Title:
Stackable and collapsible pallet container
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The pallet container is stackable on similar containers, without resting on the goods within the containers below, preventing damage to the palleted goods. Side panels of the pallet container hinge upon fold onto the base of the stabilize the propellers of a wind machine or alternatively a wind powered generator, and more particularly a system. The invention comprises a transportable and collapsible storage container, sized to receive a pallet of stacked articles. The storage container is stackable, to support a similar container stacked on top, without damage to the palleted contents stored within the container. The load of the storage container stacked above is handled by the walls of the storage container below. Preferably, the four walls of the pallet container hinge at the base of each wall, to fold flat for compact storage. The walls may be solid, slatted, meshed or grate. The walls interlock, when raised from the flat, storage position, to prevent unwanted folding of the container. The storage container may be employed as a stand-alone rack system, or in a carrier, such as a rail car, flatbed truck or trailer combination.



Inventors:
Temple Jr., Nicholas B. (Yakima, WA, US)
Berndt, Gregory P. (Yakima, WA, US)
Application Number:
11/897015
Publication Date:
03/05/2009
Filing Date:
08/27/2007
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
220/4.29, 108/53.1
International Classes:
B65D19/12; B65D8/14; B65D19/38
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
FIDEI, DAVID
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Stratton, Ballew (213 S 12TH AVE, YAKIMA, WA, 98902, US)
Claims:
The following is claimed:

1. A collapsible container for receiving a pallet, the collapsible container comprising: a pallet base, the pallet base bordered by a front side edge, a first side edge, a rear side edge and a second side edge, the pallet base able to receive a pallet enclosed within the front side edge, the first side edge, the rear side edge and the second side edge of the pallet base; a first sidewall hingably mounted to the pallet base proximate to the first side edge, the first sidewall hingably foldable onto the pallet base, and the first sidewall having a first upper edge; a rear sidewall hingably mounted to the pallet base proximate to the rear side edge, the rear sidewall hingably foldable onto the pallet base, and the rear sidewall having a rear upper edge; a second sidewall hingably mounted to the pallet base proximate to the second side edge, the second sidewall hingably foldable onto the pallet base, and the second sidewall having a second upper edge; and a second pallet base stackable onto and supported by the first upper edge, the rear upper edge and the second upper edge of the collapsible container.

2. A collapsible container according to claim 1, further comprising: a first sidewall hinge, a rear sidewall hinge, and a second sidewall hinge; the first sidewall hinge located at a first hinge height relative to the pallet base, the rear sidewall hinge located at a rear hinge height relative to the pallet base, and the second sidewall hinge located at a second hinge height relative to the pallet base; the first hinge height, the rear hinge height and the second hinge height all unequal relative to each other, to provide for the first sidewall, the rear sidewall and the second sidewall to all fold flat onto said pallet received within the pallet base.

3. A collapsible storage container according to claim 1 wherein: the second pallet base is stackable onto and supported by the collapsible container, without contacting the enclosed goods of the collapsible container.

4. A collapsible storage container according to claim 1 additionally including: a gate positioned above the front side edge of the pallet base, to connect the first sidewall to the second sidewall.

5. A collapsible storage container according to claim 1 wherein two of the sidewalls are lockable along their adjacent edges in the container configuration.

6. A collapsible container for receiving a pallet, the collapsible container comprising: a pallet base, the pallet base bordered by a front side edge, a first side edge, a rear side edge and a second side edge, the pallet base able to receive a pallet enclosed within the front side edge, the first side edge, the rear side edge and the second side edge of the pallet base; a first sidewall hingably mounted to the pallet base proximate to the first side edge, and the first sidewall hingably foldable onto the pallet base; a rear sidewall hingably mounted to the pallet base proximate to the rear side edge, and the rear sidewall hingably foldable onto the pallet base; a second sidewall hingably mounted to the pallet base proximate to the second side edge, and the second sidewall hingably foldable onto the pallet base; a first sidewall hinge, a rear sidewall hinge, and a second sidewall hinge; the first sidewall hinge located at a first hinge height relative to the pallet base, the rear sidewall hinge located at a rear hinge height relative to the pallet base, and the second sidewall hinge located at a second hinge height relative to the pallet base; the first hinge height, the rear hinge height and the second hinge height all unequal relative to each other, to provide for the first sidewall, the rear sidewall and the second sidewall to all fold flat onto said pallet received within the pallet base.

7. A collapsible container according to claim 6, further comprising: the first sidewall having a first upper edge; the rear sidewall having a rear upper edge; the second sidewall having a second upper edge; and a second pallet base stackable onto and supported by the first upper edge, the rear upper edge and the second upper edge of the collapsible container.

8. A collapsible storage container according to claim 7 wherein: the second pallet base is stackable onto and supported by the collapsible container, without contacting the enclosed goods of the collapsible container.

9. A collapsible storage container according to claim 6, additionally including: a gate positioned above the front side edge of the pallet base, to connect the first sidewall to the second sidewall.

10. A collapsible storage container according to claim 6, wherein two of the sidewalls are lockable along their adjacent edges in the container configuration.

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD

The invention relates to a stackable and collapsible pallet container, especially suited for receiving and protecting paletted goods. The container is sized to receive a pallet of stacked articles. The storage container is stackable, to support a similar container stacked on top, without damage to the paletted contents stored within the container. The load of the storage container stacked above is handled by the walls of the storage container below. Preferably, the four walls of the pallet container hinge at the base of each wall, to fold flat for compact storage. The walls may be solid, slatted, meshed or grate. The walls interlock, when raised from the flat, storage position, to prevent unwanted folding of the container. The storage container may be employed as a stand-alone rack system, or in a carrier, such as a rail car, flatbed truck or trailer combination.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

All types of manufactured and agricultural goods and produce are stored and transported on pallets. The standard pallet is a flat box with approximately four-foot sides in length and width, and a height dictated by the thickness of the materials, often wood, that the pallet is made from, and with the additional consideration that the pallet must be able to receive the forks from a common “fork-lift” or some similar pallet jack or pallet moving device.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,595,305 to Hart discloses a collapsible walled storage framework that attaches to the top surface of a pallet. The walls of the container hinge to each other, and each wall includes a “hook” element to engage the pallet. Similarly, U.S. Pat. No. 6,006,918, also to Hart, focuses on the mechanism used to hinge the walls of the framework. These patents fail to provide for a stacking of the collapsible containers.

A collapsible walled storage container is needed that incorporates a standard pallet, which is also stackable to support a similar container stacked on top of it, without damage to the palleted contents stored within the container.

The following is a disclosure of the present invention that will be understood by reference to the following detailed description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a stackable and collapsible pallet container, according to an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a stackable and collapsible pallet container, according to an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of a stackable and collapsible pallet container, according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of a stackable and collapsible pallet container, according to an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of a stackable and collapsible pallet container, according to an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 6 is a partially sectioned perspective view of a stackable and collapsible pallet container, according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of a stackable and collapsible pallet container, according to an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 8 is a partially sectioned perspective view of a stackable and collapsible pallet container, according to an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 9A is a partially sectioned perspective view of a stackable and collapsible pallet container, according to an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 9B is a partially sectioned perspective view of a stackable and collapsible pallet container, according to an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 9C is a partially sectioned perspective view of a stackable and collapsible pallet container, according to an embodiment of the invention; and

FIG. 10 is a partially sectioned perspective view of a stackable and collapsible pallet container, according to an embodiment of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF SPECIFIC EMBODIMENTS

The invention provides a collapsible container for receiving a pallet and paletted goods. FIGS. 1 through 10 show the collapsible container 16, according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention. The collapsible container includes a pallet base 20, surrounded by sidewalls 21, which are panels that extend upward from the pallet base. As shown in FIGS. 3 and 4, the pallet base can be described as essentially a flat and four-sided framework, bordered by side edges 19, specifically a front side edge 22, a first side edge 24, a rear side edge 26, and a second side edge 28. The four side edges of the pallet base enclose a framed interior 29.

The pallet base 20 is able to receive a pallet 30, with “palleted goods” 31 stacked upon the pallet, as shown in FIG. 2, the pallet supported by the pallet base, specifically within the framed interior 29, as formed by the front side edge 22, the first side edge 24, the rear side edge 26, and the second side edge 28. Most preferably, the enclosed surface area of the framed interior approximately matches the square footage or surface area of the pallet.

Preferably, the pallet 30 is a conventional, freight pallet, often made of wood and able to be moved by a typical forklift. In North America, the standard pallet is forty inches wide, which is the side of the pallet corresponding to the front side edge 22 and the rear side edge 26 of the pallet base 20. Additionally, the standard pallet is forty-eight inches deep, which is the side of the pallet corresponding to the first side edge 24 and the second side edge 28 of the pallet base. Any conventional pallet could be employed for use with the present invention, with a properly sized pallet base.

The pallet 30 is employed as a supporting platform for palleted goods 31, stacked upon it. When the collapsible container 16 of the present invention receives a pallet of goods, the goods are referred to herein as the palleted goods, “enclosed goods,” or simply, goods. The pallet is received onto the framed interior 29 of the pallet base 20 and so, the palleted good are received into an enclosed space 32, within the sidewalls 21. The palleted goods may be a single item, a portion of a greater, later assembled item, or a plurality of stacked materials or manufactured products. Additionally, the goods may be encased in a single container or multiple containers, organized onto the pallet. Within the collapsible container, the palleted goods are stackable on similar collapsible containers, without resting on the goods within the containers below, preventing damage to the palleted goods.

Each of the sidewalls 21 includes a lower sidewall edge 33 that abuts to the pallet base 20. As detailed in FIG. 1, a first sidewall 34 hingably mounts to the pallet base 21, proximate to the first side edge 24 of the pallet base. The first sidewall can hingably fold on the pallet base, laying flatly onto the pallet base. The first sidewall also includes a first upper edge 35. The first upper edge of the first sidewall is the opposite edge of the first sidewall, relative to the lower sidewall edge, where the hinged connection to the pallet base is located.

A rear sidewall 36 hingably mounts to the pallet base 21, proximate to the rear side edge 26, the rear sidewall can hingably fold onto the pallet base, laying flatly on the pallet base, similar to the first sidewall 34. The rear sidewall also includes a rear upper edge 37. The rear upper edge of the rear sidewall is the opposite edge of the rear sidewall, relative to the lower sidewall edge 33, where the hinged connection to the pallet base is located.

A second sidewall 38 hingably mounts to the pallet base 21, proximate to the second side edge 28, the second sidewall can hingably fold onto the pallet base, similar to the first sidewall 34 and the rear sidewall 36, laying flatly on the pallet base. The second sidewall also includes a second upper edge 39. The second upper edge of the second sidewall is the opposite edge of the second sidewall, relative to the lower sidewall edge 33, where the hinged connection to the pallet base is located.

Together, the first sidewall 34, the rear sidewall 36 and the second sidewall 38 are referred to herein as “the sidewalls” 21. The sidewalls may be manufactured from a variety of materials, such as metal or plastic. The sidewalls may be solid, slatted, meshed or grated. Preferably, as shown in FIG. 1, each of the sidewalls includes a frame 41 made from a high strength, tubular metal. A most preferred tubular metal is a square tubular steel, such as a twelve-gauge stainless alloy, or alternatively a high strength aluminum alloy, as selectable by a person skilled in the manufacture of structural metal materials. Most preferably, a panel 42 of metal mesh is encased within the frame. Each sidewall also includes a sidewall upper edge 43, opposite each lower sidewall edge 33. The sidewall upper edge may be the first upper edge 35 of the first sidewall, the rear upper edge 37 of the rear sidewall, or the second upper edge 39 of the second sidewall.

As shown in FIG. 2, a second pallet base 44 is stackable onto and wholly supported by the sidewalls 21 of the collapsible container 16, below. The collapsible container positioned below the second pallet base is also referred to herein as the first collapsible container 16. In a preferred alternative of the collapsible container, the second pallet base can include a socket 45 for receiving a portion of the sidewalls of the collapsible container 16, below it. Most preferably, the sockets are indentations that each receive a sidewall post 47, which extends from the upper edge 43 of any of the sidewalls.

Preferably, each of the sidewalls 21 includes its own sidewall post 47, which is receivable into the socket 45 that corresponds to the sidewall post within the second pallet base 44, above it. In a most preferred embodiment, as shown in FIG. 2, the first sidewall 34 includes a first forward post 54 and a first rearward post 55, which both extend from the first upper edge 35 of the first sidewall. The rear sidewall 36 includes a rear first sidewall post 56 and a rear second sidewall post 57, which both extend from the rear upper edge 37 of the rear sidewall. The second sidewall 38 includes a second rear sidewall post 58 and a second forward sidewall post 59, which both extend from the second upper edge 39 of the second sidewall. Preferably, the sidewall posts are extensions of the frame 41 of each sidewall, and most preferably formed of the same tubular metal material as the preferred tubular frame, formed as discussed above.

The second pallet base 44 is the supportive base of a second collapsible container 60, stackable on top of the first collapsible container 16. Specifically, as discussed above, the first upper edge 35, the rear upper edge 37, and the second upper edge 39 of the sidewalls 21 of the first collapsible container, together support the second pallet base. This support prevents the second pallet base from resting on the enclosed goods 31 of the collapsible container, below. By not contacting the enclosed goods of the first collapsible container, the second pallet base is supported without relying upon the enclosed goods either for primary, or supplemental support. Structurally, the load of the storage container stacked above is transferred through the frame 41 of the storage container below. The enclosed goods are contained within the sidewalls of the collapsible container without being crushed or compacted, which is a great advantage, when compared to conventional pallet stacking schemes.

The stacking relationship of the second collapsible container 60 onto the first collapsible container 20 may be repeated as needed, upward or to either side and to the back or rear of the containers. Additionally, the collapsible containers may be emptied of the pallet 30, which includes the enclosed goods 31, and used as a scaffolding or a framework of temporary storage cages for pallets of goods. With a forklift, the pallets and goods can be removed from or placed into the enclosed space 32 of any similar collapsible container, placed into another collapsible container, or de-palleted, shipped or stored, as needed.

To retain the goods 31 within the enclosed space 32 within the sidewalls 21 of the collapsible container 16, a gate 23 can be included, to span between the first sidewall 34 and the second sidewall 36, directly above the front side edge 22 of the pallet base 20, as shown in FIG. 1. Preferably, the gate includes a gate hinge 25, which is most preferably a two-part hinge, mounted along the second forward sidewall post 59. Most preferably, the gate also includes a latch 65, as detailed in FIG. 8, which may be tuned manually, to lock the gate to the first forward sidewall post 54 of the first sidewall 34.

As shown in FIG. 3, in a preferred embodiment of the collapsible container 16, the gate 23 may be opened and rotated on the gate hinge 25, a full “three-quarters of a circle” or 270 degrees around the second forward sidewall post 59, to lay flat against the second panel 38. This hinged rotation of the gate provides for the collapsed configuration 61, as shown in FIG. 4, with the gate lying flat upon the second panel.

As shown in FIG. 1, the pallet base 20 preferably includes base forklift slots 63, positioned along the front side edge 22 of the pallet base, allowing the forks to be received into its framed interior 29. With the aid of these slots, each collapsible container may be transported along with the pallet of enclosed goods 31, or the container may be placed anywhere, temporally or permanently, to receive transient goods, with the pallet 30 moved into and out of the container. The collapsible container may be employed as a stand-alone rack system, or in a carrier, such as a rail car, aircraft, boat, flatbed truck, or a tractor and trailer combination.

As discussed above, and shown in FIGS. 3, 4 and 9A through 9C, the collapsible container 16 may be “knocked-down” or collapsed for efficient transport when “empty,” which is when the collapsible container does not carry or contain the palleted goods 31. The four sidewalls 21 of the pallet container each hinge at the base of each wall, to fold flat for compact and stackable storage, preferably into a collapsed configuration 61, as shown in FIGS. 4 and 9C. In the compact configuration, the container can still be moved easily, with the aid of a forklift, because the base forklift slots 63 are still exposed.

The connection between each of the sidewalls 21 and the pallet base 20, is preferably accomplished with sidewall hinges 62. As discussed above, the lower sidewall edge 33 of each of the sidewalls 21 abuts to the pallet base 20, closely proximate to where the hinged connection to the pallet base is located. As detailed in FIGS. 6 and 7, for a preferred embodiment of the collapsible container 16, the sidewall hinges 62 include a first sidewall hinge 64, a rear sidewall hinge 66, and a second sidewall hinge 68.

The first sidewall 34 hingably mounts to the pallet base 21, proximate to the first side edge 24 of the pallet base, at the first sidewall hinge 64. The first sidewall can hingably fold on the pallet base, laying flatly onto the pallet base, as shown in FIG. 3. The distance between the framed interior 29 of the pallet base and the first sidewall hinge, at the first side edge of the pallet base, directly below the hinge, is referred to herein as a first hinge height 74, as shown in FIGS. 7 and 8.

The rear sidewall 36 hingably mounts to the pallet base 21, proximate to the rear side edge 26 of the pallet base, at the rear sidewall hinge 66. The rear sidewall, like the first sidewall 34, can hingably fold on the pallet base, laying flatly onto the pallet base, as shown in FIG. 4. The distance between the framed interior 29 of the pallet base and the rear sidewall hinge, at the rear side edge of the pallet base, directly below the hinge, is referred to herein as a rear hinge height 76, as shown in FIG. 7.

The second sidewall 38 hingably mounts to the pallet base 21, proximate to the second side edge 28 of the pallet base, at the second sidewall hinge 68. The second sidewall, like the first sidewall 34 and the second sidewall 36, can hingably fold on the pallet base, laying flatly onto the pallet base, as shown in FIG. 4. The distance between the framed interior 29 of the pallet base and the second sidewall hinge, at the second side edge of the pallet base, directly below the hinge, is referred to herein as a second hinge height 78, as shown in FIG. 6.

The proximity of the sidewall hinges 62 to the respective side edges 19 of the pallet base is important in that collapsing or lowering each of the sidewalls 21 preferably results in each sidewall matching the outside dimensions of, or approximately covering the framed interior 29 of the pallet base. If each sidewall hinged at the same relative distance from the pallet base, the sidewalls will interfere with one another, when all three of the sidewalls are knocked-down, lowered or collapsed. Preferably, the first hinge height 74, the rear hinge height 76 and the second hinge height 78 are all different, and unequal relative to each other. This difference in hinge height, allows the first sidewall 34, the rear sidewall 36 and the second sidewall 38 to all fold flat onto the pallet 30 received within the pallet base 20. The difference in the hinge heights is preferably close to the thickness of each sidewall. The purpose of the hinge heights' inclusion of the height of the pallet, is to allow the framed interior of the pallet base to still receive the empty pallet, when the container is in the collapsed configuration 61, as shown in FIGS. 4 and 9C. This is a significant advantage over prior collapsible containers.

Specifically, as an example, if each of the sidewalls 21 are approximately one inch in thickness, as preferred, the above listed hinge heights will begin at approximately the height or thickness of the thickest pallet 30 expected to be received into the pallet base 20, and then the hinge heights would follow at one inch increments greater than that height, for each successive hinge. If, for instance, the thickest pallet to be received within the pallet base will be three inches high, the first hinge height 74 for the first sidewall hinge 64 could be built at three and one-half inches above the pallet base, which allows a tolerance for some irregularities, such as preexisting warp or damage to the pallet. If the sidewalls are one inch in thickness, the rear hinge height 76 for the rear sidewall hinge 66 could be four and one-half inches, followed by the second hinge 68 having a second hinge height 78 of five and one-half inches.

As shown in FIGS. 3 and 4, a preferred order of the folding of the sidewalls 21 onto the pallet base 20 of the collapsible container 16 is: the first sidewall 34, then the rear sidewall 36, followed finally by the second sidewall 38. Alternatively, especially in an embodiment without a gate 23, or with the gate hinged in reverse, about the first forward sidewall post 54, this order could be reversed, with the second sidewall followed by the rear sidewall and finally the first sidewall. A consistent order for each container is most preferred, to simplify the manual folding of the containers, minimizing confusion by a person folding the container as to which sidewall folds onto the pallet base first, second and third. A number painted on each sidewall in a conspicuous spot, might be employed to aid a person folding the container.

Alternative folding orders, from the preferred order listed above, easily could be implemented. An alternative preferred order of the folding of the sidewalls 21 onto the pallet base 20 of the collapsible container 16 is the folding of the second sidewall 38, as shown in FIG. 9A, followed by the folding of the first sidewall 34, as shown in FIG. 9B, followed finally by the rear sidewall 36, as shown in the collapsed configuration 61 of FIG. 9C. Alternatively, the first sidewall could be folded first, followed by the second sidewall and the rear sidewall. Also, alternatively, the order of folding could be reversed from that shown in FIGS. 9A through 9C, with the rear sidewall folded, followed by the first sidewall and finally the second sidewall, or the rear sidewall followed by the second sidewall and then the first sidewall. Most preferably, in each of these folding orders, the sidewall hinges 62 would be positioned with hinge heights, as discussed above, to best accommodate the most compact folding of the panels.

In a preferred embodiment of the collapsible container 16, the sidewalls 21 are able to interlock with one another, when the sidewalls are raised from the flat, collapsed configuration 61.

This prevents unwanted folding of the container, and maintains the desired abutment of the sidewalls to each another. One or more of the sidewalls can include a sidewall clasp 81, to engage neighboring sidewalls. Preferably, one or more sidewall post can include one of the sidewall clasps. Most preferably, as shown in FIG. 1, the rear sidewall includes two clasps, a rear first sidewall clasp 86 on the first rear sidewall post 56, and a rear second sidewall clasp 87 on the rear second sidewall post 57, as detailed in FIG. 5. Additional or alternative sidewall clasps could be included between the sidewalls.

In an additional preferred embodiment of the collapsible container 16, the sidewalls can include sidewall handles 90 to aid in moving, grasping, folding or unfolding the sidewalls.

Preferably, as shown in FIG. 10, the first sidewall 34 can include a first sidewall handle 94, and the second sidewall 38 can include a second sidewall handle 98. Preferably, the sidewall handles extend from the sidewall posts 47. The sidewall handles can also extend above the upper edges of the sidewalls. The first sidewall handle can extend above the first upper edge 35 of the first sidewall and the second sidewall handle can extend above the second upper edge 39 of the second sidewall.

In compliance with the statutes, the invention has been described in language more or less specific as to structural features and process steps. While this invention is susceptible to embodiment in different forms, the specification illustrates preferred embodiments of the invention with the understanding that the present disclosure is to be considered an exemplification of the principles of the invention, and the disclosure is not intended to limit the invention to the particular embodiments described. Those with ordinary skill in the art will appreciate that other embodiments and variations of the invention are possible, which employ the same inventive concepts as described above. Therefore, the invention is not to be limited except by the following claims, as appropriately interpreted in accordance with the doctrine of equivalents.