Title:
Portable cradle
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Described is a portable cradle which includes a removable planar surface, a base and a plurality of vertical support members removably coupled to the base and supporting the planar surface above the base. Each vertical support member includes a biasing member urging the planar member upward away from the base with a total biasing force applied to the planar member being selected based on property of materials to be supported on the planar surface so that a position of an upper surface of the supported materials remains substantially constant as a quantity of materials supported on the planar surface is changed.



Inventors:
Connor, Michael (Bethel, CT, US)
Application Number:
10/187105
Publication Date:
01/01/2004
Filing Date:
06/28/2002
Assignee:
CONNOR MICHAEL
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
414/924, 414/925, 414/792.7
International Classes:
A47B9/02; (IPC1-7): A47B9/02
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
CHAVCHAVADZE, COLLEEN MARGARET
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
FAY KAPLUN & MARCIN, LLP (NEW YORK, NY, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. A portable cradle, comprising: a removable planar surface; a base; and a plurality of vertical support members removably coupled to the base and supporting the planar surface above the base, each support member including a biasing member urging the planar member upward away from the base with a total biasing force applied to the planar member being selected based on property of materials to be supported on the planar surface so that a position of an upper surface of the supported materials remains substantially constant as a quantity of materials supported on the planar surface is changed.

2. The portable cradle according to claim 1, wherein each of the support members is substantially perpendicular to the base.

3. The portable cradle according to claim 1, wherein the base includes a storage portion which accommodates the removable planar surface and the support members in a disassembled configuration.

4. The portable cradle according to claim 1, wherein the biasing member includes a spring and a guide.

5. The portable cradle according to claim 4, wherein the spring is a coil spring.

6. The portable cradle according to claim 1, wherein each of the support members is disposed at a corresponding corner of the base.

7. The portable cradle according to claim 4, wherein the guide defines an internal channel for the spring designed to limit movement of the spring in directions perpendicular to a longitudinal axis of the channel.

8. The portable cradle according to claim 4, wherein the guide includes a structural portion adapted to prevent buckling of the guide.

9. The portable cradle according to claim 4, wherein the removable planar surface is detachably attached to the spring.

10. The portable cradle according to claim 9, wherein the removable planar surface has extensions slidably fitting in the guide, allowing movement of the planar surface along the guide.

11. The portable cradle according to claim 4, wherein the base is detachable attached to the springs.

12. The portable cradle according to claim 1, wherein the biasing member includes: a spring guide detachably attached to the base, the spring guide extending in a direction of movement of the planar surface; and a spring disposed in the spring guides, the springs providing a restoring force in the direction of movement, wherein the springs are attached at one end to the planar surface.

13. The portable cradle according to claim 12, wherein each of the plurality of spring guides is substantially perpendicular to the base.

14. The portable cradle according to claim 1, wherein the base and the planar surface are adapted to form sides of a box when the support members are in the disassembled configuration, and wherein the support members fit in the box.

15. The portable cradle according to claim 1, wherein the biasing member resists displacement of the planar surface with a force proportional to the displacement.

16. The portable cradle according to claim 1, wherein the support members are storable in a chamber formed by the base and the planar surface.

17. The portable cradle according to claim 1, further comprising: a plurality of moving arrangements coupled to the base.

18. The portable cradle according to claim 17, wherein each of the moving arrangements is a wheel having a braking mechanism and wherein, when the braking mechanism is engaged, it prevent the cradle from moving.

19. The portable cradle according to claim 1, wherein the materials are loaded onto the cradle by being placed on a top of the planar surface.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0001] The present invention relates to portable devices that facilitate dispensing of materials. More specifically, the present invention relates to portable cradle devices with a feed mechanism that dispense various materials.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

[0002] Many types of construction materials are used as slabs or sheets, that can be used directly as in the case of pre-shaped tiles and bricks, or can be finished and then used, as in the case of sheet rock, concrete slabs and the like. Typically, these materials are supplied to the work site in stacks, such that the sheets of material are placed one on top of the other, and possibly bound together, so that large numbers of the material elements may be moved at one time. When the materials are used, the stacks are moved near the location where they are needed, and the material elements are removed from the stack one by one.

[0003] As the sheet like construction materials are removed from the stack, the height of the stack is reduced. Since the construction worker removes the materials from the top of the stack, the topmost element that is presented to the worker for removal is not in a fixed position. When the stack is first started, the element being presented may be at a great height, at the top of the original stack. When the stack is almost used up, the element being presented is low, near a surface where the stack has been deposited, such as on the ground.

[0004] This method of stacking elements of construction materials is not satisfactory, because it forces the worker to reach up for the materials at first, and to reach further and further down as the stack of materials is used. This process is not efficient, because the worker has to constantly reach for the materials in a different location. The process may be also unsafe, because the worker at some times has to reach up and lower to a working height the possibly heavy materials, and at other times must lift the materials up from near the ground. Back injuries may ensue from repeatedly lifting the heavy construction elements, while the materials may be dropped when removed from the top of a high stack, causing possible injury to the worker or damage to the materials.

[0005] The problem may be somewhat alleviated by using materials bound in smaller stacks, so that the distance between the top and bottom of the stack is not great. However, it is much more efficient to move the construction materials in larger stacks, so that fewer trips to the work location are necessary to complete the work. In particular, if fork lifts or other mechanized equipment is used to move the materials, the larger the stack that can be brought to individual workers, the more efficient the process becomes.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0006] The present invention relates to a portable cradle which includes a removable planar surface, a base and a plurality of vertical support members removably coupled to the base and supporting the planar surface above the base. Each vertical support member includes a biasing member urging the planar member upward away from the base with a total biasing force applied to the planar member being selected based on property of materials to be supported on the planar surface so that a position of an upper surface of the supported materials remains substantially constant as a quantity of materials supported on the planar surface is changed.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0007] FIG. 1a shows a perspective view of an exemplary embodiment of the cradle according to the present invention;

[0008] FIG. 1b shows another exemplary embodiment of the cradle according to the present invention;

[0009] FIG. 2a shows a side elevation view of the embodiment shown in FIG. 1a;

[0010] FIG. 2b shows a side elevation view of the embodiment shown in FIG. 1b;

[0011] FIG. 3a shows a top plan view of the embodiment shown in FIG. 1a;

[0012] FIG. 3b shows a top plan view of the embodiment shown in FIG. 1a having female attaching members;

[0013] FIG. 4 shows a sectional view on line IV-IV of FIGS. 2a and 2b of an embodiment of the support and spring structure;

[0014] FIG. 5 shows a sectional view on line V-V of FIGS. 2a and 2b of an embodiment of the connection between a support structure and a planar surface;

[0015] FIG. 6 shows a perspective view showing a detail of mounting blocks on a base according to an embodiment of the present invention;

[0016] FIG. 7 shows a top view showing a first storage configuration of the cradle according to the present invention; and

[0017] FIG. 8 shows a top view showing a second storage configuration of the cradle according to the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0018] The present invention may be further understood with reference to the following description and the appended drawings, wherein like elements are referred to with the same reference numerals.

[0019] The cradle according to embodiments of the present invention may be utilized to hold stacks of materials (e.g., sheet-like construction materials) near the point of use of those materials. The exemplary cradle presents a topmost one of the elements in the stack at a substantially constant height, so that the worker using the materials can reach for the materials at a nearly constant, convenient height above the ground. The worker does not have to reach up to take the elements when the stack is full, and does not have to bend over to pick up the material elements when the stack is nearly used up. Thus, the worker may incur fewer injuries due to lifting and may work in a more efficient manner. Large stacks can be used, while the top most element in the stack is always presented at a convenient location.

[0020] FIG. 1a shows an exemplary embodiment of the cradle according to the present invention. Cradle 100 includes a base 102 that provides an anchoring point on the ground for the rest of the cradle 100. A support mechanism 109 is provided to position planar surface 106 relative to the base 102. Planar surface 106 receives the materials 200 (e.g., construction materials), and is movable in the direction shown by arrows “A” with respect to base 102. Support mechanism 109 provides a guide to control the movement of planar surface 106, so that it can move only in a direction substantially perpendicular to base 102. A system to resist displacement of planar surface 102 from a preferred distance “d” from base 102 is also provided by support mechanism 109. This system applies a restoring force to planar surface 106, that opposes the weight of construction elements 200 deposited on the planar surface 106.

[0021] In the exemplary embodiment shown in FIG. 1a, the support mechanism 109 includes several support members 104 that are secured to base 102, and extend substantially perpendicularly therefrom. Supports 104 and base 102 form a structural frame for cradle 100. For example, for a rectangular base 102, there may be four supports 104 placed at the corners of base 102. Alternatively, a different shape of the base 102 or planar surface 106 may require a different configuration of supports 104. Supports 104 may include guides 108 that are designed to direct the movement of planar surface 106 in a desired direction. Guides 108 may have a shape complementary to corners 111, to permit planar surface 106 to move in a direction along arrows “A”, substantially perpendicular to base 102.

[0022] FIG. 1b shows another exemplary embodiment of the cradle 100 according to the present invention which is similar to the embodiment shown in FIG. 1a. The cradle 100 has a plurality (e.g., three or four) moving arrangements, such as wheels 230, 232. The moving arrangements allows the worker easily move heavy loads of materials 200. In addition, the moving arrangements may have a braking mechanism (not shown). The braking mechanism allows the worker to fix the cradle 100 at a particular location, thus preventing the cradle 100 from incidentally moving from that fixed location.

[0023] Also, the material 200 may be a different shapes. For example, the material 200 may be a shape of the surface 106 (as shown in FIG. 2a). Alternately, the material 200 may be of a smaller shape and placed in the middle of the surface 106 (as shown in FIG. 1a). Those skilled in the art would understand that materials 200 may come in different shapes and sizes and that the cradle 100 may be adjusted to accommodate theses shapes and sizes. For example, to accommodate the smaller shape materials 200 (as a shown in FIG. 1a), a frame (not shown) may be attached to the surface 106 which would prevent the materials 200 from shifting.

[0024] As shown in FIGS. 1a, 1b, 2a and 2b, support mechanism 109 may also include resilient/biasing elements such as springs 110, used to urge the planar surface 106 to a desired height “d” from base 102. Springs 110 may be associated with the supports 104, or alternatively may be separate. In the exemplary embodiment shown, there is a spring 110 for each support 104. However, the number of springs 110 and supports 104 does not have to be the same. In the exemplary embodiment, springs 110 are located between the base 102 and planar surface 106. The neutral extension of springs 110, meaning the extension at which no force is exerted, corresponds to the desired height “d”. When a weight such as stack 200 is placed in planar surface 106, springs 110 are compressed, and tend to resist the displacement of planar surface 106. Since the resisting force exerted by a spring is proportional to its compression, the more planar surface 106 is displaced, the greater the force opposing such displacement is generated by springs 110.

[0025] By carefully selecting the size and spring constant of springs 110, it is possible to control the displacement of planar surface 106 such that topmost element 202 on stack 200 will always be at or near the height “d” from base 102. For example, when the cradle 100 is empty, the weight of planar surface 106 will balance the spring force at height “d”. When a full stack is added, the additional weight compresses springs 110 until topmost element 202 is approximately at a height “d”, while planar surface 106 is lower. As the elements of construction material are removed from the top of stack 200, the reduced weight compresses springs 110 less, and planar surface 106 is pushed upwards, such that the new topmost element is now approximately at a height “d” above base 102. It should be apparent to one skilled in the art that the same result may be obtained by using springs under tension rather than under compression, for example simply by connecting the springs to the tops of supports 104 rather than to base 102. A feed mechanism for the construction elements is thus provided, that places the topmost element of the stack at a constant height.

[0026] The exemplary embodiment shown provides the advantage that planar surface 106 is to a certain extent self leveling. Springs 110 are located at the corners, and if a weight is placed near a corner rather than near the center of planar surface 106, the spring nearest to the weight will be compressed the most, causing a greater restoring force that opposes further compression of that spring. The corner where the weight was added thus drops only a small distance, before further displacement is stopped by the spring.

[0027] Elements of the exemplary embodiment of the present invention are further described with reference to FIG. 4. A detail of the support mechanism 109 is shown, as a cross section view taken on line IV-IV of FIGS. 2a and 2b. One of supports 104 is shown, in this example having a structural portion with an L shaped cross section which resists buckling, and provides stability to the structure. In this example, the four L shaped supports 104, together with base 102, form a rigid frame that keeps the movement of planar surface 106 constrained to the desired direction.

[0028] The support mechanism 109 of the exemplary embodiment includes a spring guide 112 that may be attached to support member 104. Spring guide 112 surrounds a portion of the perimeter of spring 110, and thus prevents it from buckling or being displaced. In this exemplary embodiment, spring guide 112 forms an internal channel, but does not completely surround spring 110, so that a connection with planar surface 106 may be made, as will be described below. However, other configurations of spring guide 112 may be devised, which may surround spring 110 to a greater or lesser extent. In the configuration shown in FIG. 4, spring guide 112 has a circular cross section that extends for slightly more than 180 degrees, so that spring 110 cannot fall out through the opening defined by edges 120. In this configuration, spring 110 is not attached to spring guide 112, and is retained by gravity within channel 122 defined by the guide 112.

[0029] Planar surface 106 may have extensions 114 that are shaped to fit in guides 108 of the support mechanism 109. In the exemplary embodiment shown in FIG. 5, extension 114 is a track interface that fits in the track or channel 122 defined by spring guide 112, which here also acts as a guide for planar surface 106. However, different configurations may be designed where extension 114 fits in a separate guide, or is guided by the surfaces of support member 104. In this exemplary embodiment, extension 114 is circular, and fits in channel 122 on top of spring 110. Thus, the force exerted by spring 110 is transmitted to planar surface 106 through the extensions 114, which have the dual role of interfacing with springs 110 and keeping the planar surface 106 within the guide portions. Extension 114 may enter channel 122, for example, through the opening defined by edges 120. The combination of forces applied to a plurality of extensions 114 by corresponding spring guides 112 maintains planar surface 106 in its proper position relative to base 102, particularly if extensions 114 are spaced around the perimeter of planar surface 106, as shown in FIG. 3.

[0030] According to an exemplary embodiment of the present invention, the frame of cradle 100 is disassembled, so that when not in use the cradle 100 may be stored or transported easily. In the present embodiment, planar surface 106 may be lifted up away from support members 104, since during use it rests by gravity on springs 110, within spring guides 112. Springs 110 also can be lifted out of spring guides 112, which in turn are easily removable from support members 104. Support members 104 may be removed from base 102, since they are held in place thereon by a friction or locking mechanism. In an alternative embodiment, support members 104 may be hinged to base 102, so that when not in use they may be folded within the base 102.

[0031] FIG. 6 shows an exemplary embodiment of the mounting blocks 152 for the support members 104 and springs 110 to base 102. A single mounting block 152 may be used for both components, or separate attachments may be used. The mounting block 152 may be a solid cylindrical base having a shape, e.g., of a male pedestal. The support member 104 and the spring 110 may be removably coupled to the mounting block 152.

[0032] In alternative exemplary embodiment of the present invention, the support member 104 and the spring 110 may be attached to the base 102 using a female attaching members 240 shown in FIG. 3a. Each of the female attaching members 240 is coupled on the exterior of the base 102 and has a shape of a female coupling. The support member 104 and the spring 110 are removably inserted into the female attaching member 240. The guide 112 stops at the top of the base 102, while the spring 110 extends through the base 102 and stops at the bottom of the base 102. The female attaching members 240 also server buffers to prevent incidental damage to the cradle 100 if it collides with another object.

[0033] As indicated above, cradle 100 may be folded when not in use. FIGS. 7 and 8 show successive steps to disassemble and fold the cradle 100. In FIG. 7, the springs 110 and support members 104 are removed from mounting blocks 152 of base 102, and are placed within a box like storage portion formed by bottom surface 150 and side surfaces 154 of base 102. In a subsequent step illustrated in FIG. 8, the planar surface 106 is placed on top of the springs 110 and support members 104, forming a lid to the box defined by base 102. In another embodiment, latches or locks may be used to prevent separation of planar surface 106 from base 102, so that the components of the support mechanism may be securely held in the box like structure. The entire cradle 100 can be transported between job sites, or may be stored while occupying a minimal amount of space.

[0034] This dual nature of the cradle 100 is one of its main advantages. The cradle 100 may, on one hand, serve to support materials 200 at a certain height; on the another hand, the cradle 100, when in the folded position, may server a dolly to move the materials 200. Another advantage of the present invention is that the cradle 100 does not require any complicated electrical and/or mechanical components. Furthermore, the cradle 100 allows to load the materials 200 from the top.

[0035] In the preceding specification, the present invention has been described with reference to specific exemplary embodiments thereof. It will, however, be evident that various modifications and changes may be made thereto without departing from the broadest spirit and scope of the present invention as set forth in the claims that follow. The specification and drawings are accordingly to be regarded in an illustrative rather than restrictive sense.