Title:
Storage and conveyor apparatus
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A storage and conveyor system is provided that can store tools, parts and other miscellaneous items of interest. The storage system includes a carousel that is mounted to a base so as to have at least one degree of freedom with respect to the base. The carousel further includes a plurality of carriers for holding the items of interest and is arranged to selectively and recirculatively rotate the carriers about a closed loop track system such that the carriers may be selectively transitioned to advance a select one of the carriers to a desired location. Rotation of the carriers may occur independently of the movement of the carousel relative to the base.



Inventors:
Aleshire, Len (Springfield, OH, US)
Application Number:
10/282749
Publication Date:
04/29/2004
Filing Date:
10/29/2002
Assignee:
ALESHIRE LEN
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
280/47.19, 312/97.1, 312/249.8, 312/266
International Classes:
A47B49/00; A47B63/06; B25H3/00; B65G1/127; (IPC1-7): A47B49/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
NOVOSAD, JENNIFER ELEANORE
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Killworth, Gottman, Hagan & Schaeff, L.L.P. (Suite 500 One Dayton Centre, Dayton, OH, 45402-2023, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. A storage device comprising: a base; a conveyor system mounted to said base adapted for at least one degree of freedom of movement relative to said base, said conveyor system defining a closed loop track; a plurality of carriers, each carrier coupled to said closed loop track of said conveyor system; a drive system operatively coupled to said conveyor system arranged to cause said plurality of carriers to rotate about said track; and a controller coupled to said drive system arranged to allow an operator to selectively cause said plurality of carriers to rotate about said track.

2. The storage device according to claim 1, wherein: said base further comprises a support structure; and said conveyor system further comprises a carousel pivotally mounted to said support structure defining a first degree of freedom of movement of said conveyor system relative to said base.

3. The storage device according to claim 1, wherein: said base further comprises a support structure; and said conveyor system further comprises a carousel extensibly mounted to said support structure such that said carousel may transition generally normal to said base defining a first degree of freedom of movement of said conveyor system relative to said base.

4. The storage device according to claim 3, wherein said support structure is hydraulically actuatable to extend and retract said carousel.

5. The storage device according to claim 1, wherein: said base further comprises a support structure; said conveyor system further comprises a carousel pivotally mounted to said support structure defining a first degree of freedom of movement of said conveyor system relative to said base; and said carousel is further extensibly mounted to said support structure such that said carousel may transition generally normal to said base defining a second degree of freedom of movement of said conveyor system relative to said base.

6. The storage system according to claim 1, wherein said plurality of carriers comprises a plurality of storage trays.

7. The storage system according to claim 1, wherein said plurality of carriers comprises a plurality of generally flat plates arranged to store items thereon.

8. The storage device according to claim 6, wherein said plurality of plates comprise magnetic plates.

9. The storage device according to claim 6, wherein said plurality of plates comprise clips arranged thereon to store items of interest thereon.

10. The storage device according to claim 6, wherein said plurality of plates comprise form fitting cutouts arranged to temporarily holding items therein.

11. The storage device according to claim 6, wherein said plurality of plates are individually axially rotatable and further provide storage on both sides thereof.

12. The storage device according to claim 1, further comprising: a shaft coupling generally horizontally adjacent and axially spaced drivers of said conveyor system together such that said carriers rotate about said closed loop track, and wherein said drive system further comprises a motor coupled to said shaft.

13. The storage device according to claim 1, further comprising a cabinet removably and lockably securable to said base.

14. The storage device according to claim 1, wherein said closed loop track of said conveyor system comprises a belt and pulley system.

15. The storage device according to claim 1, wherein said closed loop track of said conveyor system comprises a chain and gear system.

16. The storage device according to claim 1, wherein said conveyor system comprises a synchronizer to ensure that said plurality of carriers rotate about said closed loop track.

17. The storage device according to claim 1, wherein said controller comprises a push button remote control.

18. A storage device comprising: a base; a support structure extending from said base; a conveyor system mounted to said support structure adapted for pivotal motion about said support structure, said conveyor system defining a closed loop track; a plurality of carriers, each carrier coupled to said closed loop track of said conveyor system; a shaft coupling generally horizontally adjacent and axially spaced drivers of said conveyor system together such that said carriers rotate about said closed loop track; a drive system operatively coupled to said conveyor system arranged to cause said plurality of carriers to rotate about said closed loop track; and a controller coupled to said drive system arranged to allow an operator to selectively cause said plurality of carriers to rotate about said closed loop track.

19. The storage device according to claim 18, further comprising a cabinet removably and lockably securable to said base.

20. A storage device comprising: a base; a support structure extending from said base; a carousel providing a closed loop track, said carousel pivotally mounted to said support structure defining a first degree of freedom of movement of said carousel relative to said base, said carousel further extensibly mounted to said support structure such that said carousel may transition generally normal to said base defining a second degree of freedom of movement of said carousel relative to said base. a plurality of carriers, each carrier coupled to said closed loop track of said carousel; a shaft coupling generally horizontally adjacent and axially spaced drivers of said carousel together such that said carriers rotate about said closed loop track; a drive system operatively coupled to said carousel arranged to cause said plurality of carriers to rotate about said closed loop track; a push button remote controller coupled to said drive system arranged to allow an operator to selectively cause said plurality of carriers to rotate about said closed loop track; and a cabinet removably and lockably securable to said base.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0001] The present invention relates in general to a storage device, and in particular, to a portable storage device with an integrated conveyor system that allows the contents contained therein to be readily accessed.

[0002] It is often the case that craftsmen such as mechanics require a large quantity of general purpose as well as specialized tools to meet the diverse challenges of their daily activities. Accordingly, craftsman often uses one or more large toolboxes to store the tools they require. More generally, toolboxes are typically used to store, assemble, and organize tools and other miscellaneous items. Toolboxes are often generally rectangular in shape and include a lid that hingedly pivots from a closed position to an open position to reveal one or more storage trays. Larger toolboxes also often include one or more horizontally slidable drawers that provide storage therein.

[0003] Relatively large toolboxes often include wheels or casters so that the craftsman can reposition the toolbox about the work area. However, moving the toolbox is often a difficult and tedious chore because toolboxes typically do not include any type of steering mechanism. Also, such toolboxes are often extremely heavy and difficult to move, even with the assistance of casters. As a consequence, mechanic shops often line their walls with large toolboxes and leave them in an essentially stationary position. This is rather inefficient because the mechanic must fetch the necessary tools and carry them some distance to the work being performed. This inefficiency is compounded when the mechanic does not know initially what particular tools are required for a given job, or when several trips to the toolbox are required. Also, a typical toolbox is generally a bulky, rectangular box and may be inconvenient to use. For example, a mechanic working underneath a vehicle must typically climb out from the vehicle and stand up to fetch a new tool from the toolbox. The mechanic must then climb back underneath the vehicle to perform the desired work. This process may need to be repeated for each required tool.

[0004] Also, the bulky size of the typical toolbox makes it difficult to keep the tools and other items adequately organized. For example, toolboxes typically include a number of bins or trays and drawers, any one of which is capable of storing a particular tool. Accordingly, one must commit to memory the precise location of each tool, or search for a desired tool by searching each bin and tray until the desired tool is located. Also, it is often impractical to commit precise tool location to memory, especially where different users remove and return tools to different locations.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0005] The present invention overcomes the disadvantages of previously known toolboxes by providing a portable storage device that also serves as a conveyor system. The storage and conveyor system according to at least one embodiment of the present invention includes a plurality of carriers adapted to store tools, parts, and other miscellaneous items. The carriers may be selectively rotated about a closed loop track of the conveyor system to bring a select one of the carriers to a predetermined location.

[0006] According to an embodiment of the present invention, a combination storage device and conveyor system comprises a carousel mounted to a base. The carousel includes a plurality of carriers such as bins, trays, parts totes, and other holding devices arranged such that the carriers may be selectively transitioned to advance a select one of the carriers to a desired location. The carousel is arranged to selectively and recirculatively rotate the carriers about a closed loop track system. The carriers preferably rotate in tandem based upon operator control.

[0007] The carousel is adapted to the base such that the carousel is capable of at least one degree of freedom relative to the base. For example, according to one embodiment of the present invention, the carousel is pivotably mounted to the base by a support structure such that the carousel may be selectively pivoted or tilted to a desired position relative to the base. Accordingly, the carousel may be oriented in a substantially vertical position, or pivoted to any other angle suitable for a particular application. The conveyor system then maintains the desired tilted position, even as the carriers rotate about the closed loop of the carousel, or as the base moves about the work environment.

[0008] According to another embodiment of the present invention, the carousel is mounted to the base such the carousel may be adjusted within a bounded translational range of movement generally normal to the base. For example, the carousel is mounted to the base by a support structure capable of extending and retracting normal to the base. Such an arrangement allows the carousel to raise or lower generally vertically to accommodate different work environments. According to yet another embodiment of the present invention, the carousel is mounted to the base for both pivotal movement and translational movement relative to the base.

[0009] The present invention is capable of increasing storage capacity over fixed storage location systems, and minimizes the floor space required for storage, especially when the storage device is not in use and the carousel is pivoted to a substantially vertical position. The conveyor system aspect of at least one embodiment of the present invention is capable of delivering tools, parts, and other miscellaneous items to an operator in an efficient manner. The openness of the system allows an operator to quickly identify required items stored within the carriers, and the tiltable and rotatable carousel provide an efficient means to have convenient access to a large quantity of storage locations in a variety of work settings.

[0010] According to another embodiment of the present invention, a combination storage device and conveyor system includes a case or cabinet that encompasses the carousel. The cabinet may be an integral component of the storage device, or it may optionally be releasably secured to a base such that the cabinet may be at least partially removed while the carousel is in use. The cabinet may also be lockable or otherwise securable so as to prevent unauthorized entry and access to the contents stored therein.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS

[0011] The following detailed description of the preferred embodiments of the present invention can be best understood when read in conjunction with the following drawings, where like structure is indicated with like reference numerals, and in which:

[0012] FIG. 1 is an isometric illustration of a combination storage device and conveyor system according to one embodiment of the present invention;

[0013] FIG. 2 is a side view of a combination storage device and conveyor system according to an embodiment of the present invention;

[0014] FIG. 3 is a front view of the combination storage device and conveyor system according to FIG. 2;

[0015] FIG. 4 is a side view illustrating a tubular frame construction for a conveyor system according to an embodiment of the present invention;

[0016] FIG. 5 is a side view of a combination storage device and conveyor system according to an embodiment of the present invention;

[0017] FIG. 6 is a side view of a storage device and conveyor system according to an embodiment of the present invention illustrating an exemplary application for the invention;

[0018] FIG. 7 is a side view of a storage device and conveyor system according to an embodiment of the present invention illustrating another exemplary application for the invention; FIG. 8 is a side view of a storage device and conveyor system according to an embodiment of the present invention illustrating yet another exemplary application for the invention;

[0019] FIG. 9 is a front view of a storage device and conveyor system according to an embodiment of the present invention where the carriers positioned about the carousel of the conveyor system are provided as plates;

[0020] FIG. 10 is a side view of a storage device and conveyor system according to an embodiment of the present invention illustrating the conveyor system in a position pivoted generally horizontally and in an extended position relative to the base;

[0021] FIG. 11 is a side view of a storage device and conveyor system according to an embodiment of the present invention illustrating the conveyor system in a position pivoted generally horizontally and in a retracted position relative to the base; and

[0022] FIG. 12 is a front view of a storage device and conveyor system according to an embodiment of the present invention illustrating and exemplary storage case over the conveyor system.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

[0023] In the following detailed description of the preferred embodiments, reference is made to the accompanying drawings that form a part hereof, and in which is shown by way of illustration, and not by way of limitation, specific preferred embodiments in which the invention may be practiced. It is to be understood that other embodiments may be utilized and that mechanical, electrical, and logical changes may be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention.

[0024] Referring to FIG. 1, a storage device 10 according to an embodiment of the present invention comprises a base 12 and a conveyor system 14. The base 12 provides a foundation to support the conveyor system 14 and generally includes a frame portion 16, a support structure 18, and casters 20 to facilitate ready mobility of the storage device 10. The term “caster” is used herein to generically refer to wheels, casters, tires, rollers, runners, and other devices that allow the storage device 10 to transition about an environment of use. The frame portion 16 is generally arranged to stabilize the conveyor system 14 and provides a support for the casters 20. The frame portion 16 may also be used to support various attachments and accessories as explained more fully herein. The support structure 18 extends from the frame portion 16 and provides an interface about which components of the conveyor system 14 are mounted. For example, as illustrated in FIG. 1, the support structure 18 includes a pair of support bars extending generally vertically from and secured to the frame portion 16. One support bar is positioned on either side of the conveyor system 14.

[0025] The conveyor system 14 generally includes a carousel 22, a drive system 24 and a controller 26. The carousel 22 is mounted to the base 12 and defines a closed loop track about which a plurality of carriers 28 rotate. The drive system 24 is operatively coupled to the carousel 22 and is configured to cause the carousel to rotate the plurality of carriers 28, and the controller 26 operatively interfaces with the conveyor system 14 for selectively controlling the rotation of the carousel 22. The carriers 28 are spaced about the closed loop track of the carousel 22 defining multiple access ports to the carriers 28 therein. By access port, it is meant that a fixed position in space is open and sufficiently unobstructed such that rotation of a select one of the carriers 28 proximate an access port allows access to the contents stored therein.

[0026] Referring generally to FIGS. 1-3, the carousel 22 includes a pair of oppositely facing carousel track assemblies 30 that are maintained in spaced relation to one another by the support structure 18 of the base 12. Each carousel track assembly 30 comprises a track frame 32 and a transport system 34. The track frame 32 provides the structure that defines the configuration of the closed loop track implemented by the carousel 22. As shown in the Figures, the closed loop path generally defines an oval pattern, however, other track paths may be used so long as the track frame 32 provides the requisite strength required to support the expected load placed on the system 10. For example, the track frame 32 may define a polygonal, curvilinear, or other track pattern. The track frame 32 may also optionally allow for a multi-point tracking configuration in critical portions of the track path, such as in the arcs.

[0027] As shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, each track frame 32 comprises a single, generally rectangular track plate 36. The track plate 36 supports and maintains the drive system 24 and the transport system 34. The track plate 36 further provides the interconnection to the support structure 18 of the base 12. According to another embodiment of the present invention, the track plate 36 is replaced with a tubular frame such as that illustrated in FIG. 4. Referring thereto, the track frame 32 comprises a tubular frame member 38. The tubular frame member 38 may have any geometry or cross-section and may be constructed from any number of materials. For example, the tubular frame member 38 may comprise a generally round tubular steel construction. As shown, each tubular frame member 38 includes a pair of generally elongate, parallel track sections 40. The track sections 40 are coupled at each end by generally arcuate track sections 42, thus the parallel track sections 40 and the arcuate track sections 42 combine to define a generally ovular support structure fro the closed loop carousel track. The tubular frame member 38 also includes one or more support bars 44 and may include any other number of additional supports and couplers 46 necessary to secure each tubular frame member 38 to the base 12 (not shown in FIG. 4).

[0028] Referring to FIGS. 1, 2 and 5 generally, each track frame 32 supports a transport system 34. The transport system 34 couples to the carriers 28 and provides the drive mechanisms, linkages and interconnections that allow the carriers 28 to operatively circulate about the closed loop track. The transport system 34 may comprise components such as a chain, belt, pulley, wheels, rollers, sprockets, gears, or other mechanisms that are adapted to recirculatively rotate the entire compliment of carriers 28 about the carousel tracks. As such, the carriers 29 are continuously adjustable and repositionable. A transport system 34 according to one embodiment of the present invention includes a pair of drivers 47 coupled to each track plate 36. A carrier transport 48 interfaces with each carrier 28, and engages each of the pair of drivers 47. For example, as shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, each driver 47 comprises a wheel or pulley 49 coupled to each track plate 36, and the carrier transport 48 is implemented by a belt 50. Each pulley 49 is generally positioned at a respective end of each track plate 36 and the belt 50 such as a flexible nylon reinforced belt is wrapped about each pair of pulleys 49 secured to an associated one of the track plates 36 defining the track about which the carriers 28 rotate. An optional guard (not shown in the Figures) may also be provided to shroud select components of the transport system 34. For example, a guard may be placed about the arcuate portions of the pulley 49 and belt 50 interface.

[0029] Referring specifically to FIG. 5, a transport system 34 according to another embodiment according to the present invention includes drivers 47 implemented as a igears 52 coupled to each track plate 36, and the carrier transport 48 comprises a chain 54. A gear 52 is generally positioned at each end of each track plate 36 and a chain 54 is wrapped about each pair of gears 52 secured to an associated one of the track plates 36 defining the track about which the carriers 28 rotate.

[0030] One or more carriers 28 are spacedly fixed to the carousel 22 between the carousel track assemblies 30 and are coupled to the transport system 34. While shown in the Figures as a plurality of trays, the carriers 28 may comprise other types of organizational devices. For example, the carriers 28 may comprise trays, bins, plates, compartments, shelves, parts totes, drawers including open or closed pull out platforms, multi-tier platforms, or other storage devices that provides a convenient layout for the organization of items stored therein.

[0031] According to one embodiment of the present invention, the carriers 28 are repositionable about the transport system 34. This enables the total number of attached carriers 28 to be continuously varied from just one carrier 28, up to a predefined maximum number of carriers 28. The maximum number of carriers 28 will depend upon a number of factors including the size of the carriers 28, the size of the carousel 22, and the desired spacing between adjacent carriers 28 on the carousel 22. Further, not all carriers 28 need be of the same configuration. According to an embodiment of the present invention, the carousel 22 may support multiple simultaneous carrier configurations. For example, any combination of trays, plates, bins, totes, etc. may be simultaneously installed on the transport system.

[0032] Referring back to FIG. 1, the carriers 28 are rotated about the carousel 22 by the drive system 24. The drive system 24 includes a drive device 56 such as a motor, pneumatic system, hydraulic system, electric system or other drive device, along with the necessary linkages to support the specific drive device 56 and to engage the transport system 34 of the carousel 22 to bring the carriers 28 into recirculative rotational motion. For example, referring to FIGS. 1 and 3, the drive device 56, such as a motor, is secured to the plate 38 and is coupled to a shaft 58. The shaft 58 couples oppositely facing pulleys 49 of the transport system 34. Coupling components such as bearings, bushings and sprockets may also be required to couple the drive device 56 to the shaft 58 depending upon a number of factors including for example, the type of motor and shaft selected. Further, gearboxes, motor controllers and other standard devices may be required to couple the drive device 56 to the transport system 34. Still further, a second shaft may be positioned on the opposite end of the transport system 34 such that horizontally adjacent and axially spaced pulleys 49 (or gears 52 as shown in FIG. 5) are coupled together by an associated shaft.

[0033] The drive device 56 may be positioned in any number of alternative positions. The exact positioning of the drive device 56 will depend upon a number of factors including for example, the expected load, size and space constraints, the implementation of the transport system 34, and the implementation of the drive device 56. Also, with a single drive device 56, such as that illustrated in FIG. 1, synchronizers, idlers, drive shafts, gear and pinions systems, and other linkages may be required to maintain smooth and effective operation of the carriers 28 about the carousel 22 and to ensures that the carriers 28 rotate about each of the carousel 22 substantially at the same time and in synchronization such that binding and other undesirable problems are avoided.

[0034] Alternatively, two motors may be used, one for each side of the transport system 34. Where two motors are used, synchronizers and/or idlers may not be required. However, an appropriate interface may be required to maintain both motors operating in cooperation such that the carriers 28 rotate with appropriately. However, the two motor approach may be adapted with intelligent control functions, for example, to compensate for unbalanced loads. Also, the second motor may be adapted to serve as an auxiliary or backup motor arranged to control rotation of the carousel 22 should the first motor fail. Although motors or other automatic drive devices are preferable, the drive device 56 may also comprise a manual control, such as a hand crank.

[0035] Referring to FIGS. 1-3 generally, a transport mechanism 60 couples each end of the carriers 28. The transport mechanisms 60 are configured to support the carriers 28 and to provide the necessary connection to a corresponding side of the transport system 34. The transport mechanism 60 can include a bracket, brace, hasp, tab or other securing device, and will depend upon the configuration of the transport system 34 and the carrier 28.

[0036] For example, according to one embodiment of the present invention, the transport mechanism 60 is configured to maintain each carrier 28 in a substantially fixed orientation, such as in a generally horizontal and level position. Under this arrangement, the transport mechanism 60 includes a coupling device such as swivel bearings to couple the carrier 28 to the transport system 34. Basically, gravity is used to maintain the carrier 28 below the swivel bearings as the carrier 28 is rotated about the closed circuit of the carousel 22. In addition to, or in lieu of a coupling device such as swivel bearings, the transport mechanisms 60 may further include a dampening mechanism or stop to compensate for any detected excessive tilting, rocking, swinging, rotation, or any other undesirable motion of the carriers 28. Other bearing arrangements may also be used. For example, cam-following bearings may be used to restrict motion of the transport mechanism.

[0037] According to one embodiment of the present invention, the conveyor system 14 is mounted to the base 12 so as to exhibit at least one degree of freedom relative to the base 12. For example, as illustrated in FIG. 1, the carousel 22 is pivotably mounted to the support structure 18 of the base 12 such that the carousel 22 may be selectively pivoted from a substantially vertical position to any number of intermediate positions. According to an embodiment of the present invention, the carousel 22 is continuously, pivotably repositionalble. However, the carousel 22 may also be incrementally pivotably positionalble.

[0038] For example, referring to FIGS. 1-3, an axle 62 extends from the plate 38 generally normal thereto. The axle 62 is journaled into support bearings 64 that allow the carousel 22 to pivot. Once the carousel 22 is pivoted or tilted to a desired position, the tilt of the carousel 22 is inhibited, and is preferably locked into place. Accordingly, the carousel 22 may be oriented in a substantially vertical position, or pivoted to any other angle suitable for a particular application. The carousel 22 then maintains the desired position, even as the carriers 28 rotate about the closed loop of the carousel 22. The system 10 is thus capable of increasing storage capacity over fixed storage location systems, and minimizes the floor space required for storage, especially when the storage device is not in use and the carousel 22 is pivoted to a substantially vertical position.

[0039] The tilt of the carousel 22 may be realized through the use of another drive device such as a motor, or alternatively, a manual adjustment may be implemented. Such a device may include a hand crank, a manually adjustable and lockable positioning device or any other mechanism.

[0040] The ability to pivotably adjust the carousel 22 and rotate carriers 28 about the carousel 22 provides improved flexibility to the user to position the desired access port in the optimal position for operator picking and placing of items into and out of the carrier 28 from either a convenience or ergonomic perspective. For example, referring to FIG. 6, when working in a location such as under the hood of a vehicle 66, the tilt of the carousel 22 may be adjusted to position the carriers 28 to selectively deliver tools, parts, or other items stored in the carriers 28 proximate the front of the hood area 68, at a convenient reaching position. Referring to FIG. 7, as another example, a mechanic may be working on vehicle 66 that is positioned in a relatively high position, such as on car jacks. The mechanic may pivot the carousel 22 to tilt the carousel 22 upwards, possibly even substantially vertically so that as the mechanic is standing under the vehicle, the necessary tools and parts may be rotated to within easy reach.

[0041] A further example is illustrated in FIG. 8, where the carousel 22 is pivoted so as to position one of the carriers 28 relatively close to the ground level. Under this arrangement, a mechanic may work under the vehicle 66 and selectively rotate the carousel 22 to deliver tools and parts proximate the work location so that the mechanic need not crawl out completely from underneath a vehicle 66 to fetch a new item such as a tool or part from the carousel 22.

[0042] Yet another example of a use for the system 10 is illustrated in FIG. 9. Under this embodiment, the carriers 28 are provided as flat plates designed to hold items of interest. For example, the plates may be magnetic to hold metal parts or tools. Alternatively, the plates may include Velcro, wire, glue, adhesive, clips or other temporary fastening arrangements such as form fitting plastic or foam cutouts or molded plastic interference fittings to hold items. For example, clips or molded interference fittings may be provided to hold screwdrivers, sockets, wrenches and other hand tools. Further, molded form fittings may be provided for items that are cannot otherwise be securable to the plate. According to an embodiment of the present invention, the carriers 28 are implemented as plates that are axially rotatable. Such an arrangement allows for example, both sides of the plate to be used for storage. An operator may simply spin or flip the plate around if the desired item is on the opposite face of the plate.

[0043] Referring to FIG. 10, the system 10 may also introduce a second degree of movement of the carousel 22 relative to the base 12. As shown, the support members 18 include a base support member 18A and a telescoping support member 18B thus the carousel 22 is extensibly mounted to the support structure. The telescoping support member 18B allows the position of the carousel 22 relative to the base 12 to be adjusted. Such may be advantageous for example, when working in places of relatively high elevation compared to the base 12. For example, when working on a docked boat, the carousel 22 may be raised to the height of the worker, then the carousel can be independently pivoted, such as to a generally horizontal position. Referring to FIG. 11, the system 11 is shown with the telescoping support member 18B retracted within the base support member 18A. Extension and retraction of the telescoping support member 18B relative to the base support member 18A may be performed using any number of approaches including for example, a hydraulic system, a manual adjustment, a pneumatic system or a motor. According to an embodiment of the present invention, the support structure 18A, 18B is hydraulically actuatable to extend and retract said carousel 22.

[0044] Referring back to FIG. 1, rotation of the carriers 28 about the carousel 22 is selectively enabled through the operation of the controller 26. The controller 26 may control any number of functions associated with the operation of the system 10 including for example, rotation of the carousel 22, adjustment of the tilt or pivot, control of the extension of the telescoping support structure, or any other functions desired. The controller 26 may be adapted to respond to simple operator controls to advance (in either direction) and stop rotation of the carousel 22. For example, according to an embodiment of the present invention, the controller 26 comprises a push button remote control.

[0045] The controller 26 may also include controls such as step, jog etc. The controller 26 may comprise for example, any combination of switches, controls, rotary encoders, data entry pads, and display devices. The controller 26 may be operated by foot or hand, and may be positioned on the base 12, the carousel 22, or on a separate arm or other structure intended to support the controller 26. Also, the controller 26 may optionally be repositionable proximate the carousel 22. For example, a cable or wireless link may be used to coordinate the controller 26 and the carousel 22.

[0046] Also, the controller 26 may carry out more sophisticated control. For example, the rotation of the carriers 28 about the track 28 may be unidirectional, bi-directional, and the rate of rotation may be maintained at a generally constant speed, or may be variably controlled by the controller 26. The controller 26 may be programmed to index the attached carriers 28, and perform distance optimization to reposition a selected carrier 28 to a predetermined portal based upon a least distance traveled type of computation for example. The controller 26 may also provide preview or scan functions that automatically advance the next one of the carriers 28 to a predetermined position every predetermined period of time to allow a convenient way to “hunt” for desired tools, parts, or other items of interest. The carousel 22 may further include a programmable indexing arrangement configured such that the position of each carrier 28 may be coordinated and determined so as to allow find or “seek” types of control operations relative to a predefined access port.

[0047] Referring to FIG. 6, the system 10 may also include any number of accessory devices 70. It will be appreciated that, while a single accessory device 70 is illustrated schematically as a box for convenience purposes, the actual configuration will vary and depend upon the precise accessory implemented. Also, the accessory device 70 may be positioned anywhere on or near the system 10 as required by the accessory being implemented. Further, any number of optional accessory devices 70 may be included. For example, the accessory device 70 may comprise a light source such as a light on a gooseneck, a power conditioner, or multiple outlet electrical box, pneumatic takeoff, power source, such as a D.C. power supply, a battery recharger, voltage, current, other measurement device, etc. Referring to FIG. 9, an accessory that may optionally be provided is a foldable table 72 that extends from one or more sides of the system 10. For example, as shown, a table 72 is foldably mounted to the support structure 18 of the base 12.

[0048] Referring to FIG. 12, the system 10 may optionally be stored in a cabinet 74. The cabinet 74 is preferably securable to the base 12 and is optionally completely removable from the base when the system 10 is in use. The cabinet 74 provides a convenient manner to secure the system 10 when not in use. The cabinet 74 may be an integral component of the combination storage device and conveyor system 10, or the cabinet 74 may optionally be releasably secured to the base 12 such that the cabinet 74 may be at least partially removed while the carousel 22 is in use. For example, front and/or rear portions of the cabinet 74 may be removable or have doors 76 that open and close exposing at least a portion of the carousel 22. The cabinet 74 may include a lock or other security device to protect the contents stored therein from unauthorized entry and access, undesirable tampering or meddling. For example, a completely removable cabinet 74 may lockably latch, hinge or otherwise lock to the base 12 thus securing the carousel 22 while not in use.

[0049] Referring to the Figures generally, in use, an operator positions the carousel 22 to a desired location, such as by repositioning the system 10 about a workspace. An operator removes the cabinet 74, opens the cabinet doors, or otherwise exposes at least a portion of the carousel 22 if necessary, and the carousel 22 is optionally pivoted to establish the desired tilt for operator convenience. The operator then operates the controller 26 to advance the carriers 28 about the carousel 22 to position a desired carrier 28 to a desired access port. After use of the carousel 22 is no longer required, the carousel 22 is pivoted to a default position, such as substantially vertically. The cabinet 74 is then optionally reinstalled over the carousel 22, and is secured to the base 12 and optionally locked.

[0050] Having described the invention in detail and by reference to preferred embodiments thereof, it will be apparent that modifications and variations are possible without departing from the scope of the invention defined in the appended claims.