Sign up
Title:
Foldable support leg and pallet assembly formed therefrom
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A support leg includes a sheet of material configured into a sequence of adjacent panels and including a first tab, a first cutout configured to receive the first tab being formed within one of the panels, wherein the sheet is foldable into a nested panel structure defining an interior cavity. A pallet deck includes a sheet of material having a plurality of first cutouts and second cutouts defined therein, wherein each first cutout is dimensioned to allow insertion of the at least one tab and at least one panel of the foldable support leg and each second cutout is dimensioned to allow insertion of the at least one tab, each second cutout being spaced apart from each first cutout such that the at least one panel is able to substantially extend therebetween. A pallet assembly is formed by mating a plurality of support legs to a pallet deck.


Inventors:
Teags, William Gale (Longmont, CO, US)
Larson, Damian Anthony (Cave Creek, AZ, US)
Larson, Daniel Andrew (Cave Creek, AZ, US)
Application Number:
11/528868
Publication Date:
03/29/2007
Filing Date:
09/28/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D19/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20070006782Combination knockdown pallet structure and article containerJanuary, 2007Creighton et al.
20100043680SUPPORT ASSEMBLY FOR A DROP LEAFFebruary, 2010Dag
20060236896Adjustable window shelfOctober, 2006Heroux
20070227408Computer DeskOctober, 2007Phillips
20060243177Bookcase with sloping shelvesNovember, 2006Jones
20090309321LUG CART & SUPPORT TABLE ASSEMBLY FOR FOOD PRODUCT BREADING MACHINEDecember, 2009Sukey et al.
20090241809MATERIALS SAFETY CAGE AND ASSOCIATED METHODSOctober, 2009Head
20020152934Screw bosses for blow-molded structuresOctober, 2002Haney
20080295745TABLE CONSTRUCTIONDecember, 2008Hamilton et al.
20090272779Foldable portable universal laptop computer holder and harnessNovember, 2009Vu
20060236902Table with edge support structuresOctober, 2006Haney et al.
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MCCORMICK, PAULDING & HUBER LLP (CITY PLACE II, 185 ASYLUM STREET, HARTFORD, CT, 06103, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A support leg comprising: a sheet of material configured into a sequence of adjacent panels and including a first tab, a first cutout configured to receive the first tab being formed within at least one of the panels; wherein the sheet is foldable into a nested panel structure having the first tab inserted into the first cutout and defining an interior cavity.

2. The support leg of claim 1, wherein the interior cavity defined by the sheet upon folding has a substantially rectangular cross section.

3. The support leg of claim 2, wherein a first panel will diagonally traverse the interior cavity when the sheet is folded into the nested panel structure.

4. The support leg of claim 3, wherein a second panel will diagonally traverse the interior cavity when the sheet is folded into the nested panel structure.

5. The support leg of claim 4, wherein the first and second panels will diagonally traverse the interior cavity at angles offset by approximately 90 degrees when the sheet is folded into the nested panel structure.

6. The support leg of claim 3, wherein a second cutout for accommodating the first tab after insertion into the first cutout is defined in at least one of the panels diagonally traversing the interior of the rectangular solid.

7. The support leg of claim 6, wherein a third and fourth panel define opposing sides of the interior cavity when the sheet is folded into the nested panel structure, the first cutout being defined within the third panel, the first tab extending between the third and fourth panels when the first tab is inserted into the first cutout.

8. The support leg of claim 5, wherein a third panel defines one of the sides of the rectangular solid and a fourth panel lies inside of and adjacent to the third panel when the sheet is folded into the nested panel structure, the second panel extending from the fourth panel.

9. The support leg of claim 8, wherein the third panel is cut so as to form a second tab, and the fourth panel defines a second cutout, the second tab being insertable into the second cutout to inhibit unfolding of the support leg when the sheet is at least partially folded into the nested panel structure.

10. The support leg of claim 3, wherein a second panel traverses the interior cavity substantially perpendicular to the panels defining the sides of the cavity when the sheet is folded into the nested panel structure.

11. The support leg of claim 10, wherein a second cutout is defined within the first panel, the second cutout accommodating the second panel when the sheet is folded into the nested panel structure.

12. The support leg of claim 2, wherein the first cutout is defined within a first panel and the first tab extends from a second panel, the second panel overlying at least a portion of the first panel when the sheet is folded into the nested panel structure.

13. The support leg of claim 12, wherein the first and second panels are spaced apart when the sheet is folded into the nested panel structure such that another sheet of material, of at least approximately the same thickness as the sheet of material, can be accommodated between the first and second panels.

14. A pallet assembly comprising: a plurality of support legs, at least one support leg folded from a single sheet of material and including a first tab and defining a first cutout for receiving the first tab therein; and a pallet deck, at least one second cutout being defined within the pallet deck; wherein the at least one support leg is secured to the pallet deck by the insertion of the first tab through the at least one second cutout prior to insertion into the first cutout.

15. The pallet assembly of claim 14, wherein the sheet of material forming the support leg is configured into a sequence of adjacent panels that are folded into a nested panel structure defining an interior cavity.

16. The pallet assembly of claim 15, wherein the interior cavity has a substantially rectangular cross section and two of the panels diagonally traverse the interior cavity, the two panels being offset from one another by approximately 90 degrees.

17. The pallet assembly of claim 14, wherein the sheet of material folded to form the at least one support leg includes a first panel and a second panel, the first cutout being defined within the first panel and the first tab extending from the second panel, the pallet deck being accommodated between the first and second panels.

18. The pallet assembly of claim 17, wherein at least one third cutout is defined within the pallet deck, the first tab and the second panel being inserted through the third cutout prior to insertion of the first tab through the second cutout.

19. The pallet assembly of claim 14, wherein the pallet assembly further comprises a shipping monitoring instrument, the shipping monitoring instrument being located between the pallet deck and the at least one support leg.

20. The pallet assembly of claim 17, wherein the pallet assembly further comprises a shipping monitoring instrument, the shipping monitoring instrument being located between the pallet deck and the first panel.

21. The pallet assembly of claim 14, wherein the pallet deck includes a plurality of foldable edge panels substantially surrounding the pallet deck perimeter.

22. The pallet assembly of claim 21, wherein the adjacent edge panels are folded away from the support legs to form a tray.

23. The pallet assembly of claim 21, wherein the adjacent edge panels are folded toward the support legs to form a skirt at least partially concealing the support legs.

24. A pallet deck comprising: a sheet of material having a plurality of first cutouts and a plurality of second cutouts defined therein; wherein each first cutout is dimensioned to allow insertion of at least one tab and at least one panel of a corresponding foldable support leg and each second cutout is dimensioned to allow insertion of the at least one tab, each second cutout being spaced apart from each first cutout such that the at least one panel is able to substantially extend therebetween.

25. The pallet deck of claim 24, wherein there are two second cutouts associated with each first cutout.

26. The pallet deck of claim 24, wherein the first cutouts associated with support legs to be secured along an edge of the pallet deck are formed as recesses along the edge.

27. The pallet deck of claim 24, wherein the pallet deck includes a plurality of foldable edge panels substantially surrounding the pallet deck perimeter.

28. The pallet deck of claim 27, wherein adjacent foldable edge panels are releasably connectable when folded at an angle of approximately 90 degrees relative to the pallet deck.

Description:

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/721,621, filed on Sep. 29, 2005, the contents of which are herein incorporated by reference in their entirety.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention generally relates to pallet assemblies, and particularly to pallet assemblies made from sheets of corrugated materials like plastic and paper.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Wooden pallets used in connection with shipping and other activities are ubiquitous. However, there are many drawbacks associated with wooden pallets. Wooden pallets are heavy and are prone to infestation by various insects and to fungal growth. The need to check wooden pallets for infestation and/or fungus, and to treat affected pallets can cause serious delay and expense for pallet users, especially in international shipping activities. Before use, wooden ballets must be shipped to prospective points of use. During such shipping, wooden pallets occupy a relatively large volume, thus limiting the number that can be shipped in a given conveyance. Once used, wooden pallets are difficult to recycle and consequently end up in landfills in excessive numbers.

Materials like plastic and paper can be advantageous relative to wood as plastic and paper are lighter, and either inherently resistant to infestation and fungal growth or easily treatable to resist both. Recycling facilities readily accept plastic and/or paper. Various attempts have been made to design corrugated plastic or paper pallets. Some plastic pallets are individually molded for a specific use. Such pallets are relatively expensive to produce initially and require nearly the same volume during shipping as wooden pallets.

Other attempts have been made to use corrugated paper or plastic, but without deviating far from conventional pallet design. These types of pallets are generally constructed using conventional pallet elements cut from multiple plies of corrugated material and then assembled. Because of the large amount of material used, such pallets do not fully take advantage of the lightweight nature of plastic and/or paper, and require as much, or nearly as much, space during shipping as conventional pallets.

Finally, some attempts have been made to construct pallets using fewer plies of paper or plastic, while typically trying to increase strength with some combination of folding and use of more rigid materials. Such pallets are difficult to assemble, require additional adhesives and fasteners, and only achieve a limited benefit over wood when more rigid materials are included.

From the foregoing it can be seen that there is a need for a lightweight pallet constructed from plastic and/or paper that exhibits sufficient load-bearing capacity and rigidity while capable of occupying a small volume during shipping to a point of use and adapted for easy assembly at the point of use without the need for adhesives, discrete fasteners, or the like.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

It is an object of the present invention to provide a foldable support leg that is completely flat when unfolded, but provides superior rigidity and load-bearing capacity once folded, without requiring any adhesives, discrete fasteners, or the like.

It is a further object of the present invention to provide a foldable support leg adapted for securely mating, without requiring adhesives, discrete fasteners, or the like, with a load bearing surface, such as the deck of a pallet.

According to an embodiment of the present invention, a pallet assembly includes a plurality of support legs, at least one support leg folded from a single sheet of material and including a first tab and defining a first cutout for receiving the first tab therein, and a pallet deck, at least one second cutout being defined within the pallet deck wherein the at least one support leg is secured to the pallet deck by the insertion of the first tab through the at least one second cutout prior to insertion into the first cutout.

According to an aspect of the present invention, the support leg includes a sheet of material configured into a sequence of adjacent panels and including the first tab, the first cutout configured to receive the first tab being formed within at least one of the panels, wherein the sheet is foldable into a nested panel structure having the first tab inserted into the first cutout and defining an interior cavity.

According to another aspect of the present invention, the pallet deck includes a sheet of material having a plurality of first cutouts and a plurality of second cutouts defined therein, wherein each first cutout is dimensioned to allow insertion of at least one tab and at least one panel of a corresponding foldable support leg and each second cutout is dimensioned to allow insertion of the at least one tab, each second cutout being spaced apart from each first cutout such that the at least one panel is able to substantially extend therebetween.

According to a further aspect of the present invention, two diagonal panels traverse the interior cavity of the support leg, offset by approximately 90 degrees, substantially enhancing the structural conformity and load bearing capacity of the support leg.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a pallet assembly including a pallet deck and a plurality of foldable support legs, according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of one of the support legs of FIG. 1 completely unfolded;

FIGS. 3-8 are perspective views of the support leg of FIG. 2, in various states of folding;

FIG. 9 is the support leg of FIG. 2 fully folded;

FIG. 10 is a perspective view of the pallet deck of FIG. 1;

FIGS. 11 and 12 are perspective views showing various stages of securing the supports legs to the pallet deck of FIG. 10;

FIG. 13 is a perspective view of a fully unfolded support leg, according to another embodiment of the present invention;

FIGS. 14-16 are perspective views of the support leg of FIG. 13, in various states of folding;

FIG. 17 is a perspective view of the support leg of FIG. 13 fully folded;

FIG. 18 is a perspective view of a pallet deck, according to another embodiment of the present invention; and

FIGS. 19 and 20 are perspective views of pallet assemblies including the pallet deck of FIG. 18.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Referring to FIG. 1, a pallet assembly 10 is formed from a plurality of foldable support legs 12 mated to a pallet deck 14. The support leg will be described in reference to FIGS. 2-9. Referring to FIG. 2, each support leg 12 is folded from a sheet 20 of material. The sheet 20 of material is configured into a sequence of adjacent panels and tabs. The panels include a bottom panel 22, first and second side panels 24, 26, a top panel 28, first and second diagonal panels 30, 32, a diagonal offset panel 34, and first and second deck retention panels 36, 38. Together the panels are all foldable to form a nested panel structure, the top, bottom and side panels 22-28 defining an interior cavity, with the diagonal panels 30, 32 and the diagonal offset panel 34 forming an internal support structure within the cavity, as will be described below. The terms top, bottom and side refer, as used herein, to the orientation of the support leg 12 when mated with the pallet deck 14 during conventional use of the pallet assembly 10 with the support legs 12 on the ground.

The tabs include first and second deck retention tabs 44, 46 extending from the first and second deck retention panels 36, 38, and side panel engagement tabs 48 formed in the second side panel 20. Each deck retention tab 44, 46 includes two tab ears 48. A plurality of cutouts are also defined in the panels. The cutouts include first and second deck retention tab cutouts 50,52, a second diagonal deck retention tab cutout 54 and side panel engagement tab cutouts 56. The cooperation of the tabs and cutouts will be described in detail below.

The folding of the sheet 20 of material to form the nested panel structure of the support leg 12 will be explained in reference to FIGS. 3-9. In FIG. 3, the sheet 20 is folded approximately 90 degrees between the top panel 28 and the first side panel 24. The second diagonal panel 32 is folded approximately 135 degrees over the diagonal offset panel 34. In FIG. 4, the diagonal offset panel 34 is folded approximately 90 degrees relative to the top panel 28, bringing an edge of the second diagonal panel 32 into contact with the junction between the top panel 28 and the first side panel 24, thereby forming a portion of the internal support structure. Notably, the second deck retention tab cutout 52 and the second diagonal deck retention tab cutout 54 are brought into alignment following this fold.

Referring to FIG. 5, the sheet 20 is folded approximately 90 degrees between the first side panel 24 and the bottom panel 22. This fold brings the junction of the second diagonal panel 32 and the diagonal offset panel 34 into contact with the junction of the second side panel 26 and the bottom panel 22. Thus, the diagonal offset panel 34 extends between the top panel 28 and the bottom panel 22, adding further strength to the support leg 12 and also forming part of the internal support structure. Also in FIG. 5, the first diagonal panel 30 is folded approximately 135 degrees relative to the top panel 28, bringing an edge of the first diagonal panel 30 into contact with the junction between the bottom panel 22 and the first side panel 24, thereby forming another portion of the internal support structure.

The “x” structure thus formed by the first and second diagonal panels 30, 32 can be better appreciated in reference to FIG. 6. As the second diagonal panel 32 extends from the diagonal offset 34 panel rather than directly from the top panel 28, the first and second diagonal panels 30, 32 traverse the interior cavity of the nested panel structure (as yet only partially folded) offset from one another by an angle of 90 degrees. The “x” structure thus formed adds greatly to the strength and rigidity of the fully folded support leg 12.

Referring to FIG. 7, the sheet 20 is folded approximately 90 degrees between the bottom panel 22 and the second side panel 26. This fold brings the second side panel 26 adjacent to the diagonal offset panel 34, aligning the side panel engagement tabs 48 in the second side panel 26 with the side panel engagement tab cutouts 56 in the diagonal offset panel 34. The side panel engagement tabs 48 are pushed inward through the side panel engagement tab cutouts 56. Because each side panel engagement tab 48 has a head that exceeds the width of a neck defined by each corresponding side panel engagement tab cutout 56, the side panel engagement tabs 48 are prevented from pully directly out of the side panel engagement tab cutouts 56, thus securing the second side panel 26 to the diagonal offset panel 34 and inhibiting the unfolding of the partially folded support leg 12. Securing the support leg 12 in the semi-folded state of FIG. 7 will be useful in connection with the mating of the support legs 12 to the pallet deck 14, as will be described below.

Referring to FIG. 8, the first and second deck retention tabs 44, 46 are folded approximately 90 degrees relative to the deck retention panels 36, 38. The tab ears 48 are each folded approximately 90 degrees toward the top panel 28, such that the shape of the end of each deck retention tab 36, 38 corresponds to the shape of the deck retention tab cutouts 50, 52 in the top panel 28.

In FIG. 9, the first and second deck retention tabs 44, 46 are inserted into the first and second deck retention tab cutouts 50, 52 by folding the first and second deck retention panels 36, 38 90 degrees relative to the second side panel 26. The second diagonal deck retention tab cutout 54 enables complete insertion of the second deck retention tab 46 by allowing the second deck retention tab 46 to extend through the second diagonal panel 32. Once the tab ears 48 have been inserted through the first and second deck retention tab cutouts 50, 52, the tab ears 48 will at least partially unfold, preferably due to the natural tendency of the material to unfold, preventing the deck retention tabs 44, 46 from pulling directly out of the corresponding deck retention tab cutouts 50, 52. Portions of the second diagonal deck retention tab cutout 54 are flared outward to accommodate the unfolding of the tab ears 48 of the second deck retention tab 46.

In this fully folded state, the deck retention panels 36, 38 partially overlie the top panel 28, but are separated to define an accommodation space 60. The accommodation space 60 is dimensioned to accommodate the pallet deck 14, which, in the embodiment shown, is approximately the same thickness as the sheet 20 from which the support leg 12 is folded. The dimensions of the accommodation space 60 are established, on the first side panel 24 side, by the distance 62 between the top of the tab ears 48 and the corresponding deck retention panel 36, 38, and on the second side panel 26 side, by the distance 64 by which the upper edge of the second side panel 26 extends above the top panel 28.

Referring to FIG. 10, the pallet deck 14 is formed from a single sheet of material 16 having a plurality of cutouts defined therein. The cutouts enable the support legs to be secured to the pallet deck, as is described in detail below. The cutouts include elongated cutouts 70 and deck retention tab cutouts 72. The elongated cutouts 70 are dimensioned to accommodate insertion of both the deck retention tabs 44, 46, with tabs ears 48 unfolded, and the deck retention panels 36, 38 of the support legs 12, as will be described below. Where an elongated cutout 70 is located at the edge of the pallet deck 14, the elongated cutout 70 is formed as a recess 74 in the edge. The spacing 76 between the elongated cutouts 70 and the corresponding deck retention cutouts 72 is substantially equal to the length of the deck retention panels 36, 38. The deck retention tab cutouts 72 match the shape of the deck retention tab cutouts 50, 52 in the top panels 28 of the support legs 12.

To assemble the pallet assembly 10 securing the support legs 12 to the pallet deck 14, each support leg is first folded to the state shown in FIG. 7, with the side panel engagement tabs 48 folded into the side panel engagement tab cutouts 56 to prevent the partially-folded support leg 12 from unfolding. Referring to FIG. 11, the unfolded deck retention tabs 44, 46 and the deck retention panels 36, 38 of each support leg 12 are inserted through the corresponding elongated cutout 70. The folding of each support leg 12 is completed as described above in connection with FIGS. 8 and 9, with the addition that each deck retention tab 44, 46 is first inserted through the corresponding deck retention tab cutout 72 of the pallet deck 14 prior to being inserted through the deck retention tab cutout 50, 52 of the top panel 28 of the support leg 12. The pallet deck 14 is then substantially fills the accommodation space 60 between the deck retention panels 36, 38 and the top panel 28 of each support leg 12. Various stages of the folding of the deck retention tabs 44, 46 and their insertion through the deck retention tab cutouts 72 of the pallet deck 14 are illustrated in FIG. 12. The finished pallet assembly 10, with each support leg 12 completely secured to the pallet deck 14, is best seen in FIG. 1.

As the support legs and pallet deck used to form the pallet assembly are each folded from flat sheets, it can be appreciated that the support legs and pallet deck of the present invention can be shipped while unfolded in large quantities to a point-of-use while requiring far less space than conventional pallet support elements. The support legs can then be assembled using a simple folding process at the point-of-use. No adhesives, discrete fasteners, and the like are required to assemble a support leg or the pallet assembly, though these can be used, if desired. After use, the pallets can be re-used or easily recycled, depending on the condition of the pallet and the needs and desires of the user. It can also be appreciated how a lightweight yet strong support leg is formed by folding a single sheet of material. It can particularly be appreciated that the rigidity and load-bearing capacity of the support leg is enhanced by the internal x structure formed by the first and second diagonal panels.

Those skilled in the art will appreciate that the present invention is not limited to the above-described embodiment, but that modifications, variations, and adaptations for particular circumstances fall within the scope of the invention as herein shown and described.

For example, preferably the sheets of material used to form the support legs and the pallet deck are corrugated plastic or paper (cardboard). Such materials are lightweight, low-cost, readily recyclable, and possess (or can be imbued with during or post-manufacture) anti-fungal and anti-infestation properties. The superior strength and rigidity of corrugated sheets vice non-corrugated sheets are well known. Alternately, the sheets of material can be injection molded, which can advantageously impact material management. It is not necessary that the pallet deck and each support leg be made from sheets of the same material.

Since the support legs are folded from a flat sheet, the support legs occupy substantially less volume, pre-folding. The support leg design can be modified, as will be clear to those skilled in the art, to be folded from sheets of various thicknesses and material composition, and to accommodate pallet decks of various thicknesses. The thickness and material composition of the sheet used to form the support leg/pallet deck is largely a function of design requirements.

While the overall dimensions of pallets are typically standardized, it will be appreciated that the current invention readily allows not only for pallets meeting differing standards, but also for custom sizes and custom designs. The overall pallet height can be adjusted, for instance, by utilizing larger support legs and/or a thicker deck. The length and width of the pallet can be varied by altering the dimensions of the deck and changing the arrangement and/or number of support legs, as needed. Pallets that are not square or rectangular can be readily produced in a similar fashion. It will also be appreciated that a foldable support leg according the to present invention can be used in a variety of different applications, of which pallet assemblies are only one.

While the support leg thus shown and described provides excellent rigidity and strength, further modifications are possible to further increase the strength and rigidity. For example, a sheet of material 120 for folding a support leg 112 according to another embodiment of the present invention is shown in FIGS. 13-17. The reference numerals will be repeated for elements common to both embodiments.

Referring to FIG. 13, a modified sheet 120 includes first and second reinforcement panels 122, 124 extending from the end of a first diagonal panel 130, and a reinforcement panel cutout 132 is defined within the first diagonal panel 130. Also, longer first and second deck detection tabs 144, 146 are included. Additionally, the tab ears 150 of the first deck retention tab 144 each include an angled edge. Each of these modifications are further described below. Where an element is the same as in the embodiment described above, the same reference numeral is used.

In FIG. 14, the second reinforcement panel 124 is folded approximately 90 degrees relative to the first reinforcement panel 122. In FIG. 15, the first reinforcement panel 122 is folded 135 degrees relative to the first diagonal panel 130, such that the second reinforcement panel 124 is inserted through the reinforcement panel cutout 132. The first diagonal panel 130 is then folded in the same manner as the first diagonal panel 30 the previously described embodiment.

As can be appreciated from FIG. 16, the first reinforcement panel 122 extends between the top and bottom panels 28, 22 adjacent to the first side panel 24 and the second reinforcement panel 124 transverses the interior cavity perpendicularly to the top, bottom and side panels 22-28 (although the second side panel 26 is shown unfolded in FIG. 16 to show details of the modified internal support structure). The first and second reinforcement panels 122, 124 thereby contribute to the internal support structure, further increasing the strength and rigidity of the support leg 112.

Referring to FIG. 17, when the first deck retention tab 144 is inserted into the first deck retention cutout 50, the first deck retention tab 144 extends all the way to the first diagonal panel 32, with the angled edge of the tab ears 150 preventing interference between the tab ears 150 and the first diagonal panel 32. Similarly, when the second deck retention tab 146 is inserted into the second deck retention tab cutout 52 and through the second diagonal deck retention tab cutout 54, the second deck retention tab 146 extends all the way to the bottom panel 22. Accordingly, the modified deck retention tabs 144, 146 also form a part of the internal support structure, adding even more strength and ridigity to the fully folded support leg 112.

The modifications described in this alternate support leg 112 embodiment do not affect the general manner in which the support leg 112 is secured to the pallet deck 14.

Further modifications to the pallet deck 14 can also be made to add to the strength, rigidity and functionality of this element. For example, referring to FIG. 18, the pallet deck 114 can include foldable edge panels 170 substantially surrounding the pallet deck 114. Where adjacent edge panels 170 meet at corners of the pallet deck 114, one edge panel 170 is provided with a tab arm 172 and a slot 174 for receiving the tab arm 172 is defined in the other edge panel 170. Referring to FIG. 19, the foldable edge panels 170 are folded up approximately 90 degrees relative to the rest of the pallet deck (shown mated with a plurality of support legs 12 to form a pallet assembly 110), thus forming a lip around the edge of the pallet deck 114. Insertion of the tab arms 172 into the slots 174 maintains the edge panels 170 in the folded condition. Products loaded onto the pallet assembly 110 help keep the tab arms 172 engaged in the slots 174. The folded edge panels 170 along all the edges of the pallet deck 114 increase the strength and rigidity of the pallet assembly 110. The lip formed by the folded edge panels 170 also help retain products on the pallet deck 114 and facilitate use of the pallet assembly 110 in connection with a hood, or inverted, open-ended box, as used in certain shipping applications.

Referring to FIG. 20, rather than folding the foldable edges 170 up and away from the support legs 12, the foldable edges 170 can also be folded down so as to at least partially conceal the support legs 12. This configuration provides similar gains in strength and rigidity, and can be useful, for example, when it is desired to display products for sale without removing them from the pallet assembly 110. In such a situation, the foldable edge 170 would preferably be folded up during shipping (as in FIG. 19), so as not to interfere with the manipulation of the pallet assembly 110 by a forklift, or similar machine. At point of sale, the foldable edge 170 would be folded down. The side of the foldable edge 170 displayed when folded down could be pre-printed with words, pictures, symbols, or the like, and could replace the skirt frequently used to conceal pallets holding goods for sale.

The modifications to the pallet deck in this additional embodiment would, like the alternate support leg embodiment, not affect the general manner in which support legs are secured to the pallet deck.

Additionally, various shipping monitoring instruments are advantageously utilizable in connection with the present invention. A variety of shipping monitoring instruments are known in the art, such as radio-frequency identification (RFID) devices and shock, temperature, humidity and inclination indicators. Such devices are desirable to track articles to be shipped and/or to monitor the condition of the articles during shipping or storage. From various accidental and intentional causes, shipping monitoring instruments have a tendency to be removed during shipping and storage. Accordingly, it is desirable to place shipping monitoring instruments in locations where they will be protected from damage and tampering. However, it is also desirable that the shipping monitoring be readily readable and/or recoverable by authorized personnel.

The nested panel structure of the support legs 12, and the mating of the foldable support legs 12 with the pallet deck 14 afford excellent opportunities for optimal placement of shipping monitoring instruments. For example, a shipping monitoring instrument can be placed on the top panel 28 (see the location 180 indicated in FIG. 7). When the support leg 12 is then mated to the pallet deck 14 (see the location 180 indicated in FIG. 1), the shipping monitoring instrument is protected from physical damage and concealed from prospective tamperers.

The foregoing is not an exhaustive list of modifications, variations, or adaptations to particular circumstances that can be made within the scope of the present invention. Rather, those skilled in the art will discern that these and other variations, modifications and adaptations to particular circumstances fall within the scope of the invention as herein shown and described.