Title:
Stackable Storage Crate
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A stackable storage crate (10) comprising side elements (13, 14, 15, 16) and a base element (12) wherein at least one of said side elements (13, 14, 15, 16) is provided with an openable panel (30) providing access to storage space within said crate (10).



Inventors:
Boland, Brian Timothy (New South Wales, AU)
Application Number:
11/915897
Publication Date:
12/18/2008
Filing Date:
05/30/2006
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
220/810
International Classes:
B65D21/032; B65D43/14
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
CASTELLANO, STEPHEN J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
KNOBBE MARTENS OLSON & BEAR LLP (2040 MAIN STREET, FOURTEENTH FLOOR, IRVINE, CA, 92614, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A stackable storage receptacle comprising side elements and a base element wherein at least one of said side elements has an openable panel element hinged at or below the upper surface of the base element such that the opening is substantially flush with the upper surface of said base element and the opening also being substantially flush with the inner surfaces of the side elements.

2. The stackable storage receptacle of claim 1 wherein said openable panel element has an integrally moulded hinge.

3. The stackable storage receptacle of claim 1 wherein said side elements are attached at their lower ends to said base element.

4. The stackable storage receptacle of claim 1 wherein said side elements are attached at their upper ends to an upper perimeter frame.

5. The storage receptacle of claim 1 wherein said side elements, said base elements and said upper perimeter frame are separate components adapted for compaction as a flat-pack before assembly for use.

6. The storage receptacle of claim 1 wherein said openable panel element is adapted for rotation about said hinge between a vertical position and a substantially horizontal open position.

7. The stackable storage receptacle of claim 1 wherein said openable panel element opens to a stopped horizontal position substantially flush with the upper surface of the base element to extend base element area whilst openable panel element is in the open position.

8. The storage receptacle of claim 1 wherein said base element includes an upward facing perimeter channel sized to receive said side elements.

9. The storage receptacle of claim 1 wherein said upper and lower horizontal members of a side element perimeter frame of a first opposing pair of side elements comprise an “I-beam” section substantially extending the length of each said side element.

10. The storage receptacle of claim 9 wherein said upper and lower horizontal members of said side perimeter frame of a second pair of opposing side elements are provided with apertures adapted for engagement with projecting retaining elements of said base portion.

11. The storage receptacle of claim 9 wherein said channel section of said base element is provided with a plurality of inwardly projecting retaining elements; said retaining elements adapted to engage with lower flanges of said “I-beam” section and said apertures of said lower members as snap-fits when said first pair and said second pair of opposing side elements are assembled to said base element.

12. The storage receptacle of claim 4 wherein said upper perimeter frame comprises an upper channel section open at an underside of said channel; said channel adapted to receive therein said upper horizontal members and upper ends of vertical corner members.

13. The storage receptacle of claim 4 wherein said upper channel section is provided with a plurality of inwardly projecting retaining elements; said retaining elements adapted to engage with said “I-beam” section and said apertures of said upper horizontal members when said upper perimeter frame is assembled to said first pair of opposing side elements.

14. The storage receptacle of claim 12 wherein said vertical corner members of each of said first opposing pair of side elements are adapted for nesting engagement with corresponding said vertical corner members of said second pair of opposing side elements.

15. The storage receptacle of claim 14 wherein each of said vertical corner members of a first pair of opposing side elements engages with a corresponding vertical corner member of said second pair of opposing side elements by means of notches and projecting lugs.

16. The storage receptacle of claim 4 wherein said opening panel is provided with a forwardly projecting flange at an upper edge of said panel; said flange adapted for engagement within a lower outer edge of said upper channel section of said upper perimeter frame when said opening panel is in said closed position; said engagement retaining said opening panel in a locked condition.

17. The storage receptacle of claim 4 wherein said upper perimeter frame is provided with cut-out portions exposing portions of said forwardly projecting flange when said opening panel is in said closed position; said cut-out portions adapted to allow a user to apply downward pressure on said forwardly projecting flange so as to deflect said flange sufficient to release said flange from said engagement.

18. The storage receptacle of claim 4 wherein said upper perimeter frame and said base perimeter frame are provided with peripheral tongue and groove like mating engaging elements; said engaging elements adapted to prevent lateral movement between two said receptacles when one is stacked on another.

19. A method for assembly of the storage receptacle of claim 1, said receptacle provided with an openable panel in at least one side element of said receptacle; said method including the steps of: a) snap-fitting together into a nested assembly said vertical corner members of said first and second pair of opposing side elements, b) inserting said lower horizontal member of said first and second pair of opposing side element into said channel section of said base element.

20. The method of claim 19 wherein said method includes the further step of engaging an upper perimeter frame comprising a channel section with upper horizontal members of said perimeter frames of said first and second opposing pairs of side elements.

21. The method of claim 19 wherein said openable panel is hingedly attached to a perimeter frame of said at least one of one said pair of opposing side elements.

22. A method for accessing an interior of a storage receptacle when a plurality of said storage receptacles are arranged in a vertical stack; said method including the steps of: (a) providing an opening panel in at least one outward facing side element of said storage receptacles. (b) unlatching said opening panel from a vertical closed position and pivotally rotating said opening panel down to a stop horizontal position to provide a shelf substantially flush with the interior upper surface of the base of the storage receptacle.

23. The method of claim 22 wherein said storage receptacle is comprised of a base element, first and second opposing pairs of side elements and an upper perimeter frame.

24. (canceled)

25. (canceled)

Description:

The present invention relates to crates and, more particularly, to modular storage crates which may be stacked to form a vertically and horizontally aligned array, the contents of each crate accessible from at least one side.

BACKGROUND

Storage crates, typically of a parallelepiped shape open at the top, form convenient storage and transport modules for loose items. Also typically, these storage crates are of unitary construction of injection moulded plastic.

Such crates are generally sufficiently sturdy to allow stacking of one above the other, but a disadvantage of having the crates in a stack is that, if it is desired to access the contents of any crate lower than the uppermost, the stack must be at least partially dismantled and reassembled.

A further disadvantage of integrally formed crates is that transport and storage prior to use is expensive due to the volume of space required for each crate.

It is an object of the present invention to address or at least ameliorate some of the above disadvantages.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF INVENTION

Accordingly, in a first broad form of the invention, there is provided a stackable storage crate comprising side elements and a base element wherein at least one of said side elements is provided with an openable panel providing access to storage space within said crate.

Preferably, said modular elements further include an upper perimeter frame.

Preferably, said side elements, said base element and said upper perimeter frame are modular components adapted for compaction as a flat pack while in a disassembled state prior to use.

Preferably, said side elements comprise first and second opposing pairs of side elements.

Preferably, said base element comprises a base panel and a base perimeter frame.

Preferably, each of said side elements comprises a side element perimeter frame and side panel; said perimeter frame comprising upper and lower horizontal members and opposing vertical corner members.

Preferably, at least one said side panel of said first pair of opposing side elements is an opening panel; said opening panel hingedly attached to said side element perimeter frame.

Preferably, said opening panel is adapted for rotation about said hinge between a vertical closed position and a substantially horizontal open position.

Preferably, said base perimeter frame comprises a channel section open at an upper side of said channel section; said channel section adapted to receive therein said lower horizontal members and lower ends of said vertical corner members.

Preferably, said upper and lower horizontal members of said side element perimeter frame of said first opposing pair side elements comprise an “I-beam” section substantially extending the length of each said side element.

Preferably, said upper and lower horizontal members of said side perimeter frame of said second pair of opposing side elements are provided with apertures adapted for engagement with projecting retaining elements of said base portion.

Preferably, said channel section of said base element is provided with a plurality of inwardly projecting retaining elements; said retaining elements adapted to engage with lower flanges of said “I-beam” section and said apertures of said lower members as snap-fits when said first pair and said second pair of opposing side elements are assembled to said base element.

Preferably, said upper perimeter frame comprises an upper channel section open at an underside of said channel; said channel adapted to receive therein said upper horizontal members and upper ends of said vertical corner members.

Preferably, said upper channel section is provided with a plurality of inwardly projecting retaining elements; said retaining elements adapted to engage with said “I-beam” section and said apertures of said upper horizontal members when said upper perimeter frame is assembled to said first pair of opposing side elements.

Preferably, said vertical corner members of each of said first opposing pair of side elements are adapted for nesting engagement with corresponding said vertical corner members of said second pair of opposing side elements.

Preferably, each of said vertical corner members of a first pair of opposing side elements engages with a corresponding vertical corner member of said second pair of opposing side elements by means of notches and projecting lugs.

Preferably, said opening panel is provided with a forwardly projecting flange at an upper edge of said panel; said flange adapted for engagement within a lower outer edge of said upper channel section of said upper perimeter frame when said opening panel is in said closed position; said engagement retaining said opening panel in a locked condition.

Preferably, said upper perimeter frame is provided with cut-out portions exposing portions of said forwardly projecting flange when said opening panel is in said closed position; said cut-out portions adapted to allow a user to apply downward pressure on said forwardly projecting flange so as to deflect said flange sufficient to release said flange from said engagement.

Preferably, said upper perimeter frame and said base perimeter frame are provided with mating engaging elements; said engaging elements adapted to prevent lateral movement between two said crates when one is stacked on another.

In a further broad form of the invention, there is provided a method for assembly of the modular storage crate of claim 1; said storage crate provided with an openable panel in at least one side element of said crate; said method including the steps of:

    • (a) snap-fitting together into a nested assembly said vertical corner members of said first and second pair of opposing side elements,
    • (b) inserting said lower horizontal member of said first and second pair of opposing side element into said channel section of said base element.

Preferably, said method includes the further step of engaging an upper perimeter frame comprising a channel section with upper horizontal members of said perimeter frames of said first and second opposing pairs of side elements.

Preferably, said openable panel is hingedly attached to a perimeter frame of said at least one of one said pair of opposing side elements.

In yet a further broad form of the invention, there is provided a method for accessing interiors of a storage crates when a plurality of said storage crates are arranged in a vertical stack; said method including the steps of:

    • (a) providing an opening panel in at least one outward facing side element of said storage crates.

Preferably, said storage crate is comprised of a base element, first and second opposing pairs of side elements and an upper perimeter frame.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

Embodiments of the present invention will now be described with reference to the accompanying drawings wherein:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a stackable crate according to a preferred embodiment of the invention with an opening panel in a closed position,

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the stackable crate of FIG. 1 with an opening panel in an open position,

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of one of a first pair of opposing side elements of the crate of FIGS. 1 and 2,

FIG. 4 is a perspective view the side element of FIG. 3 when provided with an opening panel,

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of one of a second pair of opposing side elements of the crate of FIGS. 1 and 2,

FIG. 5A is a detailed view of a vertical corner member of an opposing side element of FIG. 5 showing a snap-fitting lug,

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of a base element of the crate of FIGS. 1 and 2,

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of an upper perimeter frame of the crate of FIGS. 1 and 2,

FIG. 8 is a sectioned elevation view of a portion of the crate of FIGS. 1 and 2 showing the arrangement of the opening panel of FIG. 4,

FIG. 9 is a sectioned plan view of a corner portion of the crate of FIGS. 1 and 2 showing engaged corner members of side elements of FIGS. 4 and 5,

FIG. 10 is an un-sectioned plan view of the corner portion of FIG. 9.

FIG. 11 is a perspective view of a stacked array of the crates of FIGS. 1 and 2, showing one crate opened for access.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

With reference to FIGS. 1 and 2, a stackable storage crate 10 comprises a base element 12, first pair of opposing side elements 13 and 14, second pair of opposing side elements 15 and 16, and an upper perimeter frame 18.

Each of the side elements 13 to 16 comprises a perimeter frame made up of upper and lower horizontal members and arcuate vertical corner members. FIG. 3 shows one of the opposing pair of opposite side elements 13 or 14. The perimeter frame for this configuration of side element comprises upper and lower horizontal frame members 21 and 22 respectively and vertical corner members 23 and 24.

Each of vertical corner members 23 and 24 is provided with upper and lower corner extension portions 23A, 23B and 24A, 24B respectively. These extension portions are of similar arcuate form as that of the central portion of the corner members, but are inwardly offset. Vertical corner members 24 and 25 are further provided with notches 27 arranged for snap-fitting to projecting lugs 57 of opposite side elements 15 and 16 (see FIG. 5A), as will be explained below.

The dimensions of the arcuate corner members 23 and 24 of the first pair of opposing side elements 13 and 14 are smaller than the arcuate corner members 52 and 53 of the second pair of opposing side elements 15 and 16 (shown in FIG. 5), such that adjoining corner members assemble together as a snap-fit, with projecting lugs 57 of vertical corner member 52 engaged with notches 27 of vertical corner member 23 as may be seen in FIG. 9.

Again with reference to FIGS. 3 and 4, each of upper and lower horizontal frame members 21 and 22 comprises an elongate “I-beam” section terminating at each end at vertical element 25 of corner members 23 and 24 respectively. At least one of side elements 13 and 14 is provided with cut-out portions 26. Upper horizontal frame member 21 is further provided with notched web elements 31 projecting outwardly at intervals from either side of the central web 19 of the “I-beam” section.

Referring now to FIG. 4, at least one of side element 13 and 14 is provided with an opening panel 30, hingedly attached to lower horizontal frame member 22 by a flexible element 32 (as best seen in FIG. 8).

Opening panel 30 rotates about flexible element 32 from a vertical closed position (as shown in FIGS. 1 and 8) to a substantially horizontal fully open position (as shown in FIG. 2). It will be seen from FIG. 8 that lower horizontal member 22 and flexible element 32 may be so arranged relative to base element 12, that when opening panel 30 is in the fully open position, its inner surface 34 (then horizontal) is flush with the upper surface 36 of base element 12.

Again with reference to FIGS. 4 and 8, opening panel 30 is provided with at least an outwardly projecting upper flange 38 and optionally with strengthening side flanges 39. When panel 30 is in its closed position, upper flange 38 lies just below the lower flange 40 of the “I-beam” section of upper horizontal member 21. Thus portions of upper flange 38 of opening panel 30 are accessible through cut-out portions 26. The purpose of these cut-out portions will be explained below.

The configuration of the second pair of opposing side elements 15 and 16 is shown in FIG. 5. Each of side elements 15 and 16 comprises a perimeter frame made up of upper and lower horizontal members 50 and 51 and arcuate vertical corner members 52 and 53. Vertical corner members 52 and 53 are provided with extension portions 52A, 52B and 53A, 53B respectively. These extension portions are of similar arcuate form as the central portions of the corner members, but are inwardly offset. An infill panel 54 is affixed to the inner periphery of the perimeter frame.

The vertical flanges of both upper and lower horizontal members 50 and 51 are provided with apertures 55 for snap-in engagement with retaining elements 67 provided in base element 12 and retaining elements 73 of upper perimeter frame 18 respectively (as shown in FIGS. 6 and 7). Vertical corner members 52 and 53 are further provided with projecting lugs 57 (as seen in FIG. 5A) for snap-fitting engagement with the notches 27 of vertical corner members 23 and 24 of side elements 13 and 14.

As shown in FIGS. 6 and 8, base portion 12 is comprised of a central panel 60 surrounded by a channel section 62 open at its upper side. Channel section 62 is dimensioned such that each of lower horizontal members 22 and 51 of the first and second opposing side elements 13 to 16 may be inserted into the channel section 62 as a close sliding fit. As shown in FIG. 6 the front and rear portions 63 and 64 respectively of the channel section 62 are provided on the opposing inside surfaces with retaining elements 66 adapted to engage the lower flange 68 of the “I-beam” section of lower horizontal member 22. This retaining arrangement at the front portion 63 may be seen assembled in FIG. 8. Side channel sections 80 and 81 are provided with retaining elements 65 for snap-fit engagement with the apertures 55 of upper horizontal frame members of side elements 15 and 16 (see FIG. 5).

With reference to FIGS. 7 and 8, upper perimeter frame 18 (shown inverted in FIG. 7) is formed of a channel section 70 of similar form and dimensions to the surrounding channel section 62 of base portion 12. The front and rear portions 71 and 72 of channel section 70 are also provided with retaining elements 74 on opposing internal surfaces adapted to engage with the previously described webs 31 of side elements 13 and 14. This retaining arrangement also is shown in FIG. 8. Side channel sections 77 and 78 are provided with retaining elements 73 for snap-fitting engagements with apertures 55 in lower horizontal frame members 51 of side elements 15 and 16 (see FIG. 5).

Front portion 71 is further provided with recesses 75 which, on assembly of upper perimeter frame 18 with side elements 13 and 14 coincide with cut-out portions 26.

The channel sections 70 and 62 respectively of upper perimeter frame 18 and base element 12, are provided with mating elements adapted to interlock when the base of one crate is resting on the upper perimeter frame of another so as to prevent lateral movement between the two crates. A preferred arrangement may be seen in FIG. 8 where the channel of the base element 12 is provided with a groove 90 and the channel of the perimeter frame 18 is provided with a ridge 92.

Prior to assembly, the elements comprising stackable storage crate 10 may be bundled into a flat pack held together by suitable packaging material. To assemble the elements into a storage crate, a user would proceed as follows:

    • (a) the vertical corner members of the first and second pair of opposing side elements 13, 14, 15 and 16 are snap-fitted together,
    • (b) the assembly of the four side elements are then inserted into the channel sections of base element 12,
    • (c) the upper perimeter frame 18 is placed over the upper horizontal members of each of the side elements 13 to 16 and pressed downwardly until the retaining elements 74 engage the notched webs 31 of the upper horizontal members 21, and retaining elements 73 engage with apertures 55 of upper horizontal members 50.

It will be seen from FIG. 8 that the vertical sides of the channel section 70 of the upper perimeter frame 18, extend below the underside 84 of upper horizontal member 21. This allows the outwardly projecting upper flange 38 of opening panel 30 to engage with the inside surface of front vertical side 85 of channel section 70, thereby maintaining opening panel 30 in its vertical closed position.

Recesses 75 provided in the front vertical side 85 of perimeter frame 18 coincide, when assembled to side elements 13 and 14, with cut-out portions 26 of upper horizontal member 21 of side element 13 as best seen in FIG. 10. This allows the fingers of a user to apply downward pressure to flange 38 of opening panel 30 so as to deflect flange 38 sufficient to lower its leading edge below the level of the lower edge of vertical side 85, thereby allowing panel 30 to swing outwardly to its open position.

When assembled, the inner surfaces of the panels of all four side elements 13, 14, 15 and 16 together with the upper surface of base element 12 intersect at their respective edges to form an unobstructed space.

All elements of the stackable storage crate of the present invention may be made by injection moulding of a suitable polymer, for example polypropylene. The fixed and openable panels are preferably clear with the frame elements having a frosted finish.

In use, a number of the stackable storage crates may be stacked into a column and a number of columns placed side by side to form a row of columns, as shown in FIG. 11. It will be clear that the arrangement of opening panel 30 may be applied to both first opposing sides 13 and 14 so that the contents of the storage crate 10 may be accessed from both sides of a stack of crates such as shown in FIG. 11.

The above describes only some embodiments of the present invention and modifications, obvious to those skilled in the art, can be made thereto without departing from the scope and spirit of the present invention.