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The invention presented in this application pertains generally to locker appliances. More particularly, the present invention relates to a lightweight collapsible table that fits into a locker, has a height exceeding its width, and contains an integral hanger that allows the table to be hung from a peg or retail display device arm when collapsed.
A locker, of the kind commonly found in schools and athletic facilities, only provides the user with limited space to keep possessions. The inside of a locker is often a tall narrow space, with at most one shelf. A small table that fits into a locker can furnish an additional shelf. Such a shelf reduces wasted space and facilitates organization of the contents. If the tables are stackable within the locker, then the user has even more options, particularly if the tables are available in multiple height configurations. A well-designed locker table will minimize its obstruction of the user's access to the space beneath its shelf. A mesh or grid design for the shelf surface is useful in helping moist things to dry out, while also reducing the weight of the table. To be portable, in addition to being lightweight, the table should collapse into a compact configuration. The collapsed table is likely to be carried on occasion in a gym bag or a backpack, possibly by a person walking or riding a bicycle. On the other hand, the table should be sufficiently strong, durable, and stable to withstand usage by an athlete returning from a rough practice session or venting emotion after a competition, or to hold a stack of a law student's casebooks.
Collapsible locker tables are already being sold commercially. One such prior art table is described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,561,107, which is incorporated herein by this reference and is available from LockerMate Corporation, the assignee of the present invention. This prior art table is fabricated of plastic-coated rigid metal wire and has a mesh surface. The table has two leg-members. Each leg-member is bent from a single strand of such wire into the shape of a rectilinear letter ‘U’. The tines of the leg-members are attached to the shelf along its left and right edges (from the perspective of an observer looking into a locker in which the table is installed) by pivot/lock devices. Below the shelf's left edge, for example, are two pivot/lock devices (one front and one rear), to which the left leg-member connects by the ends of its tines. Each leg-member is secured in its fully upright and locked position by its two pivot/lock devices. The leg-members are made of rigid wire, which is quite thin yet durable. When open, the leg-members are vertical and nearly flush against the sides of the locker, leaving essentially all of the space beneath the shelf usable and accessible. The shelves are adapted to being stacked on top of each other. The lock of a pivot/lock device is convenient to release manually (but resistant to accidental release), allowing each leg-member to pivot under its respective shelf edge inwardly under the shelf to collapse the table into a flat, compact form. Because of the wire construction and the mesh surface of the shelf, the table is both lightweight and durable.
To date, however, the consumer has had relatively few options about the height of the table. In particular, due to various constraints in the prior art, the height of the folding table in its erect configuration has always been less than or equal to the width (left to right dimension) of the shelf. A need exists for a more flexible locker design that allows greater height in a collapsible locker table.
This need met by the collapsible locker table or locker shelf invention presented in this application. The table has three functional configurations: erect or open when installed and operational within a locker; collapsed, closed, or folded when being carried or stored; and a-hanging configuration when it is collapsed and suspended from a peg-hanger embedded integrally within the table.
When the table is erect, the height of the table exceeds the shelf width. The table has two leg-members pivotally attaching to the left and right edges of the shelf. A problem that is encountered when one of the leg-members obstructs the other from closing is solved by at least one of the leg-members containing a cavity close to the shelf that is sufficiently large for the other leg-member to fold inside it. In addition, at least one leg-member contains an integrated peg-hanger that includes a hanging notch from which the table is suspended when collapsed while hanging on a peg or display arm.
The preferred embodiment has a wire mesh shelf and has two identical leg-members, each leg-member bent from a strand of wire into approximately a rectilinear U-shape, the leg-member snapping into the shelf at its rotation axis by its two free ends. The flat ground-engaging section of the leg-member has a middle portion bent to form a peg-hanger containing a hanging notch, so that the table hangs with the notch resting upon the peg, with the remainder of the table below.
FIG. 1 shows the table when deployed in a locker.
FIG. 2 is a perspective view illustrating the preferred embodiment of the locker table from FIG. 1 in its erect configuration showing the shelf and two leg-members.
FIG. 3 shows the table in its collapsed configuration with the shelf top toward the observer.
FIG. 4 is a view of the table resting on the top of its shelf, with one leg-member erect and the other partially collapsed.
FIG. 5 is a view of the table suspended from a hanging notch in a peg hanger integrated within a leg-member.
FIG. 6 is a view of the bottom surface of the shelf with the leg-members removed.
FIG. 7 is a side view of one of the leg-members when detached from the table.
FIG. 8 shows possible alternate embodiments of a peg-hanger to illustrate the broad scope of the invention.
FIG. 9 shows a few embodiments of the peg-hanger fabricated from a bend in a wire.
FIG. 10 illustrates the definition of a hanging notch.
Identification of Problem
When the height of a foldable locker table exceeds its width, a technical challenge is presented to the designer because leg-members shaped as in the prior art would prevent each other from folding under the table during the collapsing process. A common width for lockers is about 1 foot (about 30.5 centimeters). Many personal items that an occupant typically wants to put into a locker, such as tall boots or standard-sized three-ring binders, will not stand up under a locker table subject to the constraint that the height be no greater than the width (i.e., the height must be less 1 foot). What is needed is a taller locker table that retains all the advantages already described (e.g., lightweight, compact, mesh shelf, narrow flush leg-members, stackable), while solving the problem of leg-members that obstruct each other in the process of collapsing the table.
Because of their compactness and lightweight design, collapsible locker tables can be hung for sale in retail stores on racks and other devices. The display of an inventory of several tables on retail display arms would be facilitated if a more convenient hanger for the tables were available. A hanger integrated into the table itself would serve such a merchandising purpose. Being integrated into the table rather than mere disposable packaging material, the consumer/user would also benefit by being able to handily store the table in a variety of contexts, such as on a garage pegboard or on a hook within the locker itself. Because the leg-members of a locker table taller than the prior art (i.e., having a height in excess of its width) will protrude beyond its shelf when collapsed, what is needed are leg-members, each incorporating a peg-hanger integrated into its protruding part, so that the table can hang from one or either of them. The hanger design should also keep several tables that are hung on the same peg or arm neatly aligned. The hanger should maintain the alignment of the suspended tables even when the tables are subjected to some degree of jostling, such as they might experience when bumped or when a rack on which they are being displayed is revolved by a customer.
FIG. 1 shows the locker table 10 in its preferred embodiment deployed in an open locker 20, a typical locker 20 in a row of similar ones. The locker table 10 of the invention is taller than it is wide, allowing the locker's occupant to store personal items such as boots and three-ring binders, to fit under its shelf 200 on the locker floor 30. Other personal items rest on top of the shelf 200, including a shorter prior art locker table 50. The locker table 10 of the present invention has a standardize structure that allows it to be stacked with identical or similarly structured prior art locker tables 50.
The locker table 10 has three operational configurations: the erect configuration 100 (shown in FIG. 2), the collapsed configuration 110 (FIG. 3), and the hanging configuration 120 (FIG. 5). As shown in FIG. 2, table 10 has a rectangular shelf 200 having a front edge 210, a rear edge 220, a left edge 230 a right edge 240, a relatively flat top surface 250, and a relatively flat bottom surface 260. The locker table 10 rests stably on two legs or leg-members 400, attached to the shelf 200 near its left edge 230 and right edge 240, respectively. In the preferred embodiment, the shelf 200 in the erect configuration 100 (FIG. 2) is horizontal and level. The leg-members 400 are essentially vertical and approximately planar, with only a slight variation from planar along the base segments 430 of the leg-members 400 for enhanced stability. The locker table 10 is sized to fit flush against the sides of the locker 20 (see FIG. 1).
The width of the shelf 200 is the distance from the left edge 230 to the right edge 240; the depth of the shelf 200 is the distance from the front edge 210 to the rear edge 220. In the preferred embodiment, the shelf 200 is a rectangular grid formed from rigid wire that is durable, lightweight, and air-permeable. The height in the erect configuration 100 is the distance from the ground 40 (i.e., when the locker table 10 is installed at the bottom of a locker 20, the “ground” is the locker floor 30, as shown in FIG. 1) to the top surface 250 of the shelf 200.
Each leg-member 400 is attached to the shelf 200 in a manner such that it can rotate from the erect configuration 100 to the collapsed configuration 110 of FIG. 3. When the locker table 10 is in the erect configuration 100, the leg-members 400 are mechanically secured in position to prevent the locker table 10 from inappropriately collapsing. Folding both leg-members 400 collapses the locker table 10. When the locker table 10 is in the collapsed configuration 110 of FIG. 3, the planes of the shelf 200 and leg-members 400 are approximately mutually parallel and the entire apparatus is nearly flat. Each leg-member 400 has its own rotation axis 120 (geometrically, a straight line extending infinitely in both directions), which is shown in FIGS. 4, 6, and 7). The rotation axes 120 are parallel to the left edge 230 and the right edge 240 of the rectangular shelf 200 and to each other. The leg-members 400 rotate inward toward the bottom surface 260 of the shelf 200 to collapse the locker table 10, as shown in the partially collapsed position of FIG. 4.
As shown in FIG. 6, two pivot lock devices 310 are attached near the left edge 230 of the shelf 200 on its bottom surface 260, one near the front edge 210 of shelf 200 and the other near the rear edge 220. The two pivot lock devices 310 have holes 320 into which the left leg-member 400 snaps into place. The centers of the holes 320 are aligned horizontally to define a left rotation axis 120 about which the left leg-member 400 pivots to close. The right edge 240 of the shelf 200 is similarly equipped to attach the right leg-member 400.
As shown in FIG. 7, leg-members 400 are fabricated from plastic-coated rigid wire bent into a rectilinear U-shape 410, having two essentially straight parallel side segments or tines 420 and an essentially straight base segment 430. The base segment 430 contains the ground-engaging points 450 of the leg-member 400. Each tine 420 is bent inward at its free end to form a flange 460 parallel to the ground 40 so that the two flanges 460 are axially collinear. Each flange 460 snaps into the hole 320 in its corresponding pivot lock device 300 along the rotation axis 120 of the leg-member 400 of which it is a part. The two pivot lock devices 310 utilize the stiffness or inwardly-directed tension in the wire of the tines 420 to hold the leg-member 400 securely upright, preventing unintentional collapse. To do so, the pivot lock device 300 holds the erect leg-member 400 in a vertical groove 340 with the hole 320 for the flange 460 perpendicular to the groove 340 at the shelf-ward end of the pivot lock device 300 (FIG. 6). The tines are biased slightly inward proximal to the rotation axis because they are held apart by the pivot lock devices 310. The lock on the leg-member 400 can only be released by manually stretching the two tines 420 further apart so that they exit the grooves 340 of the pivot lock device 300, while simultaneously rotating the leg-member 400 downward through the left/right centerplane 140 of the locker table 10 toward the shelf 200 on its rotation axis 120.
The invention does not require that the leg-members 400 be vertical when erect. However, in the preferred embodiment, they are vertical (i.e., perpendicular to the shelf 200 and to the ground 40) to enhance stability and, in combination with the thinness of the wire frame leg-members 400, to maximize the usability of and access to the space beneath the shelf (FIG. 1).
One problem solved by the invention is how to design a tall collapsing locker table 10 so that the leg-members 400 do not significantly obstruct each other during the process of folding them flat. The solution is to give one leg a female adaptation region 500 and the other leg a male adaptation region 520 as shown in FIG. 7. A leg-member 400 attaches to the shelf 200 along its rotation axis 120. Let L1 be either one of the two leg-members 400 and L2 be the remaining leg-member 400. Then the end of L1 proximal to shelf 200 (possibly in combination with the shelf 200 adjacent to it) circumscribes an empty cavity 510 or hole in its interior perpendicular to its plane and located just below the plane of the shelf 200, which is the female adaptation region 500. L2 is then adapted to behave as the male mate in the following way. Parallel to its rotation axis 120, the outside dimension of L2 is narrower near its base end than its inner dimension near its rotation axis. This narrow portion of L2 is its male adaptation region 520. If L2 is closed first, obstruction is avoided. As L2 is rotated inward, this narrower male adaptation region 520 section will fold into the female adaptation region 500 in L1, which is sized and shaped to allow L2 to lie flat against the bottom surface 260 of the shelf 200 (see FIG. 4). Once L2 is closed, L1 can fold essentially flat on top of it.
The invention requires only that one leg-member 400 have a female adaptation region 500 and the other have a male adaptation region 520. It is not inconsistent, as in the preferred embodiment, for each leg-member 400 to have both a female adaptation region 500 and a male adaptation region 520, making the process of collapsing the locker table 10 indifferent to which leg-member 400 is closed first. FIG. 4 shows the locker table 10 resting on the top surface 250 of its shelf 200, with one leg-member 400 erect and the other partially collapsed, illustrating how the female adaptation region 500 and the male adaptation region 520 in the preferred embodiment allow the leg-members 400 to close without obstructing each other. Because each leg-member 400 is formed of wire into a frame, when combined with the bottom surface of the shelf 200 it circumscribes a cavity 510 (when viewed from the side of the erect locker table 10, FIG. 2) allowing it to play the female role. For the male adaptation region 520, the outside dimension 540 of each leg-member 400 in a direction parallel to its rotation axis 120 is narrower along its base segment 430 than its inside dimension 530 closer to its rotation axis 120 (FIG. 7). This is achieved by having the tines 420 bent inward so that the leg-member 400 is narrower at its base end 430 than at its shelf 200 end. In the preferred embodiment, the locker table 10 is symmetrical about a front/rear centerplane 130 dividing it into front and rear halves, and also about a second left/right centerplane 140 dividing it into left and right halves (FIG. 3). The lower leg-member 400 indentation is achieved with an inward (i.e., toward the front/rear centerplane 130 when proceeding from the rotation axis 120 to the base end 430) dogleg bend 550 in each tine 420 (FIG. 7).
If D is the distance 150 between the rotation axes 120 of the leg-members 400 (FIG. 6), and if one leg-member 400 is folded flat and the other is erect, then the male adaptation region 520 of the folded leg-member 400 is that portion at a distance greater than or equal to D from its rotation axis 120, and which protrudes beyond the erect leg-member 400. Of course, the male adaptation region 520 may be longer than this measurement. The male adaptation region 520 must have an outside dimension 540 in the direction parallel to the rotation axis 120 less than the corresponding inside dimension 530 within the female adaptation region 500 of the erect leg-member 400 (FIG. 7). Because in the preferred embodiment each leg-member 400 has both a male adaptation region 520 and a female adaptation region 500, the position and along-tine length of the dogleg bends 550 are also constrained such that the female adaptation region 500 of the leg-member 400 must be large enough to permit the male portion 520 of its mate to fold into it (FIG. 4).
In one embodiment, the invention does not require that the locker table 10 height exceed its width, but rather that the distance 150 between the rotation axes 120 (which are parallel to each other) of its leg-members 400 be less than the distance from the rotation axis 120 of one leg-member 400, containing the male adaptation region 520, to its ground-engaging portion 450. Except in esoteric examples, in an embodiment such as the preferred one in which (a) the leg-members 400 are vertical when erect, (b) the shelf 200 is thin, and (c) the rotation axes 120 are positioned close to the left edge 230 and right edge 240 of the shelf 200, the locker table 10 height will, in fact, exceed the shelf 200 width. In the preferred embodiment, the shelf 200 is approximately 11.4 inches (29 cm) wide to fit snugly into many lockers commonly found in the United States (FIG. 1). The height of the locker table 10 in the preferred embodiment is 12.9 inches (33 cm).
In any case, when the shelf 200 is taller than it is wide, then the left leg-member 400 will protrude beyond the right edge 240 of the shelf 200, and the right leg-member 400 protrude beyond the left edge 230 of the shelf 200 when the locker table 10 is collapsed. (FIG. 3)
The invention solves the problem of hanging the collapsed locker table 10 on a peg 600 or retail display device arm by configuring the protruding portion 470 of the leg-member 400 in its collapsed configuration 110 to include an integrated peg-hanger 700 (FIG. 5 and FIG. 8). A peg-hanger 700 is a structure from which the locker table 10 can be suspended upon a peg 600 or arm. A peg-hanger 700 contains a hanging notch 710. The hanging notch 710 is the portion of the peg-hanger 700 that comes into contact with the peg 600 when the locker table 10 is in its hanging configuration 120, that holds the weight of the locker table 10, and that prevents the peg-hanger 700 and, thus, the whole locker table 10, from inadvertently moving laterally on, or falling off, the peg 600. Below the hanging notch 710 is a notch hole 720 through the leg-member plane 480 and through which the peg 600 penetrates to suspend the locker table 10.
FIG. 9 shows several hanging notch configurations to illustrate the concept. At a minimum, the hanging notch 710 must have an apex point 730 (or possibly a short line segment of apex points 730) from which the locker table 10 will hang suspended when resting on a peg 600, a notch hole 720 below that point through which the peg 600 penetrates the leg-member plane 480, and notch sides 740 to constrain lateral movement. Formally, as illustrated by FIG. 10, a hanging notch 710 embedded within a peg-hanger 700 is defined by three distinct points a, b, and c such that: (i) points a, b, and c are contained within the material of the leg-member 400; (ii) points a, b, and c are located within a plane; (iii) the perpendicular projection of point b onto the rotation axis 120 of the leg-member 400 is strictly between the perpendicular projections of points a and c onto said rotation axis 120; (iv) point b is further from the first rotation axis 120 than points a and c; and (v) when the locker table 10 is in its collapsed configuration 110, the projection of the unique triangle 750 formed by points a, b, and c perpendicular to the plane of said triangle 750 is empty of material composing the locker table 10 (and, in particular, empty of material of the shelf 200 and the leg-members 400).
Consistent with the invention, the hanging notch 710 can have a variety of shapes, such as angular, rounded, or rectilinear (FIG. 9). Details about the appropriate scale and relative dimensions of a hanging notch 710 are well known to persons of ordinary skill in designing picture hangers.
The hanging notch 710 is a part of a larger structure, a peg-hanger 700. The peg-hanger 700 can also have a variety of configurations consistent with the invention (FIG. 8). For example, any configuration of the devices commonly used to hang pictures, such as a saw-tooth hanger or a wire connected to two eye screws, could suffice for this purpose. The peg-hanger 700 might be formed out of a wire twisted or bent to form a hanging notch 710 (FIG. 9). To facilitate the leg-members 400 folding flat, however, the peg-hanger 700 itself must itself be approximately coplanar with the leg-member 400.
Regardless of the details, the configuration of the integrated peg-hanger 700 must not make the locker table 10 unstable when it is erect. This requirement allows for variation in the detailed structure of the leg-members 400. For example, one of the leg-members 400 might be formed from bent wire into the shape of a triangle, with a vertex of the triangle serving the dual purpose as the base of the locker table 10 when erect and peg-hanger 700 when collapsed (FIG. 8c).
In the preferred embodiment, each leg-member 400 is split symmetrically in half by the front/rear centerplane 130 of the locker table 10 (FIG. 7). Both leg-members 400 are identically fabricated, so each has an integrated peg-hanger 700 (FIG. 3 and FIG. 7).
FIG. 5 shows the locker table 10 in the hanging configuration 120, collapsed and supported on a display peg 600 by its hanging notch 710, which is part of the peg-hanger 700 integrated into its leg-members 400. When the locker table 10 is in its hanging configuration 120, the peg-hanger 700, with its hanging notch 710, is oriented so that the axial centerline 610 of the peg 600 lies within the front/rear centerplane 130 of the locker table 10 and is perpendicular to the shelf-plane 270 (FIG. 5).
In the preferred embodiment shown in FIG. 5, the integrated peg-hanger 700 comprises a bend in the wire of the horizontal base segment 430 of the leg-member 400 within which it is centered. The central portion of the peg-hanger 700 is sinusoidal in shape, comprising (from the perspective of an observer of the locker table 10 in its hanging configuration 120) two relative minima 760 flanking one relative maximum 770. That concave downward portion of the peg-hanger 700 containing the relative maximum 770 defines the hanging notch 710. The concave upward portions of the peg-hanger 700 containing the relative minima 760 are extended at the outside by furcations 780 that connect smoothly with the remainder of the base segment 430 on either side of the peg-hanger 700. Holistically, the peg-hanger 700 resembles a rounded letter ‘W’ formed by the base segment 430 and offset downward (when observed hanging) from the ground-engaging portions 450 of the base segment 430. The locker table 10 is suspended from the middle hump in the W shape, which rests upon the peg 600. A peg-hanger 700 in the shape of the classical zigzag letter W is an obvious alternate embodiment (FIG. 9).
The invention is not to be taken as limited to all the above details, as modifications and variations may be made without departing from the intent or scope of the invention. As such, those skilled in the art will appreciate that the conception upon which this disclosure is based may readily be utilized as a basis for designing future products that incorporate the methods, systems, and purposes of the present. For example, the shelf 200 might not be designed as a mesh, or the leg-members 400 might be bent in different ways as yet unimagined. A locker table 10 consistent with the invention could be fabricated from metal, fiberglass, plastic, wood or any other rigid material, or some combination thereof. In short, the invention should not be limited by the specifics of the above description, but rather should be limited only by the following claims and equivalent constructions.