Title:
Modular multi-piece shelf and shelving unit
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A self-locking multi-piece shelf is disclosed wherein the shelf includes a first and second endcap, and a body having a first and a second end. The first endcap slidingly engages with the first end of the body, whereby a first part of a locking mechanism located on the body engages with a second part of the locking mechanism located on the first endcap, thereby locking the first endcap to the body. The second endcap slidingly engages with the second end of the body, whereby a first part of a locking mechanism located on the body engages with a second part of the locking mechanism located on the second endcap, thereby locking the second endcap to the body.



Inventors:
Craft, Charles W. (Apple Creek, OH, US)
Skov, Erik L. (Akron, OH, US)
Application Number:
10/366951
Publication Date:
08/19/2004
Filing Date:
02/14/2003
Assignee:
CRAFT CHARLES W.
SKOV ERIK L.
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
211/188, 108/106
International Classes:
A47B87/02; A47B96/02; F16B12/26; (IPC1-7): A47F5/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20040079718System allowing to expand the bottom or top of racks for widen the aisles or the shelves in a warehouse.April, 2004Gagne et al.
20070215567Suspended rotary rackSeptember, 2007Cavell
20100006519SHELF FOR A SHELVING UNITJanuary, 2010Van De
20050077257Arrangement for merchandise display prongsApril, 2005Ahlund et al.
20080283477Merchandise security systemNovember, 2008Wamsley et al.
20070138118Product display hangerJune, 2007Huber
20050109718Poster display and dispenserMay, 2005Leduc
20090057245ROUND TABLE STORAGE RACKMarch, 2009Hinckley
20080053934ADHESIVELY MOUNTABLE ANGLED WALL SHELFMarch, 2008Newbould et al.
20080000857Modular organizer for crib or playpenJanuary, 2008Chen et al.
20100072147CLOTH RAILMarch, 2010Reenberg et al.



Primary Examiner:
PUROL, SARAH L
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MARSHALL, GERSTEIN & BORUN LLP (CHICAGO, IL, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. A self-locking multi-piece shelf comprising: a shelf body having a first end, a second end, an upper side, and a lower side; first and second endcaps each slidingly attached to the first and second ends, respectively, and providing one or more riser sockets therein; at least one locking mechanism first part carried on each of the first and second ends; and at least one locking mechanism second part carried on each of the first and second end caps; wherein each locking mechanism first part is engaged with a corresponding locking mechanism second part.

2. The self-locking multi-piece shelf of claim 1 wherein the shelf body includes a plurality of support beams.

3. The self-locking multi-piece shelf of claim 2 wherein the plurality of support beams are located between the upper and lower sides extending from the first end of the shelf body to the second end of the shelf body.

4. The self-locking multi-piece shelf of claim 2 wherein the plurality of support beams are each an inverted T-beam support beams.

5. The self-locking multi-piece shelf of claim 1 wherein the locking mechanism first parts are apertures.

6. The self-locking multi-piece shelf of claim 1 wherein the locking mechanism second parts are wedge-shaped protrusions located on an inner surface of the first and the second endcaps.

7. The self-locking multi-piece shelf of claim 1 wherein the endcaps slidingly telescope over the ends of the shelf body.

8. The self-locking multi-piece shelf of claim 1 wherein the endcaps slidingly telescope into the ends of the shelf body.

9. The self-locking multi-piece shelf of claim 1 wherein the locking mechanism first parts are wedge-shaped protrusions.

10. The self-locking multi-piece shelf of claim 1 wherein the locking mechanism second parts are apertures.

11. The self-locking multi-piece shelf of claim 1 wherein the locking mechanism first parts are integral to the respective endcaps.

12. The self-locking multi-piece shelf of claim 1 wherein the locking mechanism first parts are integral to the respective ends of the shelf body.

13. The self-locking multi-piece shelf of claim 1 wherein the locking mechanism second parts are integral to the respective endcaps.

14. The self-locking multi-piece shelf of claim 1 wherein the locking mechanism second parts are integral to the respective ends of the shelf body.

15. The self-locking multi-piece shelf of claim 1 wherein the shelf body is constructed from one of extruded or blow molded polyethylene, polypropylene, and polystyrene material.

16. The self-locking multi-piece shelf of claim 1 wherein the endcaps are constructed from one of injection molded or blow molded polyethylene, polypropylene, and polystyrene material.

17. A self-locking multi-piece shelf comprising: a shelf body having a first end, a second end, an upper side, and a lower side, wherein one or more apertures are located on the ends of the shelf body; first and second endcaps each attached to the first and second ends of the shelf body, respectively, and having one or more sockets, wherein the endcaps include one or more wedged shaped tabs; wherein the one or more wedged shaped tabs of the first endcap engage the one or more apertures located on the first end of the shelf body, and the one or more wedged shaped tabs of the second endcap engage the one or more aperture located on the second end of the shelf body.

18. The self-locking multi-piece shelf of claim 17 wherein the lower side includes a plurality of slots located between support beams, thereby creating a plurality of T-beams.

19. The self-locking multi-piece shelf of claim 17 wherein the endcaps slidingly telescope over the ends of the shelf body.

20. The self-locking multi-piece shelf of claim 17 wherein the endcaps slidingly telescope into the ends of the shelf body.

21. The self-locking multi-piece shelf of claim 17 wherein the shelf body is constructed from one of polyethylene, polypropylene, and polystyrene material.

22. The self-locking multi-piece shelf of claim 17 wherein the endcaps are constructed from one of polyethylene, polypropylene, and polystyrene material.

23. The self-locking multi-piece shelf of claim 17 further including at least one stop located in each of the endcaps adapted to position the shelf body relative to the endcaps.

24. The self-locking multi-piece shelf of claim 17 wherein the one or more apertures include an inner edge and an outer edge.

25. The self-locking multi-piece shelf of claim 17 wherein the one or more wedge shaped tabs include an inner portion and a stop surface.

26. A modular shelving system comprising: a plurality of shelf bodies having a first end, a second end, an upper side, and a lower side; a plurality of first and second endcaps each able to slidingly attach to the first and second ends of the plurality of shelf bodies, the plurality of first and second endcaps providing one or more riser sockets therein; at least one locking mechanism first part carried on each of the first and second ends of the plurality of shelf bodies; and at least one locking mechanism second part carried on each of the plurality of first and second endcaps; and a plurality of risers, wherein the plurality of risers engage with the one or more riser sockets on the plurality of endcaps.

27. A method of creating a shelf comprising: providing a self-locking multi-piece shelf consisting of a shelf body having a first end, a second end, an upper side, and a lower side, and a first and second endcap adapted to slidingly engage with the shelf body ends, a first part of a locking mechanism, and a second part of the locking mechanism; aligning the first endcap with the first end of the shelf body, and the second endcap with the second end of the shelf body; and sliding the first endcap relative to the first end of the shelf body, and the second endcap relative to the second end of the shelf body until the first part and the second part of the locking mechanisms engage.

Description:

FIELD OF THE DISCLOSURE

[0001] The present invention generally relates to plastic shelves and, more particularly, to a plastic shelf having a shelf body and endcaps and to a shelving unit incorporating same.

BACKGROUND OF THE DISCLOSURE

[0002] It is known in the art to provide modular shelving systems or units. One type of modular unit includes a plurality of rectangular panels or shelves, wherein each shelf has four sockets, one provided in each corner of the shelf. Successive shelves may be stacked and interconnected to adjacent shelves by inserting posts or risers into each of the sockets. The modular construction provides flexibility for the consumer to assemble a shelf system or unit with a desired number of shelves and/or to a desired height.

[0003] Manufacturing cost, cost component, ease of assembly, and product versatility are all variables that are considered in the development and production of these shelving systems. In previous designs, the shelf components and, more specifically, the shelves were manufactured as an integral unit consisting of a one-piece shelf having a plurality of sockets, or as a multi-piece unit consisting of a shelf body, end units having sockets, and fasteners connecting the end units and body together. There are several problems that exist with these designs, including, but not limited to, the difficulty and cost associated with the design and manufacture of integral units, and the complexity and tedious assembly associated with multi-piece shelving units requiring fasteners.

[0004] In other previous designs, material and component cost was reduced by decreasing the amount of material used in the shelves, and more specifically, by reducing the thickness of the shelf material and/or by eliminating structural components of the shelf. These cost reducing designs, however, result in shelving units that are weak and that twist or bend more easily. Similarly, the shelves may be less durable and/or stable, thereby reducing the life of the shelving unit and perhaps limiting the shelving unit to use in storing only lighter objects.

SUMMARY OF THE DISCLOSURE

[0005] In accordance with one aspect of the disclosure among others, a self-locking multi-piece shelf is disclosed. In one exemplary embodiment, the shelf includes a body and a pair of endcaps. The body has a first and a second end, wherein each of the first and second ends includes a first part of a locking mechanism that is integral to the body. The pair of endcaps each include one or more sockets, and a second part of the locking mechanism that is integral to the endcap. In one example, the first endcap is sized to slidingly engage with the first end of the body and the second endcap is sized to slidingly engage with the second end of the body. The first part of the locking mechanism in the first end of the body engages with the second part of the locking mechanism in the first endcap, and the first part of the locking mechanism in the second end of the body engages with the second part of the locking mechanism in the second endcap.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0006] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of one embodiment of a self-locking multi-piece shelf as constructed in accordance with the teachings of the disclosure;

[0007] FIG. 2 is a cross-sectional view of a snap-mechanism of the self-locking multi-piece shelf of FIG. 4;

[0008] FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional view of the self-locking multi-piece shelf of FIG. 1;

[0009] FIG. 4 a perspective view of another embodiment of a self-locking multi-piece shelf as constructed in accordance with the teachings of the disclosure;

[0010] FIG. 5 is a cross-sectional view of the self-locking multi-piece shelf of FIG. 4;

[0011] FIG. 6 is a perspective view of a modular shelving unit, including risers and shelves as constructed in accordance with the teachings of the disclosure; and

[0012] FIG. 7 is a perspective view of one embodiment of a tab as constructed in accordance with the teachings of the disclosure.

[0013] While the method and device described herein are susceptible to various modifications and alternative constructions, certain illustrative embodiments thereof have been shown in the drawings and will be described below in detail. It should be understood, however, that there is no intention to limit the invention to the specific forms disclosed. On the contrary, the intention is to cover all modifications, alternative constructions, and equivalents falling within the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0014] Referring now to the drawings, and with specific reference to FIG. 1, a self-locking multi-piece shelf constructed in accordance with the teachings of the disclosure is generally depicted by reference numeral 20. As shown therein, the self-locking multi-piece shelf 20 in one exemplary embodiment includes a body 22 and one or more endcaps 24, and in this example, a pair of the endcaps 24.

[0015] In one exemplary embodiment, the body 22 defines the center portion of the self-locking multi-piece shelf 20, and may have various shapes and sizes adapted to engage with the corresponding pair of endcaps 24. Possible body shapes can include, but are not limited to, round, rectangular, oval, or square. The disclosed body 22 in this example includes a first end 30, a second end 32, a front side 34, a rear side 36, an upper side 38 and a lower side 40. For ease of illustration and understanding, the body 22 and the self-locking multi-piece shelf 20 in general, will herein be described as having a generally rectangular shape, wherein the upper side 38 and the lower side 40 are rectangular and wherein the upper side 38 and the lower side 40 and the front side 34 and the rear side 36, are respectively substantially parallel to each other. Furthermore, the front side 34 and the rear side 36, and the upper side 38 and the lower side 40 can be correspondingly spaced apart giving the body 22 a depth and a thickness.

[0016] In one exemplary embodiment, as best seen in FIGS. 3 and 5, the body 22 has a plurality of support beams 42 located between the spaced apart upper side 38 and the lower side 40. In this example, the beams 42 extend the length of the body 22 interior to the upper and lower sides. More specifically, the support beams 42 extend substantially perpendicular to and between the upper and the lower sides 38, 40, and extend from the first end 30 of the body 22 to the second end 32 of the body 22.

[0017] The thickness, depth, and number of the support beams 42 may depend and vary according to several factors, including but not limited to, the intended use of the self-locking multi-piece shelf 20, the width of the body 22 and/or the length of the body 22. For example, if the intended purpose of the self-locking multi-piece shelf 20 is to store large, heavy objects, the number, thickness, and/or depth of the support beams 42 may be increased. Similarly, the longer the body 22 (i.e., the distance between the first and second ends 30, 32 of the body 22) and wider the body 22 (the distance between the front 34 and the rear 36 of the body 22), the more support beams 42 may be used. Also, the support beams 42 need not run the entire length of the body 22. The beams may each be shorter in length, but arranged and positioned over the body 22 to achieve desired support and strength characteristics. The orientation and design of the support beams 42, are also not limited to the one disclosed above. Possible orientations and designs can include, support beams 42 that have a criss-cross pattern, support beams that run diagonal to the length and/or width of the body 22, support beams that run transverse to the length of the body, or a combination thereof. Further, other structural devices can be utilized to add strength and rigidity to the shelf, in place of the beams 42. For example in-molded ribs, as shown in FIG. 5, may be square, or may be straight beams that include support structures on both ends of the beam. Similarly, other structural devices, such as triangular, slanted or other shaped structural devices may increase the shelf s structural performance.

[0018] In one exemplary embodiment, the lower side 40 of the body 22 may be perforated or segmented. More specifically, as best seen in FIGS. 3, the lower side 40 of the body 22 may include slots 44 located intermittent the support beams 42. The slots may 44 create T-shaped beams 42 having a first portion 43 extending perpendicularly downward from the upper side 38 and a second portion 45 attached to the end of the first portion and oriented substantially parallel to the upper side 38. The slots 44 and the T-beams 42 may extend the entire length of the body 22, and more specifically from the first end 30 to the second end 32 of the body 22. In this example, the second portions 45 define the lower side 40 of the body 22.

[0019] In one exemplary embodiment, the one or more endcaps 24 can be similar or identical and may be interchangeably used, whereas in another embodiment the endcaps 24 can be different and can be specifically designed to engage with specific parts of the body 22. In this example, the endcaps 24 are designed to engage with the first or second end 30, 32 of the body 22. The disclosed endcaps 24 each include an open inner end 48, a closed outer end 50, a front side 52, a rear side 54, an upper side 56 and a lower side 58. For ease of illustration and understanding, the endcaps 24 are herein described as having a generally rectangular shape, wherein the upper side 56 and the lower side 58 are generally rectangular in shape, although defining slightly rounded corners 59, and wherein the upper side 56 and the lower side 58 and the front side 52 and the rear side 54, are respectively substantially parallel to each other (FIGS. 1 and 4). In this example, each of the endcaps 24 has a pair of sockets 60 each adapted to engage with a corresponding riser 62 of a shelving unit. Furthermore, the front and rear sides 52, 54, and the upper and lower sides 56, 58 can be correspondingly spaced apart giving the endcaps 24 proper size to accommodate a particular shelving unit.

[0020] The inner end 48 of the disclosed endcaps 24 are open and adapted to receive one or either of the first or second end 30, 32 of the body 22. Each endcap 24 telescopes onto one of the ends 30 or 32 in this example. More specifically, the inner surfaces of the front and rear sides 52, 54 of the endcaps 24 may be spaced to slidingly engage with the outer surfaces of the front and rear sides 34, 36 of the body 22, respectively. Similarly, the inner surfaces of the upper and lower sides 56, 58 of the endcaps 24 may be spaced to slidingly engage with the outer surfaces of the upper and lower sides 38, 40 of the body 22, respectively.

[0021] In another exemplary embodiment, the inner end 48 of the disclosed endcaps 24 are open and are adapted to be receive by one or either of the first or second end 30, 32 of the body 22. Each endcap 24 telescopes into one of the ends 30 or 32 in this example. More specifically, the outer surfaces of the front and rear sides 52, 54 of the endcaps 24 may be spaced to slidingly engage with the inner surfaces of the front and rear sides 34, 36 of the body 22, respectively. Similarly, the outer surfaces of the upper and lower sides 56, 58 of the endcaps 24 may be spaced to slidingly engage with the inner surfaces of the upper and lower sides 38, 40 of the body 22, respectively.

[0022] Located toward the closed outer end 50 of the disclosed end caps 24 are the sockets 60 adapted to engage with risers 62, as seen in FIGS. 1 and 6. Each socket 60 may be adapted to engage with a riser 62 both from the lower side 58 of the endcaps 24 and/or from the upper side 56 of the endcaps 24. For example, the sockets 60 may receive risers 62 on the lower side 58 of the endcaps 24, and/or the socket 60 may receive risers 62 on the upper side 56 of the endcaps 24, thereby giving the self-locking multi-piece shelf 20 modular capability. The endcaps 24 may, however, have a solid upper side 56 or a solid lower side 58 if needed in a particular application. For example, as best seen in FIG. 6, a unique bottom self-locking multi-piece shelf 20a in a shelving unit can be only adapted to receive risers 62 on the upper side 56 of the endcaps 24, and may therefore have a solid lower side 58. Similarly, a top self-locking multi-piece shelf 20c in a shelving unit can be adapted only to receive risers 62 on the lower side 58 of the endcaps 24, and may therefore have a solid upper side 56. To simplify the description of the self-locking multi-piece shelf 20 and its various components, the self-locking multi-piece shelf 20 is referred to herein as 20a-20c, while retaining all of the various embodiment and elements of the self-locking multi-piece shelf 20.

[0023] In one exemplary embodiment, as best seen in FIGS. 1, 2 and 4, the self-locking multi-piece shelf 20 may include one or more locking mechanisms 64 to secure the endcap to the shelf body 22. More specifically, the shelf body 22 may include a first portion of the locking mechanism 64 and the one or more endcaps 24 may include a second portion of the locking mechanism 64. The first portion of the disclosed locking mechanism 64 is the receiving portion of the mechanism, such as an aperture 70, adapted to receive and retain the second portion of the locking mechanism 64. The second portion of the disclosed locking mechanism 64 is the engagement portion, such as a tab 72, adapted to nest in and engage with the aperture 70. Additionally and/or alternatively, the first and second portions of the locking mechanism 64 can be located and/or placed in reverse order as described above. For example, the body 22 may include the second portion of the locking mechanism 64, such as the tab 72, and the endcaps 24 may include the first portion of the locking mechanism 64, such as the aperture 70.

[0024] It is further contemplated that the self-locking multi-piece shelf 20 can include a multitude of the locking mechanisms 64 that can be located on the body 22 and the endcaps 24. In one example, the first portion includes one or more rectangular apertures 70 located near the first and second ends 30, 32 of the body 22, and the second portion includes one or more wedge-shaped tabs 72 having a triangular profile located near the inner end 48 of the one or more endcaps 24. The disclosed apertures 70 include an outer edge 74 and an inner edge 76, such that the inner edge 76 is oriented toward the center of the body 22, and the outer edge 74 is oriented away from the center of the body 22. The tabs 72 include an inner portion 78 and an stop surface 80, such that the inner portion 78 is oriented toward the inner side of the endcap 24, and the stop surface 80 is oriented toward the outer side of the endcap 24.

[0025] In one exemplary embodiment, as shown in FIG. 1, the body 22 includes two apertures 70 located near the upper side 38 of the first end 30 of the self-locking multi-piece shelf 20 adapted to engage with two tabs 72 located on an inner surface of the upper side 56 of the endcaps 24. In an alternate embodiment, as shown in FIG. 4, the body 22 may include the above described two apertures 70 and two tabs 72 and further include two apertures 70 located near the lower side 40 of the first end 30 of the self-locking multi-piece shelf 20 adapted to engage with two tabs 72 located on an inner surface of the lower side 58 of the endcaps 24.

[0026] The various components of the self-locking multi-piece shelf 20, including the body 22 and the end caps 24, may be fabricated from relatively light weight, durable, and sturdy plastic materials such as polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene, or other suitable plastic materials. The process or processes used to form the various components of the disclosed self-locking multi-piece shelf 20 may also vary considerably as necessary to form each given component. The components may be injection molded, blow molded, continuously molded, extruded, vacuum formed, rotation molded, or the like. The manufacturing process or processes can be selected based on feasibility, cost, tooling concerns, as well as other factors for a given application.

[0027] In one embodiment, the self-locking multi-piece shelf 20 can be constructed in a sturdy yet cost effective manner. More specifically, the self-locking multi-piece shelf 20 can be constructed using various methods including blow molding, injection molding, and/or extrusion. For example, the body 22 of the self-locking multi-piece shelf 20 can be economically constructed in various widths and thicknesses using, for example, a continuous blow molding or a continuous extrusion process. Such continuous processes permit fabricating the profile of the body 22 in continuous lengths. For example, manufacturing of the body 22 using an extrusion process enables the manufacturer to easily and inexpensively manufacture long strips 23 of the body 22, that can then be cut into individual bodies 22. The bodies 22 can be cut into varying lengths, thereby enabling the manufacturer to easily and cost effectively achieve various length bodies 22 without changing tooling parameters, and yet form them having structures providing strength and rigidity to the bodies. The endcaps 24 can be manufactured, for example, using a blow molded and/or injection molding process to obtain a sturdy endcap, thereby creating a sturdy yet cost efficient self-locking multi-piece shelf 20.

[0028] Many benefits can be achieved by manufacturing the self-locking multi-piece shelf 20 using a plurality of processes and techniques. For example, by manufacturing the endcaps using a blow molding or injection molding process, detailed and intricate structures and/or elements can be incorporated into the endcaps 24. The ability to create the details and intricacies, will produce a solid and structurally superior product (then other manufacturing processes), while utilizing a minimal amount of material to produce the same product. Furthermore, because the structure of the endcaps 24 requires individual manufactured units, there is no time saving available when using other manufacturing processes.

[0029] In contrast, when utilizing a continuous blow molding or extrusion method to manufacture the shelf body 22, the manufacturing time can be greatly expedited by manufacturing extended lengths of the body 22 and then cutting them to size. Similarly the structure, such as the support beams and the profile of the body 22, as seen in FIGS. 3 and 5, can be easily altered or changed by adjusting or replacing the dye of the extrusion device.

[0030] The combination of the two separate processes, in manufacturing the self-locking multi-piece shelf 20, includes further benefits to the ones described above. For example, by creating two separate pieces and by using two separate manufacturing processes, there is a great reduction in the cost of the manufacturing process of the self-locking multi-piece shelf 20. More particularly, if the self-locking multi-piece shelf 20 would be manufactured as a single piece unit, a large mold(s), irregardless of the process, would be required, thereby increasing the cost of manufacturing. By creating two separate pieces, however (i.e. the endcap 24 and body 22), the size of the mold(s) for the endcaps 24 and/or body 22 can be reduces, thereby decreasing its cost. Furthermore, by constructing the self-locking multi-piece shelf 20, from two separate pieces and two separate processes, a sturdy and structurally sound shelf is created, while obtaining a certain amount of modularity. More specifically, because the endcap 24 and body 22 are manufactured separately, various versions of the body 22 can be created that can all be utilized with the endcap 24. For instance, the body 22 can be designed and manufactured with less material, such as thinner support beams, when intended to be used for storing lighter objects. Similarly, the body 22 can be designed and manufactured with more material, such as thicker or additional support beams, when intended to be used for storing heavy objects. The modularity also extends to the length of the body 22, whereby the body 22 can be manufactured in various lengths while still being able to connect with the endcaps 24.

[0031] In operation, as best seen in FIGS. 1, 2 and 4, the user first connects the various components of the self-locking multi-piece shelf 20 together prior to use. In the disclosed embodiment, the user aligns the inner side 48 of the first endcap 26 to the first end 30 of the body 22, and slides the inner surface of the first endcap 26 onto the outer surface of the first end 30 of the body 22. More specifically, the inner side 48 of the first endcap 26 and the first end 30 of the body 22 are aligned such that the upper side 38 of the body 22 slidingly engages with the inner surface of the upper side 56 of the first endcap 26, the rear side 36 of the body 22 slidingly engages with the inner surface of the rear side 54 of the first endcap 26, the lower side 40 of the body 22 slidingly engages with the inner surface of the lower side 58 of the first endcap 26, and the front side 34 of the body 22 slidingly engages with the inner surface of the front side 52 of the first endcap 26.

[0032] Once the first end cap 26 and the first end 30 of the body 22 are properly aligned, the user then forces the body 22 and first endcap 26 together. As the endcap 26 is forced onto the body 22, the tabs 72 located on the inner surface of the first endcap 26 displace away from one another in this example, thereby allowing the continued engagement of the first endcap 26 with the body 22. The number of tabs 72 may vary depending on the design of the shelf 20. However, the disclosed example has two tabs 72 in the inner surface of the upper side 48, and two tabs 72 on the inner surface of the lower side 58.

[0033] The tabs 72 may move in a variety of ways depending on the construction and design of the locking mechanism 64. In one exemplary embodiment, the tabs 72 may be a rigid protrusion from the inner surface of the endcaps 24 having a general wedge shape. The inner portion 78 of such a tab 72 located toward the inner side 48 of the endcap 24 is generally flush with the inner surface and ramps or inclines away from the inner surface as the tabs 72 approach the outer side of the endcaps 24. In this embodiment, the inner portion 78 of the tabs 72 (when located on the inside of the upper side 56 of the endcap 24) may abut the upper side 38 of the shelf body 22 as the shelf body 22 and the endcaps 24 are engaged. Upon further engagement, the tabs 72 are may cause the endcap 24 and/or the body 22 to deflect, creating space for the tabs 72 between the endcaps 24 and the body 22. Due to the inherent qualities of the material used, after the tabs 72 deflect the endcap 24 and/or the body 22, the original form of the endcap 24 and/or the body 22 will return once the tabs 72 are fully engaged with the apertures 70.

[0034] In another exemplary embodiment, the tab 72 may be flexible and may be a portion of the inner surface of the endcap 24, such as a partially cut out finger that is biased toward the inside of the endcap 24 away from the inner surface, thereby creating a tab 72 having resilient qualities. A partial cut out finger can be obtained by removing or cutting enough material out of an area thereby creating a tab (FIG. 7). The tab 72 may, however obtain its resilient qualities otherwise. For example, the tab may be a cantilever beam that is biased through a manufacturing process, or the like. In this embodiment, when the tabs 72 are flexible and have resilient qualities, the tabs 72 once engaged with the body 22, may depress to allow further engagement between the body 22 and the endcap 24. More specifically, the inner portion 78 of the tabs 72 (when located on the inside of the upper side 56 of the endcap 24) may abut the upper side 38 of the shelf body 22 as the shelf body 22 and the endcaps 24 are engaged. Upon further engagement, the tabs 72 may deflected against their bias by the ends 30, 32 of the body 22, thereby allowing the endcap 24 to further engage. Due to the resilient qualities of the tabs 72, after the tabs 72 are deflected, the tabs 72 will return to their original position once the tabs 72 are fully engaged with the apertures 70.

[0035] In one exemplary embodiment, the body 22 is received in the endcap 24 until the tabs 72 engage and pop into the apertures 70, thereby locking the endcap 24 to the body 22. More specifically, as the tabs 72 approach the apertures 70 located on the body 22, the tabs 72 may have a bias to engage with the aperture 70. As the tabs 72 fully engage with the apertures 70, the tabs 72 protrude into the apertures 70 thereby preventing the endcaps 24 from disengaging the body 22. The endcap 24 may be prevented from disengagement from the body 22 by the stop surface 80 of the wedge-shaped tab 72 acting as a stop against the outer edge 74 of the aperture 70.

[0036] In one exemplary embodiment, the self-locking multi-piece shelf 20 may be designed to prevent sliding movement of the body 22 relative to the endcaps 24, once the tabs 72 are engaged with the apertures 70 (FIG. 2). For example, once the body 22 has traversed far enough into the endcap 24 to engage the tabs 72 with the apertures 70, the body 22 may continue to traverse further into the endcap 24 unless it is prevented from doing so. In one exemplary embodiment, the endcap 24 may include stops 82 adapted to prevent the body 22 from traversing into the endcap 24 any further than desired. The stops 82 may, for example, be a post or ledge located in the endcap 24 to allow the body 22 to traverse into the endcap 24 enough to engage the tabs 72 of the endcap 24 with the aperture of the body 22, and to prevent any further substantial sliding movement of the body 22 relative to the endcaps 24 once the tabs 72 and apertures 70 are engaged. In other exemplary embodiments, the stops 82 may be part of the socket 60, may be part of the outer side 50 of the endcap 24, or may be the outer side 50 itself.

[0037] Once the various components of the self-locking multi-piece shelf 20 have been combined, the user may connect other components such as one or more risers 62 to the self-locking multi-piece shelf 20 to create a shelving system as shown in FIG. 6. More specifically, the shelving system may be purchased separately, or may be purchased as components, wherein the user may purchase the riser and self-locking multi-piece shelf 20 individually. The shelving system may include 8 risers 62 and 3 self-locking multi-piece shelves 20 as shown in FIG. 6, but may be comprised of any number of self-locking multi-piece shelves 20 and risers 62. Furthermore, the shelving system may include other types of risers and shelves (not shown). For example, the risers 62 may include risers of more than one length and the shelves may include, one or other multi-piece shelves, including but not limited to solid one piece shelves, shelves having perforation, shelves having a bin or basket feature, etc.

[0038] The foregoing detailed description has been given for clearness of understanding only and no unnecessary limitations should be understood therefrom, as modifications will be obvious to those skilled in the art.