Title:
FOLDING BAKING RACK
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A folding baking rack for supporting baking trays is disclosed having two opposing side assemblies joined together by at least one foldable cross-member assembly that allows the baking rack to be collapsible to require less space when not in use, and expandable to assume the form of a traditional baking rack for use. Each cross-member assembly comprises two link arms pivotally joining two C-arms, the C-arms being pivotally connected to each of the two opposing side assemblies such that the two opposing side assemblies are maintained in a parallel orientation with respect to each other throughout the range of motion of the foldable cross-member. In one embodiment of the invention, the C-arms and link arms are spring biased providing an over-center force that both maintains the folding baking rack in a collapsed state, and provides an opening force once the folding baking rack is opened beyond a half-way open position.



Inventors:
Von Feldt, Barry T. (Bainbridge Island, WA, US)
Harberts, Scott (Seattle, WA, US)
Application Number:
11/737033
Publication Date:
10/18/2007
Filing Date:
04/18/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
F28D7/02
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
HOANG, TU BA
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MILLER NASH LLP (601 UNION STREET, SUITE4400, SEATTLE, WA, 98101-2352, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A folding baking rack for supporting baking trays, the baking rack comprising: (a) a first side assembly; (b) a second side assembly oriented opposite and parallel to the first side assembly; and (c) at least one foldable cross-member assembly comprising a first pair of at least two C-arm members oriented parallel to one another and pivotally connected to the first side assembly, a second pair of at least two C-arm members oriented parallel to one another and pivotally connected to the second side assembly, and at least one link arm pivotally connected to the first pair of at least two C-arm members and the second pair of at least two C-arm members; whereby, the first pair of at least two C-arm members is foldable with respect to the second pair of at least two C-arm members, and correspondingly the first side assembly is inwardly collapsible with respect to the second side assembly.

2. The folding baking rack of claim 1, wherein each of the at least two C-arm members of the first pair, and each of the at least two C-arm members of the second pair are further comprised of an upper arm member, a lower arm member, and a middle arm member joined to the upper arm member and the lower arm member substantially in the shape of a letter C.

3. The folding baking rack of claim 1, wherein each of the at least two C-arm members of the first pair is pivotally connected to two locations on the first side assembly, and each of the at least two C-arm members of the second pair is pivotally connected to two locations on the second side assembly.

4. The folding baking rack of claim 1, further comprising at least one spring element having a first end and a second end, the first end attached to the first pair of at least two C-arm members, and the second end attached to the second pair of at least two C-arm members, whereby an inward spring bias provides an over-center force between the first pair and second pair of at least two C-arm members.

5. The folding baking rack of claim 4, further comprising at least one first spring retainer for engaging the first end of the at least one spring element and affixed to the first pair of at least two C-arm members, and at least one second spring retainer for engaging the second end of the spring element and affixed to the second pair of at least two C-arm members.

6. The folding baking rack of claim 1, further comprising at least one pair of tray support members having a first tray support member affixed to the first side assembly, and a corresponding second tray support member affixed to the second side assembly, whereby at least one baking tray is supportable between the first side assembly and the second side assembly.

7. The folding baking rack of claim 1, wherein the first side assembly is further comprised of a first of at least two rail members oriented vertically and in parallel with respect to each other, and the second side assembly is further comprised of a second pair of at least two rail members oriented vertically and in parallel with respect to each other.

8. The folding baking rack of claim 1, further comprising at least one first wheel assembly connected to a lower portion of the first side assembly, and at least one second wheel assembly connected to a lower portion of the second side assembly, whereby the baking rack is transportable.

9. A folding baking rack for supporting baking trays, the baking rack comprising: (a) a first side assembly further comprising a first set of at least two rail members oriented vertically and in parallel with respect to each other; (b) a second side assembly oriented opposite and parallel to the first side assembly, the second side assembly further comprising a second set of at least two rail members oriented vertically and in parallel with respect to each other; and (c) at least one foldable cross-member assembly comprising a first pair of at least two C-arm members oriented parallel to one another and pivotally connected to the first side assembly, a second pair of at least two C-arm members oriented parallel to one another and pivotally connected to the second side assembly, and at least one link arm pivotally connected to the first pair of at least two C-arm members and the second pair of at least two C-arm members; whereby, the first pair of at least two C-arm members is foldable with respect to the second pair of at least two C-arm members, and correspondingly the first side assembly is inwardly collapsible with respect to the second side assembly.

10. The folding baking rack of claim 9, wherein each of the at least two C-arm members of the first pair, and each of the at least two C-arm members of the second pair are further comprised of an upper arm member, a lower arm member, and a middle arm member joined to the upper arm member and the lower arm member substantially in the shape of a letter C.

11. The folding baking rack of claim 9, wherein each of the at least two C-arm members of the first pair is pivotally connected to two locations on the first side assembly, and each of the at least two C-arm members of the second pair is pivotally connected to two locations on the second side assembly.

12. The folding baking rack of claim 9, further comprising at least one spring element having a first end and a second end, the first end attached to the first pair of at least two C-arm members, and the second end attached to the second pair of at least two C-arm members, whereby an inward spring bias provides an over-center force between the first pair and second pair of at least two C-arm members.

13. The folding baking rack of claim 12, further comprising at least one first spring retainer for engaging the first end of the at least one spring element and affixed to the first pair of at least two C-arm members, and at least one second spring retainer for engaging the second end of the spring element and affixed to the second pair of at least two C-arm members.

14. The folding baking rack of claim 9, further comprising at least one pair of tray support members comprising a first tray support member affixed to the first side assembly, and a corresponding second tray support member affixed to the second side assembly, whereby at least one baking tray is supportable between the first side assembly and the second side assembly.

15. The folding baking rack of claim 15, wherein the at least one pair of tray support members are oriented perpendicular to the at least two rail members of the first side assembly and the at least two rail members of the second side assembly.

16. The folding baking rack of claim 9, further comprising at least one first wheel assembly connected to a lower portion of the first side assembly, and at least one second wheel assembly connected to a lower portion of the second side assembly, whereby the baking rack is transportable.

17. A folding baking rack for supporting baking trays, the baking rack comprising: (a) a first side assembly further comprising a first set of at least two rail members oriented vertically and in parallel with respect to each other; (b) a second side assembly oriented opposite and parallel to the first side assembly, the second side assembly further comprising a second set of at least two rail members oriented vertically and in parallel with respect to each other; (c) at least one foldable cross-member assembly comprising a first pair of at least two C-arm members, the C-arm members oriented parallel to one another and pivotally connected to two locations on the first side assembly, a second pair of at least two C-arm members oriented parallel to one another and pivotally connected to two locations on the second side assembly, and at least one link arm pivotally connected to the first pair of at least two C-arm members and the second pair of at least two C-arm members; whereby, the first pair of at least two C-arm members is foldable with respect to the second pair of at least two C-arm members, and correspondingly the first side assembly is inwardly collapsible with respect to the second side assembly; and (d) at least one pair of tray support members comprising a first tray support member affixed to the first side assembly, and a corresponding second tray support member affixed to the second side assembly, whereby at least one baking tray is supportable between the first side assembly and the second side assembly.

18. The folding baking rack of claim 18, further comprising at least one spring element having a first end and a second end, the first end attached to the first pair of at least two C-arm members, and the second end attached to the second pair of at least two C-arm members, whereby an inward spring bias provides an over-center force between the first pair and second pair of at least two C-arm members.

19. The folding baking rack of claim 18, further comprising at least one first wheel assembly connected to a lower portion of the first side assembly, and at least one second wheel assembly connected to a lower portion of the second side assembly, whereby the baking rack is transportable.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application claims benefit of U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/792,751 entitled Folding Baking Rack, filed Apr. 18, 2006.

FIELD OF INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to collapsible storage racks. More specifically, the present invention is directed to a folding baking rack for supporting baking trays, which are commonly used in the food preparation industry. Foldable cross-members allow the rack to be collapsible to take up less space when not in use, and expandable to assume the form of a traditional baking rack for use.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Baking racks and baking trays are commonly known in the food preparation industry. Baking racks and trays come in a number of shapes and sizes and perform a number of functions. Generally, baking trays (also referred to as baking sheets) are flat, generally rectangular metal pans, often with at least one rolled-over edge, upon which food products are located at various stages during preparation or processing. Baking racks are typically upright storage rack assemblies which support a plurality of baking trays. The baking trays containing food products are often stored on baking racks prior to baking, and then afterward for cooling the baked food products.

For example a chef may place cookie dough upon a baking tray prior to baking. Several baking trays may be used in the preparation of large numbers of baked food products. These baking trays are typically stacked on a baking rack until each baking tray is ready to be placed into an oven for baking the food products. Once removed from the oven, each baking tray is then placed on a baking rack to allow the baked food products to cool.

Baking racks typically have a plurality of support brackets located and oriented to allow the baking trays to stack vertically and to provide space between each baking tray to accommodate food products. Each baking tray is typically supported on either side within the baking rack by a support bracket so that each baking tray is removable from the baking rack by sliding it outward along the support brackets.

Another purpose of baking racks is to provide a means of easily transporting many baking trays. Specifically, baking racks are commonly used by individuals and entities such as professional chefs, restaurants and cruise lines in order to transport large quantities of baking trays and food products from one location to another in the course of processing the food products. These baking rack assemblies may be large in scale and may include a plurality of baking trays and food products. Wheels, casters or rollers are typically mounted to the base or legs of these baking racks to allow the baking rack to be easily transported. The attachment of wheels, casters or rollers allows the chef and/or kitchen staff easily to move large amounts of food products around a kitchen area on the baking rack.

Large institutional kitchens and commercial food processing plants, such as bakeries, may use roller track systems, conveyor belts or conveyor lifts to transport large numbers of baking rack assemblies so equipped.

There are limitations associated with the baking racks previously known in the industry. For example, large-scale baking racks often take up a significant amount of space in a kitchen. Oftentimes, in kitchens, restaurants and on cruise ships, space is a valuable commodity and the loss of space to a number of baking racks may be an inconvenience, if not an impossibility. A lack of space can result in the foregoing the use of baking racks, which in turn, results in the difficult transportation of large scale food products by hand-held trays or other manual means.

It would be beneficial to have a baking rack that can be collapsed when not in use to minimize storage space requirements, and then be easily expandable to assume the form of a traditional baking rack for use. Some previously known storage racks and carts address storage space minimization by providing fixed frame elements, such as Z-shaped frames, that allow for similarly constructed racks to be nested together in groups, thereby taking up less storage space.

There are many known collapsible storage carts in the prior art, some of which are adaptable as baking racks. Some of these storage carts are collapsible by disconnecting and removing pieces of shelving or structural supports from the rack. Storage space for these carts is reduced but the removed pieces can become separated and possibly lost. These carts also require additional time for those using the carts to disassemble and reassemble the cart.

It is therefore desirable to have a baking rack that is easily collapsible without the use of tools, removal of parts or the need for excessive disassembly and reassembly time.

There are previously known collapsible carts that use folding cross members pivotally connected in an X-like configuration and joining one side of a cart to another. The cross members fold in a scissor-like manner to collapse the cart. A problem arises in that collapsible carts so configured have difficulty remaining stable when the cart is partially collapsed or partially opened. The instability is due to an inability of the folding members to maintain opposing sides of the cart upright and parallel to each other, and can result in difficult or unsafe handling of the cart when it is not fully expanded.

It would therefore be highly desirable to have a collapsible baking rack that remains in a stable and upright orientation while the baking rack is being collapsed, expanded for use, and stored.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The above-described problems are solved and a technical advance achieved by the present folding baking rack. Providing a folding baking rack with improved features enables optimization of space in a food preparation environment and offers numerous advantages over traditional baking racks and previously known collapsible racks. The advantages stem mostly from the use of at least one foldable cross-member that enables the rack to be collapsible to take up less space when not in use, and expandable to assume the form of a traditional baking rack when needed for use. The foldable cross-members further provide stability to the cart by maintaining opposing sides to the cart in a parallel orientation for safer collapsing and expansion. These design features minimize the number of working parts and extend the useful life of the baking rack, which greatly contributes to performance and value to a user.

A folding baking rack is disclosed having two opposing side assemblies, each side assembly having at least two parallel rail members, each rail member being vertically oriented, and supported by a wheel assembly attached to the bottom of each rail, a plurality of tray support members, which engage and support the outside edges of baking trays, affixed to the rails perpendicular to the rails and parallel to each other. The two opposing side assemblies are joined together by at least one collapsible cross-member assembly. Each cross-member assembly comprises two link arms pivotally joining two C-arms, the C-arms being pivotally connected to each of the two opposing side assemblies such that the two opposing side assemblies are maintained in a parallel orientation with respect to each other throughout the range of motion of the collapsible cross-members.

In one embodiment of the invention, the C-arms and link arms are spring biased providing an over-center force that both maintains the folding baking rack in a collapsed state and provides an opening force once the folding baking rack is opened beyond a half-way open position.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is an isometric view of a folding baking rack of the present invention shown in an expanded position.

FIG. 2 is an isometric view of a folding baking rack of the present invention shown in a collapsed position.

FIG. 3 is a partial isometric view of a side assembly and cross-member assembly of the present invention.

FIG. 4 is a partial isometric view of a collapsible cross-member assembly the collapsible cross-member assembly showing a pivotal connection between corresponding C-arms and a link arm.

FIG. 5 is a top view of the folding baking rack shown in a collapsed position.

FIG. 6 is a top view of the folding baking rack shown in an opened position.

FIG. 7 is a top view of the folding baking rack shown in a partially collapsed position.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

FIG. 1 shows a folding baking rack of the present invention in an expanded, fully opened position. In this position, the folding baking rack assumes the form of a traditional baking rack for holding a plurality of baking trays. FIG. 2 shows the folding baking rack partially folded in a collapsed position. The folding baking rack is made up of several assemblies that, in combination, form a mainframe having an interior chamber or space in which at least one baking tray is supported.

As shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, the folding baking rack is comprised of a first side assembly 5 and a second side assembly 10 oriented opposite and parallel to each other. Each of the first side assembly 5 and the second side assembly 10 may be formed as single panels or combinations of panel members and support rail members. In a preferred embodiment, each side is formed of at least two rail members 15 arranged vertically and in a parallel orientation with respect to each other.

Tray support members 20 can be any projection or recess in each side assembly such that at least one baking tray is supportable between the first side assembly 5 and the second side assembly 10. In one embodiment of the present invention, tray support members 20 are formed of elongated strips of material having an L-shaped cross-section, and at least two tray support members 20 are attached to the at least two rail members 15 for each of the first side assembly 5 and the second side assembly 10. The tray support members 20 are oriented horizontally and perpendicular to the vertically oriented rail members 15. The rail members 15 and the tray support members 20 can be made of any material that can be formed, molded, extruded or machined, including but not limited to metals, such as steel, aluminum, or metal alloys, and heat resistant plastics, fiberglass, carbon fibers, or any rigid composite materials.

The rail members 15 can be solid material or a hollow tube such as a box tube that provides a rigid structure. Tray support members 20 are ideally formed of a strip of material with an L-shaped cross section to provide a mounting surface and a horizontally oriented ledge on which baking trays are capable of being supported. Exposed corners may be shaped or rounded to provide safe handling. Tray support members 20 are fastened to the rail members 15 by any possible means known to those skilled in the art for joining rigid materials in a fixed position, including welding, adhesive bonding and any possible use of fasteners. For maximum strength and rigidity of the entire folding baking rack, each tray support member 20 is affixed at either end to a rail member 15. A smaller folding baking rack of the present invention may have at least one pair of opposing tray support members 20, while a larger folding baking rack will have a plurality of tray support members 20 arranged from the top to the bottom of each rail member 15.

Wheel assemblies 30 such as casters or rollers are affixed to bottom portions of the first side assembly 5 and the second side assembly 10 to provide a means of easily transporting the folding baking rack over a ground surface such as a floor or work platform. At minimum, at least one wheel assembly 30 is affixed to each side assembly 5 and 10, and if only two wheel assemblies 30 are used, at least one additional support member (not shown) is provided to give the folding baking rack at least a three-point floor support. Ideally, the wheel assemblies 30 are rotationally affixed to the first side assembly 5 and the second side assembly 10 to enable a user to steer and otherwise maneuver the folding baking rack as desired.

The first side assembly 5 and the second side assembly 10 are joined together by at least one foldable cross-member assembly 25 as shown in FIGS. 1 and 2. FIG. 3 is a partial view of a first side assembly 5 and a foldable cross-member assembly 25 of the present invention. Each foldable cross-member assembly 25 is made up of at least one, and preferably two link arms 35 pivotally joining at least two pairs of opposing C-arms 40. Each link arm 35 is preferably made of a rigid piece of material having a first end and a second end, with two pivot locations at each of two ends for joining with the C-arms. Each C-arm 40 is a structure formed with a top segment—identified here as an upper arm member 45, a lower segment—identified here as a lower arm member 50, and a middle segment—identified here as a middle arm member 55. Each C-arm 40 can be formed of a single piece of material that is bent, molded or machined in substantially the shape of a squared letter “C” having 90 degree corners.

A first pair of at least two C-arm members 40 that are oriented parallel to one another are pivotally connected to the first side assembly 5. A second pair of at least two C-arm members 40 that are oriented parallel to one another are pivotally connected to the second side assembly 10. In one embodiment of the present invention shown in FIGS. 5, 6 and 7, each C-arm member has a first C-arm pivot 75 at a location on the C-arm upper arm member proximate to the middle arm member 55, and a second C-arm pivot 75 at a location on the C-arm lower arm member proximate to the middle arm member 55. Each of these two C-arm pivots 75 are joined to pivot locations on each of their respective side assemblies.

As shown in FIG. 3, each C-arm 40 is also pivotally connected at two points to each of the first side assembly 5 and the second side assembly 10. FIGS. 4, 5 and 6 show one embodiment where each C-arm is pivotally connected to tray support members 20 on the first side assembly 5 and on the second side assembly 10. Each pivot point between each C-arm 40 and each tray support member 20 are herein identified as a C-arm pivot 75 and is formed by any possible pin, hinge or flexible material that allows pivotability of a connection so created. In a preferred embodiment of the present invention, each C-arm member 40 is oriented such that the two C-arm pivots 75 are oriented vertically from one another and each C-arm member 40 is laterally pivotable.

Each link arm 35 is a length of rigid material having two pivot locations at each end of its length. One link arm 35 is oriented and pivotally connected at one end to the upper C-arm members 45 of one pair of opposing C-arms 40, and pivotally connected at the other end to the upper C-arm members 45 of a second pair of opposing C-arms 40 as shown in FIG. 3. Each pivot point on the link arms 35 are herein identified as a link pivot 70 and is formed by any possible pin, hinge or flexible material that allows pivotability of a connection so created. In one embodiment of the present invention as shown in FIG. 3, a second link arm 35 is oriented and pivotally connected at one end to the lower C-arm members 50 of one pair of opposing C-arms 40, and pivotally connected at the other end to the lower C-arm members 45 of a second pair of opposing C-arms 40. The rigidity of each C-arm 40 ensures that each link arm 35 remains parallel and vertically aligned with respect to the other link arm 35.

A spring element 60 is used in one embodiment of the present invention to provide a spring bias between opposing C-arms 40 resulting in an over-center force that draws the opposing C-arms 40 together in a first collapsed position, and that provides an opening force once the C-arms 40 are opened beyond a half-way point. FIG. 4 shows a spring element 60 attached at one end to a spring retainer 65 affixed to an open end of each C-arm 40, such as a spring attachment post. Each spring retainer 65 is positioned and oriented to provide the above-described over-center force of the spring element 60.

FIG. 5 is a top view of a folding baking rack of the present invention shown in a collapsed position. With the cross-member assembly 25 folded in this configuration, the first side assembly 5 can be positioned very close to or touching the second side assembly 10. The first side assembly 5 is maintained parallel to the second side assembly 10. Floor space occupied by the folding baking rack in a collapsed position shown in FIG. 5 is less than that when the folding baking rack is opened, as shown in FIG. 6. Fully opened, the vertical C-arm members 55 prevent the C-arms 40 from rotating beyond a 90 degree orientation of the C-arms 40 relative to the tray support members 20.

FIG. 7 shows a top view of the folding baking rack in a partially collapsed position, and illustrates the direction of travel for the link arm 35 and the corresponding rotation of the C-arms 40 as the folding baking rack is urged in an open position. Because geometric symmetry is maintained through the full range of link arm 35 travel and C-arm 40 rotation, the first side assembly 5 and the second side assembly 10 are maintained in a parallel orientation with respect to each other and vertically upright while the folding baking rack is being collapsed, expanded and stored. The first side assembly 5 and the second side assembly 10 are outwardly displaced relative to an axis of travel for the link arm member 35 as the C-arms 40 rotate to the left as shown in FIG. 7, and outward with respect to the link arm members 35, when the folding baking rack is opened for use. The first side assembly 5 and the second side assembly 10 are inwardly displaced relative to an axis of travel for the link arm member 35 as the C-arms 40 rotate to the right as shown in FIG. 7, and inward toward the link arm members 35, when the folding baking rack is being collapsed for storage.

To fold the baking rack, pressure is applied on both the first side assembly 5 and the second side assembly 10, or on opposing elements of the cross-member assembly 25. This pressure will result in a folding of the cross-member assembly 25 at the link pivots 70 and C-arm pivots 75, which in turn draws the first side assembly 5 toward the second side assembly 10. To open the folding baking rack, the first side assembly 5 and the second side assembly 10 are pulled in opposite directions or, alternatively, pressure is applied on elements of the cross-member assembly 25 to direct the first side assembly 5 away from the second side assembly 10.

The foregoing describes a folding baking rack assembly to be used in the food preparation industry, but is not limited to a particular size of folding baking rack. Large sizes of the present invention are possible with the use of more sufficiently rigid materials and/or the use of additional structural members such as additional side assemblies, rail members 15, tray support members 20, and cross-member assemblies 25. For example, a larger folding baking rack of the present invention can have two or more side assemblies, each of which is joined to another by two or more foldable cross-member assemblies. Smaller sizes of the present invention can be achieved with the minimum number of structural members to produce table-top and personal use folding baking racks. For example, a table-top folding baking rack of the present invention has two steel wire side assemblies, each with a single tray support member for supporting a single baking tray or other household baking pan, and joined by a foldable cross-member assembly.

It will be obvious to those skilled in the mechanical arts that the folding baking rack of the present invention and its features are readily applicable to any type of cart or storage rack for use in a number of different industries where it is desirable to have the cart or rack collapsible for minimization of storage space, without the use of tools or loose parts, that will provide a stable and upright form during storage and while being collapsed and opened.

INDUSTRIAL APPLICABILITY

The present invention has applicability to the field of collapsible storage racks. More specifically, the present invention is directed to a folding baking rack for supporting baking trays that is collapsible to take up less space when not in use, and expandable in use to assume the form of a traditional baking rack.

In compliance with statute, the invention has been described in language more or less specific as to baking racks. It is to be understood, however, that the invention is not limited to the specific means or features shown or described, since the means and features shown or described comprise preferred ways of putting the invention into effect.

Additionally, while this invention is described in terms of being used for a baking rack, it will be readily apparent to those skilled in the art that the invention can be adapted to other uses for other forms of storage racks, industrial as well as residential consumer. Therefore, the invention should not be construed as being limited to racks used only in the food preparation industry. The invention is, therefore, claimed in any of its forms or modifications within the legitimate and valid scope of the appended claims, appropriately interpreted in accordance with the doctrine of equivalents.