Title:
Shipping device
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A shipping device for an article comprising a bottom comprising a channel structure proximate the bottom, a plurality of side walls extending from the bottom and forming a substantial perimeter around the bottom, a removable insert configured to engage the side walls, a plurality of rails, and a plurality of retention assemblies configured to slidably engage the plurality of the rails and the channel structure, the rails operable to abut against an item within the container, the retention assemblies operable to hold the rails in a substantially fixed orientation against the item.



Inventors:
Pollnow, David F. (St. Louis, MO, US)
Application Number:
11/330830
Publication Date:
07/20/2006
Filing Date:
01/12/2006
Assignee:
Versacrate Corporation
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D73/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
PERREAULT, ANDREW D
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
PATRICK W. RASCHE (ARMSTRONG TEASDALE LLP 7700 FORSYTH BOULEVARD SUITE 1800, ST. LOUIS, MO, 63105, US)
Claims:
1. A shipping device for an article comprising: a bottom comprising a channel structure proximate said bottom; a plurality of side walls extending from said bottom and forming a substantial perimeter around said bottom; a removable insert configured to engage said side walls; a plurality of rails; and a plurality of retention assemblies configured to slidably engage the plurality of said rails and said channel structure, said rails operable to abut against an item within said container, said retention assemblies operable to hold said rails in a substantially fixed orientation against the item.

2. A shipping device in accordance with claim 1 wherein said device includes an exterior lid configured to engage side walls opposite said bottom.

3. A shipping device in accordance with claim 1 wherein said channel structure comprises a plurality of channel portions extending from the substantial perimeter to a center of said bottom.

4. A shipping device in accordance with claim 1 wherein said rails comprise a padding material attached thereto.

5. A shipping device in accordance with claim 1 wherein said rails comprise at least one longitudinal opening therethrough, said retention assemblies configured to extend through said longitudinal openings and into said channel structure.

6. A shipping device in accordance with claim 5 wherein said retention assemblies are operable to move within said longitudinal openings and within said channel structure, such that moving one of said rails with respect to said channel structure causes said retention assemblies to move with respect to said channel structures.

7. A shipping device in accordance with claim 1 wherein each said retention assembly comprises: a base portion configured to engage said channel structure; a shaft extending from said base portion, said shaft configured to extend through said rail; and a rail retaining member configured to engage said shaft, operable to retain said base portion and said shaft in a desired position with respect to said channel structure.

8. A shipping device in accordance with claim 7 wherein said shaft is threaded to said rail retaining member.

9. A shipping device in accordance with claim 7 wherein said base portion is configured with a shape such that a first orientation allows for insertion and removal from said channel structure.

10. A shipping device in accordance with claim 9 wherein said base portion is configured with a shape such that a second orientation allows said base portion to come into contact with said channel structure.

11. A shipping device in accordance with claim 10 wherein said base portion is configured to draw upward until said base portion comes into contact with said channel structure.

12. A shipping device for shipping an article comprising: a bottom comprising an interior region; a plurality of side walls extending from said bottom and forming a substantial perimeter around said bottom wherein said side walls comprise at least one slot formed therein; a plurality of rails; a removable insert configured for insertion within the substantial perimeter of said side walls, said removable insert comprising at least one latching device configured to attach to said removable insert and configured to engage said side walls, said removable insert operable for multiple positions with respect to said side walls; a channel structure formed within said interior region; and a plurality of retention assemblies configured to slidably engage the plurality of said rails with respect to said channel structure.

13. A shipping device in accordance with claim 12 wherein said device includes an exterior lid configured to engage side walls opposite said bottom.

14. A shipping device in accordance with claim 12 wherein said removable insert comprises a bottom surface, said bottom surface configured to rest adjacent a portion of the item.

15. A shipping device in accordance with claim 12 wherein said removable insert comprises a padding material attached thereto.

16. A shipping device in accordance with claim 12 wherein said removable insert comprises a plurality of handles attached thereto.

17. A shipping device in accordance with claim 12 wherein said latching device is configured to retain said removable insert in a substantially fixed orientation with respect to said device.

18. A shipping device in accordance with claim 12 wherein said at least one latching device comprises a side wall engaging member configured to engage said at least one slot.

19. A shipping device in accordance with claim 18 wherein said latching device comprises: a latching device shaft, said latching device shaft is configured to engage said side wall engaging member; and a fastener, said shaft configured to adjust a position of said side wall engaging member with respect to said fastener.

20. A shipping device in accordance with claim 19 wherein rotation of said latching device shaft is configured to draw said side wall engaging member into contact with said member engaging portion.

21. A shipping device in accordance with claim 19 further comprising a threaded retaining member, said latching device shaft comprising threads to engage said retaining member, said latching device shaft extends through a mounting structure, rotation of said retaining member with respect to said shaft moves said mounting structure with respect to said side wall when said retaining member is adjacent said mounting structure.

22. A shipping device in accordance with claim 19 wherein a rotation of said latching device causes said fastener to engage a back wall of said slot.

23. A shipping device in accordance with claim 19 further comprising a spring, said latching device shaft extending through said spring, wherein said latching device shaft is configured to cause said sidewall engaging member to friction fit within said slot.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of U.S. provisional application No. 60/644,383 filed Jan. 14, 2005, which is herein incorporated by reference in its entirety.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates generally to shipping containers, and more specifically, to a shipping container with an adjustable interior adaptable for holding various sizes of cargo.

In the past, uniquely shaped items, for example, works of art or expensive electronic items, were shipped primarily in wooden crates specifically designed for the particular item. Single or multiple custom made cases were used depending upon the size and type of item and any ancillary equipment that was to be shipped with the item. These custom made wooden crates were then lined with a cushioning and/or insulating material made of various substances depending upon the shape of the item to be shipped and the preferences of the person responsible for the shipping of the item.

Custom made shipping containers have several drawbacks, including high material and construction costs, limited durability and useful life, lack of standardization in weight and size of crate, and inconsistent environmental, shock, and vibration protection. In response to these drawbacks, reusable containers have been developed, but these reusable containers typically still require custom preparation and fitting of internal cushioning based on the dimensions of the particular item(s) to be shipped.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

In one aspect, a shipping device for an article comprising a bottom comprising a channel structure proximate said bottom, a plurality of side walls extending from said bottom and forming a substantial perimeter around said bottom, a removable insert configured to engage said side walls, a plurality of rails, and a plurality of retention assemblies configured to slidably engage the plurality of said rails and said channel structure, said rails operable to abut against an item within said container, said retention assemblies operable to hold said rails in a substantially fixed orientation against the item.

In another aspect, a shipping device for shipping an article comprising a bottom comprising an interior region, a plurality of side walls extending from said bottom and forming a substantial perimeter around said bottom wherein said side walls comprise at least one slot formed therein, a plurality of rails, a removable insert configured for insertion within the substantial perimeter of said side walls, said removable insert comprising at least one latching device attached to said removable insert and configured to engage said side walls, said removable insert operable for multiple positions with respect to said side walls, a channel structure formed within said interior region, and a plurality of retention assemblies configured to slidably engage the plurality of said rails with respect to said channel structure.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a top view of a portion of an adjustable shipping container.

FIG. 2 is a top view of the shipping container of FIG. 1 including item retention mechanisms.

FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional view of a channel portion, shipping rail, and a retention assembly.

FIG. 4 is a top view of the shipping container including an item installed therein.

FIG. 5 is a diagram of a removable insert affixed to the shipping container of FIG. 1.

FIG. 6 is a cross-sectional view of a channel portion, shipping rail, a retention assembly, and an item.

FIG. 7 is a detailed view of a latching device utilizing in attaching the removable insert of FIG. 5 to the shipping container of FIG. 1.

FIG. 8 is a detailed view of an alternative embodiment of a latching device utilizing in attaching the removable insert of FIG. 5 to the shipping container of FIG. 1.

FIG. 9 is a schematic view of the shipping container of FIG. 1, the removable insert of FIG. 5, and an exterior lid for the shipping container.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

FIG. 1 is a top view of an adjustable shipping container 10. Shipping container 10 includes a bottom 12 and four side walls 14, 16, 18, and 20 respectively that extend from bottom 12 around a substantial perimeter of bottom 12. In certain embodiments, bottom 12 and side walls 14, 16, 18, and 20 are fabricated as separate items and attached together. In the embodiment illustrated, however, bottom 12 and side walls 14, 16, 18, and 20 are fabricated as a single piece, for example, molded from a plastic or another similar material. In still another embodiment, side walls 14, 16, 18, and 20 are fabricated as a single piece and attached to bottom 12. Many other fabrication combinations are possible. Shipping container 10 may be fabricated from a number of different materials, including, but not limited to, woods, metals, and plastics. Various combinations of materials are also possible. Terms such as front, back, bottom, side, and top are utilized herein to describe shipping container 10 and other items. Such terms are to be construed as being utilized to describe various features with respect to an orientation of the figures. Such terms are not meant to be limiting in describing the structure or use of shipping container 10.

The combination of bottom 12 and side walls 14, 16, 18, and 20 form an interior portion 30 having substantial corners 32, 34, 36, and 38. Interior portion 30 may include a padding, foam material, or other similar material along side walls 14, 16, 18, and 20. In the embodiment illustrated, channel portions 42, 44, 46, 48, 50, and 52 are formed as separate items that are attached to bottom 12 in a similar configuration, and which may or may not meet at center 54. Channel portions 42, 44, 46, 48, 50, and 52 may be fabricated as extruded steel pieces. Channel structure 40 includes individual channel portions, 42, 44, 46, 48, 50, and 52 which meet at an approximate center 54 of bottom 10. Channel portions 42, 44, 46, and 48 extend towards approximate center 54 of bottom 10 from each of the respective substantial corners 32, 34, 36, and 38. Channel portion 50 extends towards center 54 from an approximate center of side wall 16, and channel portion 52 extends towards center 54 from an approximate center of side wall 20.

In alternative embodiments, channel portions 42, 44, 46, 48, 50, and 52 are formed in bottom 12. In these embodiments, bottom 12 includes a channel structure 40 formed therein which is accessible from interior portion 30. While channel structure is illustrated and described herein as having six channel portions, it is to be understood that multiple channel portion configurations are possible. As further described below, channel structure 40 is configured to retain one or more adjustable retaining devices that are configured to be movable within channel structure 40.

Shipping container 10 further includes slots 60 and 62 formed in side wall 16, facing toward interior portion 30, and slots 64 and 66 formed in side wall 20, facing toward interior portion 30. As further described below, slots 60, 62, 64, and 66 are utilized in attaching a removable insert (not shown in FIG. 1) to shipping container 10. Again the orientation of slots 60, 62, 64, and 66 are by way of example only and other orientations and quantities of such slots are contemplated to be within the scope of this disclosure.

FIG. 2 is another top view of shipping container 10 including components that are configured to hold items being shipped in place within shipping container 10. More specifically, adjustable side rails 70 and 72 are shown. Also shown are adjustable bottom rail 74 and top rail 76. Both bottom rail 74 and top rail 76 are optional. Side rail 70 includes a pair of longitudinal openings 80 and 82 formed therein. Side rail 72 includes a pair of longitudinal openings 84 and 86 formed therein, and bottom rail 74 includes a single longitudinal opening 88 formed therein. Top rail 76 includes a longitudinal opening 89 formed therein. As side rails 70 and 72 operate similarly, only the structure and function of side rail 70 is described herein. Furthermore, side rails 70 and 72 and bottom rail 74 and top rail 76 may include padding such as foam lining 78 around said rails 70 and 72 and 74 and 76. If bottom rail 74 and top rail 76 are not included, the side walls 16 and 20 may include padding such as foam lining.

A retention assembly 90 is configured to extend through longitudinal opening 80 of side rail 70 and further configured to engage channel portion 42 as further described below. As retention assemblies 92, 94, 96, 98, and 99 operate similarly, only the structure and function of retention assembly 90 is described herein. Retention assembly 90 is configured to slidably engage both channel portion 42 and longitudinal opening 80 and retention assembly 92 is configured to slidably engage both channel portion 48 and longitudinal opening 82 to allow movement of side rail 70 back and forth horizontally as retention assemblies 90 and 92 slide within their respective channel portions 42 and 48.

The described operation of side rail 70 allows it to be moved such that an item placed within shipping container 10 for shipment can be engaged. Side rail 72 and bottom rail 74 are similarly moveable such that they will engage the item to be shipped. One, two, three, or four, in the case of the optional top rail 76, shipping rails are in place and adjacent to the item to be shipped. Shipping rails 70, 72, 74, and 76 may be varying lengths. Retention assemblies 90, 92, 94, 96, 98, and 99 can be tightened, as further described below. Retaining the shipping rails in place allows the item to be shipped while being securely retained by the shipping rails 70, 72, 74, and 76. As can be seen from FIG. 2, the movement that is afforded rails 70, 72, 74, and 76 allows a wide variety of sizes and shapes of items to be shipped to be securely retained within shipping container 10.

One or more of the side rails 70 and 72, bottom rail 74, and top rail 76 are movable so that one or more of the side rails 70 and 72, bottom rail 74, and top rail 76 can engage the item to be shipped. Two shipping rails, for example, shipping rails 70 and 74 may each engage a portion of an item. Shipping rails 70 and 74 may slide in order to retain an item against two adjacent side walls, for example, side walls 16 and 18. Additionally, three shipping rails, for example, shipping rails 70, 72, and 74 may each engage a portion of an item. Shipping rails 70, 72, and 74 may slide in order to retain an item against one adjacent side wall, for example, side wall 20.

FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional view of channel portion 42 and shipping rail 70 which further illustrates operation of one embodiment of retention assembly 90. Retention assembly 90 is configured to slide within longitudinal openings 80 of shipping rail 70. Each retention assembly 90 includes a base portion 100 from which a shaft 102 extends. A rail retaining member 104 is configured to engage shaft 102. In the embodiment shown, base portion 100 is configured with a shape such that a first orientation allows for insertion and removal from channel portion 42 and a second orientation causes base portion 100 to come into contact with channel walls 110 and 112. Therefore, as rail retaining member 104 is engaging shaft 102, base portion 100 is drawn upward until it comes into contact with channel walls 110 and 112. As such, the operation of retaining device 90 causes rail 70 to be firmly pressed against bottom 12 of shipping container 10 and/or channel walls 110 and 112 which effectively defeats the freedom of movement of shipping rail 70, which, as described above, allows the item 120 being shipped to be held in place.

In the embodiment illustrated, shaft 102 includes a threaded portion, and rail retaining member 104 is configured to engage the threads such that rail retaining member 104 will exert a downward force on shipping rail 70. Other embodiments of retaining member 90 are also contemplated.

FIG. 4 is an illustration of an item to be shipped 120 being held in place within shipping container 10 by shipping rails 70, 72, 74, and 76 which are retained in place adjacent item 120.

FIG. 5 is an illustration of a removable insert 200 utilized with shipping container 10. As shown removable insert 200 is sized such that it fits within side walls 14, 16, 18, and 20. When removable insert 200 is inserted into shipping container 10, it will come to rest on top of the item to be shipped. As such, in certain embodiments, a bottom surface (not shown) of removable insert 200 is configured with a cushioning material, such as foam material. Removable insert 200 is configured with a plurality of handles 202 for ease of insertion into and removal from shipping container 10. Removable insert 200 is further configured with a plurality of latching devices 210. Each latching device 210 includes a side wall engaging member 212 which is configured to engage a respective one of slots 60, 62, 64, and 66 formed in the side walls of shipping container 10. The combination of a slot, for example, slot 60, and side wall engaging member 212 provide a mechanism for retaining a position of removable insert 200 with respect to shipping container 10.

FIG. 6 is a cross-sectional view of a channel portion 42, shipping rail 70, a retention assembly 90, and an item 120. Removable insert 200 is shown restricting movement of item 120. Shipping rail 70 is padded with foam material 78 and removable insert 200 is also padded with foam material 78. Foam material 78 cushions item 120 in the shipping process.

FIG. 7 is a detailed view of one embodiment latching device 210 which illustrates its operation. Latching device 210 includes a mounting structure 214 which is slidably attached to removable insert 200. Mounting structure 214 is configured to slide with respect to removable insert 200. To facilitate sliding, a portion of mounting structure 214 is mounted under guided structure 221 which is attached to removable insert 200. Several embodiments of latching device 210 are contemplated, including, but not limited to, embodiments where retaining member 216 engages latching device shaft 220. Latching device shaft 220 extends through retaining member 216, which is threaded in this embodiment. Latching device shaft 220 is also inserted through mounting structure 214, and is threaded through side wall engaging member 212 and fastener 215. Fastener 215 is fixed with respect to latching device shaft 220. In the embodiment shown, side wall engaging member 212 is configured with a shape such that a first orientation allows for insertion and removal from slot 60 and a second orientation causes side wall engaging member 212 to come into contact with member engaging portion 218. Therefore, as shaft 220 rotates, side wall engaging portion 212 is drawn into contact with member engaging portion 218 of slot 60. Furthermore, as side wall engaging portion 212 is drawn into contact with member engaging portion 218 of slot 60, mounting structure 214 is also pushed toward member engaging portion 218 by retaining member 216. Additionally, fastener 215 will engage the back wall 217 of slot 60. The described configuration provides for a multitude of latching positions for removable insert 200 as there are no preset latching locations. Therefore items of many various heights can be safely restrained within shipping container 10. While described with respect to slot 60, it is to be understood that all latching devices 210 operate in conjunction with their respective slots in a similar fashion.

FIG. 8 is a detailed view of an alternative embodiment of a latching device 230 utilizing in attaching the removable insert of FIG. 5 to the shipping container of FIG. 1. Mounting structure 234 is attached to removable insert 200 with fasteners 239. Latching device 230 incorporates a latching device shaft 240 extending through spring 233. Spring 233 is positioned between mounting structure 234 and retaining member 236. In one embodiment, latching device shaft 240 is threaded. Latching device shaft 240 engages retaining member 236 wherein retaining member 236 allows a user to turn latching device shaft 240. Latching device shaft 240 extends through mounting structure 234. Also, latching device shaft 240 engages side wall engaging member 232 and further engages fastener 235. Fastener 235 is fixed with respect to latching device shaft 240. In the embodiment shown, side wall engaging member 232 is configured with a shape such that a first orientation allows for insertion and removal from slot 60 and a second orientation causes side wall engaging member 232 to come into contact with member engaging portion 218. Side wall engaging member 232 in the second orientation is friction fit within slot 60. When a user turns retaining member 236, the latching device shaft 240 turns side wall engaging member 232 into the second orientation wherein side wall engaging member 232 spreads apart from fastener 235. In the spread apart position, fastener 235 abuts back wall 237 of slot 60 and sidewall engaging member 232 is in contact with member engaging portion 218. In addition, the orientation and number of respective latching devices 230 on removable insert 200 and slots in shipping container 10 is variable, based on the shipping requirements imposed by the particular items being shipped.

FIG. 9 is a schematic view of shipping container 10, removable insert 200, and an exterior lid 250 configured to be attached to shipping container 10. As described above, removable insert 200 is configured to substantially lie upon items that are being shipped within shipping container 10. As such, and depending upon the particular item(s) being shipped, removable insert 200 may be inserted fairly deeply within storage container 10. In addition, removable insert 200, at least in one embodiment, is not configured to provide a seal with shipping container 10.

Exterior lid 250 is configured to fit upon, and provide a seal with a top rim 252 of shipping container 10. While not shown, exterior lid 250 and shipping container may be configured with any one of a number of known latching devices in order to retain exterior lid 250 on shipping container 10. Exterior lid 250 is also configured with a raised pattern 254 on an exterior surface 255 of exterior lid 250. Raised pattern 254 is configured for insertion into a similar pattern indented into a bottom of a shipping container 10. The combination of a raised pattern 254 on exterior lid 250 and the indentation within a bottom of shipping container 10 allow for stacking of multiple shipping containers 10 (and their respective exterior lids 250) while providing some degree of interlocking between the individual shipping containers 10. The interlocking helps to reduce occurrences of shipping container stacks from falling down and sliding with respect to one another. In another embodiment (not shown) the raised pattern is on the bottom of the shipping container and the indentation which engages the raised pattern is on the top of the exterior lid.

Also shown in FIG. 9 are a plurality of handles 256 utilized in the handling of shipping container 10. In one embodiment (not shown), shipping container 10 is configured with one or more sets of wheels (not shown) which allow for the rolling of shipping container 10 when it is placed on its side.

In summary, the above described is a shipping device 260 that includes a shipping container 10, a removable insert 200, and an exterior lid 250. The removable insert 200 fits within side walls 14, 16, 18, and 20 of the shipping container 10. The shipping container 10 includes a bottom 12 having a channel structure 40 with various channel portions 42, 44, 46, 48, 50, and 52 formed therein or attached thereto. The side walls 14, 16, 18, and 20 of the container 10 are formed to include a plurality of slots 60, 62, 64, and 66 that are similar to the channel portions 42, 44, 46, 48, 50, and 52. The shipping container 10 further includes shipping rails 70, 72, 74, and 76 that are moveable with respect to the channel portions 42, 44, 46, 48, 50, and 52 and are secured against items to be shipped using retention assemblies 90, 92, 94, 96, 98, and 99 that are configured to engage the channel portions 42, 44, 46, 48, 50, and, 52. The removable insert 200 is configured to be placed within the side walls 14, 16, 18, and 20 of the shipping container 10 and on top of the item to be shipped. The removable insert 200 further comprises latching devices 210 attached thereto that are utilized in conjunction with the slots 60, 62, 64, and 66 in the shipping container 10 for fastening the removable insert 200 to the container 10 and to retain a position of the removable insert 200 with respect to the shipping container. 10

The above described shipping container 10, removable insert 200, and exterior lid 250 provide users, with an easily configurable shipping solution for items of varying size and shape, including, but not limited to, items of art, glass, stone, and electronic items such as flat screens, plasma screens, and liquid crystal displays. The combination of shipping container 10 and top is thought to be especially applicable for the shipment of various works of art, for example, framed paintings which come in many different sizes and shapes. Many different configurations of shipping container 10 and removable insert 200, along with the components herein described, are contemplated. While the invention has been described in terms of various specific embodiments, those skilled in the art will recognize that the invention can be practiced with modification within the spirit and scope of the claims.





 
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