Title:
COLLAPSIBLE CONTAINER
United States Patent 3796342


Abstract:
A collapsible container having a base or bottom wall and having an open border frame defining the top. Side walls are hinged to the base and to the border frame, and end walls are hinged to the border frame only. When the container is collapsed, the side walls fold inwardly and the end walls swing up and inward into the plane of the border frame.



Inventors:
Sanders, Ellsworth E. (Sanibel Island, FL)
Kreeger, Elsmer W. (Pontiac, MI)
Application Number:
05/259844
Publication Date:
03/12/1974
Filing Date:
06/05/1972
Assignee:
PINCKNEY MOLDED PLASTICS INC,US
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
220/1.5, 220/7
International Classes:
B65D6/18; (IPC1-7): B65D7/24
Field of Search:
220/6,7,1.5,76,77,78,71,73 229
View Patent Images:
US Patent References:
3612330HOIST MECHANISM1971-10-12Baer
3570698PORTABLE AND COLLAPSIBLE SHIPPING CONTAINER1971-03-16Dougherty
3398850Collapsible container units for goods transport1968-08-27Kennard
3047183Container constituting a dismantlable flower pot1962-07-31Papa
2972430Collapsible shipping van1961-02-21Johnson
2868407Packing containers1959-01-13Woodcock



Primary Examiner:
Lowrance, George E.
Assistant Examiner:
Pollard, Steven M.
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Whittemore, Hulbert & Belknap
Claims:
1. A collapsible container comprising a rectangular bottom wall, two opposed vertical side walls, two opposed vertical end walls, a top rectangular border frame defining the top of the container, said side walls each having upper and lower wall sections, the adjacent edges of said upper and lower wall sections being hinged together and the remote edges of said upper and lower wall sections being hinged to said border frame and said bottom wall respectively to permit inward folding of said side walls when said container is collapsed, said end walls being hinged to said border frame to permit inward swinging to a substantially horizontal position when said container is collapsed, said container being made of separate plastic molded parts, one such part including said top border frame, other parts being composed of said respective side walls, the upper and lower wall sections of each side wall being integrally joined together by a web of plastic providing a hinge, said side walls having snap connections with said top border frame and said bottom wall.

2. A collapsible container comprising a rectangular bottom wall, two opposed vertical side walls, two opposed vertical end walls, a top rectangular border frame defining the top of the container, said side walls each having upper and lower wall sections, the adjacent edges of said upper and lower wall sections being hinged together and the remote edges of said upper and lower wall sections being hinged to said border frame and said bottom wall respectively to permit inward folding of said side walls when said container is collapsed, said end walls being hinged to said border frame to permit inward swinging to a substantially horizontal position when said container is collapsed, said container being made of separate plastic molded parts, on such part being composed of said top border frame having said end walls integrally joined thereto by webs of plastic providing hinges, a second part being composed of said bottom wall and third and fourth parts being composed respectively of said side walls, the upper and lower wall sections of each side wall being integrally joined together by a web of plastic providing a hinge, said side walls having snap connections with said top border frame and said

3. The container defined in claim 2, wherein said upper wall section of each side wall has a locking bar integrally hinged thereto by a web of plastic, said locking bar including a channel having opposed slots in the side walls thereof, said top border frame having side rails of channel shape received in said channels of said locking bars and having hooks

4. The container defined in claim 3, wherein said hooks are provided on the side flanges of said channel-shaped rails, and said channels have pins between said side flanges holding them apart and said hooks in engagement

5. The container defined in claim 2, wherein said lower wall section of each side wall has a locking bar integrally hinged thereto by a web of plastic, said locking bar having keys provided with heads having hooks, said bottom wall having parallel channels along its side edges, said channels opening upwardly and having slots in the sides thereof, said keys being received in said channels and said hooks engaging said slots to

6. The container defined in claim 4, wherein said top border frame includes end rails also of channel shape, a reinforcing wire in the channel-shaped side and end rails of said border frame, said pins retaining said

7. The container defined in claim 6, wherein the channel-shaped end rails of said top border frame have integral webs to retain said reinforcing

8. The container defined in claim 7, wherein said lower wall section of each side wall has a locking bar integrally hinged thereto by a web of plastic, said locking bar having keys provided with heads having hooks, said bottom wall having parallel channels along each side edge, said channels opening upwardly and having slots in the sides thereof, said keys being received in said channels and said hooks engaging said slots to provide the aforesaid snap connection, said upwardly opening channels having their tops flush with the top surface of said bottom wall and the

9. A plastic collapsible container comprising a rectangular bottom wall, two opposed vertical side walls, two opposed vertical end walls, a top rectangular border frame defining the top of the container, said side walls each having upper and lower wall sections, the adjacent edges of said upper and lower wall sections being hinged together and the remote edges of said upper and lower wall sections being hinged to said border frame and said bottom wall respectively to permit inward folding of said side walls when said container is collapsed, said end walls being hinged to said border frame to permit inward swinging to a substantially horizontal position when said container is collapsed, said top border frame being separately formed from said side walls and having snap

10. The container defined in claim 9, wherein said upper wall section of each side wall has a locking bar member hinged thereto, said top border frame having a rail member along each side thereof, one of said locking bar and rail members along each side of said container including spaced walls having opposed slots, the other of said locking bar and rail members along each side of said container being received between the spaced walls of said one member and provided with hooks engaging said slots to provide

11. The container defined in claim 10, wherein said other of said locking bar and rail members is channel shaped and said hooks are provided on the side flanges of said channel-shaped member, and said one of said locking bar and rail members has pins between said side flanges holding them apart

12. A plastic collapsible container comprising a rectangular bottom wall, two opposed vertical side walls, two opposed vertical end walls, a top rectangular border frame defining the top of the container, said side walls each having upper and lower wall sections, the adjacent edges of said upper and lower wall sections being hinged together and the remote edges of said upper and lower wall sections being hinged to said border frame and said bottom wall respectively to permit inward folding of said side walls when said container is collapsed, said end walls being hinged to said border frame to permit inward swinging to a substantially horizontal position when said container is collapsed, said bottom wall being separately formed from said side walls and having snap connections

13. The container defined in claim 12, wherein said lower wall section of each side wall has a locking bar hinged thereto, said locking bar having keys provided with hooks, said bottom wall having parallel walls along each side edge, said parallel walls having slots therein, said keys being received between said parallel walls and said hooks engaging said slots to

14. A plastic collapsible container comprising a rectangular bottom wall, two opposed vertical side walls, two opposed vertical end walls, a top rectangular border frame defining the top of the container, said side walls each having upper and lower wall sections, the adjacent edges of said upper and lower wall sections being hinged together and the remote edges of said upper and lower wall sections being hinged to said border frame and said bottom wall respectively to permit inward folding of said side walls when said container is collapsed, said end walls being hinged to said border frame to permit inward swinging to a substantially horizontal position when said container is collapsed, said top border frame and said bottom wall being separately formed from said side walls and having snap connections therewith, and detent means on said bottom

15. The container defined in claim 14, wherein said end walls having means engageable with said side walls in the vertical positions of said end and side walls to lock said side walls against inward folding.

Description:
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

A similar although specifically different container was disclosed in the application of Ellsworth E. Sanders, Ser. No. 422,931, filed Jan. 4, 1965 and now abandoned.

The container of this invention may be made of any suitable material, preferably plastic. When upright, the walls of the container are vertical and provide a maximum of interior space for packing. When collapsed the container is reduced to a fraction of its normal height so that it takes up very little space. The container also has the advantage whn collapsed of stacking with other collapsed containers.

The container is molded in separate parts, one such part consisting of the base or bottom wall. The side walls are each molded separately and constitute two additional parts. The fourth part of the container is composed of the top border frame and the end walls. The four separately molded parts of the container readily snap together in a permanent assembly. The novel snap connections joining the parts constitute important features of the invention. Further features of the invention include the means for releasably holding the container in its erect or upright position preventing accidental collapse.

Other objects and features of the invention will become apparent as the description proceeds especially when taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings illustrating a preferred embodiment of the invention wherein:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a container embodying our invention shown in an intermediate position between the fully erect and collapsed positions, in which the end walls are folded up and inward into the plane of the top border frame and the side walls have started to fold inwardly.

FIG. 2 is a side elevational view of the container shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is an end elevational view of the container.

FIG. 4 is an enlarged fragmentary elevation of a portion of FIG. 3.

FIG. 5 is a top plan view of the top border frame and end walls, the end walls being shown in the collapsed position disposed in the plane of the border frame.

FIG. 6 is a fragmentary sectional view taken on the line 6--6 in FIG. 3.

FIG. 7 is a fragmentary sectional view taken on the line 7--7 in FIG. 2.

FIG. 8 is a fragmentary sectional view taken on the line 8--8 in FIG. 2.

FIG. 9 is a top plan view of the base or bottom wall of the container.

FIG. 10 is a side elevational view of the base or bottom wall.

FIG. 11 is en end elevational view of the base or bottom wall.

FIG. 12 is a side elevational view of one of the side walls of the container as viewed on line 12--12 in FIG. 14.

FIG. 13 is a bottom view of the side wall as viewed on the line 13--13 in FIG. 12.

FIG. 14 is an end elevational view of the side wall.

FIG. 15 is a top view of the side wall.

FIG. 16 is an end view of the top border frame of the container with the end walls shown collapsed into the plane thereof.

FIG. 17 is a side elevational view of the top border frame, one of the end walls being shown in its vertical or erect position and the other shown in its collapsed position in the plane of the top border frame.

FIG. 18 is an enlarged fragmentary view with parts in elevation and parts in section of a portion of FIG. 2 showing the joint between the bottom wall and a side wall.

FIG. 19 is a fragmentary sectional view showing the container in its collapsed position and showing in phantom lines another collapsed container upon which it is stacked.

FIG. 20 is an exploded view in perspective illustrating the parts forming the connection between a bar or rail of the top frame and the locking bar of one of the side walls.

FIG. 21 is a perspective view similar to FIG. 1 but showing the container in its erect condition for use.

Referring now more particularly to the drawings, the container is shown as being an open top container, although it may be provided with a top or lid, if desired. The container is generally designated 10 and, as indicated above, may be collapsed from its normal position of use shown in FIG. 21 to a flat compact position shown in FIG. 19. FIG. 1 illustrates the container in an intermediate stage between fully erect and collapsed positions. The container when erect or upright may be used to carry any desired material although it is particularly designed as a container for egg cartons. The container may be made of any suitable material, preferably plastic, such for example as molded polyethylene.

The container consists of separately molded or formed parts. There is a base or bottom wall 12, a part 14 in the form of a top open border frame 15 having the end walls 16 molded integrally therewith, and the two separately molded side walls 18. The separately formed parts 12, 14, 16 and 18 are secured together by snap connections hereinafter more fully described to form a permanent assembly which should never need to be disassembled and which in fact can be disassembled only with considerable effort.

The base or bottom wall 12 as stated is preferably separately formed of molded plastic and is in the preferred embodiment made rectangular in form having the upturned generally vertical peripheral wall composed of the side flanges 20 and end flanges 22. Substantially the entire surface area of the base within the peripheral wall is preferably of an open grid construction to facilitate cleaning and generally for sanitary purposes as well as to reduce weight.

The base 12 is molded to provide the laterally spaced parallel channels 24 which extend lengthwise of the base in inwardly spaced relation to the side flanges 20. The bottoms of these channels 24 are flush with the bottom of the base or bottom wall. Such channels open upwardly through the top surface of the base and preferably are reinforced by webs 26 which may be in spaced pairs along the length thereof. The channels 24 as well as the base grid formation may be interrupted intermediate their length as shown in FIGS. 2 and 9. The side walls of the channel 24 between the pairs of webs 26 are formed with aligned cutouts or slots 28 which form part of the snap connections between the base and the side walls as more fully described hereinafter.

The end flanges 22 of the base are formed with cutouts or slots 30 for receiving extended portions of the end walls 16 more fully described hereinafter. The base 12 is provided near the end flanges 22 and preferably about midway between the sides thereof with raised detents or stops 32, such stops having inclined cam surfaces 34 and defining abutment shoulders 36 for retaining the end walls 16 in the erect or upright position of FIG. 6 as more fully described hereinafter.

The part 14 of the container as stated is preferably separately molded and is composed of the top open border frame 15 defining the open top of the container and end walls 16 as shown in FIGS. 5-7. The open border frame 15 is rectangular and is composed of the side rails 40 and end rails 42 which are generally of downwardly opening channel form. The downwardly extending legs of the end rails 42 are connected by integral webs 43 beneath the tops of the rails. As shown in FIGS. 5, 7 and 20, the downwardly extending legs 44 of the side rails 40 of the top frame have outwardly projecting portions defining hooks 46 at spaced points along their length, the hooks of one leg of the rail being disposed respectively opposite those of the other rail and are provided for snap connection with the side walls as more fully described hereinafter.

The end walls 16 are in the form of rectangular panels in this instance integrally molded to the end rails 42 of the top border frame 15, being integrally connected thereto by a web 50 of plastic providing a natural or living hinge permitting pivotal movement of the end walls from a vertical or upright position shown in solid lines in FIG. 6 to a collapsed or horizontal position substantially in the plane of the top border frame 15 as shown in dotted lines therein. The end walls are slightly narrower than the frame 15 to fit within it when collapsed. As further seen in FIG. 6, the bottom edge of each panel is formed with a pair of outward projections 52 aligned with and adapted to project into the slots 30 formed in the end flanges 22 of the base when the end walls 16 are upright and retained behind the shoulders 36 of the stops 32. The slots 30, by engagement with the extensions 52, prevent the accidental lifting of the erect end walls over the stops 32 and the possible unintended collapse of the container. The end walls 16 have outwardly extending ribs 54 along the opposite side edges thereof for a purpose more fully described hereinafter.

The side walls 18 are of mirror image construction and each includes upper and lower rectangular wall sections 60 and 61 which are integrally connected by a web of plastic 62 at the horizontal junction between the two, such web providing a living hinge permitting the pivotal movement of the wall sections 60 and 61 from a straight vertical position as shown in FIG. 21 when the container is erect to a collapsed or folded position shown in FIG. 19. The walls 18 also include the upper and lower locking bars 64 and 66. The upper locking bar is joined to the upper edge of the upper wall section 60 by a web 68 of plastic providing an integral hinge between the sections. The lower locking bar 66 is joined to the lower edge of the lower wall section 61 by a web 70 of plastic likewise providing an integral living hinge between the sections.

The upper wall section 60 of each wall 18 is formed at each end with an inwardly extending integral loop 72 providing a slot 74 which is adapted to be engaged by an outwardly extending rib 54 on the adjacent end panel 16 when the container is erect. Thus the ribs 54 lock the side wall sections 60 and 61 in erect position and prevent the accidental collapse of the container.

The upper locking bar 64 of each wall 18 is generally of channel form. Along its length the opposite legs of the channel are notched or slotted where indicated at 80 at points aligned with the hooks 46 of the side rails 40 of the top border frame 15 to receive such hooks with a snap connection. Projecting upwardly into the channel from the base thereof are a series of spaced pins 82 which preferably are at points located intermediate the slots 80. One of the purposes of these pins is to resiliently hold the legs 44 of the side rails 40 apart to prevent the accidental disengagement of the hooks 46 from the slots 80 in the locking bar 64 of the side walls. There is enough flexibility however in the legs 44 to permit them to cam inwardly during assembly after which they are resiliently urged outwardly into locked engagement with the slots 80. The tops on the lower ends of the hooks 46 facilitate their entry into the channel. The hook shoulders 47 engage the tops of the slots 80 to prevent separation.

Another purpose of pins 82 is to hold a reinforcement wire in the channel-shaped side and end rails 40 and 42 of the border frame 15. Preferably this wiere is in two separate sections 81 and 83 each of a length slightly more than one-half the peripheral length of the border frame. Each wire is of generally U shape, having the mid-portion held up within a side rail 40 by pins 82 and having the end portions held up within the end rails 42 by webs 43. FIG. 6 shows the end portions of the wire sections 81 and 83 overlapped within one end rail of the border frame.

The bottom locking bar 66 is in the form of an elongated strip having projections or keys 90 along one surface which are spaced apart distances corresponding to the spacing of the slots 28 in the channels 24 of the base 12. These keys have at their extremities the outwardly extending projections defining hooks 92 which are adapted to project into the slots 28 in the fully assembled position of the parts. Such hooks have outwardly beveled or inclined cam surfaces to permit them to be inserted downwardly into the channel during which insertion the walls of the channel may flex slightly. The hooks snap into the slots when fully inserted to form a permanent snap connection in which the hook shoulders 93 engage the tops of slots 28 to prevent separation.

As stated, when assembled the side walls 18 are snap connected to the base 12 and to the top frame 15 to form a permanent assembly. In this condition of the parts, the hooks 46 along the side rails 40 of the top frame 15 extend into the slots 80 and the shoulders 47 thereof engage the tops of the slots to prevent separation. The pins 82 resiliently hold the hooks 46 outward. The hooks 92 of the keys 90 engage in the slots 28 of the channels 24 of the base 12 and their shoulders 93 engage the tops of the slots to prevent separation.

When in erect condition, the end walls 16 are pivoted downward to the vertical position shown in FIG. 6. By the application of outward manual pressure, the end walls will cam over the detents 32, riding up the inclines 34 of the detents and being locked or retained behind the shoulders 36 in which position they are held against and braced by the end flanges 22 of the peripheral wall surrounding the base 12. Also in this position, the extensions 52 at the lower edges of the end walls extend into the slots 30 of the flanges 22 to prevent accidental lifting of the end walls over the detents 32 and possible unintentional collapse of the container.

In the erect condition of the container, the ribs 54 along the side edges of the end walls extend into the slots 74 on the upper wall sections 60 of the side walls 15 to lock the side walls in the straight or vertical position, so that they cannot collapse. In this erect or upright position of the side walls, shown in FIG. 7, the lower edges of the lower wall sections 61 engage the side flanges 20 of the wall surrounding the base so that the side wall structure is braced. The upper edges of the upper wall sections 60, when the side walls are erect, engage the flanges 98 depending from the upper locking bars 64 likewise for the purpose of bracing the side walls.

In order to collapse the container, an upward and inward manual pressure is applied to the end walls 16 lifting them over the detents 32 and swinging them to horizontal position in the plane of the top border frame 15. The locking bars 64 have inwardly extending stops 99 which are adapted to be engaged by the end walls 16 when collapsed to prevent them from swinging beyond horizontal position. The side walls 15 are now released so that they will readily fold inwardly and permit the collapse of the container to the position of FIG. 19. FIG. 19 shows in phantom lines a second collapsed container of identical construction in stacked relationship with the one shown in section, indicating that a plurality of containers 10 when collapsed may be readily stacked one upon another.

In the foregoing description and in the appended claims, reference is made to side walls and to end walls. The use of the words "side" and "end" have been used solely for the purpose of distinguishing one set of opposite container walls from the other. In this sense, the side walls may be of the same length as the end walls, or they may be longer or shorter than the end walls.