Title:
Panel bin apparatus
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A panel bin comprising panel and one or more bins mounted on the panel. Each bin defines a compartment that may be used for storage and retrieval of articles. The panel defines locations for mounting a plurality of bins in a modular or grid-like arrangement. Each bin has side walls interconnected by a wall forming a front surface of the bin. However, each bin is formed with an open back, the bins mount on the panel so that part of the panel engages and closes the open back portion of the bin, thereby defining a complete compartment for receiving articles. Each bin has a cover hinged from the top of the bin and biased by a resilient member to remain open, so that the cover normally is displaced from the access opening of the bin while in use. The cover may be closed and latched to close the bin. The resilient member contacts but is not attached to the cover.



Inventors:
Robinson, Daniel (Buford, GA, US)
Buenger, David (Roswell, GA, US)
Application Number:
10/075822
Publication Date:
11/28/2002
Filing Date:
02/12/2002
Assignee:
ROBINSON DANIEL
BUENGER DAVID
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47B47/00; A47B87/00; E05D1/02; E05D11/10; (IPC1-7): B65D1/24; B65D1/36
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
MEREK, JOSEPH C
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP - East Coast (ATLANTA, GA, US)
Claims:
1. Apparatus for storing articles, comprising: a base panel defining at least one location for article storage: a bin operative for attachment to the panel at the location and configured to define a compartment at the location; and a portion of the bin being open in an area confronting the panel location, so that the panel location covers the open portion to provide a surface of the compartment.

2. The apparatus as in claim 1, wherein: the panel defines a plurality of the storage locations; a corresponding bin is received at each such location; and each bin has an open portion confronting a corresponding location of the panel so that each panel location closes the open portion of the corresponding bin and forms a surface of the compartment at that location.

3. The apparatus as in claim 1, wherein: the open portion of each bin comprises a back region of the bin and faces a confronting surface of the panel, so that the confronting surface closes the open portion and thereby forms part of the compartment.

4. Apparatus as in claim 1, further comprising: the bin has an access opening for gaining access to the compartment; and a closure operatively associated with the access opening for selectably closing the bin.

5. Apparatus as in claim 4, further comprising: means operative to maintain the closure at an open position; and an element on one of the closure and the bin and operative to engage the other of the closure and the bin so as to selectably maintain the closure in closed relation to the access opening.

6. Apparatus as in claim 5, wherein: the closure is hingedly connected to the bin adjacent an upper side of the access opening.

7. Apparatus as in claim 5, wherein: the closure is associated with the bin at an upper portion of the access opening and selectably engages the bin at a lower portion to close the opening.

8. Apparatus as in claim 7, further comprising: means defining a hinge joining the closure to the bin adjacent the open portion; and a resilient element engaging the closure and operative to bias the closure to the open position, the resilient element being yieldable so that the closure can be moved to close the bin in opposition to the bias.

9. Apparatus as in claim 8, wherein; the resilient element has a proximal portion joined to the bin and a distal portion contacting but not joined to the closure, whereby the distal end exerts force against the cover sufficient to maintain the cover in the open position in the absence of external force applied to move the cover closed.

10. A bin for use with a base panel defining at least one location for storing articles, the bin comprising: means partially defining a compartment having an open portion; and means associated with the compartment to mount the compartment to the base panel in predetermined relation to the location so that the panel at that location closes the open portion of the bin and forms a surface of the compartment.

11. The bin as in claim 10, wherein: the open portion of the compartment comprises a back region of the bin and faces a confronting surface of the panel in association with the panel, so that the confronting surface closes the open portion.

12. The bin as in claim 11, further comprising: an access opening formed in the means defining the compartment, apart from the open portion, for gaining access to the compartment; and a closure operatively associated with the bin adjacent the access opening for selectably closing the compartment.

13. A bin for use with a base panel defining at least one location for storing articles, the bin comprising: at least one attachment element associated with at least one of the walls to engage the base panel in predetermined relation to the location on the base panel, so as to mount the bin to the base panel with the open portion confronting and closed by the base panel at the location, whereby the base panel closes the open portion of the compartment mounted to the base panel.

14. The bin as in claim 13, wherein: the attachment element comprises a protrusion on one of the walls and configured to engage the base panel to interconnect the bin in the predetermined relation with the location on the base panel.

15. The bin as in claim 13, wherein: the bin has an access opening for gaining access to the compartment; and further comprising: a closure operatively associated with the access opening for selectably closing the bin.

16. Apparatus as in claim 15, further comprising: means operative to maintain the closure at an open position; and an element on one of the closure and the bin and operative to engage the other of the closure and the bin so as to selectably maintain the closure in closed relation to the access opening.

17. Apparatus as in claim 16, wherein: the closure is hingedly connected to the bin adjacent an upper side of the access opening.

18. Apparatus as in claim 16, wherein: the closure is associated with the bin at an upper portion of the access opening and selectably engages the bin at a lower portion to close the opening.

19. Apparatus as in claim 18, further comprising: means defining a hinge joining the closure to the bin adjacent the open portion; and a resilient element engaging the closure and operative to bias the closure to the open position, the resilient element being yieldable so that the closure can be moved to close the bin in opposition to the bias.

20. Apparatus as in claim 19, wherein; the resilient element has a proximal portion joined to the bin and a distal portion contacting but not joined to the closure, whereby the distal end exerts force against the cover sufficient to maintain the cover in the open position in the absence of external force applied to move the cover closed.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

[0001] This application claims the benefit of Provisional Application No. 60/268,333 filed Feb. 12, 2001.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0002] This invention relates to improvements in apparatus for storage and retrieval of small parts.

BACKGROUND OF INVENTION

[0003] Convenient storage and accessibility for small parts or other components are required in many applications. For example, many repair or assembly operations require ready access to the parts or components required for those operations, so that workers will not need to leave their work stations to locate products during normal operations. Such parts may include small mechanical hardware components such as bolts, nuts, screws, other fasteners and the like, as well as small electrical components such as switches, fuses, and the like. In any case, it is important to provide storage bins or compartments to maintain the components separate from each other, while preferably having all such components within easy reach of a person working at the location.

[0004] Some known parts bins simply define a number of open bins or recesses for receiving components. Because parts bins often are attached to a vertical surface such as a wall or at the back of a workbench, merely providing an array of open receptacles close to each other may limit easy access to any particular receptacle due to crowding and the desirability of bins having sufficient capacity to hold an appropriate supply of parts. Moreover, open bins lack any cover or closure that permits closing individual bins, to keep ambient dirt from the components in the bins. Furthermore, for applications where a parts storage bin is mounted in a van or other mobile application, the individual compartments should remain closed during movement of the vehicle, to prevent spilling or intermixing of articles from the bins.

[0005] Storage bins with drawer-like compartments have been proposed to provide individual bins capable of closure. Such bins generally have parts drawers that are selectively pulled open to reveal their content and pushed closed to secure the contents when the parts are not needed. Some kind of latch or detent mechanism may be employed to prevent the drawers from sliding open, for example, during turning motion of a vehicle in which the parts bin is mounted. However, such drawers require mechanisms such as sliding guides or the like to maintain the drawer substantially level when fully extended from a housing or base, and to prevent pulling the drawer entirely out of the support structure, thereby spilling the contents of the drawer.

SUMMARY OF INVENTION

[0006] Panel bins according to the present invention comprise a panel and one or more bins mounted on the panel. Each bin defines a compartment that may be used for storage and easy retrieval of any suitable articles such as components, small parts, or the like. The panel preferably defines locations for mounting a plurality of bins in a modular or grid-like arrangement.

[0007] Each bin is formed with side walls interconnected by a wall forming a front surface of the bin. However, each bin is formed with an open back. The bin-mounting locations on the panel are configured so that part of the panel engages and closes the open back portion of the bin, thereby combining with the side walls and front wall of the bin to define a complete compartment for receiving articles. With the surface of the panel recess thus forming a back wall for each related bin, the material and cost of forming the bin is reduced.

[0008] Each bin has a cover that selectably closes an access opening of the bin, thereby enclosing the storage compartment and its contents. The covers preferably are biased by a resilient member to remain open, so that the cover normally is displaced from the access opening of the bin while in use. However, each cover may be pivotably displaced against the resilient force of the spring to close and latch the cover. The resilient member biasing open the lid preferably is a molded plastic element fitted to a part of the bin and contacting the cover so as to bias the cover towards its open position. The cover may be optionally removable from the bin, for applications where covers are not needed or desired.

[0009] Accordingly, it is an object of the present invention to provide improved apparatus for storing articles.

[0010] It is another object of the present invention to provide an improved storage bin including a closure.

[0011] It is a further object of the invention to provide a storage bin assembly readily adaptable to various configurations.

[0012] Other objections and many advantages of the present invention will become more apparent from the following description of a preferred embodiment.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF FIGURES

[0013] FIG. 1 is a pictorial view showing a storage bin according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention, with the lid of one bin shown open and with one location bin on the base shown unoccupied for illustration.

[0014] FIG. 2 is an exploded view showing a bin and a fragmentary portion of the base as in the embodiment of FIG. 1.

[0015] FIG. 3 is a fragmentary pictorial view of the base depicted in FIG. 1.

[0016] FIG. 4 is an elevation view taken from the right side of FIG. 1.

[0017] FIG. 5 is a pictorial view of the resilient spring for maintaining a door open, in the embodiment of FIG. 1.

[0018] FIG. 6 is a fragmentary section side view showing the spring of FIG. 5 in assembly, but without a door structure in place.

[0019] FIG. 7 is a view as in FIG. 6, including a door attached to the bin and held open by the spring.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

[0020] FIG. 1 shows a prototype panel bin 10 according to a preferred embodiment of the invention. Each panel bin comprises a base in the form of a panel 11 forming the back of the panel bin assembly in the disclosed embodiment. The panel 11 in FIG. 1 is formed to have a 3×3 array of depressions forming recesses 12 for receiving individual bins 14 that combine with the panel 11 to define article-receiving compartments 16. For illustrative purposes, FIG. 1 shows bins mounted to the base panel 11 at each recess 12 except the upper-left recess. However, the particular number of recesses in either the horizontal or vertical dimension of a base panel is a matter of design choice in panel bins according to the present invention.

[0021] FIG. 2 is a detailed view showing details of one recess 12 formed in the panel 11. The panel for the preferred embodiment may be formed of a suitable plastic material and produced by any suitable technique such as thermoforming, vacuum forming, or the like, although it will be understood that other materials may alternatively be used to form the base panel as well as the bins 14. The inner end or bottom of each recess 12 is defined by the back plane 21 of the panel 11, and each recess is located within a peripheral raised border region 18 extending outwardly from the back plane and surrounding the recess. The border regions 18 each form a substantially flat outer surface 20 preferably co-planar with the back plane of the panel 11. A pair of elongate cut-out slots 23 is formed in the outer surface 20 at the upper side of the recess 12 as shown in FIG. 2, and two corresponding cut-out slots are formed at the lower side thereof as shown in FIGS. 1 and 3. Those slots 23 receive matching tabs 24 (shown in FIG. 2) or similar elements on back edges of the upper end 26 and lower end 27 of each bin 14, for securing the bins in place on the panel 11. Each tab 24 preferably includes a projection or other element for engaging edges of the slots 23 and securing the bins to the panel to prevent the bins from becoming dislodged during normal expected usage.

[0022] Each bin 14 in the disclosed embodiment has a pair of side walls 30 joining a front wall 32 and extending rearwardly from the front wall to end at the back edges 34. The side walls 30 are planar and mutually parallel. The upper edge of each side wall 30 joins the upper end 26 at the back of the bin and curves forwardly and downwardly to define a generally scalloped upper edge 36 that joins the front wall 32. The front wall 32 has an upper edge 38 joining the upper edges 36 of the side walls 30 at the forward ends of the side walls. The front wall 32 curves generally downwardly and rearwardly from the upper edge 38 as seen in FIG. 2, so as to form a bottom surface for the article-receiving compartment 16 defined within the bin 11. The back of each bin is open, so that the confronting back plane 21 of each panel recess 12 forms the back wall of the compartment. The upper edge 38 of the front wall 32 for each bin 11 in the preferred embodiment is located in elevation approximately half-way between the upper edge 26 and lower edge 27 of the bin, thereby defining an opening into the bin for easy access into the compartment 16. However, the particular elevation of the front wall is a matter of choice and is not considered critical to the present invention.

[0023] FIG. 1 shows covers 42 attached to the upper ends of the bins 11, and FIG. 2 shows a cover exploded from the upper end 26 of a bin. Each cover 42 is curved from a back edge 46 to a front edge 43 on a radius substantially the same as the curved upper edges 36 of the side walls 30 for the bin, so that the cover when closed extends from side to side across the access opening to the compartment 16 defined by the bin.

[0024] The covers 42 are biased to the open position as shown for the upper-right bin in FIG. 1, so that the bins can remain open for access to the compartments without requiring the user to open the cover whenever access is desired. The covers for the other bins in FIG. 1 are shown in a closed position covering the bins, the closed position being maintained by latch elements described below. Because each cover 42 is hinged adjacent to the upper end 26 of the respective bin to swing upwardly from the top of the bin and is biased to remain in that upward-opening attitude, the opened covers remain displaced upwardly from the line of sight and hand motion of a person seeking to withdraw an article from within the bin.

[0025] Each cover 42 is removably attached to the bin 14 adjacent the upper end 26 of the bin, as best shown in FIG. 2, allowing removal of the covers from one or more bins on a base panel 11 when desired. The removable attachment is provided in the preferred embodiment by a connection strip 45 pivotably joined to the back edge 46 of the cover by a so-called living hinge 48, shown in detail in FIG. 7. The connection strip 45 is shorter than the overall width of the cover, and the thickness of the connection strip provides a frictional fit within an elongated slot 50 formed on the under side of the upper end 26 of the bin. The back end of the connection strip 45 may have an enlargement such as the lug 52, FIG. 6, to assist in retaining the connection strip within the slot 50.

[0026] Each cover 11 is biased upwardly to remain in the open position by a spring 54 comprising, in the disclosed embodiment, a resilient member molded or otherwise formed from a suitable elastomeric material such as silicone rubber. The spring 54 has a somewhat J-shape when relaxed, as shown in FIG. 5. The longer leg 56 of the J-shaped spring 54 terminates at a proximal end 58 with a somewhat bulbous enlargement forming a flange 59 along the width of the leg, as shown in cross-section in FIGS. 6 and 7. The thickness of the longer leg 56 is somewhat reduced between the proximal end 58 and an edge surface 60 confronting and spaced apart from the flange 59 on the lower side of the longer leg, to define a connection region 62 on the longer leg. The connection region 62 of the spring 54 is frictionally received in a slot 64 (FIG. 2) located adjacent the upper end 26 of the bin, parallel to and directly below the slot 50 for receiving the connecting strip 45 of the cover 42. The flange 59 at the proximal end of the spring helps maintain the proximal end of the spring in tight frictional fit within the slot 64. The edge surface 60 contacts the forwardly-facing side of the bin structure defining the spring slot 64, thereby limiting the maximum extent to which the proximal end of the spring may be inserted within that slot.

[0027] With the spring 54 inserted in the spring slot 64, the distal end 66 of the spring curves upwardly to extend across the slot 50 for connecting the cover to the bin, as shown in FIG. 6. With the cover 42 in place, as shown in FIG. 7, the distal end 66 contacts the inner surface of the cover a short distance in front of the living hinge 48. The distal end 66 of the spring 54 thus biases the cover 42 to an open position as shown in FIG. 1 and fragmentarily shown in FIG. 7. However, the distal end of the resilient spring is not attached or connected to the cover, so that the cover is easily attached to or removed from the bin without connecting or disconnecting the spring from the cover.

[0028] Each cover has one or more latch fingers 70, FIG. 2, located near the front edge 43 of the cover for securing the cover in the closed position. These latch fingers 70 extend downwardly from the underside of the front edge 43 and engage the confronting latch engagement region 72 centered within the upper edge 38 of the front wall 32 on the bin, whenever the lid is lowered to close the bin. The latch fingers and latch engagement region are configured so that the latch fingers move below the latch engagement region with a deformable snap fit, when the cover is moved downwardly to close the opening of the bin against the resilient force of the spring. The forward edge of the cover is bowed outwardly along a region 74 located in front of the latch fingers 70, thereby forming a recess or handle for lifting a latched cover upwardly to open the cover. The latch fingers 70 are located on the inner side of a wall 76 extending along the forward edge of the cover beneath the opening handle.

[0029] The panel 11 has an upper surface 80 and a corresponding lower surface surrounding the overall array of recesses 12. Side walls 82 extend between the upper and lower surfaces of the panel and likewise surround the array of recesses. The forward edge 84 of each side wall 82 is shaped with a series of curved, generally scalloped projections 86 formed by upper surfaces 86a that conform generally to the curvatures of the upper edges 36 of the bins disposed alongside the side walls, and by lower surfaces 86b that conform generally to the downward-rearward curvature of the front walls 32 of the bins. The sides 82 of the panel 11 thus substantially enclose and surround the sides of the array of recesses 12 and the bins 11 disposed within that array. A flange 88 having fastener-receiving holes 90 extends outwardly from the back edge of the base 11 for mounting the panel bin 10 to a wall or other support surface.

[0030] It should now be apparent that the covers can remain open to permit ready access to the compartments. However, the covers can readily be lowered and latched closed to secure the compartments and their contents, for example, when a panel bin mounted in a vehicle. Moreover, the covers (and springs, if desired) are easily removed from the bins if desired for a particular application, without requiring tools or modification of the bins.

[0031] The foregoing is only a preferred embodiment, and numerous changes and modifications thereto may be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the of the present invention as defined in the following claims.