Title:
Water bottle rack
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A water bottle rack for storing, for transporting by a delivery truck and for subsequently dispensing by gravity standard water plastic jugs having a narrow mouth, a relative flat bottom portion and two or more annular rims extending outwardly from the jug side wall. The rack comprises a rigid frame having a front, a rear, a bottom, a top, two sides and an interior. The rack is adapted to be installed on the floor, on a stand, on the deck within a conventional delivery truck loading area, or stacked on top of each other or moved by a fork-lift truck. A number of inclined guiding rails, paired transversally so as to form shelves, supporting conventional water bottles by two of their annular rims, or a number of inclined shelves configured so as to substantially conform to the contour of a conventional jug are secured to the frame in predetermined spaced relationship relative to each other allowing, at each higher side of shelf level the loading of jugs by the front of the back of the rack. The inclined shelves are being disposed alternely one over the other having at their lower side a throat section directly over the higher side of the shelf beneath it and therefore rolling down said jugs back and forth in the rack, back at one level and conversely forth at a lower level, and so, down the shelves until the jug reach the exit aperture.



Inventors:
Lajeunesse, Andre (St-Laurent, CA)
Bourbonnais, Serge (St-Polycarpe, CA)
Application Number:
09/974890
Publication Date:
04/18/2002
Filing Date:
10/12/2001
Assignee:
LAJEUNESSE ANDRE
BOURBONNAIS SERGE
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
108/53.1, 108/55.1, 211/74
International Classes:
A47F1/08; A47F7/28; (IPC1-7): A47F7/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
GIBSON, ROBERT W
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Andre Lajeunesse (St-Laurent, QC, CA)
Claims:

The embodiments of the invention in which an exclusive privilege or property is claimed are defined as follow:



1. A water bottle rack for storing, for transporting by a delivery truck and for subsequently dispensing by gravity standard water plastic jugs, having a narrow mouth, a relative flat bottom portion and two or more annular rims extending outwardly from the jug side wall, the first of said annular rims being adjacent to the said flat bottom portion, the second of said annular rims being adjacent to the conic section, said conic section narrowing said side wall to said narrow mouth, said rack comprising a rigid frame having a front, a rear, a bottom, a top, two sides and an interior, said frame bottom configuration allowing said rack to be installed on a floor, or on a stand, or to be moved by a fork-lift truck, or to be stack on top of each other, or to be installed on the deck within a conventional delivery truck loading area, said interior having a number of inclined shelves secured to the frame in predetermined spaced relationship relative to each other so as to allow by gravity down rolling movement of said jug on said first and second annular rim onto the surface of said shelf, said shelves being disposed alternately one over the other having at their lower side a throat section having substantially vertically throat guide directly over the higher side of the shelf beneath it therefore allowing said jug to roll down back and forth in said rack, back at one level and conversely forth at a lower level and so, down the shelves until said jug reach the exit aperture located in the said front adjacent said bottom.

2. A water bottle rack as recited in claim 1 wherein said front, rear, and two sides having each at least 4 transversal reinforcement rods proportionally and evenly distributed along the vertical axis each level forming a supporting component for supporting a shelf

3. A water bottle rack as recited in claim 2 wherein said shelves are configured so as to substantially conform to the outer contour of a conventional water jug and adapted to be rested on said corresponding reinforcement rods being said supporting component of said shelf perimeter.

4. A water bottle rack as recited in claim 3 wherein said shelves are made out of an integral piece of material

5. A water bottle rack as recited in claim 4 wherein said interior accommodates more than one transversal of said standard water jugs and relatively the same number of dispensing apertures in the said front, adjacent said bottom.

6. A water bottle rack as recited in claim 4 wherein said front and said rear rigid frame provide sufficient space opening to load directly each shelf level from said front and said rear.

7. A water bottle rack as recited in claim 1 wherein said shelves are constituted by an inclined set of guiding rails paired transversally so as to support said conventional jugs by said first and second annular rims, said guiding rails being secured to the frame in a predetermined spaced relationship relative to each other, said guiding rails forming a substantially wedge shapes configuration.

8. A water bottle rack as recited in claim 7 wherein said guiding rails have generally a “U”-shaped cross sectional configuration, said sectional configuration adapted to substantially conform to the configuration of said annular rims.

9. A water bottle rack as recited in claim 8 wherein said interior accommodates more than one transversal of said standard water jugs and consequently the same number of dispensing apertures in the said front, adjacent said bottom.

10. A water bottle rack as recited in claim 8 wherein said front and said rear rigid frame provide sufficient space opening to load directly each shelf level from said front and said rear.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0001] The present invention relates to the field of bottled water accessories and is particularly concerned with a water bottle rack.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] Along with an increased concern about the purity and potability of municipally provided water supplies has come an increased use of bottled water services provided commercially.

[0003] The commercially provided water is said to be purer and better tasting than what comes out of the tap in many localities.

[0004] Indeed, the use of bottled water has become ever more popular, and in fact at least from time to time, is considered an essential commodity in many areas due to contamination of the water supply, chemical impurities and the like. Many individuals just do not care for the taste of many chemical additives in their water supply and, accordingly purchase bottled water for drinking.

[0005] Drinking water, such as spring water, is typically sold commercially in a plurality of different bottle sizes. A common bottled water container for water can be, e.g., a one quart capacity, a half-gallon capacity or a gallon capacity. These smaller containers are usually made of polymeric resin and relatively easy to handle. These smaller containers are generally cooled by placing them in a common refrigerator. A more economical way to sell bottled water is to put it in large containers of, e.g., 5 gallons.

[0006] Generally, the commercial water purveyors supply the subscriber with some time of dispensing apparatus such as the familiar water cooler that can now be found in countless offices and homes. It is indeed common practice to provide in many offices, institutional and factory locations a free-standing drinking water dispenser having an inverted, large bottled water reservoir that requires periodic replacement. This type of water dispenser is becoming also increasingly popular in common households.

[0007] One of the most common types of commercially available bottled water dispensers and inverted bottle type construction wherein the bottle is turned upside down into an open receptacle or well which is on top of the cooler dispenser. The bottle must be lifted approximately 4′, turned upside down, placed into the well for use. Water is thereafter dispensed from the cooler dispenser by dispensing buttons or spigots which extend forwardly of the cabinet of the cooler-dispenser.

[0008] The most common bottle receptacle of these re-usable polymeric bottles is a standard 5-gallon plastic jug having a narrow mouth and a flat bottom portion.

[0009] Typically, these 5-gallon jugs having two or more annular rims extending outwardly from the bottle side wall to facilitate a carrying of the jugs and to provide rolling surfaces when the jugs are roller on their sides.

[0010] Such size gallon bottled water containers are commercially available from a number of sources and are typically returned by the user when the water has been consumed therefrom. The jugs must be transported to and from the filling plant and are typically sterilized before refilling.

[0011] Typically, the bottled water jugs are delivered to homes, offices and the like by delivery trucks. These trucks have a support structure for the container that places them horizontally. This horizontal position facilitates movement and storage of the container while on the delivery truck. However, it is often difficult and awkward to remove the containers from the support structures and then move them to their respective destinations.

[0012] One of the main drawbacks associated with conventional racks associated with delivery trucks for bottled water relates to the fact that the racks are configured so that the bottles are manipulated and dispensed by their neck rather than their circumferential surface. This leads to unergonomic and potentially injurious manipulation of the bottles.

[0013] Since such 5-gallon bottled water containers are heavy, weighing approximately 50 lb. each, this produces wear and tear upon delivery personnel that must remove the bottles from trucks and delivery often at a substantial distance from the home, office building, businesses and the like. The problem is compounded by the fact that these bottled water dispensers are typically delivered to homes or offices in multiples of e.g., two to five bottles at a time.

[0014] Unergonomic handling of the bottles as they are removed or stored from or in the truck racks relates to the fact that the prior art racks are constructed such that the bottles are extracted or inserted in the racks at various heights relative thereto. In other words, a bottle stored on an upper shelf of the rack will require from the delivery personnel to manipulate the heavy bottle in an overhead position. While bottles stored on a lower shelf of the rack requires manipulation thereof, while the delivery personnel is in a bent position, again potentially leading to potential injuries.

[0015] Furthermore, conventional truck racks for bottled water containers are often unsuitably designed for safe and easy positioning thereof within the truck loading area.

[0016] Accordingly, there exists a need for an improved water bottle rack.

[0017] Advantages of the present invention include that fact that the proposed water bottle rack is specifically designed so as to be installable within conventional delivery truck loading areas. The proposed rack has a built-in means for facilitating handling thereof by fork lift-type vehicles or the like.

[0018] Furthermore, the proposed rack has built-in ergonomical features allowing the bottled water jugs to be biased by gravity towards a single loading and unloading area.

[0019] Alternatively, the jugs may be loaded at a predetermined location and unloaded at a predetermined site. Furthermore, the rack is specifically designed so that insertion and withdrawal into or out of the rack is performed with the peripheral circumferential surface of the bottle presented to the individual performing the manipulation.

[0020] Still further, the proposed rack has built-in guiding means for guiding the movement of the water bottles inserted therein along their path leading to the discharge area. The guiding means is specifically designed so as to minimize risk of damaging the water bottles and so as to secure the water bottles within rack during movement of the vehicle.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0021] In accordance with embodiment of the invention a water bottle rack for storing, for transporting by a delivery truck and for subsequently dispensing by gravity standard water plastic jugs having a narrow mouth, a relative flat bottom portion and two or more annular rims extending outwardly from the jug side wall. The rack comprises a rigid frame having a front, a rear, a bottom, a top, two sides and an interior. The rack is adapted to be installed on the floor, on a stand, on the deck within a conventional delivery truck loading area, or stacked on top of each other or moved by a fork-lift truck. A number of inclined guiding rails, paired transversally so as to form shelves, supporting conventional water bottles by two of their annular rims, or a number of inclined shelves configured so as to substantially conform to the contour of a conventional jug are secured to the frame in predetermined spaced relationship relative to each other allowing, at each higher side of shelf level, the loading of jugs by the front or the back of the rack. The inclined shelves are being disposed alternely one over the other having at their lower side a throat section directly over the higher side of the shelf beneath it and therefore rolling down said jugs back an forth in the rack, back at one level and conversely forth at a lower level, and so, down the shelves until the jug reach the exit aperture in the front adjacent the bottom.

[0022] Conveniently the water bottle rack allows discharged of a rack from a delivery truck by means of fork-lift truck in a store and place on a stand to provide easy ergonomic height for customer pickup of water jug. This procedure will reduce considerably the work load of hand manipulation from the truck into the store. A water bottle rack containing empty bottle will then easily be pickup by the fork-lift truck and place in the truck.

[0023] Conveniently the water bottle rack allows easy discharged from a delivery truck by means of a fork-lift truck of rack containing empty bottle at the refilling plan and conversely charging a bottle rack containing fill bottles.

[0024] Conveniently the water bottle rack allows easy staking of racks for storage within the refilling plan.

[0025] Conveniently the water bottle rack allows easy water bottle loading by both the front and the back at each shelf level.

[0026] Conveniently the water bottle rack allows easy dispensing of bottle at an ergonomic height from the delivery truck.

[0027] Conveniently the water bottle rack allows easy loading of empty bottle by the front input adjacent the top of the rack.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0028] An embodiment of the present invention will now be disclosed, by way of example, in reference to the following drawings, in which:

[0029] FIG. 1: in a perspective view with sections taken out, illustrates a water bottle rack in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention, the rack being shown with conventional 5-gallon water bottles inserted therein;

[0030] FIG. 2: in a side elevational view, illustrates the rack shown in FIG. 1 having bottles inserted in an upper section thereof while other bottles are stored in a lower section thereof;

[0031] FIG. 3: in a partial perspective view with sections taken out, illustrates some of the end guiding components, part of the rack shown in FIGS. 1 and 2;

[0032] FIG. 4: in a partial transversal cross sectional view taken along arrows IV-IV of FIG. 2, illustrates some of the guiding components of the rack shown in FIGS. 1 through 3, as bottles are being inserted therein;

[0033] FIG. 5: in a partial transversal cross section view taken along arrows V-V of FIG. 2, illustrates some other guiding means part of the rack shown in FIGS. 1 through 3, as a bottle is being rolled there along;

[0034] FIG. 6: in a partial longitudinal view taken along arrows VI-VI of FIG. 2, illustrates some of the guiding components shown in FIG. 5;

[0035] FIG. 7: in a partial perspective view with sections taken out, illustrates a releasable stopping mechanism used at the discharge area for selectively allowing discharge of the water bottles;

[0036] FIG. 8: in partial side view with sections taken out, illustrates the release mechanism shown in FIG. 7, in its locking position shown in full lines and its releasing position shown in phantom lines;

[0037] FIG. 9: in a partial side view with sections taken out, illustrates a conventional 5-gallon bottle as it transfers from one level to another within the rack shown in FIGS. 1 through 8;

[0038] FIG. 10: in a partial side view with sections taken out, illustrates a water bottle rack in accordance with a second embodiment of the present invention;

[0039] FIG. 11: in a top view, illustrates some of the components of the rack shown in FIG. 10;

[0040] FIG. 12: in a partial cross sectional view, illustrates some of the components of the rack shown in FIG. 10 at a lower level thereof;

[0041] FIG. 13: in a transversal cross sectional view taken along arrows XIII-XIII of FIG. 11, illustrates some of the components of the rack shown in FIGS. 1 through 12.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0042] Referring to FIG. 1, there is shown a water bottle rack 10 in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

[0043] The water bottle rack 10 includes a peripheral frame 12 made of substantially tubular members 12 so as to form a generally parallelepiped shaped outer frame.

[0044] Typically, although by no means exclusively, the rack has a height substantially in range of 68″, a width substantially in the range of 45″ and a depth substantially in the range of 45″. Typically, these dimensions allow for the storage of 40 conventional 5-gallon water jugs. It should be understood that the rack 10 could have other configuration and size without departing from the scope of the present invention.

[0045] A set of guiding rails 14 are secured to the frame 12 in a predetermined spaced relationship relative to each other. The guiding rails 14 typically form pairs of upper and lower guiding rail sub-assemblies 16 forming a substantially wedge shaped configuration. The guiding rails 14 are also paired transversally so as to form shelves specifically adapted to support conventional 5-gallon water bottles 18. Such conventional 5-gallon water bottles 18, typically include at least a pair of annular rims 20, projecting from their respective peripheral walls 22.

[0046] As shown in greater details in FIG. 3, each guiding track or rail 14 preferably has a generally “U”-shaped cross sectional configuration defining a track central section 24 having a pair of substantially perpendicular flanges 26 extending integrally therefrom.

[0047] The cross sectional configuration of the tracks 14 is adapted to substantially conform to the configuration of the rims 20, part of the jugs 18, so as to stabilize and guide the latter. The tracks 14 are thus transversally paired in a predetermined transversal spaced relationship relative to each other so as to be positioned substantial in register with the top and bottom rims 20, part of the conventional jugs 18.

[0048] Each shelf formed by pairs of transversally adjacent tracks 14, extends from one of the lateral walls defined by the frame 12, in an inclined relationship relative thereto, towards the opposed lateral wall and terminates before reaching the latter so as to define a corresponding transfer throat 28 allowing passage of the jugs 18 from one shelf to the other. The shelves are thus so positioned that jugs placed upon a higher shelf will roll forward into the rack towards the opposed lateral wall before falling into the corresponding transfer throat 28 on the underlying shelf.

[0049] The racks 14 forming the superposed shelves are maintained in their predetermined vertical and lateral spaced relationship relative to each other by both intermediate supporting rods 30 and end support components 32. The supporting rods 30 are adapted to extend depth wise from one intermediate supporting vertical rod 34 to another. The end supporting components 32 typically have a generally “S”-shaped configuration and are adapted to extend from the corner frame rods 12 at predetermined intervals.

[0050] A set of neck guiding rods 36 is further provided. The guiding rods 36 are positioned so as to extend in a generally parallel relationship relative to upper guiding track components in a predetermined vertical spaced relationship relative thereto so as to support the neck portion 38 of the conventional jugs 18. The jugs 18 are thus supported both by upper and lower guiding tracks 14 and by the neck guiding rods 36 thus ensuring stability thereof during transportation within a conventional delivery truck.

[0051] Furthermore, the increased guiding capacity of the rack 10 ensures proper transition from one shelf level to another and thus reduces the risk of damaging the jugs 18. The proximal ends of the neck guiding rods 36 are solidly anchored, as shown in FIG. 3, to corresponding neck guide anchoring rods 38. In turn, the neck guide supporting rods 38 are secured to an intermediate segment of the end supporting components 32 ensuring stability of the structure.

[0052] In order to allow smooth transition from one shelf level to another, throat guides 40 are provided at each throat section 28. As shown in FIG. 3, the throat guides 40 also preferably have a generally “U”-shaped cross sectional configuration so as to support the rims 20 of the jugs 18.

[0053] Furthermore, the throat guides 40 are given a generally curved configuration for guiding the transfer of the vertical drop towards the adjacent inclined shelf.

[0054] A frictional speed bump component 42 is preferably provided adjacent the distal end of each throat guide 40 in order to reduce the speed imparted on the relatively heavy jugs 18 by gravitational forces while the jugs fall into the adjacent throat 28. The reduced velocity minimizes the risk of impact with other jugs 18 on the shelf causing damage to the jugs. The throat guides 40 are typically pivotally mounted about their proximal ends by an hinge mechanism 44 to corresponding frame reinforcement rods 46. Said hinge mechanism 44 allow to pivot throat guides 40 when filling each level of the rack with bottle.

[0055] As shown more specifically in FIG. 9, the frictional speed bumps 42 are also provided adjacent the intersection between upper and lower guiding tracks 14 so as to further reduce velocity of the throat engaging jugs 18 and, thus, further reduce the risk of damaging other jugs 18. Also, FIG. 9 illustrates that the adjacent pairs of upper and lower tracks 14 are positioned so as to allow for clearance between the rims 20 and the upper guiding tracks 14. The clearance typically has a value substantially in the range of ⅛″.

[0056] As shown more specifically in FIGS. 1, 7 and 8, the rack 10 is further provided with a bottle dispensing mechanism 48 allowing selective blocking and dispensing of the jugs 18 at a predetermined dispensing sight typically located at the distal end of the lower most shelf. The dispensing mechanism 48 preferably includes a blocking arm 50, pivotally mounted to the lower most transversal reinforcement rod 46 and having a handle 52 integrally attached thereto.

[0057] A friction plate 54 is solidly anchored to the blocking arm 50. The friction plate 54 and the blocking arm 50 are so configured and sized that, as shown in FIG. 8, pivotal movement of the latter allow selective blocking and release of the jugs 18 by selectively abutting and clearing the lateral wall 22 and associated rims 20 thereof. Hence, the jugs 18 may be selectively inserted or withdrawn from the rack 10 through a single location selectively blocked by the mechanism 48. Alternatively, the jugs 18 may be inserted within the rack at an upper shelf level and discharged through the use of the mechanism 48.

[0058] The rack 10 is preferably further provided with supporting legs 56 defining an abutment surface 58 for abutting against the ground surface and a clearance 60 relative to the frame 12 allowing for insertion of the tines, part of the conventional fork lift.

[0059] Referring now more specifically to FIGS. 10 through 13, there is shown a water bottle rack 10′ in accordance with a second embodiment of the present invention. The bottle rack 10′ presents many similarities with the herein above disclosed bottle rack 10.

[0060] Like the bottle rack 10, the second embodiment 10′ includes a set of shelves configured so as to substantially conform to the outer contour of conventional 3 or 5 liter water jugs 18. The shelves 60 are made out of an integral piece of material that is adapted to be rested, as shown in FIG. 13 on the corresponding supporting components reinforcement rods 46 of the frame 62. Each shelf 60 defines a corresponding throat section 64 having substantially vertical throat guiding walls 66.

[0061] Each shelf 60 also defines a reinforced section 68 having integral reinforcement ribs 70 adapted to withstand the impact of jugs falling from the adjacent throat 64. The upper most surface 72 of the frame 62 is provided with a protruding lip 74 adapted to be inserted into a corresponding recess formed in the lower most section of a corresponding frame 62 for allowing racks 10′ to be securely stacked on top of each other. The rack 10′ is specifically designed so as to be made out of a suitable polymeric resin using conventional polymeric transfer process such as thermal forming, injection molding or a combination thereof.