Title:
MODULAR MULTI-WALL TRAY RETROFITABLE TO A WHEELCHAIR
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A robust multi-wall tray which is easily retrofitable to a wheelchair. Due to the structural design, the tray is lightweight but yet more rigid than conventional solid wheelchair trays. The multi-wall tray can be secured to a wheelchair with conventional means or with several novel means that provide a smooth work surface free of screws or Velcro™. A novel prior art adjustable tray support structure can also be integrated into the multi-wall tray to allow the system to mount robustly to the frame of a wheelchair and also allow the tray to fold away to the side of the wheelchair when not in use. Additionally, the multi-wall tray can have a sealed perimeter to create an enclosure for protecting electronic devices. The design can support electronic devices for computer assisted living while also providing a tray work surface for reading, writing or eating.



Inventors:
Goschy, Patrick E. (Elmhurst, IL, US)
Sedor, Thomas M. (Orland Park, IL, US)
Application Number:
11/382763
Publication Date:
02/21/2008
Filing Date:
05/11/2006
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
108/44, 280/304.1
International Classes:
A47B11/00; A47B37/00
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
EDELL, JOSEPH F
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
TREXLER, BUSHNELL, GIANGIORGI,;BLACKSTONE & MARR, LTD. (105 WEST ADAMS STREET, SUITE 3600, CHICAGO, IL, 60603, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A tray for use while in the seated position, said tray comprising: a top panel; a bottom panel; support members disposed between the top and the bottom panels, said tray being of unitary construction and being configured such that the tray is mountable to support structure.

2. A tray as recited in claim 1, further comprising at least one storage compartment disposed between the top and bottom panels.

3. A tray as recited in claim 1, wherein the tray has a front side and a rear side, and the support members extend from the front side of the tray to the rear side of the tray.

4. A tray as recited in claim 1, wherein the tray is comprised of at least one of a plastic polymer and a carbon fiber material.

5. A tray as recited in claim 4, wherein the tray is at least one of translucent and opaque.

6. A tray as recited in claim 1, wherein the tray has a front edge, and the tray has a recess cutout at the front edge which is configured to accommodate a torso of a user.

7. A tray as recited in claim 1, wherein the tray is rectangular.

8. A tray as recited in claim 1, wherein there is a hole in the top panel.

9. A tray as recited in claim 1, wherein the tray comprises a top surface, and the top surface is smooth.

10. A tray as recited in claim 1, wherein the tray has an outer perimeter which has radiused corners.

11. A tray as recited in claim 1, further comprising a hook and latch fastening structure configured to attach the tray to the support structure.

12. A tray as recited in claim 1, further comprising tray support structure which engages and supports the tray, wherein the tray support structure comprises an upper support assembly and a lower support assembly, wherein the upper support assembly is configured to support the tray, is configured to telescope relative to the lower support assembly to facilitate height adjustment of the tray, and is configured to rotate relative to the lower support assembly such that the tray is orientateable away from the seating structure.

13. A tray as recited in claim 12, wherein the upper support assembly comprises a vertical tube which is configured to interact with corresponding structure on the lower support assembly to facilitate adjustment and securement of the vertical tube relative to the lower support assembly.

14. A tray as recited in claim 13, wherein the lower support assembly comprises a tube and a plunger which is disposed on the tube and has a tip, wherein the vertical tube includes at least one opening which is configured to receive the tip of the plunger.

15. A tray as recited in claim 12, further comprising a tray assembly which comprises a panel and a mounting bracket disposed on the panel and configured to engage corresponding structure on the upper support assembly for adjusting and securing a position of the panel.

16. A tray as recited in claim 12, further comprising an inner mounting clamp which is configured to mount to a frame of the seating structure, an outer mounting clamp which is configured to clamp to the lower support structure, and structure which is clamped by both the inner and outer mounting clamps such that the outer mounting clamp is spaced away from the inner mounting clamp.

17. A tray as recited in claim 16, wherein both the inner and outer mounting clamps are comprised of a plurality of clamp sections held together by fasteners.

18. A tray as recited in claim 1, wherein the tray has an outer perimeter and the tray further comprises trim molding which is engaged with the outer perimeter thereby forming an enclosure, wherein the support members are contained within the enclosure.

19. A tray as recited in claim 1, wherein the tray further comprises a handle.

20. A tray as recited in claim 1, wherein the tray has an outer perimeter and the tray further comprises a handle at the outer perimeter.

21. A tray as recited in claim 19, wherein the trim molding includes a handle.

22. A tray as recited in claim 1, wherein the tray comprises at least one interior compartment between the top and bottom panels, and printed material disposed in the at least one interior compartment.

23. A tray as recited in claim 1, wherein the tray comprises at least one interior compartment between the top and bottom panels, and at least one solar panel disposed in the at least one interior compartment.

24. A tray as recited in claim 1, wherein the tray comprises at least one interior compartment between the top and bottom panels, and an electronic display disposed in the at least one interior compartment.

25. A tray as recited in claim 1, wherein the tray comprises at least one interior compartment between the top and bottom panels, and a computer disposed in the at least one interior compartment.

26. A tray as recited in claim 25, further comprising a stylus pen which is useable as an input device for the computer.

27. A tray as recited in claim 1, wherein the tray comprises at least one interior compartment between the top and bottom panels, and a communication device disposed in the at least one interior compartment.

28. A tray as recited in claim 1, wherein the communication device comprises at least one of a cellular phone, an MP3 player, a walkie-talkie, an AM/FM radio and a satellite radio.

29. A tray as recited in claim 1, wherein the tray comprises at least one interior compartment between the top and bottom panels, and a speaker disposed in the at least one interior compartment.

30. A tray as recited in claim 1, wherein the tray comprises at least one interior compartment between the top and bottom panels, and a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) unit disposed in the at least one interior compartment.

31. A tray as recited in claim 1, wherein the tray comprises at least one interior compartment between the top and bottom panels, and an electronic connector disposed in the at least one interior compartment.

32. A tray as recited in claim 31, wherein the tray has an outer perimeter and the tray further comprises trim molding which is engaged with the outer perimeter thereby forming an enclosure, wherein the support members are contained within the enclosure, and wherein the electronic connector is disposed in the trim molding.

33. A tray as recited in claim 1, wherein the tray has an outer perimeter and the tray further comprises trim molding which is engaged with the outer perimeter thereby forming an enclosure, wherein the support members are contained within the enclosure, further comprising a wire disposed between the outer perimeter of the tray and the trim molding.

34. A tray as recited in claim 1, wherein the tray comprises at least one interior compartment between the top and bottom panels, and said tray is configured such that an electronic device is positionable and removeable from the at least one interior compartment.

35. A tray as recited in claim 1, wherein the tray comprises at least one interior compartment between the top and bottom panels, further comprising at least one insert disposed in the at least one interior compartment, said at least one insert having at least one hole configured to receive a fastener.

36. A tray as recited in claim 1, further comprising at least one mounting bracket which is disposed on the bottom panel of the tray, said at least one mounting bracket being configured to mount to the seating structure.

37. A tray as recited in claim 1, wherein each of the top and bottom panels comprises two portions which are hinged together.

38. A tray as recited in claim 37, wherein the tray is configured such that the portions of the top panel are co-planar when the tray is orientated in a standard use position.

39. A tray as recited in claim 38, wherein the tray is configured such that the tray is selectively openable to a flat position and closeable such that the tray is folded in half.

40. A tray as recited in claim 39, further comprising a contoured hinge configured to prevent a user's finger from getting pinched during folding of the tray.

41. A tray as recited in claim 1, wherein the tray is incorporated into an assembly such that the tray is rotatable to a side of a wheelchair, nearly parallel to and flush to wheels of the wheelchair.

42. A tray as recited in claim 1, wherein the tray includes a connector which is configured to be electrically connectable to an electric device.

43. A tray as recited in claim 18, wherein the edge molding is configured such that the enclosure is water-resistant to a minimum level of IP21 per IEC 60529.

44. A tray as recited in claim 1, further comprising means for mounting the tray to the support structure, wherein the support structure comprises an armrest of a chair.

45. A tray as recited in claim 44, wherein the chair comprises a wheelchair.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATION

Priority Claim

This application is a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/200,838, filed Aug. 10, 2005, which claims the benefit of U.S. provisional application Ser. No. 60/600,853, filed Aug. 12, 2004, both of which are hereby incorporated herein by reference in their entirety. This application also claims the benefit of U.S. provisional application Ser. No. 60/680,153, filed May 12, 2005, which is also hereby incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The invention relates generally to multi-wall trays. More specifically, the invention relates to a plastic wheelchair tray which is engineered to be lightweight, yet very strong, and can house various mechanical and electronic components.

2. Description of Prior Art

It can be appreciated that wheelchair trays have been in use for years. Wheelchair trays serve a multifunction role as an eating surface, work surface or general platform to perform everyday tasks. Typically, a wheelchair tray is comprised of a platform which is secured onto the top of the wheelchair armrests and contours around the torso of the wheelchair user. The prior art wheelchair tray is typically made of solid wood or plastic and is normally between ¼″ and ⅜″ thick. Wheelchair trays typically mount to the wheelchair with hook and loop (i.e. Velcro®) straps that wrap around the top of the tray (or through holes in the tray) and underneath the armrests of the wheelchair; alternate mounting means may include clamps or tubes that are permanently mounted to the underside of the tray and, when installed to the wheelchair, secure the tray to the wheelchair armrests.

However, when the conventional solid wheelchair tray is secured to a wheelchair and an item such as a portable laptop computer is placed on top of this type of wheelchair tray, the tray flexes downward at the non-secured, cantilevered end. This flexing usage scenario can be improved slightly by manufacturing the tray from a thicker solid material. However, utilizing the same but only thicker material for the wheelchair tray also means that the tray will increase in weight. Existing ¼″ thick wheelchair trays made of acrylic or polycarbonate plastic which are sized for adults typically weigh between 4 lbs and 6 lbs. Utilizing the same plastic material which is only ⅛″ thicker can typically add another 1 lb to the weight of the tray. Any added weight due to the use of a thicker material will make it more difficult for the wheelchair user to hold onto the wheelchair tray during installation and removal to/from the wheelchair.

Wheelchair trays manufactured from wood can be more rigid than plastic trays. However, one problem with conventional wooden wheelchair trays is that they do not provide transparency and thus prevent the user from seeing his/her feet during use. The provision of transparency in a wheelchair tray can relate directly to the ability of a wheelchair user to navigate the wheelchair and can also present psychological benefits to the user. The wooden trays which are more rigid than plastic are heavy and can, therefore, present another problem to the wheelchair bound individual. The weight of the wheelchair tray directly impacts the ability of the user or caregiver to remove and place the tray onto the wheelchair. Depending upon the thickness of current wooden and clear plastic wheelchair trays, the weight of the tray often ranges from 4 lbs. to 8 lbs and, consequently, a large portion of handicapped users need assistance from a caregiver to remove and install the tray onto the wheelchair.

Conventional solid wheelchair trays have a limited amount of space available on the top surface of the tray for daily use. This limited amount of “real estate” often causes objects to fall from the surface, necessitating the need for a raised rim to contain objects. Current wheelchair trays typically use a raised rim to prevent objects from rolling from the top surface of the trays. However, this is not the only function that the rim may serve. A solid rim is often attached to the wheelchair tray to provide additional rigidity to the tray, due to flexing that occurs with standard solid trays when an object with any considerable weight is applied to the tray. This solid rim may be manufactured from aluminum or a high-durometer plastic. A rigid rim made of aluminum may pose a safety risk for individuals dining everyday use, due to the proximity of the arms on top of the tray. Current designs can injure someone through bumping, sliding or scraping of the arms against this rim. Due to poor circulation that may be present in many wheelchair users, skin breakdown and infection can occur from the slightest skin abrasion. In addition, some wheelchair users may have tremor disorders or trashing of the body due to a disability such as epilepsy—the use of a solid protruding rim may pose a high risk of injury and in many cases can prevent the use of this type of wheelchair tray altogether.

Recent technologies have allowed electronics to be manufactured in a unitary construction, whereby the computer's microprocessor, visual display and associated hardware are combined into one compact unit. The iPod®, personal data assistant (PDA), notebook computer and tablet PC are examples of products utilizing this space-saving technology. It can be appreciated that such electronic devices have been in use for years. One would think that these compact electronics could be easily used by wheelchair users. However, these devices have unique mounting and liquid-protection requirements.

While wheelchair trays and other conventional tray designs may be suitable for the particular purpose for which they serve, they are not as suitable for computer assisted living. Conventional wheelchair trays do not provide a robust means to support, secure, encase, and/or protect electronic devices. A portable computer or other electronic device that is simply placed onto the surface of a conventional wheelchair tray can easily fall from this mounting surface, potentially damaging the computer or injuring the computer user. Also, these electronics can be easily damaged by foreign elements such as liquids or foods which might accidentally spill onto the electronic device.

Existing hand-held electronic devices can be difficult for a wheelchair user to hold while propelling a manual wheelchair or controlling an electronic wheelchair with a control joystick. In order for such electronic devices not be misplaced or damaged by wheelchair users, hand-held electronic devices have been affixed to wheelchairs with tubes or clamps, or attached to individuals' arms with clips or Velcro®. However, these electronics can be damaged if water, soda or any foreign liquid get into the electronic devices' protective enclosure.

OBJECTS AND ADVANTAGES OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to a wheelchair tray and, more specifically, it relates to a modular multi-wall tray retrofitable to a wheelchair with provisions for housing various mechanical or electronic devices. The present invention generally comprises an engineered plastic tray, flexible trim molding along the outer perimeter of the tray and a mounting system means. The engineered sheet of plastic material utilized for the tray contains a hollow interior with a top and bottom panels joined by ribs and may be manufactured using traditional extrusion or injection molding techniques. One particular extruded plastic material is commonly referred to as a “multi-wall” panel. These multi-wall plastic panels are typically manufactured from polycarbonate or acrylic. Selection of the multi-wall material is novel for a wheelchair tray application due to the material's transparency, structural rigidity and low weight.

Wheelchair trays made from existing prior art materials such as solid plastic may require a separate support means such as an aluminum rim secured to the perimeter of the tray or a separate metal bracket extended from the front of the wheelchair. Therafin Corporation's “Extenda-Arm” tray support is an example of prior art used to keep wheelchair trays from flexing downward during use with a heavy object. The primary benefit in the use of the multi-wall plastic material for a wheelchair tray is that this type of material does not require a separate element (made of aluminum or other rigid material) secured along its exterior to enhance the panel's rigidity. This multi-wall plastic material can support considerable weight without deflecting downward substantially when a load is applied to its top surface. This feature, combined with the fact that the wheelchair tray made of multi-wall plastic weighs less than one half the weight of a clear solid plastic tray with the same surface area, makes installation and removal of the tray from a wheelchair much easier for disabled individuals.

Sometimes a conventional solid wheelchair tray must be secured more robustly to a wheelchair's armrest than with the standard Velcro® means wrapped entirely around the tray and wheelchair armrest. In the alternate mounting scenario, a pair of plastic or metal mounting brackets, which are designed and shaped to mount over the wheelchair armrest are attached to the underside of the wheelchair tray with screws, nuts, bolts or other mounting hardware. This tray/mounting bracket assembly is subsequently attached to the wheelchair armrests. Usage of such wheelchair tray mounting hardware typically requires that holes be drilled completely through the wheelchair tray; this, unfortunately, means that the top surface of a conventional wheelchair tray no longer has a smooth flush surface for the wheelchair user due to the exposed heads of the mounting screws. If a multi-wall wheelchair tray were used in place of the conventional solid wheelchair tray, the top surface of the tray would be perfectly smooth for the user with no exposed screws or Velcro™ straps.

The internal openings in the tray provide a novel benefit: this open space can be utilized to house various mechanical, electronic and/or electro-mechanical devices. This feature not only keeps items within close-proximity to the user, but can also keep valuable electronics from being dropped or protecting the valuable electronics from solid or liquid contaminants. The inventions disclosed allow liquid or solid foods to be eaten, documents (either physical on the wheelchair tray or digital within a computer display) to be signed and read, or heavy objects to be placed onto its top surface of the tray without damaging the valuable electronic equipment housed inside. All of this can occur, while allowing the use of a fully-functional computer, cell phone, or other electronic accessories with enhanced communications and entertainment capabilities, as well as providing a comfortable and stable platform for the wheelchair user.

Electronic devices can be protected inside the tray by a light-weight, flexible, low-durometer trim molding secured along the entire perimeter of the tray with a conventional adhesive. This preferred assembly technique can provide a robust water-resistant seal along the entire perimeter of the tray to an IP21 level of water and dust ingress protection or greater per IEC 60529. The benefit of such a seal is that electronics secured inside the internal openings of the modular wheelchair tray can be protected from contact with water or dust.

A light-weight, flexible, low-durometer trim molding secured along the entire perimeter of the tray also provides safety benefits. Such trim molding can help to absorb the force of impact if, say, the wheelchair tray assembly is accidentally dropped. If dropped onto the ground, the edges and corners of the wheelchair tray are better protected from the impact; but, more importantly, if dropped onto a person's foot, less impact force will be imparted to the person. This trim molding, combined with the proposed light-weight wheelchair tray (which is 100%'s lighter in weight than a traditional standard solid wheelchair tray due to the use of the multi-wall plastic material) will provide a safer wheelchair tray operating environment for wheelchair users and healthcare workers.

The light-weight, flexible, low-durometer trim molding can be pigmented to produce various colors. However, if the trim molding is transparent or translucent, the tray can house a series of light emitting diodes along the tray's perimeter. The system can also be sealed from contaminants to prevent damage to the electronics.

Inherent to the design of the wheelchair tray, power and data lines may be routed along the perimeter of the tray, between the tray material and the edge trim molding; these electrical connections can be individual wires or even integrated into a flex circuit.

The electronics in the modular wheelchair tray are powered either by rechargeable batteries or by rechargeable batteries and solar cells to provide power without any external connections. The solar charging aspect of the present invention also allows the tray to charge the wheelchair, life support equipment, cell phones etc. Photovoltaic cells have achieved efficiencies approaching the 50% mark. The amount of surface area available in the modular wheelchair tray allows for many solar panels to be mounted inside the tray. This, combined with a connector port along the perimeter of the tray, allows many electronic devices to be powered by the tray's charging system.

A modular multi-wall tray retrofitable to a wheelchair can function as an electronic device for personal training, entertainment, rehabilitation, or as an integrated communication platform with cell phone/wireless internet technology. At the same time, the tray may also function as a dinner tray or a document support for reading, etc. A modular multi-wall tray retrofitable to a wheelchair can be used by individuals with limited mobility in schools, hotels, businesses, meeting rooms, homes, nursing homes, manufacturing environments, hospitals, etc. The product allows users to listen to compact discs or MP3 players, view digital video disk (DVD) movies, play games, read and/or send e-mail from multiple viewing positions. As with many computer devices, wireless connectivity also exists for connection to the Internet or communication within a business environment (e.g. medical information tracking and billing). Integrated speakers and a microphone can also be incorporated into the tray, and the tray can be sealed along its perimeter to prevent infiltration of contaminants into the tray itself. In doing so, the product can function as a portal of communication between the user and the outside world from the confines of a wheelchair, and between the user and the healthcare professional if special needs exist, such as for hearing or visually impaired individuals.

The term “electronic display” in this document describes a tablet Personal Computer (tablet PC, either convertible or slate), portable laptop/notebook computer, PDA, gaming console, cellular phone, flat panel television, flat panel monitor, a flexible display or other small-profile, microprocessor-controlled device. An electronic display can be an electronic device which contains either a liquid crystal display (LCD), plasma screen or TFT (thin-film transistor) screen and separate electronic hardware necessary to process, display and send/receive information to/from another remote computer processor. Another remote display technology (under 1/16″ thick) is an LCD or organic-light-emitting-diode (LED) flexible screen, which combines polymer and metal-foil substrates with printable TFT backplanes. The thinnest and most recent display screen technology is actually a flexible substrate known as E-ink, which is a screen thin enough to be integrated into a watch band.

The remote viewing configuration of the remote display enables the electronic display to essentially function as a “dummy terminal”, without taking up the space typically required for a complete computer system. The remote display requires a separate remote computer processor to transmit the data, images or video to/from the remote display and may require a separate user-input device such as a keyboard, mouse, or keypad to control the information transmitted. The remote computer processor contains a Central Processing Unit (CPU) with corresponding auxiliary input and storage device(s). The remote computer processor also contains electronic hardware to transmit data to and receive data from the remote display via a wireless link (e.g. via 802.11b protocol, Bluetooth protocol) or a wired link (e.g. Cat. 6 RJ45 copper cable). One example of a remote display which functions in conjunction with a remote computer processor is the wireless Sony LocationFree™ TV product. In one embodiment described in this document, the remote display is mounted into the multi-wall wheelchair tray and the remote computer processor is placed within operating range of the remote display. This allows the wheelchair occupant to utilize a completely functional remote display without the added weight or clutter of a PDA, DVD player or computer attached to the wheelchair or wheelchair tray.

Typically, electronic displays such as PDA's utilize a technology whereby a touch-screen display can be used as the sole computer input device. The primary input device on a tablet PC, however, differs from that found on a PDA. The stylus pen on a PDA is typically a passive pen-shaped instrument with no internal electronics that operates the microprocessor by depressing a touch-sensitive display screen. The stylus pen on a tablet PC, however, typically has electronics built in which allow the pen to operate the computer at a distance from the display screen without actually depressing the display screen, otherwise known as “hovering”. The tablet PC stylus pen can operate a computer while hovering from the display a distance of up to approximately 0.38 inch utilizing present-day technology. The invention described in this document utilizes this tablet PC stylus pen technology to an advantage not heretofore known and incorporates it into a robust wheelchair tray.

Integration of electronic devices into the multi-wall tray can occur with a trim molding sealed with adhesive along the tray's outer perimeter. Such an assembly can create a water-resistant tray assembly with embodiment with at least an IP21 level of ingress protection per IEC 60529, “Degrees of Protection Provided by Enclosures (IP Code)” document by the International Electrotechnical Commission.

The IEC 60529 document specifies a degree of protection 1) for persons against access to hazardous parts inside an enclosure and 2) for equipment inside an enclosure against a) the ingress of solid foreign objects and b) the harmful effects due to the ingress of water. The IP Code is a designation that indicates the level, or amount, of protection. The IP Code designation consists of the letter IP (International Protection) followed by two numerals. The first numeral of the IP Code (IPX_) indicates the degree of protection provided by the enclosure to persons having access to hazardous parts and with respect to solid foreign objects entering the enclosure; this first numeral is rated from a value of zero (0), which designates a non-protected device, to six (6), which designates a device with protection against access to hazardous parts with a wire and also designates a dust-tight device. The second numeral of the IP Code (IP_Y) indicates the degree of protection provided by the enclosure with respect to the harmful ingress of water entering the enclosure; this second numeral is rated from a value of zero (0), which designates a non-protected device, to eight (8), which designates a device with protection against the effects of continuous immersion of water.

The IP21 level of protection designates that a device is protected against access to hazardous parts with a finger, protected against solid foreign objects=12.5 mm in diameter, and protected against vertical falling water drops. Many types of electronic devices normally placed across the top surface of a solid wheelchair tray can now have an additional layer of safety to an IP21 (or even greater) level of protection from the use of a multi-wall tray embodiment depicted in this document. This type of multi-wall tray design can be quite beneficial in a hospital or nursing home environment where foods and liquids are constantly in use.

To further prevent objects from falling from the top surface of the tray, an optional raised flexible rim can extend from the top of the trim molding. This raised flexible rim can be a safety feature in the fact that it is a flexible rim, manufactured from a low-durometer plastic, unlike many traditional trays which utilize an aluminum rim. The durometer of the raised flexible rim material will prevent objects from falling from the top of the tray but will not cut or injure the user upon physical contact. The raised flexible rim can either be co-extruded with the trim molding or be secured as a separate component to the trim molding with any known traditional adhesive, heat bonding or ultrasonic welding processes.

Mounting systems to secure the multi-wall tray assembly to the wheelchair using traditional Velcro® straps, traditional rigid mounting hardware and a prior art tubular mounting system is also employed.

In these respects, a modular multi-wall tray retrofitable to a wheelchair according to the present inventions substantially departs from the conventional concepts and designs of the prior art, and in doing so provides an apparatus developed for the purpose of enhanced safety, computer-assisted living, computer assisted communication, business and/or entertainment.

In view of the foregoing disadvantages inherent in the known types of wheelchair trays now present in the prior art, the present invention provides a new modular wheelchair tray which secures a computer, communications and other electronic devices in a design and construction wherein the same can be utilized for computer assisted living. The present invention provides a modular multi-wall tray retrofitable to a wheelchair that will overcome the shortcomings of the prior art devices.

The general purpose of the present inventions, which will be described subsequently in greater detail, is to provide a new modular wheelchair tray that has many of the advantages of conventional solid wheelchair trays and many novel features that result in a new modular multi-wall tray retrofitable to a wheelchair which is not anticipated, rendered obvious, suggested, or even implied by any prior art, either alone or in any combination thereof.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

A specific embodiment of the present invention provides a wheelchair tray which comprises an engineered multi-wall tray, edge trim molding and a mounting system. The engineered multi-wall tray has a top panel and bottom panel joined by support members; the internal cross-section is essentially comprised of ribs spaced between openings that can also serve as storage compartments. The tray can be manufactured using traditional extrusion or injection molding techniques. The types of plastic recommended for use in this design are polycarbonate or acrylic. The multi-wall material is the preferred choice for this application because of its transparency, structural strength and low weight. More importantly, the multi-wall material provides a robust tray which is self-supporting and lighter in weight than conventional trays. Edge trim molding can be added to the perimeter of the tray to provide a raised lip to prevent objects from falling off the top of the multi-wall tray, to cap the ends of the tabletop for aesthetic or cleanliness purposes, or to help absorb the impact force of a falling tray onto a person's extremities.

Conventional wheelchair trays contain similar design methodologies to secure wheelchair trays to wheelchair armrests. Several of the design elements presented in this document utilize conventional wheelchair tray mounting means in a fashion not previously conceived for use with multi-wall trays. Conventional mounting means to secure the multi-wall wheelchair tray to a wheelchair may include Velcro® straps or rigid mounting hardware. The use of the multi-wall material allows the proposed tray to be mounted to a wheelchair using these conventional means with a very practical benefit: the wheelchair tray hardware can be secured to the bottom panel of the multi-wall tray, providing a smooth top panel work surface. Another novel mounting means embodiment presented allows the multi-wall tray to be rotated away and folded to the side of the wheelchair wheel when not in use.

The geometry of the multi-wall material allows various mechanical and electronics devices to be installed into the openings inside the tray. The tray can therefore be used as a protective enclosure. If the multi-wall panel is combined with an edge trim molding that is sealed along the perimeter of the tray, the tray can be used as a dust-resistant and water-resistant enclosure to IP21 per document IEC 60529.

In this respect, before explaining at least one embodiment of the invention in detail, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited in its application to the details of construction and to the arrangements of the components set forth in the following description or illustrated in the drawings. The invention is capable of other embodiments and of being practiced and carried out in various ways.

It is to be understood that the phraseology and terminology employed herein are for the purpose of the description and should not be regarded as limiting. Other objects and advantages of the present invention will become obvious to the reader and it is intended that these objects and advantages are within the scope of the present invention.

To the accomplishment of the above and related objects, this invention may be embodied in the form illustrated in the accompanying drawings, attention being called to the fact, however, that the drawings are illustrative only and that changes may be made in the specific construction illustrated.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Various other objects, features and attendant advantages of the present invention will become fully appreciated as the same becomes better understood when considered in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which like reference characters designate the same or similar parts throughout the several views, and wherein:

FIG. 1 is an isometric view of the preferred I-Tray embodiment.

FIG. 2 is an exploded isometric view of the preferred I-Tray embodiment.

FIG. 3 is a plan view of the multi-wall tray.

FIG. 4 contains isometric views of the preferred edge trim molding shape and the preferred edge trim molding installed onto a multi-wall panel.

FIG. 5 is an isometric view of the I-Tray embodiment assembled to wheelchair armrests.

FIG. 6 is a partial bottom isometric view of the I-Tray embodiment assembled to wheelchair armrests.

FIG. 7 is an isometric view of the I-Tray embodiment with slotted cutouts and Velcro™.

FIG. 8 is a bottom isometric view of the I-Tray embodiment with slotted cutouts and Velcro™ assembled to wheelchair armrests.

FIG. 9 is an isometric view of a Velcro™ strap formed into a hem.

FIG. 10 is a partial cross-sectional view of the I-Tray embodiment with slotted cutouts and hemmed Velcro™ installed.

FIG. 11 is a bottom front isometric view of the I-Tray embodiment with slotted cutouts and hemmed Velcro™ assembled to the armrest of a wheelchair.

FIG. 12 is a bottom front isometric view of the bracket mounting means embodiment assembled to the armrest of a wheelchair.

FIG. 13 is an exploded bottom isometric view of the bracket mounting means embodiment.

FIG. 14 is a top view of the multi-wall tray with a joystick control cutout.

FIG. 15 is an isometric view of the rectangular multi-wall tray.

FIG. 16 is an isometric view of the Eco-Tray embodiment.

FIG. 17 is an isometric view of the low-cost Eco-Tray mounting means embodiment.

FIG. 18 is an exploded isometric rear view of the fold away Eco-Tray mounting means embodiment around the upper support assembly.

FIG. 19 is an exploded isometric view of the fold away Eco-Tray mounting means embodiment.

FIG. 20 is an exploded isometric view of the upper support assembly.

FIG. 21 is an exploded isometric view of the lower support assembly.

FIG. 22 is an exploded isometric view of the standard inner mounting clamp assembled to the short clamping tube and the wheelchair frame.

FIG. 23 is an exploded isometric view of the standard outer mounting clamp assembled to the short clamping tube and lower support assembly.

FIG. 24 is an isometric view of the fold away Eco-Tray mounting means embodiment assembled to the wheelchair frame.

FIG. 25 is an isometric view of the fold away Eco-Tray mounting means embodiment assembled to the wheelchair.

FIG. 26 is an isometric view of the fold away Eco-Tray mounting means embodiment assembled to the wheelchair and rotated 180 degrees.

FIG. 27 is a top view of the fold away Eco-Tray mounting means embodiment assembled to the wheelchair and rotated 180 degrees.

FIG. 28 is an isometric view of the fold away Eco-Tray mounting means embodiment assembled to the wheelchair and rotated 270 degrees in a fold-away orientation.

FIG. 29 is a top view of the fold away Eco-Tray mounting means embodiment assembled to the wheelchair and rotated 270 degrees in a fold-away orientation.

FIG. 30 is an end view of an alternate multi-wall tray material with three panels and additional diagonal support rib.

FIG. 31 is an end view of the preferred multi-wall tray material.

FIG. 32 is an end view of an alternate multi-wall tray material with three panels.

FIG. 33 is an exploded isometric view of the hinge from the folding tray embodiment.

FIG. 34 contains end views of various edge trim molding shapes.

FIG. 35 contains end views of the preferred edge trim molding shapes.

FIG. 36 is an isometric view of the multi-wall tray cup holder embodiment.

FIG. 37 is a partial cross-sectional view of a cup installed into the multi-wall tray cup holder embodiment.

FIG. 38 is an isometric view of the folding tray embodiment in an unfolded orientation.

FIG. 39 is an isometric view of the folding tray embodiment in a folded orientation.

FIG. 40 is a top view of the Ad-Tray embodiment.

FIG. 41 is an exploded isometric view of the Ad-Tray embodiment.

FIG. 42 is a top view of the carrying handle embodiment.

FIG. 43 is a partially exploded isometric view of the carrying handle embodiment.

FIG. 44 is an isometric view of the electronics docking station embodiment with an Apple iPod® Shuffle™ awaiting installation.

FIG. 45 is an isometric view of the electronics docking station embodiment with the top panel removed and an Apple iPod® Shuffle™ installed.

FIG. 46 is an exploded top view of the electronics docking station embodiment with an Apple iPod® Shuffle™.

FIG. 47 is an isometric view of the solar panel charging system embodiment with the top panel and edge trim molding removed.

FIG. 48 is an isometric view of the solar panel charging system embodiment with an installed cellular phone.

FIG. 49 is a top view of the solar panel charging system embodiment with the top panel edge trim molding removed.

FIG. 50 is a bottom isometric view of the electronic display embodiment.

FIG. 51 is an exploded bottom isometric view of the electronic display embodiment.

FIG. 52 is a block diagram of the solar panel embodiment.

The following is a list of reference symbols as set forth in the foregoing Specification:

Numerals Refers to:

  • 1 “I-Tray” embodiment
  • 2 Multi-wall tray
  • 3 Edge trim molding
  • 4 Top panel of multi-wall tray
  • 5 Bottom panel of multi-wall tray
  • 6 Connecting support ribs
  • 7 Rectangular “torso” cutout
  • 8 Left arm extension of multi-wall tray
  • 9 Right arm extension of multi-wall tray
  • 10 Perimeter of the multi-wall tray
  • 11 Internal corner radii of multi-wall tray
  • 12 External corner radii of multi-wall tray
  • 13 “C” shape of edge trim molding
  • 14 Hollow openings of multi-wall tray
  • 15 Left wheelchair armrest
  • 16 Right wheelchair armrest
  • 17 Double-sided Velcro® strap
  • 18 Double-sided Velcro® strap
  • 19 Top of I-Tray
  • 20 Bottom of left wheelchair armrest
  • 21 Bottom of right wheelchair armrest
  • 22 Slotted cutout in left arm extension
  • 23 Slotted cutout in left arm extension
  • 24 Slotted cutout in right arm extension
  • 25 Slotted cutout in right arm extension
  • 26 Alternate double-sided hemmed Velcro® strap
  • 27 Distal end of alternate double-sided Velcro® strap
  • 28 Hem of alternate double-sided Velcro® strap
  • 29 First Velcro® mounting means embodiment
  • 30 Second Velcro® mounting means embodiment
  • 31 Wheelchair tray mounting bracket
  • 32 Bracket mounting means embodiment
  • 33 Clearance holes in bottom panel of multi-wall tray
  • 34 Mounting inserts inside multi-wall tray
  • 35 Screws for mounting brackets
  • 36 Female receptacles in mounting inserts
  • 37 Internally threaded fastener in mounting insert
  • 38 Screw mounting holes in conventional wheelchair tray mounting bracket
  • 39 Wheelchair
  • 40 Tray front corner
  • 41 Joystick control cutout
  • 42 “Eco-Tray” embodiment
  • 43 Multi-wall rectangular tray
  • 44 Top panel of multi-wall rectangular tray
  • 45 Bottom panel of multi-wall rectangular tray
  • 46 Connecting support ribs of multi-wall rectangular tray
  • 47 Hollow openings of multi-wall rectangular tray
  • 48 External corner radii of multi-wall rectangular tray
  • 49 Perimeter of multi-wall rectangular tray
  • 50 Slotted cutouts in multi-wall rectangular tray
  • 51 Distal end of the multi-wall tray
  • 52 “Fold Away Eco-Tray Mounting Means” embodiment
  • 53 Eco-Tray assembly with brackets and inserts
  • 54 “Half-moon” Eco-Tray mounting bracket
  • 55 Holes in “half-moon” Eco-Tray mounting bracket
  • 56 Eco-Tray mounting bracket
  • 57 Spring-loaded plunger
  • 58 Knob of spring-loaded plunger
  • 59 Spring-loaded plunger tip
  • 60 Standard push button
  • 61 Button
  • 62 Outermost left edge of Eco-Tray assembly
  • 63 Left wheel of wheelchair
  • 64 Upper support assembly
  • 65 Lower support assembly
  • 66 Standard inner mounting clamp
  • 67 Short clamping tube
  • 68 Short vertical tube
  • 69 Horizontal tube
  • 70 Tube collar
  • 71 Slot
  • 72 Hole
  • 73 Threaded hole
  • 74 Set screw
  • 75 Bent tube
  • 76 Spring-loaded plunger
  • 77 Hole in bent tube
  • 78 Tip of spring-loaded plunger
  • 79 Standard outer mounting clamp
  • 80 Top clamp section
  • 81 Center clamp section
  • 82 Bottom clamp section
  • 83 Fasteners
  • 84 Circular recesses
  • 85 Wheelchair frame
  • 86 Threaded holes
  • 87 Top clamp section
  • 88 Center clamp section
  • 89 Bottom clamp section
  • 90 Fasteners
  • 91 Circular recesses
  • 92 Top end of bent tube
  • 93 Clearance holes
  • 94 Threaded holes
  • 95 Hole in short vertical tube
  • 96 Hole in tube collar
  • 97 End of horizontal tube
  • 98 Clearance holes in top clamp section
  • 99 Right wheel of wheelchair
  • 100 Bend at an angle on “half-moon” Eco-Tray mounting bracket
  • 101 Flat surface of “half-moon” Eco-Tray mounting bracket
  • 102 Cutout at the center of “half-moon” Eco-Tray mounting bracket
  • 103 Curved surface of Eco-Tray mounting bracket
  • 104 Short mounting inserts
  • 105 Fasteners
  • 106 Clearance holes in “half-moon” Eco-Tray mounting bracket
  • 107 Clearance holes in Eco-Tray mounting bracket
  • 108 Clearance holes in multi-wall rectangular tray
  • 109 I-shaped cross sections of multi-wall trays
  • 110 Additional panels
  • 111 Alternate rib angles
  • 112 Circular hole
  • 113 Cup
  • 114 Folding tray embodiment
  • 115 Left tray half
  • 116 Hinge
  • 117 Right tray half
  • 118 Radiused edges of hinge
  • 119 Ad-Tray embodiment
  • 120 Printable material
  • 121 Carrying handle embodiment
  • 122 Handle
  • 123 Holes for handle
  • 124 Flat surface of Eco-Tray mounting bracket
  • 125 Electronics docking station embodiment
  • 126 Apple iPod® Shuffle™
  • 127 Electronics docking multi-wall tray
  • 128 Small support rib
  • 129 Circular mounting hole in small support rib
  • 130 Stereo male plug
  • 131 Circular cutout in bottom panel
  • 132 Top panel of electronics docking multi-wall tray
  • 133 Bottom panel of electronics docking multi-wall tray
  • 134 Speakers
  • 135 Wires in electronics docking multi-wall tray
  • 136 Opening in electronics docking multi-wall tray
  • 137 Wheelchair user side of electronics docking multi-wall tray
  • 138 Far side perimeter edge
  • 139 Optional wire recess groove
  • 140 Solar panel charging system embodiment
  • 141 Solar panel arrays
  • 142 Openings in solar panel multi-wall tray
  • 143 Solar panel multi-wall tray
  • 144 Battery pack
  • 145 Charging port
  • 146 Cellular phone with charging cable
  • 147 Voltage regulator between solar panel arrays and battery pack
  • 148 Cable
  • 149 Optional wire recess groove
  • 150 Plastic housing
  • 151 Voltage regulator between battery pack and charging port
  • 152 Far side perimeter edge of solar panel multi-wall tray
  • 153 Electronic display embodiment
  • 154 Electronic display multi-wall tray
  • 155 Rectangular cutout
  • 156 Bottom panel of electronic display multi-wall tray
  • 157 Electronic display
  • 158 Rear side of top panel from electronic display multi-wall tray
  • 159 Screen of electronic display
  • 160 Mounting plate
  • 161 Fasteners
  • 162 Holes in mounting plate
  • 163 Optional rubber gasket
  • 164 Optional USB port with cable
  • 165 Hole for USB port
  • 166 Hinge pin
  • 167 Left hinge section
  • 168 Right hinge section
  • 169 Holes in left hinge knuckle
  • 170 Holes in right hinge knuckle
  • 171 Mounting flat of left hinge section
  • 172 Mounting flat of right hinge section
  • 173 Connector from USB port with cable
  • 174 USB port from electronic display
  • 175 Alternative multi-wall configurations
  • 176 Alternative edge trim moldings
  • 177 Raised flexible rim
  • 178 Wheelchair user vantage point

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

Turning now descriptively to the drawings, in which similar referenced characters denote similar elements throughout the several views, the attached figures illustrate the multi-wall wheelchair tray. This embodiment is termed the “I-Tray” 1, due to the I-beam shape of the internal support structure.

The I-Tray embodiment 1 shown in FIGS. 1 and 2 is comprised of three main elements:

1) multi-wall tray 2

2) edge trim molding 3

3) double-sided Velcro® straps 17,18

The multi-wall tray 2 shown in FIG. 3 is preferably made of a contiguous plastic or carbon fiber panel which has a) a top panel 4, b) a bottom panel 5, and c) connecting support ribs 6. As a result of this design, the multi-wall tray 2 has hollow openings 14.

The shape of the multi-wall tray 2 is defined in the layout shown in FIG. 3 and is similar to other industry-standard wheelchair trays. The multi-wall tray 2 contains a rectangular “torso” cutout 7 that contours around a wheelchair occupant's body, one left arm extension 8, and one right arm extension 9. The perimeter 10 of the multi-wall tray 2 is contoured at the corners with internal corner radii 11 and external corner radii 12 to provide comfort to the wheelchair occupant. Dimensions C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J and K are only guidelines to establish the overall shape of the multi-wall wheelchair tray 2. For reference, if the multi-wall wheelchair tray 2 was used with an adult wheelchair occupant, dimension C could be 23 inches, dimension D could be 22 inches, dimension E could be 13.5 inches, dimension F could be 9 inches, dimension G could be 4.75 inches, dimension H could be 0.63 inch, dimension I could be 1.5 inches, dimension J could be 1 inch, and dimension K could be 0.06 inches. Dimension I is representative of the internal 11 and external 12 corner radii of the multi-wall tray 2.

The edge trim molding 3 is preferably made of plastic or rubber and has a general “C” shape 13. See FIG. 4. In the preferred embodiment, the edge trim molding 3 assembles to the perimeter 10 of the multi-wall tray 2 with traditional adhesives, heat bonding, or ultrasonic welding processes. Any of the following traditional adhesives can be used: cyanoacrylate, urethane, epoxy (2-part or heat-cured), acrylic (1 part, 2-part or UV-curable) or anaerobic. The use of an adhesive ensures that foreign contaminants do not enter into the openings 14 in the multi-wall tray 2.

The I-Tray 1 embodiment is secured across the top of the left wheelchair armrest 15 and right wheelchair armrest 16 with the industry-standard attachment means. See FIGS. 5 and 6 (which has parts of the wheelchair 39 removed for clarity). The industry-standard mounting means requires the use of double-sided Velcro® straps 17, 18 wrapped across the top 19 of the I-Tray 1 and across the bottom 20 of the left wheelchair armrest 15 and the bottom 21 of the right wheelchair armrest 16.

Description of Alternative Velcro® Mounting Means Embodiments

The I-Tray embodiment 1 can be secured to the wheelchair in novel ways that do not expose the wheelchair user's arms to the rough surface of the Velcro® straps 17, 18. In the first Velcro® mounting means embodiment 29, the bottom panel 5 of the I-Tray 1 contains two pairs of slotted cutouts 22, 23, 24, 25. See FIG. 7. The first pair of slotted cutouts 22, 23 is located on the bottom panel 5 of the left arm extension 8 and the second pair of slotted cutouts 24, 25 is located on the bottom panel 5 of the right arm extension 9. One Velcro® strap 17 is positioned into the first slotted cutout 22 of the left arm extension 8 and then fed thru the second slotted cutout 23 of the left arm extension 8. The Velcro® strap 17 is then wrapped around the bottom 20 of the left wheelchair armrest 15. The same task is performed with a second Velcro® strap 18 fed through the second pair of slotted cutouts 24, 25 in the bottom panel 5 of the right arm extension 9. This second Velcro® strap 18 is then also wrapped around the bottom 21 of the right wheelchair armrest 16, completing assembly of the first Velcro® mounting means embodiment 29. See FIG. 8 for a view of the final assembly with the wheelchair 39 removed for clarity.

In a second Velcro® mounting means embodiment 30, a double-sided Velcro® (strap 26 can have one end stitched or folded back onto itself to form a hem 28. See FIG. 9 with edge molding 3 removed for clarity. The hem 28 of this double-sided hemmed Velcro® strap 26 can be fed into the slotted cutouts 22, 23, 24, 25 at the bottom 5 of the I-Tray 1. Once inside the opening 14 of the tray, the hem 28 acts as a retention means, preventing the double-sided hemmed Velcro® strap 26 from releasing from any of the slotted cutouts 22, 23, 24, 25 when a force is applied to the distal end 27 of the double-sided hemmed Velcro® strap 26. See FIG. 10 with edge molding 3 removed for clarity. This alternate assembly embodiment provides a secure means to retain the double-sided hemmed Velcro® strap 26 to the bottom 5 of the I-Tray 1. To assemble the second Velcro® mounting means embodiment 30 to the I-Tray 1, the distal ends 27 of two adjacent double-sided hemmed Velcro® strap 26 would be wrapped around the bottom 20, 21 of the wheelchair armrests 15, 16 and secured to one another. See FIG. 11 for final installation.

Description of Alternative Bracket Mounting Means Embodiment

Any wheelchair tray mounting bracket 31 can be rigidly secured to the bottom panel 5 of the multi-wall tray 2 in a novel way that does not expose the wheelchair user to an uneven tray surface or expose one to any mounting screws along the top of the tray.

The alternative bracket mounting means embodiment 32 is comprised of five main elements shown in FIGS. 12 and 13:

1) multi-wall tray 2

2) screw clearance holes 33 in multi-wall tray bottom panel 5

3) mounting inserts 34

4) wheelchair tray mounting brackets 31

5) screws 35

6) optional edge trim molding 3

The mounting inserts 34 depicted in FIG. 13 are preferably made of plastic or metal, which a) are shaped and sized (preferably rectangular in cross-section) to fit into the hollow openings 14 of the multi-wall tray 2 and b) contain female receptacles 36 to accept screws 35, preferably of the flat head type. The female receptacle 36 (preferably two in quantity) in each mounting insert 34 is a simple hole with a separate internally threaded fastener 37 assembled into the female receptacle 36. Alternatively, the female receptacle 36 can be any of several conventional types, including a nut or simply a tapped hole that accepts the screw 31.

The mounting inserts 34 are installed into the hollow openings 14 in the multi-wall tray 2. The female receptacles 36 in the mounting inserts 34 are aligned above the corresponding screw clearance holes 33 in the bottom panel 5 of the multi-wall tray 2. The wheelchair tray mounting brackets 31 are then positioned such that the screw mounting holes 38 in the mounting brackets 31 are also aligned above the corresponding screw clearance holes 33 in the bottom panel 5 of the multi-wall tray 2.

The preferably flat head screws 35 are installed through the screw mounting holes 39 in the wheelchair tray mounting brackets 31, through the clearance holes 33 in the bottom panel 5 of the multi-wall tray 2 and then fastened to the female receptacles 36 and corresponding internally threaded fasteners 37 found in the mounting inserts 34. Final assembly of the bracket mounting means embodiment 32 is shown in FIG. 12. The wheelchair tray mounting brackets 31 and correspondingly attached multi-wall tray 2 are then slid over the wheelchair armrests 15, 16 to secure the bracket mounting embodiment 32 to the wheelchair 39.

Description of Alternate Tray Size Embodiment

Alternate dimensional sizes of the multi-wall tray 2 are possible beyond those depicted in the preferred I-tray embodiment 1. If the multi-wall tray 2 were to be used on a child's wheelchair, the tray size could be modified to better contour around the torso of a smaller person; in this case, the values for dimensions E and F from FIG. 3 would be decreased. In addition, the overall size of the tray could be modified to fit onto a wide-body wheelchair which has wheelchair armrests 15, 16 further apart from one another; in this case, the overall width of the multi-wall tray, dimension C, and corresponding dimension G would be increased.

Description of Optional Control Cutout Embodiment

The multi-wall tray 2 can be manufactured with a front corner 40 that has a joystick control cutout 41, as depicted in FIG. 14. The multi-wall tray 2 with added joystick control cutout 41 is shown with added edge trim molding 3. The rectangular-shaped joystick control cutout 41 would be used on electric wheelchairs which utilize an electronic joystick control for navigation. The joystick control cutout 41 is essentially clearance on the multi-wall tray 2 for the wheelchair user to be able to access the joystick control.

Description of Rectangular Eco-Tray Embodiment

The multi-wall material can also be used to create a tray with a simple rectangular shape. This embodiment is termed the “Eco-Tray” 42, due to the ecologically-friendly and economical use of less plastic in this tray embodiment.

The Eco-Tray embodiment 42 shown in FIGS. 15 and 16 is comprised of two main elements:

1) multi-wall rectangular tray 43

2) edge trim molding 3

The multi-wall rectangular tray 43 shown in FIG. 15 has a similar structure as the multi-wall tray 2 in the I-Tray embodiment 1. The multi-wall rectangular tray 43 is preferably made of a contiguous plastic or carbon fiber panel which also has a) a top panel 44, b) a bottom panel 45, and c) connecting support ribs 46. This multi-wall rectangular tray 43, similar to the multi-wall tray 2, also has hollow openings 47.

The multi-wall rectangular tray 43, as its name implies, has a generally rectangular shape. The perimeter 49 of the multi-wall rectangular tray 43 is also contoured at each of the four corners with external corner radii 48. An edge trim molding 3 can also be assembled to the perimeter 49 of the multi-wall rectangular tray 43 to complete the Eco-Tray embodiment 42.

Description of Low-Cost Eco-Tray Mounting Means Embodiment

The Eco-Tray embodiment 42 can be used as a normal T.V. (a.k.a. television) lap tray when sitting on a couch, so the mounting means to attach the Eco-Tray embodiment 42 to a wheelchair or other device are considered optional. The Eco-Tray embodiment 42 could be attached to the wheelchair armrests 15, 16 with any of the aforementioned Velcro® embodiments 29, 30 or mounting bracket embodiments 32. Suffice it is to say that the multi-wall rectangular tray 43 from the Eco-Tray embodiment 42 would need to be modified for the aforementioned embodiments 29, 30, 32 to be secured to the left and right wheelchair armrests 15, 16. The bottom panel 45 of the Eco-Tray embodiment 42 would require either slotted cutouts 50 to function with the Velcro® embodiments 29, 30 or clearance holes to function with the mounting bracket embodiments 32 (latter not shown). See FIG. 17 for view of the bottom panel 45 of the Eco-Tray with slotted cutouts 50.

Description of a Fold Away Eco-Tray Mounting Means Embodiment

The following embodiment claims the benefit of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/200,838, entitled “Modular Tube and Table Retrofitable to a Wheelchair”.

The Eco-Tray embodiment 42 can be used in conjunction with a prior art means to secure a tray to a wheelchair. This novel embodiment is entitled “Fold Away Eco-Tray Mounting Means” 52 and is depicted in FIGS. 18 thru 29.

The fold away Eco-Tray mounting means embodiment 52 is comprised of six main elements:

1) Eco-Tray assembly with brackets and inserts 53

2) upper support assembly 64

3) lower support assembly 65

4) standard inner mounting clamp 66

5) short clamping tube 67

6) standard outer mounting clamp 79

The fold away Eco-Tray mounting means embodiment 52 for mounting the Eco-Tray 42 contains:

1) The Eco-Tray assembly with brackets and inserts 53, depicted FIGS. 18 and 19, comprised of:

    • multi-wall rectangular tray 43
    • “half-moon” Eco-tray mounting bracket 54
    • Eco-Tray mounting bracket 56
    • short mounting inserts 104
    • fasteners 105
    • edge trim molding 3

The “half-moon” Eco-Tray mounting bracket 54 is preferably made of metal or plastic, which has a) a bend at an angle 100, b) a flat surface 101 for mounting to the bottom panel 45 of the multi-wall rectangular tray 43 c) a cutout at the center 102 for mounting to the horizontal tube 69 from the upper support assembly 64, and d) holes 55 spaced evenly along an arc to engage the retractable, spring-loaded plunger 57 from the upper support assembly 64 for tilting the multi-wall rectangular tray 43.

The Eco-Tray mounting bracket 56 is preferably made of metal or plastic that a) has a curved surface 103 (for mounting to the horizontal tube 69 from the upper support assembly 64) and b) flat surfaces 124 to mount to the bottom panel 45 from the multi-wall rectangular tray 43.

Assembly of the Eco-Tray assembly with brackets and inserts 53 is as follows, per FIG. 18. First, the short mounting inserts 104 are installed into the hollow openings 47 of the multi-wall rectangular tray 43. The short mounting inserts 104 are essentially shorter versions of the mounting inserts 34 described previously. The “half-moon” Eco-Tray mounting bracket 54 and the Eco-Tray mounting bracket 56 are positioned along the bottom panel 45 of the multi-wall rectangular tray 43. Fasteners 105 are installed through the a) clearance holes 106 in the “half-moon” Eco-Tray mounting bracket 54, b) clearance holes 107 in the Eco-Tray mounting bracket 56 and c) additional clearance holes 108 in the multi-wall rectangular tray 43. The fasteners 105 are then threaded into the receptacles 36 from the short mounting inserts 104, securing the brackets 54, 56 to the bottom panel 45 of the multi-wall rectangular tray 43. The final assembly step of the Eco-Tray assembly with brackets and inserts 53 is the addition of the edge trim molding 3 to the perimeter 49 of the multi-wall rectangular tray 43.

Note that the short mounting inserts 104 and fasteners 105 are the most rigid means of securing the “half-moon” Eco-Tray mounting bracket 54 and the Eco-Tray mounting bracket 56 to the bottom panel 45 of the multi-wall tray 43. Alternatively, the brackets 54, 56 can also be attached to the bottom panel 45 of the multi-wall tray 43 without use of the short mounting inserts 104; these brackets 54, 56 can also be assembled to the bottom panel 45 of the multi-wall rectangular tray 43 by means of Velcro®, a pressure-sensitive adhesive (i.e. PSA), welds, self-clinching screws, self-clinching nuts, double-sided tape, rivets, or with any known prior art mounting techniques.

2) The upper support assembly 64, depicted in FIGS. 19 and 20, which is comprised of:

    • short vertical tube 68
    • horizontal tube 69
    • retractable, spring-loaded plunger 57
    • tube collar 70
    • standard push-button 60

The upper support assembly 64, comprised of five main components, a) supports the underside of the Eco-Tray assembly with brackets and inserts 53, b) telescopes inside of the lower support assembly 65 for vertical height adjustment and c) rotates inside of the lower support assembly 65 to allow the Eco-Tray assembly with brackets and inserts 53 to be oriented away from the wheelchair. Rotating the Eco-Tray assembly with brackets and inserts 53 away from the front of the wheelchair allows an individual to enter and exit the wheelchair without difficulty—see additional FIGS. 26 to 28.

The short vertical tube 68, preferably made of metal, aluminum, fiberglass or plastic, a) is a section of rectangular, square or round tube (as shown in FIG. 20), b) is generally vertical, c) contains a slot 71 (or thru holes, not shown) for accepting the front tip 78 of a retractable, spring-loaded plunger 76 from the lower support assembly 65 (see FIG. 21).

The horizontal tube 69, preferably made of metal, aluminum, fiberglass or plastic, a) is a section of rectangular, square or round tube, b) is positioned roughly orthogonal to the short vertical tube 68, and c) contains a hole 72 for a standard push button 60, as depicted in FIG. 20 (or for use with a spring-loaded ball plunger—not shown).

A retractable, spring-loaded plunger 57, typically of metal construction, a) is threaded into a tapped hole 95 in the short vertical tube 68, b) has a spring-loaded plunger tip 59 which engages into the holes 55 from the “half-moon” mounting bracket 54 from the Eco-Tray assembly with brackets and inserts 53 when fully extended, and c) has a knob 58 (or pull-ring not shown) for retracting the spring-loaded plunger tip 59. See FIGS. 19 and 20.

When the knob 58 from the retractable, spring-loaded plunger 57 is pulled, the spring-loaded plunger tip 59 disengages from the holes 55 in the “half-moon” Eco-Tray mounting bracket 54 allowing the Eco-Tray assembly with brackets and inserts 53 to rotate about the horizontal tube 69. This provides the wheelchair user multiple desired viewing, working, and reading angles.

The tube collar 70, of standard construction, as shown in FIG. 20, generally has a round shape with an inner hole 96 (circular inner hole shown, but can be other shapes based on the short vertical tube 68 shape) which allows the short vertical tube 68 to mount into the tube collar 70. The tube collar 70 also has a threaded hole 73 which allows a set screw 74 to tighten into it. After installation of the short vertical tube 68 into the tube collar 70, the set screw 74 can be tightened, thereby fastening the tube collar 70 onto the short vertical tube 68.

The standard push-button 60, of standard construction, is located inside the horizontal tube 69 at the end 97 for retaining Eco-Tray assembly with brackets and inserts 53 onto the horizontal tube 69. The standard push-button 60 inside of the horizontal tube 69 has one button 61 inside of the hole 72 from the horizontal tube 69. In a default position, the button 61 protrudes beyond the exterior surface of the horizontal tube 69. In this configuration, the protruding button 61 prevents the Eco-Tray mounting bracket 56 of the Eco-Tray assembly with brackets and inserts 53 from sliding off of the horizontal tube 69, thereby securing the associated Eco-Tray assembly with brackets and inserts 53. (See FIG. 18 for detailed views of the Eco-Tray assembly with brackets and inserts 53.) Pushing the button 61 inward allows the Eco-Tray mounting bracket 56 and Eco-Tray assembly with brackets and inserts 53 associated to slide off the horizontal tube 69, thus allowing the product to be disassembled.

3) The lower support assembly 65 depicted in FIGS. 19 and 21 is comprised of:

    • bent tube 75
    • retractable, spring-loaded plunger 76

The bent tube 75, preferably made of metal, aluminum, fiberglass or plastic a) is a section of rectangular, square or round tube (shown), b) contains a roughly 30 degree bend and c) contains a hole 77 to mount the retractable, spring-loaded plunger 76. The retractable, spring-loaded plunger 76 can be attached to the bent tube 75 with welds, screws, nuts, self-clinching screws, self-clinching nuts, rivets, or with any known prior art mounting techniques.

The following paragraph describes the use and movement of the upper support assembly 64 relative to the lower support assembly 65. The short vertical tube 68 from the upper support assembly 64 is slid into the top end 92 of the bent tube 75 from the lower support assembly 65. The tube collar 70 fastened to the short vertical tube 68 from the upper support assembly 64 stops the upper support assembly 64 from dropping down into the lower support assembly 65. The upper support assembly 64 and corresponding Eco-Tray assembly with brackets and inserts 53 can be raised or lowered relative to the lower support assembly 65 by unscrewing the set screw 74, adjusting the height of assemblies 53 and 64 accordingly, and tightening the set screw 74. To rotate the upper support assembly 64 and corresponding Eco-Tray assembly with brackets and inserts 53 around the stationary lower support assembly 65 (and away from the corresponding wheelchair 39), simply pull the retractable, spring-loaded plunger 76 from the lower support assembly 65; doing so will disengage the tip 78 of the spring-loaded plunger 76 from the slot 71 found on the short vertical tube 68, which will allow the upper support assembly 64 and Eco-Tray assembly with brackets and inserts 53 to freely rotate.

For aesthetic purposes, an endcap (not shown) may be inserted into the bottom end of the short vertical tube 68 or the distal end of the horizontal tube 69.

4) The standard inner mounting clamp 66, of standard construction, depicted in FIGS. 19, 22 and 23, preferably made of metal or aluminum, is comprised of:

    • top clamp section 80
    • center clamp section 81
    • bottom clamp section 82
    • fasteners 83

The circular recesses 84 (can be square or rectangular, not shown, depending on the wheelchair frame 85 type) from the center clamp section 81 and bottom clamp section 82 of the standard inner mounting clamp 66 are positioned on either side of the wheelchair frame 85 and secured with fasteners 83. (See FIG. 23 for assembled standard inner mounting clamp 66.)

5) The short clamping tube 67, depicted in FIGS. 19, 22 and 23 is preferably made of metal, aluminum, fiberglass or plastic, and is of square, rectangular or circular shape (depicted). The short clamping tube 67 attaches into the circular recesses 84 from the top clamp section 80 and the center clamp section 81 of the standard inner mounting clamp 66. Once the fasteners 83 are secured through clearance holes 98 in the top clamp section 80 and into threaded holes 86 in the center clamp section 81, the short clamping tube 67 is secured in place to the standard inner mounting clamp 66.

6) The standard outer mounting clamp 79, of standard construction, depicted in FIGS. 19 and 23, preferably made of metal or aluminum, is of the same design as the standard inner mounting clamp 66, and is comprised of:

    • top clamp section 87
    • center clamp section 88
    • bottom clamp section 89
    • fasteners 90

The circular recesses 91 (can be square or rectangular, not shown, depending on the wheelchair frame 85 type) from the bottom clamp section 89 and center clamp section 88 of the standard outer mounting clamp 79 are positioned around the bent tube 75 from the lower support assembly 65. Once the fasteners 90 are secured through clearance holes 93 in the bottom clamp section 89 and into threaded holes 94 in the center clamp section 88, the bent tube 75 (and corresponding lower support assembly 65) is secured to the standard outer mounting clamp 79.

The Eco-Tray assembly with brackets and inserts 53, upper support assembly 64, lower support assembly 65, standard inner mounting clamp 66, standard outer mounting clamp 79, and short clamping tube 67 described above can be retrofit by a customer to a wheelchair 39 without drilling or welding. The customer can receive these six components 53, 64, 65, 66, 67 and 79 individually-wrapped. The customer's first step would be to secure the standard inner mounting clamp 66 onto the wheelchair frame 85. The second step would be to secure the short clamping tube 67 into the standard inner mounting clamp 66. The third step would be to secure the standard outer mounting clamp 79 onto the short clamping tube 67. The fourth step would be to install the bent tube 75 from the lower support assembly 65 into the standard outer mounting clamp 79. Somewhere away from the wheelchair, the Eco-Tray assembly with brackets and inserts 53 would be assembled onto the upper support assembly 64. The final assembly step would be to install the short vertical tube 68 from the upper support assembly 64 (which is already attached to the Eco-Tray assembly with brackets and inserts 53) into the lower support assembly 65. Height adjustments of the Eco-Tray assembly with brackets and inserts 53 can be made two ways: 1) the set screw 74 from the tube collar 96 is loosened, which allows the tube collar 70 to be re-positioned up or down along the short vertical tube 68 from the upper support assembly 64 or 2) the fasteners 90 from the standard outer mounting clamp 79 are loosened, which allows the bent tube 75 from the lower support assembly 65 to be re-positioned up or down within the standard outer mounting clamp 79.

Novel uses of the fold away Eco-Tray mounting means embodiment 52 are depicted in FIGS. 25 to 29. If the wheelchair occupant desires to move the Eco-Tray assembly with brackets and inserts 53 away from the front of the wheelchair 39, the occupant simply pulls a handle on the retractable, spring-loaded plunger 76 and rotates the Eco-Tray assembly with brackets and inserts 53 and attached upper support assembly 64 away from the wheelchair 39. FIGS. 26 and 27 depict the Eco-Tray assembly with brackets and inserts 53 and upper support assembly 64 rotated 180 degrees (relative to the position shown in FIG. 19). FIGS. 28 and 29 depict the Eco-Tray assembly with brackets and inserts 53 and upper support assembly 64 rotated nearly 270 degrees (relative to the position shown in FIG. 25) with the Eco-Tray assembly with brackets and inserts 53 oriented nearly vertical. In the 270-degree orientation, the outermost left edge 62 of the Eco-Tray assembly with brackets and inserts 53 only extends approximately 2 inches (50.8 centimeters) beyond the left wheel 63 of the wheelchair 39. The distance from the outermost left edge 62 of the Eco-Tray assembly with brackets and inserts 53 to the outermost edge of the right wheel 99 of a typical 26 inch (660.4 centimeter) wide wheelchair would therefore be approximately 28 inches (711.2 centimeters)—as depicted in FIG. 29.

The two orientations (180-degree and 270-degree) of the Eco-Tray assembly with brackets and inserts 53 and the upper support assembly 64 discussed above are practical for: 1) a caretaker/nurse who wishes to perform a “lateral transfer” or “pivot transfer” of a patient into or out of the wheelchair or 2) the wheelchair occupant to enter and exit the wheelchair using his/her own strength. In addition, the latter, compact, 270-degree orientation provides a very practical use for a wheelchair occupant who must travel from one room to another room in a home: the wheelchair 39 with attached fold away Eco-Tray mounting means embodiment 52 measures only approximately 28 inches (711.2 centimeters), thus allowing the wheelchair 39 with attached fold away Eco-Tray mounting means embodiment 52 to pass through a standard 29 inch (736.6 centimeter) wide door frame opening.

Description of Alternative Internal Connecting Support Rib Orientation Embodiments

The connecting support ribs 6 of the multi-wall tray 2 shown in FIG. 3 and the connecting support ribs 46 of the multi-wall rectangular tray 43 shown in FIG. 15 are oriented in the preferred direction parallel to the length of the left and right wheelchair armrests 15, 16 when in use by the wheelchair occupant. Note that the connecting support ribs 6, 46 can also be oriented perpendicular to the length of the wheelchair armrests 15, 16 or at any other angle (not shown). The spacing between the ribs 6, dimension J from FIG. 3, can also be modified to allow for a smaller or larger hollow opening 14.

The preferred orientation of the connecting support ribs 6, 46 parallel to the length of the left and right wheelchair armrests 15, 16, as depicted in FIG. 3, is completely intentional. When the multi-wall tray 2 is secured to the top of the wheelchair armrests 15, 16 the distal end 51 of the multi-wall tray 2 opposite the left and right arm extensions 8,9 extends out beyond armrests 15, 16. This overhanging distal end 51 of the multi-wall tray 2 is a scenario known in mechanical engineering terms as a “cantilevered beam”.

The preferred orientation of the connecting support ribs 6, 46 is engineered to provide multi-wall trays 2, 43 that are able to support heavy objects placed onto the top panels 4, 44 without bending the top panels 4, 44 or bottom panels 5, 45 of the multi-wall trays 2, 43. The intended orientation of the connecting support ribs 6, 46 provides a similar support mechanism as found in a typical transportation vehicle bridge. In such a bridge, the cross-section of the structural concrete or metal is typically manufactured in an “I” shape and the concrete beams or metal beams lay parallel to the length of the bridge. The multi-wall trays 2, 43 are also manufactured with individual I-shaped cross-sections 109 due to geometry created by the support ribs 6, 46 and corresponding panels 4, 44, 5, 45, as shown in FIG. 31. As with the bridge structure, the I-shaped cross-sections 109 ensure that the multi-wall trays 2, 43 remain rigid when a heavy item is placed on the top panels 4, 44 of the multi-wall trays 2, 43.

Description of Alternative Multi-Wall Tray Design Embodiments

The multi-wall trays 2, 43 have been described as having top panels 4, 44 and bottom panels 5, 45 with connecting support ribs 6, 46, as depicted in FIG. 31. However, the multi-wall trays 2, 43 can be also manufactured with additional support panels 110 beyond the top and bottom panels 4, 44, 5, 45 described, as depicted in FIGS. 30 and 32. These additional panels 110 would provide additional structural support. Also, the connecting support ribs 6, 46 were previously depicted in a generally vertical orientation. However, the connecting support ribs 6, 46 can be oriented at alternate rib angles 111 other than vertical. FIGS. 30 and 32 depict alternate multi-wall configurations 175 which can also be utilized for a wheelchair tray.

Description of Alternative Edge Trim Molding Embodiments

Many different edge trim molding shapes and styles can be assembled along the perimeters 10, 49 of the multi-wall trays 2, 43. FIG. 34 depicts various alternative shapes and styles of edge trim moldings 176 that can be utilized: U-shaped, flat and L-shaped. The top item in FIG. 35 depicts the preferred C-shaped edge trim molding 3 utilized in this document, while the bottom item in FIG. 35 depicts the C-shaped edge trim molding 3 with a raised flexible rim 177 adhered at the side. The edge trim moldings 3, 176 can be made of plastic, rubber, or other material which is easy to bend, cut and/or assemble. The edge trim moldings 3, 176 can be attached with any known prior art adhesives (e.g. cyanoacrylates, epoxies, TV-cured adhesives, double-sided tape, etc.). These various trim shapes and styles can a) keep wheelchair occupants from sticking fingers inside the openings 14, 47 of the multi-wall trays 2, 43, b) keep the openings 14, 47 of the multi-wall trays 2, 43 free from contaminants, c) provide a raised edge to keep items such as pencils from falling off the multi-wall trays 2, 43 during normal use, or d) provide a smooth edge around the perimeter 10, 49 of the multi-wall trays 2, 43 for general safety of the wheelchair tray user.

Description of Cup Holder Embodiment

A circular hole 112 can be cutout into the top surface of the multi-wall trays 2, 43 as depicted in FIGS. 36 and 37. This circular hole 112 can be used for receiving a cup 113 or other container which contains a beverage. The circular hole 112 passes thru the top panel 4, 44 and the connecting support ribs 6, 46 but does not proceed completely thru the entire thickness of the multi-wall tray 2, 43, leaving the bottom panel 5, 45 in tact.

As seen in FIG. 37, the remaining bottom panel 5, 45 of the multi-wall tray 2, 43 supports the underside of a cup 113 and the connecting support ribs 6, 46 provide support at the sides. To prevent liquids or other contaminants from entering the hollow openings 14, 47 in the multi-wall trays 2, 43 the circular hole 112 can be filled along its perimeter with edge trim molding 3 or any filler material (not shown).

Description of Folding Tray Embodiment

The width of the multi-wall tray 2, 43 can be decreased by half of its original size for easy storage by allowing the tray 2, 43 to fold at the center, as depicted in FIGS. 33, 38 and 39.

The folding tray embodiment 114 is comprised of three main elements:

1) left tray half 115

2) hinge 116

3) right tray half 117

The left tray half 115 and right tray half 117 are made of the same material used in the multi-wall tray 2 and each is essentially a full multi-wall tray 2 cut in half.

The hinge 116 shown in FIGS. 33 and 39 can be manufactured from plastic or metal. The hinge 116 is comprised of a hinge pin 166, left hinge section 167 and right hinge section 168. The mounting flat 171 of the left hinge section 167 is secured to the edge of the left tray half 115 with a conventional adhesive, while the mounting flat 172 of the right hinge section 168 is secured to the edge of the right tray half 117 in the same fashion. The left hinge section 167 and right hinge section 168 are aligned such that the holes in the left hinge knuckle 169 and holes in the right hinge knuckle 170 are concentric. The hinge pin 166 is then installed thru the holes in the left hinge knuckle 169 and the holes in the right hinge knuckle 170. Finger pinch points are eliminated due to the design of the hinge 116, which contains radiused edges 118 that push the user's fingers away from the hinge 116 when folding the two tray halves 115, 117 together. FIG. 39 shows the two halves 115, 117 of the tray folded over.

In the open position during normal intended use, as depicted in FIG. 38, the tray halves 115, 117 are unfolded parallel and collinear to one another. When not in use in the closed position, as depicted in FIG. 39, the two halves are folded about the hinge 116 which acts as pivot point. The folding tray embodiment 114 stays closed when weight is applied to the top surface of the tray and cannot accidentally unfold. The folding tray embodiment 114 can be installed onto the armrests 15, 16 of the wheelchair 39 with any of the previous mounting means presented.

Description of Printed Advertisement Embodiments

Paper, plastic or any other printable material 120 can be placed inside the openings 14 of the multi-wall tray 2 to produce the Ad-Tray embodiment 119. See FIGS. 40 and 41. The printed side of the printable material 120 can be adhered to the inside of the top panel 4 of the multi-wall tray 2 with liquid adhesive, double-side tape or pressure-sensitive adhesive (a.k.a. PSA) found on the printable substrate. Alternately, the printable material 120 can be a removable electrostatic substrate. The printable material 120 can be removed and replaced via an opening 14 or hinged door (not shown) found along the outer perimeter 10 of the multi-wall tray 2. The use of these printable materials 120 can be for advertising or playing games (such as checkers) on the top panel 4 of the multi-wall tray 2. The printed materials can also be printed, for example, to suggest the various wheelchairs styles and models that the multi-wall wheelchair tray is compatible with.

Description of Functional Entertainment Embodiments

Pens, pencils or gaming devices such as dice, game pieces or dominoes (not shown) can also be installed into the openings of the multi-wall tray 2. Alternately, these items can be installed into a small box (not shown), which would assemble into the openings 14 of the multi-wall tray 2. When not in use, a hinged door (not shown) can be utilized to keep these components from falling out of the multi-wall tray 2.

Description of Carrying Handle Embodiment

A handle 122 can be installed along the perimeter 10 of the I-tray embodiment 1 for easy carrying of the tray 1, 2, as depicted in FIGS. 42 and 43. The preferred embodiment entails securing the handle 122 into holes 123 in the edge trim molding 3. If an edge trim molding 3 is not used, then the handle 122 can be installed directly into a hole (not shown) in one of the connector support ribs 6 of the multi-wall tray 2. Alternatively, the handle 122 can also be attached to the edge trim molding 3 or connector support ribs 6 with any known prior art heat staking process or adhesive (e.g. cyanoacrylates, epoxies, UV-cured adhesives, double-sided tape, etc.).

Description of Electronics Docking Station Embodiment

The previously depicted I-Tray embodiment 1 is modified to create a new design known as the electronics docking station embodiment 125, depicted in FIGS. 44 thru 46. The existing hollow openings 14, 47 in the multi-wall trays 2, 43 can be used to house electronic devices such as an MP3 player, cell phone, AM/FM radio, satellite radio receiver, DVD player, radio-frequency identification (a.k.a. RFID) device, etc. The electronics docking station embodiment 125 is depicted in FIG. 44 with an Apple iPod® Shuffle™ 126 awaiting installation.

FIG. 45 depicts the electronics docking station embodiment 125 with the top panel 132 of the electronics docking multi-wall tray 127 removed for clarity. A small support rib 128 with circular hole 129 is permanently installed between and perpendicular to the opening 14 in the electronics docking multi-wall tray 127 with any conventional adhesive. The small support rib 128 serves two purposes: a) prevent the iPod® Shuffle™ 126 or any other electronic device from sliding or falling into the center of the electronics docking multi-wall tray 127 and b) provide a circular mounting hole 129 for the attachment of a component such as a stereo male plug 130.

The iPod® Shuffle™ 126 is shown installed into the opening 136 at the wheelchair user side 137 of the electronics docking multi-wall tray 127 in FIG. 45 with approximately 12 inch of the iPod® Shuffle™ 126 protruding from the front of the opening 136. The female jack from an Apple iPod® Shuffle™ 126 is connected to the stereo male plug 130, which is secured to the small support rib 128 inside the electronics docking multi-wall tray 127. The stereo male plug 130 is shown attached to two wires 135 which are located inside the openings 136 of the electronics docking multi-wall tray 127. The opposite end of the wires 135 are connected to water-resistant speakers 134. The wires 135 are held in place between the far side perimeter edge 138 of the electronics docking multi-wall tray 127 and the edge trim molding 3. An optional wire recess groove 139 is shown along the far side perimeter edge 138 of the electronics docking multi-wall tray 127. The speakers 134 can be secured to the bottom panel 133 of the electronics docking multi-wall tray 127 with an industrial-grade adhesive.

An optional circular cutout 131 is shown in the top panel 132 of the electronics docking multi-wall tray 127. Any combination of round, square or rectangular cutouts can be located along the top panel 132, bottom panel 133 or edge trim molding 3 of the electronics docking multi-wall tray 127 to allow access to volume, channel, on/off buttons or a headphone jack from any electronics device.

When an electronic device such as the iPod® Shuffle™ 126 is installed into the opening 136 in the electronics docking multi-wall tray 127 and pushed forward, the electronic device becomes mated with the stereo male plug 130. The electronic signal from the electronic device is transmitted from the male plug 130, through the wires 135 and into the speakers 134. This allows the electronics docking station embodiment 125 to be used as an amplification means for an installed electronic device. Alternatively, a microphone (not shown) can be used in place of one speaker 134—this would allow the electronics docking station embodiment 125 to be used as a recording device as well as an amplification means.

Description of Solar Panel Charging System Embodiment

Solar panel arrays 141 are typically wafer-thin rigid or flexible elements that contain individual photovoltaic cells which convert photonic energy to electrical energy. Solar panel arrays 141 can be housed inside the openings 142 of the solar panel multi-wall tray 143 to form the solar panel charging system embodiment 140 shown in FIGS. 47 thru 49 and 52. Any electronic device installed inside of or external to the solar panel multi-wall panel tray 143 can be powered and/or recharged by photonic energy from the sun or any other lighting means. In this embodiment 140, it is preferred that the plastic material used for the solar panel multi-wall tray 143 be translucent or transparent in order for light to reach the solar panel arrays 141 stored inside of the tray 143.

Solar panel arrays 141 are connected to a battery pack 144 or capacitors (not shown) found inside the solar panel multi-wall panel tray 143 to store the converted electrical energy. A user's external electronic device, such as the cellular phone with charging cable 146 shown in FIG. 48, can be plugged into the charging port 145 located along the outer perimeter of the solar panel multi-wall tray 143. The charging port 145 depicted in these drawings is the ubiquitous female Universal Serial Bus (a.k.a. USB) connector.

FIGS. 47 & 49 depict two solar panel arrays 141, a battery pack 144, two voltage regulators 147, 151 and cables 148 installed inside the solar panel multi-wall tray 143. It would be preferred that each solar panel array 141 contain at least thirty (30) photovoltaic cells, so that charging can occur even under standard office lighting conditions. Each cable 148 contains two twenty-two (22) gage wires for proper transmission of the electricity. See FIG. 52 for a block diagram of the flow of electricity through the components in the solar panel charging system embodiment 140.

Thirty (30) photovoltaic cells are installed in series on each solar panel array 141. Each cell provides 0.5 Volts @ 450 mA. Therefore, the solar panel array with thirty cells in series provides 15 Volts at 450 mA when used under optimal lighting conditions.

In this solar panel charging system embodiment 140, it is preferred that the battery pack 144 contains a plastic housing and internal wiring to accommodate six (6) recharge-able AAA (a.k.a. triple A) batteries. The batteries can also be Nickel-Metal-Hydride (NIMH), Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion), Nickel-Cadmium (NiCd), alkalyd, or alkaline. Each non-alkaline, re-chargeable AAA battery provides 1.2 Volts (alkaline provides 1.5V). Stacking six (6) re-chargeable AAA batteries in series in the battery pack 144 provides 7.2 Volts of power with 650 milli-amp hours of storage. This is advantageous because most Direct Current (DC) electronic components (e.g. integrated circuits, cell phones, MP3 players, etc.) run at 5 Volts.

Two voltage regulators 147, 151 are utilized in the embodiment to limit the risk of overcharging the internal battery pack 144 or any external electronic device plugged into the charging port 145. The first voltage regulator 147 is connected between the solar panel arrays 141 and battery pack 144 and limits the power delivered from the solar panel arrays 141 to the battery pack 144. The second voltage regulator 151 is connected between the battery pack 144 and the charging port 145 and controls the amount of power delivered from the battery pack 144 to the charging port 145. A current limiting resistor limits the current. Output from the USB interface standard is 5 Volts at 500 mA of output.

The battery pack 144, voltage regulators 147, 151, cables 148 and the solar panel arrays 141 are slid into the openings 142 in the solar panel multi-wall tray 143 and secured with a pressure-sensitive adhesive (i.e. PSA) or any other conventional adhesive means. See FIG. 49 with the top panel 158 removed from clarity.

The cables 148 between the solar panel arrays 141 and voltage regulators 147 are held in place between the far side perimeter edge 138 of the solar panel multi-wall tray 143 and the edge trim molding 3. An optional wire recess groove 149 is also shown along the far side perimeter edge of the solar panel multi-wall tray.

Description of Electronic Display Embodiment

The multi-wall tray 2, 43 can be used to store and protect an electronic display 157 in a configuration known as the electronic display embodiment 153, which is depicted in FIGS. 50 and 51. The electronic display 157 can be a fully-functional independent device such as a Tablet PC or a dependent remote display such as the Sony LocationFree™ TV.

In the electronic display embodiment 153, the electronic display multi-wall tray 154 has a generally rectangular cutout 155 located across the bottom panel 156, whereby several ribs and a portion of the bottom panel 156 are removed. See FIG. 51 with edge trim molding 3 removed for clarity. The electronic display 157 is installed into the rectangular cutout 155 from the rear of the electronic display multi-wall tray 154. In this orientation, the electronic display screen 159 faces towards the back side of the top panel 158 from the electronic display multi-wall tray 154. Let it be known that the wheelchair user would view the screen 159 of the electronic display 157 from the vantage point 178 depicted in FIG. 50.

A transparent or translucent material is preferred for the electronic display multi-wall tray 154, so that one can see through the top panel 158 of the tray 154 to view the electronic display screen 159. The electronic display 157 is held in place inside the rear rectangular cutout 155 of the tray 154 with a mounting plate 160. See FIG. 51. The mounting plate 160 can be secured to the bottom panel 156 of the tray 154 with fasteners 161 which install through holes 162 in the mounting plate 160. Alternate mounting means for the plate 160 are also possible, such as double-sided adhesive tape, Velcro® or any other prior art means. Aluminum material is the preferred material for the mounting plate 160 due to aluminum's good thermal transfer properties which can keep the installed electronic display 157 cool—however, the mounting plate 160 can be made with other material types besides aluminum.

The top panel 158 of the tray 154 (the rear side of which is shown in FIG. 51) and the mounting plate 160 protect the electronic display 157 from mechanical damage on either side. An optional rubber gasket 163 can be installed between the electronic display 157 and mounting plate 160 to prevent spilled liquids from contacting and possibly damaging the electronics. Solid-state electronics (i.e. flash-ROM) or a hard-drive can also be installed into the multi-wall tray 154 utilizing similar mounting and protection means.

Lastly, an optional USB port with cable 164 can be installed at the perimeter of the electronic display embodiment 153 via a hole 165 which extends through the multi-wall tray 158 and edge trim molding 3. Note that the electronic display 157 would need to contain an accessible USB port 174 to be used with the optional USB port with cable 164. The USB port with cable 164 can be secured to either the edge trim molding 3 or to the multi-wall tray 158 with traditional adhesives, since a USB port can be procured with an outer protective housing manufactured from plastic. The connector 173 from the USB port with cable 164 is mated into the USB port 174 from the electronic display 157 before final assembly of the electronic display 157 to the multi-wall tray 154. An external device such as a keyboard can be plugged into the optional USB port with cable 164, allowing the external device to communicate with the electronic display 157.

Modular Multi-Wall Tray Retrofitable to a Wheelchair Conclusion

The novel design embodiments disclosed in this document address many of the disadvantages associated with the use of traditional wheelchair trays.

A traditional solid wheelchair tray can pose a safety hazard if accidentally dropped onto a person's extremities and can also be difficult for a wheelchair occupant to lift due to the inherent weight of the material. The traditional wheelchair tray can also flex during usage with an electronic device such as a portable computer, which can allow the electronics to fall from a bent tray. The wheelchair tray design presented is at least 100% lighter than traditional solid wheelchair trays of similar overall thickness, but more than twice as rigid. This is due to the cross-sectional design of the multi-wall panel, which has been engineered to withstand substantial weight at a given thickness.

The wheelchair tray presented does not require separate support means such as an exterior aluminum rim along tray's outer perimeter or additional support brackets to buttress its cantilevered end. In addition, the reduced weight of the proposed wheelchair tray can reduce the harming of individuals if the wheelchair tray were to be dropped onto a person's extremities. This can provide safer living conditions for the wheelchair occupant and safer working conditions for care-takers, physical therapists, nurses, doctors or other rehabilitation personnel.

Existing wheelchair trays have a limited capacity in securing and protecting electronics, since the electronics are usually simply placed along the top surface of the tray. Currently, due to the traditional manufactured construction of a solid sheet of material, a typical wheelchair tray does not include any provision for internally housing electronic devices which may benefit the user. Cell phones, computers, PDA's, music playing devices, lighting systems and their associated power sources such as batteries, solar cells/panels or inductive charging systems must be used as external accessories. These electronics are typically placed on the top surface of a solid tray and are not protected from foreign contaminants which may damage the electronic equipment.

Electronics can be installed into the openings of the engineered multi-wall wheelchair tray to create many electronic embodiments not previously available to the wheelchair tray user. In addition, the wheelchair tray embodiments with adhered trim molding can keep valuable internal electronics safe and also provide an IP21 level of water and dust ingress protection per IEC 60529.

The design depicted in this document is specifically geared to be retrofitable to most manufactured wheelchairs (manual or electric), but one skilled in the art can modify this design to work in other applications as well. For example, the fold away Eco-Tray mounting means embodiment 52 can be retrofit onto a bed frame (for hospital or home usage), onto a table (for restaurant usage, etc.) or onto a seat (for usage at an airport bus terminal, etc.).

The foregoing is considered as illustrative only of the principles of the invention. Further, since numerous modifications and changes will readily occur to those skilled in the art, it is not desired to limit the invention to the exact construction and operation shown and described, and accordingly, all suitable modifications and equivalents may be resorted to, falling within the scope of the invention.

For example, although specific means of mounting the multi-wall tray have been disclosed, many other means of attaching the tray to a wheelchair or other object are possible. These other mounting means may be broken down into two categories: 1) passive and 2) active. The passive mounting means may include 1a) magnets stored inside the openings of the multi-wall tray that attach to conductive brackets located around the wheelchair armrests or frame, 1b) suction cups that attach to the wheelchair armrests, frame or separate bracket installed on the wheelchair, 1c) brackets or tubes that extend from inside the openings of the multi-wall tray or secure to the bottom panel of the multi-wall tray and mount to the axle of a wheelchair wheel, 1d) brackets or tubes that extend from inside the openings of the multi-wall tray or secure to the bottom panel of the multi-wall tray and mount to a bracket or tube secured to a wheelchair frame or armrest, 1e) a hinge that extends from inside the openings of the multi-wall tray or secures to the bottom panel of the multi-wall tray and mounts to a wheelchair frame, armrest or bracket installed onto the wheelchair, or 1f) an upper support assembly 64 as described earlier with a longer vertical tube 68 that mounts directly into a mounting tube secured to the wheelchair footrest (reference U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/200,838, filed Aug. 10, 2005 for details of a mounting tube means configured to mount to the footrest of a wheelchair). The active mounting means possible to secure the multi-wall tray to a wheelchair may include 2a) conductive fasteners secured to both the multi-wall tray and wheelchair that are electrically coupled and activated with an external power means or 2b) an electronically-activated solenoid, linear actuator, rotary actuator or servomotor, a mechanical spring, a pneumatic or hydraulic strut secured inside the openings of the wheelchair tray or secured to the bottom panel of the multi-wall tray that engages into a corresponding mating feature on the wheelchair frame, armrest or separate bracket installed onto the wheelchair. Any of the passive mounting means may also be combined with an active mounting means to secure the multi-wall tray to a wheelchair.

In addition, while many of the components are described as being plastic, it is possible to provide that the components are instead made of carbon fiber. Note that the I-Tray embodiment 1 and Eco-Tray 42 embodiment are depicted with edge trim molding 3; however, these embodiments can also be manufactured without the use of edge trim molding 3. Also, the Eco-Tray embodiment 42 depicted in the fold away EcoTray mounting means 52 can be replaced with the I-Tray embodiment 1. Many other variations are fully possible while staying within the scope of the present invention.