Coreless adapter for dispensers of cored rolls of material

Abstract

An adapter for a dispenser, the adapter including at least one carriage unit which is slidably mounted within a dispenser. In selected embodiments, the adapter of the present invention includes a frame which is mountable within a dispenser, the carriage unit slidably mounted within the frame. Each carriage unit includes a pair of spaced apart arms, each arm having an outboard surface and an inboard surface. An outboard pin is disposed on the outboard surface, the outboard pin configured to slidably engage a channel of a dispenser. An inboard pin may be rotatably attached to the inboard surface, the inboard pin configured to engage a coreless roll of material. In selected embodiments, the frame may include a base and a pair of spaced apart side rails, each side rail extending upwardly from the base. A rear support may also be provided, the rear support extending upwardly from the base. At least one carriage unit is provided which is slidably mounted within the frame, each carriage unit including, in selected embodiments, a locking mechanism adapted to lock the carriage to the frame so that the carriage unit is slidable within the frame.

Claims

What is claimed is: 1. An adapter for a dispenser comprising: a frame adapted to be secured within the dispenser; at least one carriage unit slidably mounted within the frame, each carriage unit having a pair of spaced apart arms, each arm having an outboard surface, an inboard surface, an outboard pin disposed on the outboard surface, the outboard pin configured to slidably engage a channel of the dispenser; an inboard pin rotatably attached to the inboard surface, the inboard pin configured to engage a coreless roll of material. 2. The adapter of claim 1, the frame further comprising a base. 3. The adapter of claim 2, the frame further comprising a pair of spaced apart substantially parallel side rails, each side rail extending upwardly from the base. 4. The adapter of claim 3, the frame further comprising a rear support extending upwardly from the base, the rear support being positioned with respect to the side rails so as to form a substantially C-shaped frame. 5. The adapter of claim 4, the frame further comprising an upper rail extending along and attached to an upper portion of each of the spaced apart side rails and the rear support. 6. The adapter of claim 2, the frame further comprising a rear support extending upwardly from the base. 7. The adapter of claim 1 comprising at least two carriage units. 8. The adapter of claim 1, each carriage unit including a locking mechanism adapted to releasably locking the carriage unit to the frame so that the carriage unit is slidable within the frame. 9. The adapter of claim 8, the locking mechanism disposed on at least one arm of the carriage unit. 10. The adapter of claim 8, the locking mechanism comprising a flexible locking finger disposed on each arm of the carriage unit so that, as the carriage unit is inserted into the frame, the locking fingers releasably locking each arm of the carriage unit to the frame. 11. The adapter of claim 1, each carriage unit further comprising two brackets, each bracket slidably attached to an end of each arm of the carriage unit so that the motion of each bracket along the arm of the carriage unit is substantially perpendicular to the motion of the carriage unit within the frame. 12. The adapter of claim 11, the inboard and outboard surfaces of each arm being disposed on the brackets. 13. An adapter for a dispenser which dispenses two vertically stacked cored rolls of material, the adapter comprising: a frame adapted to be secured within the dispenser, the frame comprising a base, a pair of spaced apart side rails, each side rail extending upwardly from the base, and a rear support extending upwardly from the base; and at least one carriage unit slidably mounted within the frame, each carriage unit comprising a locking mechanism adapted to locking the carriage to the frame so that the carriage unit is slidable within the frame, and a pair of spaced apart arms, each arm comprising an outboard surface, an inboard surface, an outboard pin disposed on the outboard surface, the outboard pin configured to slidably engage a channel of a dispenser, and an inboard pin rotatably attached to the inboard surface, the inboard pin configured to engage a coreless roll of material. 14. The adapter of claim 13, the frame further including a rear support extending between the side rails, each carriage unit further including a crossbar having an outboard surface, the crossbar extending between the spaced apart arms of the carriage unit, the carriage unit being mounted within the frame so that the outboard surface of the crossbar is positioned proximate to the rear support of the frame. 15. The adapter of claim 13, the locking mechanism further including a locking finger disposed on each arm of each carriage unit, each locking finger adapted to releasably locking one arm of the carriage unit to one of the side rails so that the carriage unit is slidable along the frame. 16. The adapter of claim 13, further including at least two brackets, each bracket slidably attached to one of the arms of the carriage unit so that the bracket is slidable along the arm of the carriage unit. 17. A carriage unit adapted to be slidably disposed within a dispenser which dispenses at least one cored roll of material, the carriage unit comprising: a pair of spaced apart arms, each arm having an outboard surface, an inboard surface, an outboard pin disposed on the outboard surface, the outboard pin configured to slidably engage a channel of the dispenser, and an inboard pin rotatably attached to the inboard surface, the inboard pin configured to engage a coreless roll of material; whereby the carriage unit is adapted to releasably engage the dispenser so that the carriage unit is slidable within the dispenser. 18. The carriage unit of claim 17, each arm further including a bracket, each bracket slidably attached to an end of one of the arms of the carriage unit so that the bracket is slidable along the arm of the carriage unit.
This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/096,729 entitled Coreless Adapter for Recessed, Standard Roll, Vertically Stacked Dual Roll Dispenser filed Aug. 17, 1998, which is hereby incorporated by reference. FIELD OF THE INVENTION The present invention relates generally to adapters for rolled material dispensers, and more particularly to adapters for rolled material dispensers which permit a dispenser of cored rolls of material to dispense coreless rolls of material. BACKGROUND Commercial and consumer absorbent paper products such as toilet tissue and paper towels are typically distributed and dispensed in roll form, and nearly always include a hollow cylindrical core that the product is wrapped about. While the core may be formed of many different materials, the core is frequently formed of some type of cardboard, which may be glued together and to the product so that the core stays intact and the product does not separate from the core. The product is then dispensed by mounting the roll on a spindle, such as can be found on the common bathroom toilet roll dispenser, that passes through or otherwise penetrates the inner space of the core. Some dispensers include pegs that penetrate the hollow space within the core for only a limited extent, as demonstrated in U.S. Pat. Nos. 390,084 and 2,905,404 to Lane and Simmons, respectively. Dispensers for multiple cored rolls of paper material, such as rolls of bathroom tissue, are also well known in the art. With typical conventional dispensers of this type, two rolls of tissue are vertically oriented within the dispenser so that the top roll falls into a dispensing position when the bottom roll is depleted. Generally, these dispensers are configured for conventional cored rolls incorporating a hollow core or spindle which extends through the roll, the ends of the spindle engaging slots or pathways which are defined in the interior surfaces of the dispensers. A recent development in the industry of rolled paper products is solid or "coreless" rolls of material, such as, for example, bathroom tissue paper. These solid or coreless rolls do not contain a hollow spindle or hollow core of any type. In many instances, these solid or coreless rolls are formed of material which is wound throughout the diameter of the roll. In such rolls, a divot, recess or detent may be formed in each side of the paper roll which define a rotational axis for the roll. As used herein, the term "coreless roll" further includes those rolls which are formed from material which is wound substantially, but not entirely, throughout the diameter of the roll. A coreless roll which is wound substantially throughout its diameter would lack a conventional cardboard or plastic core but would still incorporate a central aperture through the roll at the center of the roll along the length of the winding axis. Coreless rolls of this type are disclosed in, for example, U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,669,576; 5,467,936; 5,387,284; 5,281,386; 5,271,575; and 5,271,137. Coreless rolls disclosed by these patents are formed by winding the material about a mandrel and then removing the roll from the mandrel so that the roll includes a central aperture which extends entirely through the width of the roll along the winding axis. The central aperture may generally serve as a mounting divot, recess or detent although its depth will be the entire length of the central aperture along the winding axis. Accordingly, the depth of such a mounting hole would be equal to the entire width of the coreless roll. As used herein, the "width" of the roll refers to the distance between a first flat end of the coreless roll that defines a mounting hole and a second flat end of the coreless roll that defines a mounting hole. Desirably, each flat end of the coreless roll defines a mounting hole at substantially the center of the winding axis of the roll and at least one, and desirably each, mounting hole has a depth and has sides generally perpendicular to the end of the roll, the sides being separated by a distance that is less than the depth of the hole. There are advantages and disadvantages associated with the coreless rolls. Coreless rolls are ecologically superior to cored rolls because no adhesives or throwaway materials are used to make the product. In addition, more product can be provided in the space that would otherwise have been occupied by the core. Cored rolls are more expensive to manufacture than coreless rolls because of the expense of making the cores and joining the cores to the product. In addition, coreless rolls have the advantage of being subject to less pilferage in commercial locations because of their inherent incompatibility with conventional dispensers. A disadvantage of coreless rolls is that conventional dispensers are unable to dispense multiple solid or coreless rolls because they do not hold the coreless rolls within the dispensers and maintain the rolls in proper alignment. Thus, when a user desires to switch from conventional rolls incorporating a hollow core or spindle to coreless rolls, a new dispenser must be purchased and installed. To avoid this additional cost and labor, an adapter is needed which enables a user to easily and inexpensively adapt a conventional roll dispenser to dispense coreless rolls of material. SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION The present invention is directed to an adapter for a dual roll, vertically stacked dispenser. The adapter includes, in selected embodiments, a frame which fits within a dispenser of conventional cored rolls of material. In selected embodiments, the frame may include a base and a pair of spaced apart side rails, each side rail extending upwardly from the base. In such an embodiment, a rear support may also be provided which extends upwardly from the base and may be positioned with respect to the side rails so as to form a channel. In some embodiments, an upper rail may be provided which extends between and is attached to an upper portion of each of the spaced apart side rails and the rear support. At least one carriage unit is provided in the present invention, each carriage unit having a pair of spaced apart arms. In certain embodiments, a crossbar may be provided which may extend between the spaced apart arms. Each arm may include an outboard surface and an inboard surface. An outboard pin may be disposed on the outboard surface of each arm, the outboard pin being configured to slidably engage the dispenser. In certain embodiments, the outboard pin may engage a channel within the dispenser. An inboard pin may be provided, the inboard pin being rotatably attached to the inboard surface of each arm. The inboard pin is also adapted to engage a coreless roll of material. A locking mechanism may further be provided which releasably locks the carriage unit to the frame. In particular embodiments of the present invention, the locking mechanism may include a flexible locking finger disposed upon each arm. In such an embodiment, the carriage unit may be inserted into the frame until the crossbar is positioned proximate to the rear support and the locking finger on each arm engages one of the side rails of the frame, releasably locking the carriage unit to the frame. Thus, the carriage unit is slidably retained within the channel of the frame. The carriage unit may further include two brackets, each bracket slidably attached to one of the arms of the carriage unit so that the motion of each bracket along the arm of the carriage unit is substantially perpendicular to the motion of the carriage unit along the frame. BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an embodiment of an adapter according to the present invention. FIG. 2 is a front view of an adapter according to the present invention, the adapter utilizing two carriage units. FIG. 3 is an exploded view of an embodiment of the adapter including a frame and a carriage unit. FIG. 4 is a top view of an adapter according to the present invention, illustrating the carriage unit engaging the frame. FIG. 5 is a perspective view of a dispenser including an adapter according to the present invention. FIG. 6 is a side view of an adapter according to the present invention, the adapter utilizing two carriage units. FIG. 7 is a rear view of an embodiment of the adapter. FIG. 8 is a view of a dispenser which may be utilized with the adapters of the present invention. DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION The adapter of the present invention permits multiple solid or coreless rolls of material to be dispensed from dispensers originally configured to dispense conventional rolls of material, each such roll having a hollow tube or core through which a spindle may be inserted. It is contemplated that configurations of the adapters may work with both hollow core rolls and solid or coreless rolls. Reference will now be made in detail to various embodiments of the invention, one or more examples of which are illustrated in the drawings. Each example is provided by way of explanation of the invention, and not meant as a limitation of the invention. For example, features illustrated or described as part of one embodiment can be used in another embodiment to yield still a further embodiment. It is intended that the present invention cover such modifications and variations coming within the scope and spirit of the invention. The present invention is illustrated and described in relation to a dispenser for bathroom tissue only for illustrative purposes, and this should not be interpreted as a limitation of the invention. It should be understood and appreciated that the present invention has uses in any application wherein coreless rolls of material, and not necessarily paper material, are to be dispensed from a dispensing device. Some other materials include, for example, non-woven fabrics, films, textiles, screens, meshes, and composites or laminates including one or more of the above. As used herein, the term "coreless" refers to rolls which do not include a hollow tube or hollow core through which a spindle device may be inserted. Thus, a roll of material having a solid or non-hollow core is referred to herein as a coreless roll of material. Additionally, a roll of material which is wound substantially through its diameter and having a central aperture which extends along the winding axis is also considered to be a coreless roll of material. The present invention will now be described with reference to the attached figures. An adapter for a dual roll, vertically stacked dispenser is illustrated in FIG. 1 at 10. Selected embodiments of the adapter include a frame 14. Although the frame 14 may have many configurations, the frame 14 of the embodiment shown in FIG. 1 is approximately C-shaped. The frame 14 may be a single piece, unitary construction, or may be comprised of a plurality of interconnected members. In the embodiment depicted in FIG. 1, the frame 14 includes an upper portion 16 and a lower portion 18. A base 20 is provided, the base 20 including a pair of side edges 22 and 24, a front edge 26 and a rear edge 28. A pair of spaced apart side rails 30 and 32 extend upwardly from the base 20 proximate to the side edges 22 and 24, respectively. A rear support 40 may be provided which extends upwardly from the base 20 proximate to the rear edge 28. The rear support 40 may include an inboard surface 42. As illustrated in FIG. 2, the side rails 30 and 32 may include the inboard surfaces 34 and 36, respectively. An upper rail 44 may also be included in the frame 14. The upper rail 44 may be attached to and extend between the upper portion 46 of the side rail 30, the upper portion 48 of the side rail 32, and the upper portion 50 of the rear support 40. As best shown in FIGS. 3 and 4, the frame 14 forms a channel 38 extending along at least a portion of the length of the frame 14. The frame 14 may be formed as a single unitary construction or multiple sections of interconnected materials. In some embodiments, the frame 14 may be substantially solid. In such embodiments, a plurality of grooves, apertures, and raised surfaces may be formed in the frame to enable the frame to properly engage the carriage units and dispense coreless rolls of material. The frame and carriage units of the present invention may be formed from a variety of materials, such as, for example, metals, ceramics, plastics, and combinations of such and similar materials. In the embodiment depicted in FIG. 1, a single carriage unit 52 is shown. The carriage unit 52 depicted therein is adapted to carry a single roll of material which is shown at 13 in FIG. 5. As best depicted in FIGS. 2, 6 and 7, multiple carriage units may be utilized within the frame 14 so that multiple rolls of material 13 may be dispensed therefrom. Additionally, a single carriage unit 52 may be configured to carry a plurality of rolls of material. Selected embodiments of the carriage unit 52 may be configured to fit directly into a dispenser, eliminating the need for a frame. The embodiment of the carriage unit 52 depicted in FIG. 3 includes a crossbar 54 having an outboard surface 56. The carriage unit 52 may further include a pair of arms 58 and 60, each arm extending from and attached to the crossbar 54. The arms 58 and 60 are spaced apart from each other and, in selected embodiments, are parallel to each other. In other embodiments, the arms 58 and 60 may be variously angled with respect to one another. Each arm 58 and 60 includes an inboard surface 62 and 64, respectively, as well as an outboard surface 66 and 68, respectively. As shown in FIGS. 1, 3 and 4, each carriage unit 52 may be inserted into the channel 38 formed by the frame 14. The carriage unit 52 may be releasably locked to the frame 14 so that the carriage unit is slidable along the channel 38 of the frame 14, but does not slide out of the channel 38 and disengage the frame 14. In such embodiments, a locking mechanism may be provided which releasably locks the carriage unit 52 to the frame 14. Numerous locking mechanisms may be utilized in the present invention to releasably locking the carriage unit 52 to the frame 14. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 1, locking mechanisms 71 and 73, respectively, are disposed on arms 58 and 60, respectively, of the carriage unit 52. As best shown in FIGS. 1 and 6, the locking mechanisms 71 and 73 include the apertures 74 and 76 which are formed in the arms 58 and 60, respectively. Disposed within each of the apertures 74 and 76 are the flexible locking fingers 78 and 80, respectively. As best illustrated in FIG. 3, each locking finger includes a locking shoulder 82 and a ramp 84. As the carriage unit 52 slides into engagement with the frame 14, the ramp 84 of each locking finger contacts the side rail 30 or 32. As the carriage unit 52 is further inserted into the channel 38, the locking fingers 78 and 80 are flexed inboard and away from the respective side rail of the frame 14. After the carriage unit 52 has been sufficiently seated into the channel 38 so that the outboard surface 56 of the crossbar 54 is as close as desired to the inboard surface 42 of the rear support 40, best shown in FIG. 1, the end of each ramp 84 is reached. The locking fingers 78 and 80 are then able to flex outwardly to their unbiased positions. The shoulder 82 of each locking finger 78 and 80 prevent the carriage unit 52 from withdrawing from the channel 38, as the shoulder 82 engages the back surface of the respective side rail. Thus, the locking fingers 78 and 80 maintain the carriage unit in engagement with the frame 14 while permitting the carriage unit 52 to freely slide within the channel 38 of the frame 14. In certain embodiments and as shown in FIGS. 1, 3 and 6, each arm 58 and 60 may include a bracket 86 and 88, respectively. Each bracket 86 and 88 may be slidably or fixedly attached to the arms 58 and 60, respectively, of each carriage unit 52. The brackets 86 and 88 each include an outboard surface 90 and 92, respectively, and an inboard surface 94 and 96, respectively. In embodiments which do not include a bracket 86 or 88, the inboard surfaces 94 and 96 and outboard surfaces 90 and 92 are formed on the arms 58 and 60, respectively. Inboard pins 104 and 106 are disposed on the inboard surfaces 94 and 96, respectively. Each inboard pin 104 and 106 is adapted to engage solid cr coreless rolls which have recesses or divots defined in the vertical sides thereof that also may define a rotating axis for the solid or coreless rolls. Specifically, the inboard pins 104 and 106 engage the recesses, divots, detents or aperture of the roll of material. Alternate embodiments of the inboard pins 104 and 106 may be configured to engage rolls of materials having solid or hollow cores. In the embodiments depicted in FIGS. 3 and 4, each inboard pin 104 and 106 is rotatable with respect to the inboard surfaces 94 and 96, respectively, so that, when the inboard pin 104 or 106 engages the coreless roll, the roll rotates and material may be removed therefrom. Various configurations of the inboard pins may accomplish this. In some embodiments, the inboard pins 104 and 106 and outboard pins 98 and 100 may be removably attached to their respective surfaces so that a user may install inboard pins configured for a particular type of rolled material and outboard pins configured for a particular dispenser. In such embodiments, the user may remove the pins and install differently configured pins which may be adapted for a different purpose. Additionally, pins which are removably attached enable a user to easily replace worn or broken pins. As shown in FIG. 7, the outboard pins may be configured so that the outermost portion of the pin is spaced apart from the arms 58 and 60. The distance by which the outermost portion of the pin is spaced from the arms may be varied to meet the requirements of a particular dispenser. In selected embodiments, the brackets 86 and 88 are slidably attached to the arms 58 and 60. In some embodiments, this will permit a roll of material 13 to be loaded onto the brackets 86 and 88 without necessitating removal of the carriage unit 52 from the frame 14. In selected embodiments, the direction of motion of the brackets 86 and 88 along the arms 58 and 60, respectively, of the carriage unit 52 is substantially normal to the direction of motion of the carriage unit 52 within the channel 38 of the frame 14. The adapter 10 of the present invention is useful with a variety of dispensers for storing and dispensing multiple rolls of a solid or coreless rolled material. Many such dispensers includes a dispenser frame having side wall members, a front cover, and a dispensing opening on a front side thereof. The side wall members may have generally vertically oriented and oppositely facing slots or pathways defined on inside surfaces thereof. One such dispenser 110 is shown in FIG. 8 which is formed of a dispenser frame 112 having side walls 114. The side walls 114 include an inner surface 116. The dispenser 110 also may include a front cover member 118 that pivots away from the dispenser frame 112 at pivot points 120. The cover 118 may also include an opening defining the dispensing position of the lowermost roll and may further include vertical arms 122 that attach to the dispenser frame 112 at the pivot point 120. Alternatively, a bottom portion of the dispenser may contain an opening that defines the dispensing position for the lowermost roll. A rocker arm 124 is illustrated as housed within the structure 126 defining a slot 128. The operation of rocker arm 124 is also understood by those skilled in the art and generally serves to hold an upper roll of material above the dispensing position of a lower roll until the lower roll has been depleted. When such a dispenser is used with the adapter 10 of the present invention, the outboard pins 98 and 100, shown in FIG. 1, engage the slots 128. Once the lower roll has been depleted, a carriage unit 52 carrying the lower roll slides downward to a lowermost position in the slots 128, which allows the rocker arm 124 to pivot and permit the upper roll of material to fall into the dispensing position. A more detailed explanation of the dispenser frame and components is not necessary for purposes of the present disclosure. Such conventional dispensers have typically been used to dispense multiple vertical rolls of tissue paper having hollow cores. In selected embodiments, the inboard pins 104 and 106 of the carriage unit 52 may extend at least partially into the divot or recess defined in the side of the roll and also may include a rolling surface against which the additional vertically disposed roll may rest and rolls within the dispenser once the first solid core roll held by the adapters has been used. In other words, once a first roll of material is depleted, desirably the second vertically oriented roll will fall into a dispensing position within the dispenser and the carriage unit will fall to the bottom of the dispenser slots and be retained therein until the dispenser is opened for replacement of the rolls. When the second roll falls into its dispensing position, the circumference of the second roll will rest on and roll against the inboard pins 104 and 106, particularly on the rolling surface defined by the inboard pins. In one embodiment, the rolling surface may be generally horizontal. In an alternative embodiment, the rolling surface may be conical in shape. Any number of various shapes and configurations may be used to define such rolling surfaces. The adapter may be secured to the dispenser in a variety of ways, including using mechanical fasteners, adhesive or the like. In selected embodiments, it may be desirable to releasably secure the adapter to the dispenser, as this permits the adapter to be easily removed so that the dispenser may be quickly converted to dispense cored rolls of material or coreless rolls of material. It should be appreciated by those skilled in the art that the particular dimensions of the adapters of the present invention will vary depending on the type of dispenser used. It is well within the purview of one skilled in the art to determine the optimal dimensions for these adapters depending on the type of dispenser the adapters are intended to be used with. It should also be appreciated by those skilled in the art that various modifications and variations can be made in the present invention. The present inventive adapters are described and illustrated as utilized in dispensers. It is within the scope and spirit of the invention that the adapters be used with any type of dispenser wherein multiple rolls of solid or coreless material are housed and moved therein to a dispensing position. The adapters are not limited to use with dispensers. It is intended that the present invention cover such modifications and variations as come within the scope and spirit of the appended claims and their equivalents.

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