a color printing process. When the can moves along the canning line, a sensor (which in this example senses magnetic information) senses the orientation of can 1700 as the can is rotated by can rotating means. In these embodiments, the sensor (which in this example is a magnetic sensor) detects can orientation in a process substantially similar to that described in connection with FIGURES 13A-13B, except that the orientation of the can is determined simultaneously with rotation instead of in advance of rotation. In other embodiments, the associated data processing system can determine the orientation of the can via the output of the magnetic sensor without rotation of the can.

The beverage can 1700 and associated canning line can be used to provide can orientation information 703 (See FIGURE 7) to the control system of the lid hopper 500, 800, 1000, etc., described above in embodiments that employ a lid hopper that orients the lid based on the orientation of the can. It will be appreciated that the beverage can 1700 and associated canning line can be also used in some embodiments that rotate both the can and the lid to the same predetermined orientation.

FIGURE 18 illustrates another beverage can 1800 suitable for use with a canning line configured for determining the orientation of the can and/or rotating the can to a desired orientation. The canning line used with beverage can 1800 is substantially similar in construction and operation as canning line 1300 described above with regard to FIGURES 13 A and 13B except for the differences that will now be described. As best shown in FIGURE 18, the beverage can 1800 includes branding art 1801 and a notch 1802. The notch 1802 can be, for example, embossed in the printing stage (not shown) and is in the same relative position to branding art 1801 on every can. As shown in FIGURE 18, the notch 1802 is near the bottom of the can but other placements of the notch are also possible.

In this embodiment, one or several mechanical, electrical or optical sensors can be employed to detect the orientation of the can. When using some types of sensors, the beverage can may be rotated in a process substantially similar to that described in connection with FIGURE 13A-13B, except that the orientation of the can is determined by the sensor(s) simultaneously with rotation of the beverage can instead of in advance of rotation as set forth in the canning line of FIGURE 13A-13B. In other embodiments, the associated data processing system can determine the orientation of the can via the output of the sensor(s) without rotation of the can.

The beverage can 1800 and associated canning line can be used to provide can orientation information 703 (See FIGURE 7) to the control system of the lid hopper 500, 800, 1000, etc., described above in embodiments that employ a lid hopper that orients the lid based on the orientation of the can. It will be appreciated that the beverage can 1800 and associated canning line can be also used in some embodiments that rotate both the can and the lid to the same predetermined orientation.

FIGURES 19A and 19B illustrate an apparatus, such as a canning line 1900, suitable for use with the can of FIGURE 18 for distributing and/or orienting the can in accordance with an aspect of the present disclosure. The canning line 1900 is substantially similar in construction and operation as canning line 1300 described above with regard to FIGURES 13 A and 13B except for the differences that will now be described.

As shown in FIGURES 19A and 19B, the incoming conveyer belt 1912 feeds cans 1914f, 1914g and others to the entrance of side belts 1902. Next, the side belts 1902 move the incoming can to position 1914e. Next, a push-actuator 1910 pushes circular tooth die 1911 up, extending a series of centering tabs 1915 through a perforated stationary alignment pad 1917 in such a way as to cup the bottom of the can 1800. Alignment pin 1916 is also pushed up but alignment pin 1916 is spring-loaded such that alignment pin 1916 presses with gentle spring-force onto the bottom rim of can 1800 unless alignment pin 1916 inserts into the notch of the can. Next, side-belts 1902 rotate the can while holding the can stationary with respect to the series of centering tabs 1915 until the notch of the can aligns with spring loaded alignment pin 1916 at which time spring loaded alignment pin 1916 extends due to spring force into the notch of the can, thereby causing rotation to cease. Then motors sense an increase in resistance to rotation and cease to rotate the can. Next, the side belts 1902 move together to move the aligned can onto outgoing conveyer belt 1913 and simultaneously move the next potentially unaligned can from incoming conveyer belt 1912 to a- can sensing position 1914e above the series of centering tabs 1915. The process then repeats for each can.

FIGURE 20 illustrates another beverage can 2000 suitable for use with a canning line configured for determining the orientation of the can and/or rotating the can to a desired orientation. As best shown in FIGURE 20, the beverage can 2000 includes branding art 2001 and a vertical stripe 2002 printed in ink responsive to infrared or ultraviolet light but not visible to human sight. In FIGURE 20, the stripe element 2002 is drawn as a Crosshatch pattern for the reader but on the actual can, the element 2002 would not be visible to a human observer. The stripe element 2002 is however able to be detected by a suitable sensor, such as sensor 2112 (See FIGURE 21). In some embodiments, the vertical stripe 2002 is printed at the same position with respect to the branded art for each beverage can.

FIGURE 21 illustrates an apparatus, such as a canning line 2100, suitable for distributing and/or orienting cans, such as cans 2000, in accordance with an aspect of the present disclosure. The canning line 2100 is substantially similar in construction and operation as canning line 1300 described above with regard to FIGURES 13 A and 13B except for the differences that will now be described. As shown in FIGURE 21, instead of using one or more cameras and an image recognition system prior to rotation of the beverage can, the control system associated with the canning line 2100 is configured to rotate each can 2100 using the can rotation means until a sensor 2112 (e.g., an IR or UV sensor) detects the stripe 2002 when the stripe 2002, for example, is directly facing the sensor 2112. Information from the sensor can be suitably processed by the control system in order to determine the orientation of the beverage can with regard to the indicia. In other embodiments, the control system can be configured to detect the orientation of the can based on the output of the sensor 2112 without rotation of the can. It will be appreciated in this embodiment and others that the control system may use other information, sensed or otherwise, about the beverage can to determine the orientation of the can.

The beverage can 2000 and associated canning line 2100 can be used to provide can orientation information 703 (See FIGURE 7) to the control system of the lid hopper 500, 800, 1000, described above in embodiments that employ a lid hopper that orients the lid based on the orientation of the can. It will be appreciated that the beverage can 2000 and associated canning line 2100 can be also used in some embodiments that rotate both the can and the lid to the same predetermined orientation.

FIGURES 22A-22D illustrate another embodiment in which a combination of a can 2200 and lid 2203 each having mating features (e.g., notch in lip 2202 and tab 2204, respectively) is employed. FIGURE 22B shows tab 2204 as seen from the underside of lid 2203. After lid 2203 is placed onto a filled can 2200, via cooperation of, for example, canning line 600 but before lid 2203 is pressed into place, a rotating means (not shown) rotates lid 2203 until tab 2204 becomes aligned into notch 2202. Further rotating force does not rotate lid 2203 because tab 2204 is held from rotation by notch 2202. The rotating means can be mechanical or magnetic (aluminum, though not ferrous, can be rotated inefficiently by magnetic fields strong enough to induce current into the aluminum.)

In accordance with aspects of the present disclosure, a plurality of beverage cans formed by any combination of lid hopper and canning line described above that results in purposeful lid orientation with respect to the can's brand indicia can be assembled into a single package for distribution to and sales at, for example, a retail store. Multiple packages can also be assembled on pallets for shipment, etc.

FIGURE 23 is a top view of one embodiment of an optional automated alignment inspection apparatus, designated 2300, in accordance with aspect of the present disclosure. FIGURE 24 illustrates one representative embodiment of a control system suitable for use with the inspection apparatus of FIGURE 23.

The inspection apparatus 2300 is configured to carry out the following method and others. A conveyer 2301 moves at the speed of a canning line, such as canning line 600 or 1300 in direction 2302 and accepts cans as the cans come off the respective canning line with lids attached to their respective cans. Uninspected cans 2311 travel through slot 2303 and beneath first position sensor 2314. First position sensor 2314 detects when each can enters the viewing area of cameras 2304, 2305 and lights 2317, 2318. When first position sensor 2314 detects a can in position, the cameras 2304, 2305 and lights 2317, 2318 simultaneously photograph the top and the side of one can.

Image-processing/vision system 2401 (See FIGURE 24) examines each pair of photos taken by the cameras and determines if the lid and the branding-art are aligned correctly. If image-processing/vision system 2401 determines that the lid and the branding-art are not properly aligned, and after a delay corresponding to belt movement of one can-diameter, an actuator 2307 rapidly extends, forcing bumper 2306 to shove can 2315 into reject slot 2309. Then actuator 2307 rapidly returns to the un-extended position. If image-processing/vision system 2401 determines that the lid and the branding-art are properly aligned, actuator 2307 and bumper 2306 remain stationary.

Referring specifically to FIGURE 24, when first position sensor 2314 signals the motion control system 2402 indicating that a can is positioned in range of cameras 2304 and 2305, the motion control system 2402 signals image processing/vision system 2401 causing image processing/vision system 2401 to flash lights 2317 and 2318 while simultaneously capturing digital images from cameras 2304 and 2305. Next, image processing/vision system 2401 analyzes the digital images and makes a determination as to whether the lid and the branding-art of the can in both digital images are within acceptable orientation/alignment. If the determination is that the lid and the branding art are within acceptable orientation/alignment then the motion control system 2402 is signaled to wait for the next can as detected by first position sensor 2314. In this case, actuator-driver 2404 and actuator 2307 are not operated. If, on the other hand, the determination is that the lid and branding art are not within acceptable alignment, then motion control system 2402 is signaled to reject the can in the digital images. When motion control system 2402 has been signaled to reject the next can, then at the moment when the second position sensor 2316 indicates that the unacceptable can is positioned in the path of actuator 2307, then motion control system 2402, after a suitable delay, signals actuator-driver 2404 and actuator driver 2404 causes actuator 2307 to rapidly extend then retract in such a way as to push the rejected can in position 2308 into reject-slot 2309.

In accordance with another embodiment of the present disclosure, the inspection apparatus 2300 can be employed with prior art canning systems that have randomly oriented lids, such as the canning system described above with regard to FIGURE 4. In this embodiment, the inspection apparatus 2300 can be employed to identify cans that have the same lid-indicia orientation and to sort accordingly. As a result, a grouping of like lid-indicia oriented cans can be provided. Such a grouping can be then packaged, distributed, and sold at a retail establishment.

It is believed that practicing embodiments of the present disclosure will increase brand awareness, and as a result, increase sales of such products associated with the brand. Accordingly, in accordance with an aspect of the present disclosure, a method is provided to increase brand awareness via a canned beverage. The method includes purposeful orientation of the lid with respect to the can's indicia so that the indicia are viewable when the can is in the drinking orientation.

In accordance with an aspect of the present disclosure, it may useful to know how effective the resulting lid-can alignment is. Effectiveness can be thought of in terms of promotional value, branding awareness, additional sales, customer loyalty or in other ways. The specific definition of effectiveness is beyond the scope of this explanation. But measurements of effectiveness can be made without a specific definition of effectiveness.

This next section describes measurements of effectiveness and methods for attaining such measurements. In general, the measurements gauge the influence of embodiments of the present disclosure on people who are visually exposed to the disclosed beverage cans via other people. Specifically what is described is a measurement of how much a person's choice of beverage is influenced by exposure to the disclosed beverage cans having purposeful brand orientation in the form of cans in the hands of other nearby people.

One way of measuring effectiveness is to compare two otherwise similar groups one of which is exposed to a certain brand of beverage that uses aspects of the present disclosure and another brand of beverage that does not. The groups can be different by people, by date, or both. Similar groups can be the same people at similar events on widely separated dates or different people at similar events. In both cases effectiveness depends on the people not being informed that a measurement having to do with canned beverages is being performed prior to the event. Ideally the event hosts are also not informed to maintain a double-blind experiment. If similar events with the same people are used it is important to reduce the effect of memory from one event to the next, thus the need for the dates to be widely separated.

The following is one representative experiment. As a baseline, the June company picnic has two brands of beverage, Brand A and Brand B. Neither brand uses beverage cans formed in accordance with aspects of the present disclosure. Then, at the July company picnic, Brand A uses beverage cans according to aspects of the present disclosure while Brand B does not. At the August company picnic, Brand B uses beverage cans according to aspects of the present disclosure while Brand A does not. This suffers the problem of the lingering influence of memory from July to August. Thus, another alternative is to run a new baseline in August with Brands C and D then compare C (beverage cans according to aspects of the present disclosure) to D (prior art beverage cans) in September. A calculation can be made from the ratio of Brand A versus Brand B chosen with and without beverage cans according to aspects of the present disclosure. Similarly, ratios can be calculated with Brand C and Brand D with and without beverage cans according to aspects of the present disclosure.

Another possible experiment would be to compare the behavior of similar groups where each group is composed of different individuals; for example, focus-group respondents. At refreshment time, each group is offered a similar selection of well-known canned drinks. Each group is exposed to one brand using beverage cans according to aspects of the present disclosure so that all the cans are aligned and other brands with distributed alignments or purposeful misalignments. Aggregate brand selection is compared between multiple groups where one brand uses beverage cans according to aspects of the present disclosure versus similar groups where another brand uses beverage cans according to aspects of the present disclosure. A calculation can be made from the ratio of cans chosen with and without purposeful brand alignment.

Another possible experiment, which can be performed once or as an ongoing process, is for a single brand to send cans with purposeful alignment to specific market segments such as certain stores or certain regions while sending cans with distributed or random alignments to others. Then measure the different effect on sales.

It will be appreciated that some embodiments may be comprised of one or more generic or specialized processors (or "processing devices") such as microprocessors, digital signal processors, customized processors and field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) and unique stored program instructions (including both software and firmware) that control the one or more processors to implement, in conjunction with certain non- processor circuits, some, most, or all of the functions of the method and/or apparatus described herein. Alternatively, some or all functions could be implemented by a state machine that has no stored program instructions, or in one or more application specific integrated circuits (ASICs), in which each function or some combinations of certain of the functions are implemented as custom logic. Of course, a combination of the two approaches could be used.

Moreover, an embodiment can be implemented as a computer-readable storage medium having computer readable code stored thereon for programming a computer (e.g., comprising a processor) to perform one or more methods as described and claimed herein. Examples of such computer-readable storage mediums include, but are not limited to, a hard disk, a CD-ROM, an optical storage device, a magnetic storage device, a ROM (Read Only Memory), a PROM (Programmable Read Only Memory), an EPROM (Erasable Programmable Read Only Memory), an EEPROM (Electrically Erasable Programmable Read Only Memory) and a Flash memory. Further, it is expected that one of ordinary skill, notwithstanding possibly significant effort and many design choices motivated by, for example, available time, current technology, and economic considerations, when guided by the concepts and principles disclosed herein will be readily capable of generating such software instructions and programs and ICs with minimal experimentation.

It should be noted that for purposes of this disclosure, terminology such as "upper," "lower," "vertical," "horizontal," "inwardly," "outwardly," "inner," "outer," "front," "rear," etc., should be construed as descriptive and not limiting the scope of the claimed subject matter. Further, the use of "including," "comprising," or "having" and variations thereof herein is meant to encompass the items listed thereafter and equivalents thereof as well as additional items. Unless limited otherwise, the terms "connected," "coupled," and "mounted" and variations thereof herein are used broadly and encompass direct and indirect connections, couplings, and mountings.

The principles, representative embodiments, and modes of operation of the present disclosure have been described in the foregoing description. However, aspects of the present disclosure which are intended to be protected are not to be construed as limited to the particular embodiments disclosed. Further, the embodiments described herein are to be regarded as illustrative rather than restrictive. It will be appreciated that variations and changes may be made by others, and equivalents employed, without departing from the spirit of the present disclosure. Accordingly, it is expressly intended that all such variations, changes, and equivalents fall within the spirit and scope of the present disclosure, as claimed.

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Classifications
International ClassificationB65D17/28, B65D43/00, B65D51/24, B65D17/32, B65D17/00, B65D17/34
Cooperative ClassificationB65G2203/0225, B65G2201/0252, B65G47/244, B21D51/2653, B65D2203/00, B65D17/165, B65B35/58
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