Title:
Mobile storage and computer cart
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A mobile storage and computer cart having a wheeled base, a storage section supported by the base and including one or more drawers, computer mounting structure for mounting a computer above the storage section, and a locking structure for the storage section. The locking structure includes a lock that is operable to release the drawers. The locking structure is adapted to automatically lock an open drawer when such drawer is closed.



Inventors:
Rossini, Alfred P. (Southborough, MA, US)
Application Number:
11/039557
Publication Date:
08/18/2005
Filing Date:
01/20/2005
Assignee:
ROSSINI ALFRED P.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47B21/03; (IPC1-7): A47B37/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
TRAN, HANH VAN
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MIRICK, O'CONNELL, DEMALLIE & LOUGEE, LLP (1700 WEST PARK DRIVE, WESTBOROUGH, MA, 01581-3941, US)
Claims:
1. A mobile storage and computer cart, comprising: a wheeled base; a storage section supported by the base and comprising one or more drawers; computer mounting structure for mounting a computer above the storage section; and a locking structure for the storage section comprising a lock that is operable to release the drawers, the locking structure adapted to automatically lock an open drawer when the drawer is closed.

2. The mobile storage and computer cart of claim 1, wherein the computer mounting structure comprises a locking cover for selectively overlaying at least a portion of the computer.

3. The mobile storage and computer cart of claim 1, wherein the computer mounting structure comprises a cable that can be selectively placed and secured over a portion of the computer.

4. The mobile storage and computer cart of claim 1, wherein the locking structure is adapted to lock all of the drawers unless the lock is unlocked.

5. The mobile storage and computer cart of claim 4, wherein the locking structure comprises a lock that is turned from a locking to an unlocking position to release the drawers.

6. The mobile storage and computer cart of claim 5, wherein the locking structure further comprises a mechanical structure that releasably engages with all of the drawers and is operatively coupled to the lock.

7. The mobile storage and computer cart of claim 6, wherein the mechanical structure comprises a locking bar that is engaged with all of the drawers unless the lock is unlocked.

8. The mobile storage and computer cart of claim 7, wherein the locking structure further comprises an urging member coupled to the lock to return the lock to the locking position when the lock is not held in the unlocking position by the user.

9. The mobile storage and computer cart of claim 1, wherein the computer mounting structure comprises at least a first essentially horizontal shelf.

10. The mobile storage and computer cart of claim 9, wherein the computer mounting structure further comprises a second essentially horizontal shelf spaced from and below the first shelf.

11. The mobile storage and computer cart of claim 10, wherein the second shelf is hingedly connected to the first shelf.

12. The mobile storage and computer cart of claim 11, wherein the computer mounting structure further comprises one or more standoffs between the first and second shelves.

13. The mobile storage and computer cart of claim 12, wherein the hinged connection is located where the standoffs contact the second shelf.

14. The mobile storage and computer cart of claim 9, wherein the computer mounting structure further comprises a mechanical structure coupled to the first shelf and extending between the two shelves and above and near one side of the first shelf, to create space for a device to fit between the shelves.

15. The mobile storage and computer cart of claim 14, wherein the device is the display portion of the laptop computer.

16. The mobile storage and computer cart of claim 15, wherein the laptop computer also has a base portion to which the display portion is hingedly attached, and the base portion sits on the first shelf.

17. The mobile storage and computer cart of claim 14, wherein the mechanical structure comprises a bar that sits on the second shelf.

18. The mobile storage and computer cart of claim 17, wherein the bar is releasably couplable to the second shelf.

19. The mobile storage and computer cart of claim 17, wherein the bar defines two projecting lobes extending above the first shelf.

20. The mobile storage and computer cart of claim 19, wherein the bar further defines an intermediate section between the lobes that extends down to the second shelf.

21. The mobile storage and computer cart of claim 1, wherein the computer mounting structure further comprises a tray for a computer keyboard.

22. The mobile storage and computer cart of claim 21, wherein the tray comprises a retractable mouse-holding portion.

23. The mobile storage and computer cart of claim 1, wherein the computer mounting structure further comprises a tablet computer holder.

24. The mobile storage and computer cart of claim 23, wherein the tablet computer holder comprises one or more structures that releasably capture the tablet computer.

25. The mobile storage and computer cart of claim 24, wherein the tablet computer holder comprises structures that overly at least three edges of the tablet computer when the tablet computer is on the tablet computer holder, at least one of which comprises a movable protruding section that can be moved to overly an edge of the tablet computer.

26. The mobile storage and computer cart of claim 25, wherein the tablet computer holder further comprises a device for locking the protruding section in place while it overlies the edge of the tablet computer.

27. A mobile storage and computer cart, comprising: a wheeled base; a storage section supported by the base and comprising one or more drawers; computer mounting structure for mounting a computer above the storage section, and comprising at least a first essentially horizontal shelf; and a locking structure for the storage section comprising a lock that is turned from a locking to an unlocking position to release the drawers, the locking structure adapted to automatically lock an open drawer when the drawer is closed, wherein the locking structure is adapted to lock all of the drawers unless the lock is unlocked.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application claims priority of Provisional application Ser. No. 60/537,569, filed on Jan. 20, 2004, and is a Continuation in Part of application Ser. No. 10/923,638, filed on Aug. 20, 2004. Priority of both applications is claimed.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to a sturdy, multi-purpose mobile computer cart that will support most computer hardware applications and offers computer security as well as lockable storage drawers.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Mobile carts used as workstations are known. These carts are commonly used in medical facilities and on manufacturing floors. They are typically adapted to carry a computer, and usually have additional shelf space available for the user, for such things as paper work, medications, and/or portable medical equipment. What they typically lack is secure, convenient storage that is appropriate for holding medications and the like that must be delivered in several spaced locations, and must be kept locked when not directly being operated by the user. In most drawer lock systems available today, the key lock must be re-engaged to lock the drawer, or a lock combination must be given to each operator; this combination can easily be forgotten. This has become an issue in high security areas such as hospital drug distribution.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The cart offers a portable computer workstation solution for professionals as well as retail and home use that provides the operator with a high level of security for their computer and computer peripherals. The cart also includes an auto-locking storage system that addresses the issue of one-handed operation for locking the storage compartments. The auto-locking storage system opens with the turn of a key, yet allows the user to simply shut the drawer to engage the locking mechanism for all of the drawers. This feature allows for one hand operation when locking the drawer. As the operator is able to simply shut any open drawer to engage the lock mechanism, the chances of theft are greatly reduced.

This invention features a mobile storage and computer cart having a wheeled base, a storage section supported by the base and including one or more drawers, computer mounting structure for mounting a computer above the storage section, and a locking structure for the storage section. The locking structure includes a lock that is operable to release the drawers. The locking structure is adapted to automatically lock an open drawer when such drawer is closed.

The computer mounting structure may comprise a locking cover for selectively overlaying at least a portion of the computer. The computer mounting structure may alternatively comprise a cable that can be selectively placed and secured over a portion of the computer. The mobile storage and computer cart of claim 1, wherein the locking structure may be adapted to lock all of the drawers unless the lock is unlocked. The locking structure may comprise a lock that is turned from a locking to an unlocking position to release the drawers. The locking structure may further comprise a mechanical structure that releasably engages with all of the drawers and is operatively coupled to the lock. The mechanical structure may comprise a locking bar that is engaged with all of the drawers unless the lock is unlocked. The locking structure may further comprise an urging member coupled to the lock to return the lock to the locking position when the lock is not held in the unlocking position by the user.

The computer mounting structure may comprise at least a first essentially horizontal shelf, and may further comprise a second essentially horizontal shelf spaced from and below the first shelf. The second shelf may be hingedly connected to the first shelf. The computer mounting structure may further comprise one or more standoffs between the first and second shelves. The hinged connection may be located where the standoffs contact the second shelf.

The computer mounting structure may further comprise a mechanical structure coupled to the first shelf and extending between the two shelves and above and near one side of the first shelf, to create space for a device to fit between the shelves. The device may be the display portion of the laptop computer, and the laptop computer may also have a base portion to which the display portion is hingedly attached, and the base portion sits on the first shelf. The mechanical structure may comprise a bar that sits on the second shelf; the bar may be releasably couplable to the second shelf. The bar may define two projecting lobes extending above the first shelf, and may further define an intermediate section between the lobes that extends down to the second shelf. The computer mounting structure may further comprise a tray for a computer keyboard, and the tray may comprise a retractable mouse-holding portion.

The computer mounting structure may further comprise a tablet computer holder. The tablet computer holder may comprise one or more structures that releasably capture the tablet computer. The tablet computer holder may comprise structures that overly at least three edges of the tablet computer when the tablet computer is on the tablet computer holder, at least one of which comprises a movable protruding section that can be moved to overly an edge of the tablet computer. The tablet computer holder may further comprise a device for locking the protruding section in place while it overlies the edge of the tablet computer.

Also featured is a mobile storage and computer cart, comprising a wheeled base, a storage section supported by the base and comprising one or more drawers, computer mounting structure for mounting a computer above the storage section, and comprising at least a first essentially horizontal shelf, and a locking structure for the storage section comprising a lock that is turned from a locking to an unlocking position to release the drawers, the locking structure adapted to automatically lock an open drawer when the drawer is closed, wherein the locking structure is adapted to lock all of the drawers unless the lock is unlocked.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Other objects, features and advantages will occur to those skilled in the art from the following description of the preferred embodiments and the accompanying drawings, in which:

FIGS. 1A through 1C are perspective, front and right side views, respectively, of a preferred embodiment of the mobile storage and computer cart of this invention;

FIGS. 2A and 2B are perspective and right side views, respectively, of the base and storage components of the embodiment of FIGS. 1A-1C;

FIG. 3 is an exploded view of the storage component of FIGS. 1 and 2;

FIG. 4 is a more detailed exploded view of the storage cabinet of the storage component shown in FIG. 3; and

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of an alternative embodiment of the computer mounting structure for the invention.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION

The inventive cart is constructed primarily of aluminum and cold rolled steel sheet metal. The metal is processed through turret punch machines and lasers to produce the shapes needed. The metal is formed in press brake machines and then a powder coat finish is applied. The finished parts are assembled and tested before shipping. The product is designed to be used with a variety of computing solutions such as, but not limited to, standard laptop computers, thin client computers, and all-in-one flat screen computer systems. All computers are secured to the mobile cart by either a locking cover surface that can be secured by a padlock, or a wrap cable that will prevent removal of the computer while engaged, and in which access to the cable release mechanism is blocked by a padlock. The locking drawer feature is comprised of sheet metal and springs and uses a key lock assembly to access. The key must be turned to allow any of the drawers to be pulled open. The user then needs only to shut the open drawer to engage the locking feature.

A computer security device is preferably included. The particular device employed varies depending on the type of computer system that is installed on the cart. For example, a universal CPU holder (typically mounted to the base of the cart, but which can be located where desired) can be used to securely hold thin client and full function CPUs. The computer can be locked into position on the CPU holder with a nylon coated steel braided wire that crosses over the top of the PC and is held tightly in place with a hold down screw; access to this hold down screw is blocked by inserting a padlock through a structure in front of the hold down screw. To remove the computer, the padlock must be removed, and then the hold down screw loosened, which allows the cable to be loosened and the PC to be removed. Other locking arrangements are possible.

The automatic locking storage feature incorporated into a mobile cart design offers easy one hand locking of the sliding drawers. To open a sliding drawer, a key is inserted into the key lock, turned, and held in position. The drawer is then free to be pulled open. The spring mechanism inside the drawer enclosure keeps the latch bar in a normally locked position. The latch bar is only held in the unlocked position if the key is turned and held while the drawer is pulled open. Latch bar-based drawer locking systems are known for use in file cabinets and the like.

The invention comprises one or more drawers that automatically lock when closed. The invention is appropriate for use in medical environments in which the locking drawers can hold medicine, confidential patient records, and/or consumables. In retail applications, the invention is useful in operations such as inventory control, mobile bar code scanning, and labeling and signage tasks. It can also be used as a mobile checkout station for peak customer times. On factory floors, the invention is useful for holding charts, drawings, tools, etc.

Wheeled mobile cart 10, FIGS. 1A-1C, comprises three main parts: wheeled base 30, intermediate storage section 12, and upper working section/computer mounting structure 40. Base 30 carries a plurality of locking casters 21.

Rear support post 22 engages structure 40. In the embodiment shown in FIGS. 1-4, section 40 is designed to hold a laptop computer (which is a feature of, not a limitation of, the invention). Upper section 40 comprises at a minimum a support surface for a laptop computer. In this embodiment, section 40 comprises support shelf 42 and/or support shelf 44 for a laptop computer. Forwardly-projecting fixed or retractable shelf 41 that is adapted to hold a computer keyboard may be included, as in the embodiment the laptop keyboard is not accessible to the user. In a typical use, a laptop computer is inserted in the space between the back of upper shelf 44 and rear bar 54 with the keyboard portion of the laptop computer resting on shelf 42.

Shelf 44 is attached to shelf 42 through a hinge assembly that allows shelf 44 and bar 54 to pivot relative to shelf 42. A laptop computer can then be placed on surface 42. Shelf 44 can then be lowered back down so that it rests on surface 42 as shown. The display portion of the laptop projects upward just in front of bar 54, so that it is visible to the user. A padlock (not shown) is used to secure bar 54 to surface 42 to prevent unwanted removal of an installed laptop. The shape of bar 54, with spaced protruding lobes 54a and 54b extending above the top of shelf 44, prevents removal of a laptop computer through opening 106 between back 44a of shelf 44 and bar 54. Lobes 54a and 54b also act as a back rest for the display portion of a laptop computer, not shown.

In this usage scenario, the user does not have access to the keyboard portion of the laptop. However, a keyboard can be placed on tray 41 and connected to the laptop so that the user can perform keyboard functions. Retractable left and right mouse shelves 43 are coupled to and stored beneath tray 40, to provide a convenient location for a mouse, if one is used. This arrangement also provides upper working surface 44 that can be used as desired, typically as a small desk surface on which the user can place items, or write. In an alternative usage, the user can place the laptop on surface 44 and just use the laptop normally. Or, surface 44 can be left off, so that surface 42 is the upper working surface. Other details of the upper section are disclosed in parent application Ser. No. 10/923,638, filed on Aug. 20, 2004, the entire disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference.

FIGS. 2-4 detail the preferred construction of the wheeled base 30 and the intermediate storage section 12. Section 12 comprises a cabinet 9 having back 70, bottom 78, sides 72 and 74, and top 76, FIG. 4. Cabinet mounting structures 56, 57 and 58 couple cabinet 9 to bridge 31 of wheeled base 30. Structure 56 is attached to cabinet 9. Structure 57 fits into bridge 31, and bolts are used to couple together structures 56, 57 and cabinet 9. Cantilevered cabinet front support 58 is then slid under structure 56 and bolted to cabinet 9. Wiring access panel 52 allows user access to the interior of hollow post 22 when wiring is routed from a computer and/or power supply mounted to base 30 up to a keyboard, display device and/or computer mounted to or carried by structure 40. Locking drawer support section 54 comprises four separate supports 54a-d that are mounted to the sides of cabinet 9. The drawers (not shown) engage slides 60 that are coupled to supports 54a-d. Latch bar 55 is coupled to support 54a, and engages all the drawers when in the locked position, so that none of the drawers can be opened. Key-operated lock 62 comprises return spring 63 and latch bar operator 64 that moves latch bar 55 when the lock is turned.

FIG. 5 shows an alternative embodiment of upper working section 40a, which does not include upper working surface 44 or bar 54 or 85. Rather, tablet computer holder 70 is coupled to the cart via support 22. Holder 70 defines receiving sections 73 and 74 that grip one edge of the tablet computer, and projecting edge-receiving sections 75 and 76. In order to grip tablet computers of different widths, sections 73 and 74 can be sized and shaped as necessary for a particular model of tablet computer. Sections 73-76 all overlay the top of three sides of the tablet computer. Upper grip 77 preferably has a forward-most downwardly protruding tab section that overlays the front edge of the tablet so that the tablet cannot be removed from the holder once inserted therein. Upper support 77 is attached to a rotating lock that, when unlocked, can be rotated, causing the C-shaped clamp 77 to move up, and thus free the upper edge of the tablet, so that it can be removed. Backing 72 is preferably pivotably coupled to support 78 so that the user can adjust the angle of the display for the particular user or use situation, and also to allow a 90 degree rotation, to provide for both portrait and landscape viewing.

Although specific features of the invention are shown in some drawings and not others, this is for convenience only, as the features can be combined as would be apparent to those skilled in the art, and as the claims set forth the rights granted under the patent. Other combinations of features would be apparent to those skilled in the art and are within the scope of the claims.