Title:
Adjustable shipping container for spindled contents
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A shipping container includes a first cover and a first bearer. The first cover includes sidewalls and a first plurality of ribs defined in the sidewalls. The first load bearer is positioned in a first pair of the first plurality of ribs and defines a first support surface.



Inventors:
Hampel, Lance T. (Land O' Lakes, WI, US)
Application Number:
11/243791
Publication Date:
04/06/2006
Filing Date:
10/05/2005
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
206/509
International Classes:
B65D85/676; B65D21/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
BUI, LUAN KIM
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
QUARLES & BRADY LLP (ATTN: IP DOCKET 411 E. WISCONSIN AVENUE SUITE 2350, MILWAUKEE, WI, 53202-4426, US)
Claims:
We claim:

1. A shipping container, comprising: a first cover including sidewalls and a first plurality of ribs defined in the sidewalls; and a first load bearer positioned in a first pair of the first plurality of ribs and defining a first support surface.

2. The container of claim 1, further comprising a second cover disposed over the first cover to define an enclosure, the second cover including sidewalls and a second plurality of ribs defined in the sidewalls.

3. The container of claim 1, further comprising a second load bearer positioned in a second pair of the first plurality of ribs and defining a second support surface.

4. The container of claim 3, further comprising: a second cover disposed over the first cover to define an enclosure, the second cover including sidewalls and a second plurality of ribs defined in the sidewalls; a third load bearer positioned in a third pair of the second plurality of ribs and engaging the first load bearer; and a fourth load bearer positioned in a fourth pair of the second plurality of ribs and engaging the second load bearer.

5. The container of claim 4, wherein each rib in the first and second pluralities of ribs includes a slot portion, each load bearer includes tabs having a shape corresponding to a shape of the slot portion and engaging the slot portion of a respective one of the first and second covers in which the load bearer is positioned, and at least one of the tabs in each of the load bearers extends to interlock with the slot portions of an opposing one of the first and second covers.

6. The container of claim 4, wherein the first and second load bearers each defines a first mating edge and a first tab extending from the first mating edge, and the second and third load bearers each define a second mating edge and a second tab extending from the second mating edge, the first tabs of first and second load bearers engaging the second tabs of the third and fourth load bearers, respectively.

7. The container of claim 1, wherein each rib includes a slot portion, and the first load bearer includes tabs having a shape corresponding to a shape of the slot portion that engages the slot portion to secure the first load bearer within the first pair of ribs.

8. The container of claim 7, wherein the tabs are offset with respect to the support surface of the respective first and second load bearer.

9. The container of claim 1, wherein the first support surface comprises an arcuate support surface.

10. The container of claim 1, wherein the first load member further comprises a lateral support rod disposed proximate the support surface.

11. The container of claim 10, wherein the first load member further comprises at least one support rib abutting the lateral support rod.

12. The container of claim 1, wherein the first load member further comprises a plurality of support ribs proximate the support surface.

13. The container of claim 12, wherein the support ribs are disposed in at least one of a vertical pattern and a spoke pattern.

14. The container of claim 1, further comprising a support frame engaged with the bottom cover, wherein the bottom cover encapsulates at least a portion of the support frame.

15. The container of claim 1, wherein the first cover includes a bottom surface and defines a notch in the bottom surface, and the first support member includes a bottom edge and defines a tab along the bottom edge, the tab interfacing with the notch.

16. The container of claim 1, further comprising a load support operable to engage a load and interface with the support surface to support the load.

17. The container of claim 3, further comprising a load support including a first portion extending from a first end of a load and engaging the first support surface and a second portion extending from a second end of the load and engaging the second support surface.

18. The container of claim 17, wherein the first and second portions comprises discrete members.

19. The container of claim 16, wherein the load includes a core defining a notch, and the load support defines a tab, the tab interfacing with the notch to inhibit rotation of the core about the load support.

20. The container of claim 16, wherein the load support defines a channel operable to receive a lifting device having a shape corresponding to the shape of the channel, and the first cover defines an opening aligned with the load support.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/616,536 filed on Oct. 6, 2004.

STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT

Not applicable

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The invention relates generally to the field of packaging, and more particularly, to an adjustable shipping container for spindled contents.

During shipment in transport vehicles, goods must be protected to avoid damage. Various shipping containers have been devised to protect items during handling and shipping. One type of product that requires such protection is a material packaged in the form of rolls. Exemplary products include plastic film, paper, fabric, or mesh rolled on a hollow paper fiber or plastic core.

Typically, rolled products are moved and stored in steel racks or wooden crates. These packaging techniques have various shortcomings. Wooden crates are typically custom made according to the size of the shipped item on-site. Certain countries do not accept products shipped in wooden crates. Also, wooden crates exhibit low durability and can seldom be reused, giving rise to additional disposal costs. Steel racks do not enclose the product and do not easily condense for return shipment. Additionally, due to their weight, steel racks reduce the overall payload of the product being shipped in a truck or overseas cargo container.

This section of this document is intended to introduce various aspects of art that may be related to various aspects of the present invention described and/or claimed below. This section provides background information to facilitate a better understanding of the various aspects of the present invention. It should be understood that the statements in this section of this document are to be read in this light, and not as admissions of prior art. The present invention is directed to overcoming, or at least reducing the effects of, one or more of the problems set forth above.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

One aspect of the present invention is seen in a shipping container including a first cover and a first load bearer. The first cover includes sidewalls and a first plurality of ribs defined in the sidewalls. The first load bearer is positioned in a first pair of the first plurality of ribs and defines a first support surface.

These and other objects, advantages and aspects of the invention will become apparent from the following description. In the description, reference is made to the accompanying drawings which form a part hereof, and in which there is shown a preferred embodiment of the invention. Such embodiment does not necessarily represent the full scope of the invention and reference is made, therefore, to the claims herein for interpreting the scope of the invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS

The invention will hereafter be described with reference to the accompanying drawings, wherein like reference numerals denote like elements, and:

FIG. 1 is an isometric view of a shipping container in accordance with one illustrative embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is an isometric top view of a bottom cover of the shipping container of FIG. 1;

FIGS. 3-6 are top, side, bottom, and end views of the cover of FIG. 3, respectively;

FIG. 7 is an isometric view of the shipping container of FIG. 1 configured to house a larger load;

FIGS. 8 and 9 are side and end views of the shipping container of FIG. 1, respectively;

FIGS. 10 and 11 are side and end views of the shipping container of FIG. 1 in a stacked arrangement;

FIG. 12 is an isometric bottom view of the cover of FIG. 2;

FIGS. 13 and 14 are detail views illustrating a reinforcing frame;

FIG. 15 is an isometric view of a reinforcing frame;

FIGS. 16 and 17 are front and back views of a load bearer;

FIGS. 18, 19, and 20 are top, bottom, and end views of the load bearer of FIG. 16, respectively;

FIG. 21 is a detail view of an engagement tab on the load bearer of FIG. 16;

FIGS. 22, 23, and 24 are isometric, top, and detail views, respectively, showing the engagement of a load bearer and a bottom cover in the shipping container of FIG. 1;

FIGS. 25 and 26 are isometric and detail views of the load bearer of FIG. 16 illustrating interlocking tabs and pockets;

FIG. 27 is a front view of the load bearer of FIG. 16 illustrating a support rod;

FIGS. 28 and 29 are front and back views of an alternative load bearer embodiment;

FIGS. 30, 31, and 32 are top, bottom, and end views of the load bearer of FIG. 28, respectively;

FIG. 33 is a detail view of an engagement tab on the load bearer of FIG. 28;

FIGS. 34, 35, and 36 are isometric, top, and detail views, respectively, showing the engagement of a load bearer and a bottom cover in the shipping container of FIG. 1;

FIG. 37 is an end view of the shipping container of FIG. 1 with the load bearer of FIG. 28 installed;

FIGS. 38 and 39 are isometric and detail views of a core support used in the shipping container of FIG. 1;

FIGS. 40 and 41 are side and end views of the core support of FIG. 38;

FIG. 42 is an exploded isometric view of the core support of FIG. 28;

FIG. 43 is an isometric view of a latch used with the shipping container of FIG. 1; and

FIG. 44 is a detail view of the latch of FIG. 43 engaging the covers of the shipping container of FIG. 1.

While the invention is susceptible to various modifications and alternative forms, specific embodiments thereof have been shown by way of example in the drawings and are herein described in detail. It should be understood, however, that the description herein of specific embodiments is not intended to limit the invention to the particular forms disclosed, but on the contrary, the intention is to cover all modifications, equivalents, and alternatives falling within the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

One or more specific embodiments of the present invention will be described below. It should be appreciated that in the development of any such actual implementation, as in any engineering or design project, numerous implementation-specific decisions must be made to achieve the developers' specific goals, such as compliance with system-related and business related constraints, which may vary from one implementation to another. Moreover, it should be appreciated that such a development effort might be complex and time consuming, but would nevertheless be a routine undertaking of design, fabrication, and manufacture for those of ordinary skill having the benefit of this disclosure.

Referring now to the drawings, wherein like reference numbers correspond to similar components throughout the several views, and, specifically, referring to FIG. 1, the present invention shall be described in the context of a shipping container 10. The shipping container 10 includes a bottom cover 12 and a top cover 14. In the illustrated embodiment, the top and bottom covers 12, 14 are identical. The use of identical covers 12, 14 simplifies fabrication, storage, and assembly of the shipping container 10, however, the invention is not limited to identical covers 12, 14. The covers 12, 14 are further detailed in FIGS. 2-6, which illustrate isometric, top, side, bottom, and end views, respectively. The shipping container 10 is assembled by mating the top and bottom covers 12, 14 in an arrangement commonly referred to as a clamshell package. The covers 12, 14 may be fabricated using thermoforming, blow molding, rotational molding, or injection molding processes.

Load bearers 16 are inserted into ribs 18 defined in the bottom cover 12, and load bearers 20 are inserted into corresponding ribs 22 in the top cover 14. The load bearers 16, 20 support a load 24 in the shipping container 10. In the illustrated embodiment, the load 24 is a web of material, such as plastic film, paper, fabric, or mesh, wound about a hollow core 26 into which core supports 28 are inserted. In cases where the core 26 is solid or sufficiently rigid to support the load 24, the core supports 28 may be omitted. For purposes of illustration, the following description assumes that core supports 28 are inserted into the ends of the core 26. The load 24, via the core supports 28, is supported by a support surface 30 defined in each load bearer 16. The size and shape of the support surface 30 may vary from the arcuate shape illustrated, depending on the particular dimensions of the core 26. The horizontal spacing between the load bearers 16, 20 may be varied depending on the size of the load 24, as shown in FIG. 7, which illustrates the shipping container 10 accommodating a load 24′ that is larger than the load 24 shown in FIG. 1.

FIGS. 8 and 9 illustrate respective side and end views of the shipping container 10 in an assembled state. The weight of the load 24 is carried by the load bearers 16 to the base of the bottom cover 22. When multiple shipping containers 10 are stacked on top of one another, as shown in FIGS. 10 and 11, the load bearers 16, 20 carry a majority of the weight of the load 24.

The covers 12, 14 have pallet-style legs 32 that allow access for fork truck or pallet jack lifting from both sides and ends. The legs 32 may be configured to interlock to allow positioning of one shipping container 10 over another shipping container 10 for multiple level stacking without risk of shifting when multiple shipping containers 10 are moved. In the illustrated embodiment, the legs 32 are arranged in diagonally opposing corners, offset from the normal symmetry of the cover 12, such that when complete shipping containers 10 are stacked, the legs 32 on the top cover 14 pass the corresponding legs 32 on the bottom cover 14 of the stacked shipping container 10 to provide the interlocking arrangement.

As seen in FIGS. 1 and 9, the covers 12, 14 may define one or more openings 34 in the ends 35 to allow spearing of the core 26 for loading or unloading. The core support 28 may define a channel 36 for receiving a lifting device to allow such loading or unloading. The channel 36 may have a cross-sectional shape corresponding to the shape of the lifting device. For example, the lifting device may have a spearing device with a square cross section. A rectangular shape inhibits spinning of the load 24 during movement. Other cross-sectional shapes may be used depending on the particular application.

Returning now to FIG. 2, the cover 12 is described in greater detail. As the top and bottom covers 12, 14 are similar, the description applies to both. The sidewalls 38 of the cover 12 are tapered or drafted to accommodate nesting together of empty covers 12. The ribs 18 defined in the sidewalls 38 provide compressive strength and minimize deflection. The ribs 18 also provide a variety of positions for locating the load bearers 16 and provide an interlocking mechanism for securing the load bearers 16. The spacing between the ribs 18 may be varied to provide for adjustability of the load bearers 16 and to facilitate molding.

Turning to FIG. 12, which illustrates a bottom isometric view of the cover 12, a frame 40 may be provided for reinforcing the cover 12. FIGS. 13 and 14 illustrate partial isometric views of the cover 12/frame 40 assembly, and FIG. 15 illustrates an isometric view of the frame 40. The frame 40 may be encapsulated in the cover 12 during the molded process (not shown) or inserted into tabs 42 defined in the cover 12. In the illustrated embodiment, the frame 40 is constructed of 0.25″ steel wire formed into a “double-H” configuration that includes two lateral members 44 and two horizontal members 46. The frame 40 serves to distribute the load from the load bearers 16 evenly into the legs 32 of the cover 12 regardless of the position of the load bearers 16. The frame 40 also provides for minimizing the normal deflection of the shipping container 10 when carried on a fork truck by transferring the load from the position of the load bearers 16 to the position of the forks if they are different. Additionally the shape of the frame 40 allows for a fork truck with forks slightly more than half the length of the shipping container 10 to safely pick it up from the end 35 with minimum deflection. It is contemplated that the frame 40 may have different shapes, depending on the particular implementation.

Turning now to FIGS. 16 and 17 front and back views of a first embodiment of the load bearer 16, are shown, respectively. Top and bottom views of the load bearer 16 are shown in FIGS. 18 and 19, respectively. An end view of the load bearer 16 is shown in FIG. 20. The load bearer 16 includes a generally L-shaped tab 52, shown in detail in FIG. 21, that interlocks with the ribs 18 in the cover 12 to secure the load bearer 16 in place to support the load 24 and prevent outward deflection of the sidewalls 38 of the cover 12. In the illustrated embodiment, the load bearer 16 is constructed of a thermoplastic material molding using a process such as twin sheet thermoforming, blow molding, rotational molding, or injection molding.

FIGS. 22, 23, and 24, show isometric, top, and detail views of the load bearer 16 interfacing with the bottom cover 12, respectively. The ribs 18 include slots 54 having an L-shape corresponding to the shape of the tabs 52 on the load bearer 16. When the load bearer 16 is inserted into the space defined by the ribs 18, the tabs 52 interlock with the slots 54.

As seen in FIGS. 18 and 21, the tabs 52 of the load bearer 16 are offset from the centerline of the support surface 30 by approximately one half the width of the ribs 18 formed in the sidewalls 38 of the cover 12 to provide additional adjustability of the distance between the load bearers 16. By reversing one or both sets of load bearers 16 in the corresponding interlocking slots 54, a finer adjustment of the distance between the support surfaces 30 is achieved (i.e., as compared to selecting a different rib 18.

Returning to FIG. 16, the mating edge 56 of each load bearer 16 is provided with interlocking tabs 58 of greater height than the parting line and are approximately one half the thickness of the load bearer 16. As seen in FIGS. 25 and 26, the interlocking tabs 58 fit into corresponding pockets 60 defined on the opposite load bearer 16 thus keeping the pair of load bearers 16 aligned when installed and under load. The load bearer 16 includes ribs 62 that carry and distribute the load. The ribs 62 run in a nearly vertical fashion and are positioned to carry the weight of the contents to the reinforced area at the base of the cover 12 (e.g., the frame 40). The load bearer 16 also defines a tab 64 along its bottom edge 66 that interfaces with a corresponding notch 68 in the bottom surface 69 of the cover 12.

As shown in FIG. 27, in some embodiments, additional reinforcement may be provided for the load bearer 16 by providing a support rod 71 extending across the width of the load bearer 16. The support rod 71 may be encapsulated in the load bearer 16 as it is formed, or, alternatively, a hole may be formed in an edged of the load bearer 16 and the support rod 71 may be inserted in the annular region defined between the two walls of the support bearer 16. The support rod 71 is located proximate the ends of the ribs 62 and below the support surface 30. The ribs 62 formed on one side 73 of the load bearer 16 (see FIG. 17) are offset with respect to the ribs 62 formed on the opposing side 75 of the load bearer 16. The support rod 71 transfers the load placed on the support surface 30 to the ribs 62. The support rod 71 also provides longitudinal stiffness for the load bearer 16 to reduce deflection. In the illustrated embodiment, the support rod 71 is a tubular steel rod having a roughly square cross-section. It is contemplated that other type of materials and shapes may be used, depending on the particular application.

Turning now to FIGS. 28 and 29 front and back views of a second embodiment of the load bearer 70, are shown, respectively. Top and bottom views of the load bearer 70 are shown in FIGS. 30 and 31, respectively. An end view of the load bearer 70 is shown in FIG. 32. The load bearer 70 includes a generally T-shaped tab 72, shown in detail in FIG. 33, that interlocks with the ribs 18 in the cover 12 to secure the load bearer 70 in place to support the load 24 and prevent outward deflection of the sidewalls 38 of the cover 12.

FIGS. 34, 35, and 36, show isometric, top, and detail views of the load bearer 70 interfacing with the bottom cover 12, respectively. The ribs 18 include slots 74 having a T-shape corresponding to the shape of the tabs 72 on the load bearer 70. When the load bearer 70 is inserted into the space defined by the ribs 18, the tabs 72 interlock with the slots 74.

As seen in FIGS. 30 and 33, the tabs 72 of the load bearer 70 are offset from the centerline of the support surface 30 by approximately one half the width of the ribs 18 formed in the sidewalls 38 of the cover 12 to provide additional adjustability of the distance between the load bearers 70. By reversing one or both sets of load bearers 70 in the corresponding interlocking slots 74, a finer adjustment of the distance between the support surfaces 30 is achieved (i.e., as compared to selecting a different rib 18.

Returning to FIG. 28, the mating edge 76 of each load bearer 16 is provided with interlocking tabs 78 of greater height than the parting line and are approximately one half the thickness of the load bearer 70. The interlocking tabs 78 fit into corresponding pockets 80 defined on the opposite load bearer 70 thus keeping the pair of load bearers 70 aligned when installed and under load. The load bearer 70 includes ribs 82 that carry and distribute the load. The ribs 82 run in a spoke pattern to distribute the load in both vertical and axial directions. The load bearer 70 also defines a tab 84 along its bottom edge 85 that interfaces with the corresponding notch 68 in the bottom surface 69 of the cover 12.

As seen in FIGS. 28 and 37, the tab 72 one edge 86 of the load bearer 70 extends beyond the mating edge 76 of the load bearer 70, such that it also extends above the top edge 88 of the bottom cover 12 to interlock with slots 74 in the top cover 14. The tab 72 on the other edge 90 is reduced in height, such that it does not reach the top edge 88 of the bottom cover 12 to allow the extended tab 72 from the interfacing load bearer 70 to extend from the top cover 14 into the bottom cover and engage the slot 74 in the bottom cover 12.

Although the load bearers 16 and 70 are described as separate embodiments, individual features of each may be combined. For example, the extended tab 72 feature on the load bearer 70 may be implemented on the load bearer 16. The support rod 71 illustrated in the load bearer 16 may be used in the load bearer 70. Also, the shape of the tabs 52, 72 may vary. Other shapes, such as a dovetail shape, may be used in lieu of the “L” or “T” shaped tabs described herein. Also, the pattern formed by the ribs 62, 82 may vary.

Turning now to FIGS. 38 and 39, the construction of the core supports 28 is described in greater detail. The core support 28 includes a tab 92 that interfaces with a corresponding notch 94 defined in the core 26 to prevent rotation of the core support 28 within the core 26 during rotation. As seen in FIG. 40, the core support 28 may extend only a portion of the length of the core 26. FIG. 41 illustrates an end view of the core support 28 illustrating the square-shaped channel 36 for receiving a lifting device to allow loading or unloading of the load 24.

Referring to FIG. 42, the core support 28 includes first and second interlocking member 96, 98 divided at a plane through the centerline of the core support 28. The core support members 96, 98 may be formed using a twin sheet thermoforming process. Each member 96, 98 includes internal features, such as the flat portions 100 that define the channel 36 having a secondary sized and differently shaped opening through the center of the core support 28 to accommodates shafts of different configurations used for transferring the load 24 once out of the shipping container 10 and on equipment used to process the product.

The core support members 96, 98 also include support structures 102, such as ribs, that provide compressive strength for supporting the load 24. To interlock the members 96, 98 and prevent them from sliding on each other, male bosses 104 and corresponding female receptors 106 are defined on the mating faces of the members 96, 98.

Latches or straps of various styles may be used to hold the top and bottom cover 12, 14 together. An exemplary latch 110 is described in reference to FIGS. 43 and 44. The latch 110 includes an elastic body 112, (e.g., a rubber “bungee”) and a “D” shaped ring 114 at one end 116 of the body 112. The other end 118 of the latch 110 may be mounted (e.g., riveted or otherwise fastened) to the cover 12. A notch 120, or alternatively, an outwardly extending hook (not shown), may be defined in one of the ribs 18 of the other cover 14 to receive the ring 114. The body 112 may be stretched and placed in the notch 120 to hold the top and bottom covers together. The latch 110 is provided as one example of a technique for coupling the top and bottom covers 12, 14. Although the latch 110 is illustrated as being located a long one side of the cover 12 near a rib 18, it is also contemplated that the latch 110 may be located at corners of the cover 12. Other types of latches or coupling devices may be used.

The shipping container 10 described herein provides a versatile system that can be adapted to loads of various shapes, sizes, and properties. The parts of the shipping container 10 may be stacked and stored readily, and due to their durable construction and flexibility, they may be re-used.

The particular embodiments disclosed above are illustrative only, as the invention may be modified and practiced in different but equivalent manners apparent to those skilled in the art having the benefit of the teachings herein. Furthermore, no limitations are intended to the details of construction or design herein shown, other than as described in the claims below. It is therefore evident that the particular embodiments disclosed above may be altered or modified and all such variations are considered within the scope and spirit of the invention. Accordingly, the protection sought herein is as set forth in the claims below.





 
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