What can you wear on your head that dispenses beer and other beverages and looks exactly like a motorcycle or futbol or any of 150 different designs? Whatever it is, inventor Randall Flann likely has it covered.
Flann is a revved-up kind of Renaissance man, an art school graduate with a wild sense of humor and a brain that operates at a mile a minute.
All of these factors may or may not explain why being turned down for the role as comedic actor John Belushi in a bio-drama movie planned in the late ‘80s—the screenplay was written with Flann in mind—sparked him to research, create and file a patent for the “Substance Dispensing Headgear.” Flann refers to it as the RoFo BevDisHeadgear, which references his initials and “BevDis” for Beverage Dispensing. The first iteration that was illustrated in the patent filing below shows the RoFo Wooden Barrel Headgear; that’s wooden as in molded faux-wood plastic, specifically polyethylene or polypropylene. Although the initial design and our headline position it for beer, it’s suitable for any still or carbonated beverage that’s tepid or chilled; warm or hot liquid use is not recommended, according to Flann.
Packaging Digest felt the timing was ideal to report on and update the latest developments for this unique product, for which 20 years ago this Octoberfest month Flann received U.S. Patent # 5,966,743.
If you’ve seen anyone at a sporting event or elsewhere sucking a beverage from a straw-tube than runs from a can attached to a cap, you’ve seen someone else’s patent.
Flann’s invention takes that dispensing concept to a much higher artistic level with headgear dispensers molded into the shape of familiar objects. Imagine the impact that multiserve head-top containers that resemble soccer balls, baseballs, futbols, motorcycles, hockey pucks, cowboy hats and more could make at a social gathering. All told, Flann filed for 149 different designs with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
More than eye-popping point-of-use impact, the invention presents thoroughly engineered functionality along with keeping the fun factor top-of-mind; for example, for user comfort the headgear is equipped with 4-point adjustable harness suspension that’s standard in most construction and industrial hard hats. The adjustable harness design keeps the product balanced, stationary and comfortable while worn on the head.
Compared to other wearable dispensers, "this new generation RoFo BevDisHeadgear needs only to be filled once for prolonged multiple dispensing use,” Flann tells Packaging Digest.
There’s also a food safety angle beyond the food-quality polymers. “It provides a way to ensure that a beverage is uncontaminated,” he adds. “It prevents others from tampering as may occur with opened beverages.”
Flann also points out the practical benefit of having a mobile dispenser at a social gathering. “It reduces trips to a server’s station or kitchen,” he says.
A small sampling of RoFo BevDisHeadgears molded of HDPE or LLDPE among the many dozens of designs that are possible.
These are some key specifications and facts for the beverage dispenser:
- The container could be blowmolded in high-density polyethylene (HDPE) or rotationally molded of liner-low density polyethylene (LLDPE);
- It measures approximately 10-in. in diameter and is nearly a foot high;
- It holds the equivalent of 2L or about 68oz of liquid;
- It weighs approximately 1½ pounds empty and 5 lb when full.
Two separate technical assessments conducted five years apart by the engineering department of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee concurred that when technical feasibility, economics and other considerations are factored in, rotational molding was the ideal choice of molding for this invention that represents a lower cost to entry.
Also crucial is the RoFo Motific Spigot at the front of the container designed and injection molded specific to the chosen theme as well. For example, a hockey-puck shaped dispenser uses a goal-net shaped spigot, another that looks like a hotdog on a bun offers a combo mustard-relish spigot.
The spigot’s self-venting design is crucial so that the spigot can used without a separate vent hole. It also allows the spigot's removal for filling and for post-use cleaning using mild dish soap and warm water before the next use.
Next: Markets, designs and what’s ahead
The target market is universal, notes Flann with tongue planted firmly in cheek. “The demographics for the product are extensive and cross all age groups and segments from ages 16 to 116. Users have discretionary disposable income; they are upbeat, creative, fun-loving imaginative and adventuresome. And they average 3.2 persons per household.”
While using it to dispense beer seems the logical choice given Flann’s Milwaukee hometown, it’s applicable for the entire range of beverages.
“Whether intended for children or adults, the dispenser can be used for water, lemonade, iced tea, chocolate drinks, fruit flavored and health drinks, soda and other cold nonalcohol beverages,” Flann explains. “The product is not a thermos, so containing a hot beverage is prohibited to prevent warping the molded product or harming a wearer’s head. Using common sense always prevails.”
I asked him to name the most complex design, which elicited an immediate response: the RoFo Motorcycle (shown above). It’s no wonder, like a mini model of the real thing it offers faux front suspension, clutch, speedometer, headlight, turn signal lights, rubber fork boots, spring forks, brake cable, brakes and balloon tire.
Which design is his favorite?
“Not to sound facetious, but it’s the one yet to be completed,” responds Flann deftly. “It’s the challenge of conceptualizing then fabricating a work of art to be functional that makes my next usable composition my personal favorite.”
Truth be told, Flann does have a specific next design in mind, and that’s another reason that he’s highly motivated and encouraged over the near-term, but more about that in a minute.
Flann learned after recent contacts with additional molders that because CAD methodologies and molding techniques have greatly advanced over the years since the early designs, he'd benefit from retooling, so he's made that a priority for 2020.
But what has truly reinvigorated him into a higher gear—and trust me, he’s quite energized under normal conditions—is that a facilitating agency that also arranges truck delivery for a high-end retailer is keenly interested in the product. It was conversations from this new relationship that sparked the idea for his next creation: An 18-wheeler RoFo BevDisHeadgear with a hood that opens for dispensing.
Flann believes this will solidify plans to bring his unique beverage dispensers to commercial reality for sale in 2020. When that happens, you could purchase your own RoFo BevDisHeadgear for $39.95.
For more images, factoids and technical details, click here for a 10-slide presentation posted at sister publication PlasticsToday.