Title:
Four-Way Stack-and-Nest Pallet with Full Window-Framed Runners
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A pallet made according to this invention provides a one-piece plastic pallet with integrated full window-frame runners for improved safety, nesting and stackability. The pallet includes a plurality of recessed portions that form angled leg portions below the lower surface of the deck. The pallet also includes integrated full window-framed runners in order to accommodate four-way entry. Each window-framed runner includes an angled leg portion having about the same draft angle as the opposing sidewall of the recessed portion. The deck also includes a plurality of channels sized to receive a window-framed runner of a second pallet. Each recessed portion also includes a stop to arrest the downward travel of the leg portion of the second pallet and allow for the nested second pallet to be easily removed from the first pallet.


Inventors:
Howland, Clark P. (Terrace Park, OH, US)
Sofia, Richard D. (Troy, OH, US)
Application Number:
13/264095
Publication Date:
11/22/2012
Filing Date:
03/04/2011
Assignee:
HOWLAND CLARK P.
SOFIA RICHARD D.
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
108/51.11, 108/57.28
International Classes:
B65D19/32; B65D19/38
View Patent Images:
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Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A pallet comprising: a deck including a goods-supporting surface and a plurality of recessed portions, each recessed portion having angled sidewalls that form a leg portion below a lower surface of the deck; a first and second plurality of full window-framed runners, the first plurality of full window-framed runners arranged perpendicular to the second plurality of full window-framed runners, each full window-framed runner being offset from a peripheral edge of the deck surface and located between two adjacent recessed portions; a runner leg portion of each full window-framed runner angling away from an opposing angled sidewall of an adjacent recessed portion, the runner leg portion and the opposing angled sidewall having a substantially same draft angle relative to vertical.

2. A pallet according to claim 1 further comprising the pallet being a one-piece design pallet.

3. A pallet according to claim 2 further comprising the pallet being a molded pallet.

4. A pallet according to claim 3 further comprising the molded pallet being a straight pull mold injection pallet.

5. A pallet according to claim 1 further comprising the plurality of recessed portions including a central recessed portion, a corner recessed portion, and a side recessed portion.

6. A pallet according to claim 1 further comprising the deck including a plurality of channels, each channel located above a floor runner portion of a full window-framed runner and sized to receive a full window-framed runner of a second pallet.

7. A pallet according to claim 1 further comprising each recessed portion including a stop, the stop arresting the downward travel of a second pallet being nested within the first-mentioned pallet.

8. A pallet according to claim 7 further comprising a height of the stop being no greater than one-half the depth of the recessed portion.

9. A pallet made according to claim 7 further comprising a clearance between the leg portion of the second pallet and a recessed portion of the first-mentioned pallet receiving the leg portion of the second pallet being no greater than about 0.05 inches (0.13 cm) when the second pallet is nesting in the first-mentioned pallet.

9. A pallet according to claim 1 further comprising the substantially same draft angle being about 4 degrees.



Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates generally to goods-supporting pallets like the kind transported, raised and lowered by forklift trucks. More specifically, the invention relates to goods-supporting pallets that are made of environmental-friendly plastics and nest one into the other to reduce or minimize storage space.

Goods-supporting pallets made of wood and plastic are well-known in the art. One of the advantages of plastic pallets over wooden pallets is that plastic pallets can be designed to nest one within the other. However, prior art plastic nesting pallets do not provide a runner design which accommodates 4-way entry of the forklift, nor do they provide full window-frame and same-dimensioned runners. Additionally, those plastic nesting pallets are usually one-piece designs which do not incorporate runners of any kind. Plastic pallets that do have runners are usually assembled from different molded parts and cannot nest.

The pallet disclosed and claimed herein incorporates the best safety, economic and manufacturing features of two distinct types of pallets. Pallets with runners (either wood or plastic) offer fork truck safety, pallet conveyablity, and pallet double-stacking. Pallets without runners (usually only plastic) offer economic outbound and return shipping and make efficient use of warehouse space. However, there are times when the qualities of both types of pallets are desirable in the same pallet. The claimed invention incorporates two critical features of each type of pallet, full window frame runners for safety and full nesting capacity for economic shipment, in the same pallet. No other pallet is available with these combined critical features.

Because of significant technical challenges, no prior art pallet design incorporates all of the features of the pallet made according to this invention. Prior art pallet designs have either compromised on the full window frame runner system, thereby reducing the safety factor, or have limited the nesting ratio, thereby reducing the economic return of the nesting pallet. To the inventors' knowledge, there is no prior art pallet design that marries both the full window frame and full nesting in the same pallet. A pallet design that accomplishes both is difficult to achieve given that the design has to maintain industry standards to survive the rigors and abuse of the fork-truck world yet still accommodate an industry load requirement.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

A pallet made according to this invention has a deck that provides a goods-supporting surface along with a plurality of recessed portions that form angled leg portions below the lower surface of the deck. In a preferred embodiment, the angle or draft of sidewalls of the recess is about 4° from vertical. The pallet also includes a first and second plurality of full window-framed runners, the first plurality of window-framed runners being arranged perpendicular to the second plurality of window-framed runners in order to accommodate 4-way entry for a forklift truck. Each window-framed runner shares an angled sidewall of each of the two adjacent recessed portions that it is located between. The runners are also offset from the peripheral edge of the pallet.

The plurality of recessed portions includes a centrally located recessed portion, recessed portions located toward a peripheral edge of the pallet, and recessed portions located at the corners of the pallet. Each edge or side recessed shares a common centerline with the central recessed portion. The goods supporting surface may be a solid surface having a plurality of ribs on its lower surface. The runners may also include ribs.

To accommodate the floor runner portion of a second pallet and help provide an interlocking design, the deck includes a plurality of channels. Each channel is located above a floor runner portion of an opposing window-framed runner and sized to receive a window-framed runner of the second pallet. Each recessed portion also includes a stop to arrest the downward travel of the foot portion of the second pallet so that about half the height of the second pallet nests within the first pallet.

Objects of the invention are to provide a plastic nesting pallet that has (1) a one-piece design; (2) full window-frame runners (stringers) to improve safety during transport and stacking; (3) a runner design that improves pallet storage at least about 50%; (4) runners which are off-set and chamfered to protect the feet; (5) runners with a common dimension; (6) a top deck that incorporates the runners but still allows the pallet to nest; (7) a foot design that provides an inter-locking footprint but allows for de-stacking; and (8) more static and dynamic load carrying capacity than a similarly sized wooden pallet yet is at least one-third the weight of that pallet.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a top view of a preferred embodiment of a pallet made according to this invention.

FIG. 2 is an elevation front view of the pallet of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a cross-section view of the pallet of FIG. 1 taken along section line 3-3.

FIG. 4 is an elevation right-side view of the pallet of FIG. 1, the left-side being a mirror image.

FIG. 5 is a bottom view of the pallet of FIG. 1

FIG. 6 is an isometric view of the pallet of FIG. 1.

FIG. 7 is an isometric bottom view of the pallet of FIG. 1.

FIG. 8 is a cross-section view of the pallet of FIG. 1 as it nests within other pallets.

FIG. 9 is a partial bottom view of another preferred embodiment of a pallet made according to this invention.

ELEMENTS

The following elements are illustrated in the drawings and referenced in the Detailed Description of the Preferred Embodiments

10Stack-and-nest pallet
11First pallet side
13Centerline
15Second pallet side
17Centerline
19Fork entry/window
20Deck
21Goods supporting surface
23Trapezoidal-shaped portion of 21
25Rectangular-shaped portion of 21
27Goods supporting surface
29Goods supporting surface
30Open channel
31Longitudinal side
50Channel
60Recess
61Central portion
63Satellite or petal portion
65Sidewall
67Top end
120Lower surface of 20
121Cross-patterned rib
130Runner
131Floor runner portion
133Supporting leg portion
135Upper end of 133
137Rib
139Bottom end of 131
141Lower edge of 137
143Lower end of 133
145Cross-patterned rib
150Channel-shaped rib
151Bottom end
160Leg or foot
163Petal portion
165Sidewall
169Bottom end
171Hole
173Stop
175Upper end of 173

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

A pallet made according to this invention represents a new concept in plastic runner-ed pallets. The pallet (1) blends traditional pallet safety with economic re-use; (2) lowers costs and eliminates assembly because of its one-piece design; (3) incorporates geometry that protects its internal structure; (4) provides integrated full window-frame runners and 4-way entry; (5) lowers handling costs by providing full 2-to-1 nesting; (5) is compatible with all conveyor systems; (6) double stacks with about 8% greater runner surface area (meaning the pallet stacks with greater bottom surface area than prior art pallets); (7) is about 50% lighter than a comparable-sized wood pallet; (8) is 100% recoverable and reusable; (9) has a carbon footprint about 40% smaller than prior art wood pallets; and (10) accommodates industry load requirements. For example, a pallet made according to this invention that is made of recycled resin and measures 48 inches long (121.92 cm); 40 inches wide (101.6 cm), and 5½ inches (13.97 cm) tall weighs 27 pounds (12.25 kg), can be stacked 42 high in a 97-inch (246.38 cm) column, has a dynamic load capacity of 2,400 pounds (1088.62 kg), and has a static load capacity of 7,500 pounds (3401.94 kg) (not edge rack-able). Because of its improved nesting, 1,260 units can fit within a standard 53-foot (16.15 m) truck making return economically more attractive.

Referring to the drawings and first to FIGS. 1, 6 &8, a preferred embodiment of a stack-and-nest pallet 10 made according to this invention has a deck 20 that incorporates built-in runners (stringers) 130 in a full window frame design but allows a second pallet 10 to nest inside the first pallet 10 up to a 2.5 to 1 ratio. Deck 20 includes channels 30 and recesses 60 that receive the legs 160 and runners 130 of the second pallet 10, respectively. The two pallets 10 preferably nest so that the total height of the nested arrangement is substantially the same height “X” as a single pallet 10 (see FIG. 8). A pallet 10 made according to this invention is about 33% lighter than a comparably sized wood pallet while at the same time improving pallet storage by up to about 60%. In a preferred embodiment, pallet 10 is about 48″ (121.92 cm)×40″ (101.6 cm)×5.5″ (13.97 cm), made from environmentally friendly plastic material, and weighs about 27 pounds (11.34 kg).

Referring now to FIGS. 5-7, each leg 160 conforms to and extends below a respective recess 60, which forms the hollow interior portion of the leg 160. The legs 160 and recesses 60 have a unique-interlocking footprint (described below) that is designed to allow for de-stacking the nested pallets 10. The legs 160 and recesses 60 are one of three types: center C, corner K, or side S. When viewing pallet 10 from above its deck 20, each recess 60 has a substantially square- or rectangular-shaped central portion 61 and a set of square- or rectangular-shaped foot or petal portions 63, each petal portion 63 being located at a corner of central portion 61. Recesses 60C & S have four petal portions 63(1)-(4). Recess 60K has three petal portions 63K(1)-(3).

The sidewalls 165 of the each leg 160 merge with the sidewalls 65 that form the recess 60 and extend below the lower surface 120 of deck 20 (see FIGS. 3 & 8). Therefore, each leg 160 has a central portion 161 and petal portions 163 that correspond to those of its complementary recess 60. The sidewalls 65, 165 taper at a same draft angle α from the top end 67 of recess 60 toward the bottom end 169 of leg 160. In a preferred embodiment, draft angle α is about 4° and sidewalls 165 are about 0.15″ (0.38 cm) thick. Bottom end 169 includes a hole 171.

Preferably, one of three different sized rectangular-shaped open channels 30 lies between adjacent recesses 60C & K; 60C & S; and 60K & S (see also FIG. 1). Channel 30N is the narrowest channel 30 and runs parallel to pallet side 11 (which is preferably the shorter side of pallet 10), between the center recess 60C and a corner recess 60K. Channel 30W, which is the widest channel 30, also runs parallel to pallet side 11 but between center recess 60C and a side recess 60S. Channel 30M—whose width lies between that of channels 30N & W—runs substantially parallel to pallet side 15 (the longer side of pallet 10), between a corner recess 60K and a side recess 160S.

A runner 130 lies substantially directly below each channel 30. Each runner 130 is a full window frame runner and provides a fork entry 19 (making pallet 10 a full four-way entry pallet). Runner 130 is chamfered and includes a floor runner portion 131 and a supporting leg portion 133. The leg portion 133 is off-set relative to the floor runner portion 131 and extends away from an opposing leg 160 at a draft angle β. In a preferred embodiment, draft angle β is about 4°, substantially equal to that of draft angle α.

Similar to channels 30, each floor runner portion 131 is one of three different widths, with floor runner 131W corresponding to, lying beneath, and having a slightly smaller width than channel 30W so that the runner 130W of one pallet 10 may be received by a corresponding channel 30W of a second pallet 10. Floor runner portion 131N corresponds to, lies beneath, and has a slightly smaller width than channel 30N. Floor runner portion 131M corresponds to, lies beneath, and has a slightly smaller width than channel 30M. In a preferred embodiment, floor runner 131N is about 1.4″ wide (3.55 cm), 131M is about 1.9″ (4.83 cm) wide, and 131W is about 2.9″ (7.37 cm) wide. The leg portion 133 at wider at its upper end 135 than at its lower end 145 (which merges into floor runner portion 131).

The bottom end 139 of the floor runner portion 131 lies substantially in the same horizontal plane as the bottom end 169 of the legs 160. Extending between the upper end 135 of the leg portion 133 are ribs 137. Each rib 137 lies substantially directly below a longitudinal edge 31 of a corresponding channel 30. The rib 137 runs the length of the channel 30 and extends downward and beyond the lower surface 120 of deck 20.

Deck surface 20 may include a channel 50 that corresponds to a channel-shaped rib 150 (see FIGS. 1 & 5). Channel 50 runs diagonally between and in communication with opposing petal portions 63 of the center recess/leg 60C/160C, and an adjacent corner recess/leg 60K/160K. The rib 150 extends past the lower surface 120 of deck 20 with its bottom end 151 lying substantially in the same horizontal plane as the lower edge 141 of the rib 137. FIG. 9 illustrates an alternate preferred embodiment of pallet 10. Channel 50 and its corresponding rib 150 have been eliminated in favor of a cross-patterned rib design 121 on the lower surface 120 of deck 20. Cross-patterned ribs 145 have also been added to the floor runner portion 131.

The arrangement of open channels 30, channels 50, and recesses 60 define different goods supporting surface portions of deck 20. Referring to FIG. 6 and dividing pallet 10 into four quadrants I-IV as defined by centerlines 13 &17, and using quadrant I as an example, two goods supporting surfaces 21A & B lie opposite one another and adjacent to channel 50. Each surface 21 is made up of a trapezoidal-shaped portion 23 and a rectangular-shaped portion 25. Trapezoidal-shaped portions 23A & B are located between channels 30M and 50. Rectangular-shaped portions 25A & B are located adjacent channels 30W and 30M, respectively. Another goods supporting surface 27A & B lies between channel 30M and pallet side 15 and between channel 30N and side 11, respectively. Goods supporting surface 29 lies between the channels 30 and recesses 60.

Referring to FIGS. 2-4 &8 (see also FIG. 9), the bottom end 169 of each leg 160 rests on a floor surface or, when nesting on a second pallet 10, on the respective upper end 175 of a set of stops 173 located within each recess 60 of the second pallet 10 (see also FIG. 1). The bottom end 139 of each runner 130 rests on the floor surface or, when nesting on a second pallet, is received by the open channel 30 of the second pallet. Therefore, when pallets 10 are nested, each recess 60 of the lower pallet 10 receives a portion of the complementary leg 160 of the upper pallet 10 and each channel 30 of the lower pallet 10 receives a runner 130 of the upper pallet 10. The stops 73 are preferably dimensioned so that when the upper pallet 10 is nesting within the lower pallet 10, the portion of the upper pallet 10 residing within the lower pallet 10 is about one-half the total height of each pallet 10 or “X/2” and the clearance between the leg 160 and its receiving recess 60 is about 0.05″ (0.127 cm).

A pallet made according to this invention blends concepts, materials, features without compromise to meet the objectives previously stated. Further, it accomplishes the objectives in a one-piece design. Almost all other prior art runner-ed plastic pallets require two (or more) parts that are post-forming assembled. The inventors' pallet has been designed and engineered for production on a simple straight pull mold (without cams) that lowers production time and dollars. One critical technical issue was pallet runner survival when stacks of pallets (e.g. 40 pallets stacked one on top of the other) are moved at one time. The runner has been reinforced to withstand that function, something most similar pallets have not done.

While preferred embodiments of a stack-and-nest pallet have been described with a certain degree of particularity, modifications can be made in the details of construction without departing from the scope of the patent claims below.