Title:
Stackable shelf
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A modular shelving assembly comprising legs, support members, transverse members, and connectors. Independent modular shelving assemblies can be connected together to form a unit of shelves meeting an individual's needs. The connectors connecting the modular shelving assemblies together provide a tight friction fit between the individual modular shelving assemblies such that there is the added force of a vacuum holding the individual shelves together. Additionally, when a series of individual modular shelving assemblies are not needed, they may be stacked in a nested fashion, thereby taking much less space than the individual shelves, if stacked separately.



Inventors:
Rosen, Frederick K. (Wheaton, IL, US)
Application Number:
10/390213
Publication Date:
09/23/2004
Filing Date:
03/17/2003
Assignee:
ROSEN FREDERICK K.
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
211/188
International Classes:
A47B87/02; A47F5/13; (IPC1-7): A47F5/14
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
SAFAVI, MICHAEL
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Timothy T. Patula (Chicago, IL, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. A modular shelving assembly comprising: a plurality of legs; a plurality of support members, said support members affixed to said legs; a plurality of transverse members, said transverse members affixed to said support members; and a plurality of connectors for holding said legs in close proximity of each other.

2. An assembly of claim 1 wherein the distance between said transverse members is greater than the cross-section of said legs such that a plurality of modular shelving assemblies can be stacked in a nested fashion when said legs are offset.

3. An assembly of claim 1 wherein said connectors are pliable.

4. An assembly of claim 1 wherein: a plurality of said legs is at least three; a plurality of said support members is at least two; a plurality of said transverse members is at least two; and a plurality of said connectors is at least equal the to plurality of said legs.

5. An assembly of claim 1 wherein said legs, support members, and transverse members are coated with a material that will protect the underlying said legs, support members, and transverse members.

6. An assembly of claim 1 wherein: said leg further comprises a top nipple and bottom nipple; and said connector further comprises a top chamber and a bottom chamber, such that a plurality of said modular shelving assemblies can be assembled, comprising the steps of: placing said top nipple of a first leg into said bottom chamber of said connector; placing said bottom nipple of a second leg into said top chamber of same said connector; and displacing air in said connector as distance between said top nipple of said first leg and said bottom nipple of said second leg is decreased, forming a friction, vacuum assisted connection.

7. An assembly of claim 1 wherein: said connector further comprises a top nipple and bottom nipple; and said leg further comprises a top chamber and a bottom chamber, such that a plurality of said modular shelving assemblies can be assembled, comprising the steps of: placing said bottom nipple of said connector into said top chamber of said leg; placing said top nipple of same said connector into said bottom chamber of a second said leg; and displacing air in said legs as distance between said first and second legs is decreased, forming a friction, vacuum assisted connection.

8. An assembly of claim 3 wherein the inside diameter of said connector than the outside diameter of said leg.

9. An assembly of claim 1 wherein: said legs further comprises a male end and a female end, such that a plurality of said modular shelving assemblies can be assembled, comprising the steps of: placing said female end of a first said leg into said male end of a second said leg; and displacing air in said female end as distance between said female and said male end is decreaced, forming a friction, vacuum assisted connection.

10. An assembly of claim 9 wherein: said legs further comprises a male end and a female end, and said connector further comprises a male end and a female end such that a plurality of said modular shelving assemblies can be assembled, comprising the steps of: placing said female end of a first said leg into said male end of said connector; displacing air in said female end of a first said leg as distance between said female end of a first said leg and said male end of said connector is decreased, forming a friction, vacuum assisted connection; placing said male end of a second said leg into said female end of said connector; and displacing air in said female end of said connector as distance between said female end of connector and said male end of a second said leg is decreased, forming a friction, vacuum assisted connection.

Description:
[0001] The present invention relates generally to the field of shelving equipment. More specifically, the present invention relates to stackable shelving units that stack in a nested fashion when not in use, and use high-friction connectors to provide a strong fit between shelving units when stacked.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] Modular arrangement of shelves is common in the shelving industry. With the large number of types of shelves available to customers, manufacturers face tough competition distinguishing their particular shelves from that of their competitors'. Obviously, the manufacturer wishes for his shelf to incorporate unique features that make it more appealing to consumers and retailers.

[0003] When a shelf is sold assembled, it takes up much space. Because retailers have limited space to display items, such as shelving units, the retailer often displays a model of only the most profitable items in his inventory. Sometimes only a picture of an item may be displayed. Some retailers may even relegate items only to their catalog or advertisement.

[0004] Where the item takes up what is considered too much space in inventory, the retailer may not even keep the item in stock. He may order it only at the request of a customer. In this situation, if the customer finds the waiting period for a product unacceptable, the consumer may forego the purchase.

[0005] Shelving units that are unassembled take up much less space and are easier to put on a retailer's floor, and place in inventory. However, the customer may be discouraged from purchasing an unassembled shelving unit where his vision of how the shelving unit will look is based on a graphic representation or picture of the shelving unit that is on a shipping container that he sees at the time of purchase.

[0006] Where a shelving unit can be displayed in its unassembled state, where it takes up much less space in its unassembled state over its assembled state, where it can be envisioned as it will appear when complete, and where it is easy to assemble, it will have a much greater chance of being in stock at the retailer, displayed by the retailer, and purchased by the customer. Nesting serves this purpose.

[0007] There are many designs for assembly of unassembled shelves. One of the easiest is through the use of a simple connector. There are also numerous types of connectors. However, the tradeoff for ease of assembly is often loss of strength. The connection is a weak point. When the shelf is disturbed or toppled, there is a chance for the shelves to disassemble. Even where the connection is tight, disassembly is a possibility without additional forces holding the connected shelf legs together. Therefore, there is a need for a quick and easy to assemble stackable shelving system that will maintain its assembled state, even when toppled, and a connector that provides the required strength. Hence, the present invention provides not only a friction-fitted connector, but also a connection that is reinforced by a vacuum.

[0008] U.S. Pat. No. 4,444,320 to Chap, issued on Apr. 24, 1984, discloses a stackable shelf unit. A portion of the legs of the shelf unit is offset so that the legs may engage the shelf below it. Because there is no connector as in the present invention, the legs of the upper shelf unit may slide past the lower shelf unit if there is too much weight added to an upper shelf unit or if the upper shelf is not properly aligned. In addition, because there is no connector where the upper and lower shelves are rigidly connected, the shelve may disengage if bumped or knocked over.

[0009] U.S. Pat. No. 4,155,311 to Jackovin, issued on May 22, 1979, discloses a stackable modular shelf apparatus. A series of individual rectangular frames are connected by clips to form the actual frame of the shelf. In addition, the clips are used to hold into place the unit's horizontal surface. However, unlike the '311 patent, where the frame of the modular shelf apparatus must be assembled before individual units can be modularly connected, each unit of the present invention is presented as a single shelf unit. In addition, these shelves cannot be stacked in a manner such that they can be displaced while taking less room than an assembled shelf. Also, the connector is not reinforced by a vacuum to provide additional strength and prevent undesired disassembly.

[0010] U.S. Pat. No. 4,117,783 to Eckel, issued on Oct. 3, 1978, discloses a module storage unit. Each of the modules is of a frame that has open sides, front, bottom and top. The corner of the frames has openings. The frames are connected with a series of studs through the openings in the corner of the frames. However, unlike the present invention, the modules described in the '783 invention do not have an actual shelf to place objects on. It is a frame that still requires a horizontal shelf to place objects. In addition, the construction of the '783 invention requires connection through the use of studs. The present invention requires interconnection through a tube-type or male/female-type connector arrangement.

[0011] U.S. Pat. No. 6,230,909 to Suter, issued on May 15, 2001, discloses a modular shelving assembly. Each of the modules is a U-shape base unit. The base units can be placed so that they overlap and are staggered, thereby forming different size and shapes of the modular shelving assembly. Interconnection between the base units is via pins. The present invention does not use pins. The present invention shelves are interconnected via tubing that decreases chance of accidental disassembly with a vacuum. In addition, the '909 patent does not allow for easy stacking and storage of the of the assembly when stored.

[0012] U.S. Pat. No. 6,260,448 to Yang, issued on Jul. 17, 2001, discloses a modular shelving assembly. In the '448 patent the shelves are assembled by a series of pins. The pins can be locked into place making the unit more stable. Also, the legs and shelves are separate devices, whereas in the present invention the legs and shelves are a single unit. Therefore, assembly is required to build each module of the '448 patent. However, in the present invention, each shelving unit is assembled, making assembly of a series of shelves much quicker and easier. Also, the present invention uses tubing, instead of pins, to interconnect the shelving units.

[0013] U.S. Pat. No. 3,115,106 to Gersch, issued on Dec. 24, 1963, discloses a modular display rack. The racks are vertically interconnected via sockets. The bottoms of the legs of one rack are placed in the sockets of the rack below it. In the present invention, the tubing that is used to connect the shelves is only present when there is a desire to connect the shelves vertically. The tubing is not permanently affixed to the shelving. It may be used as required. Also, assembly is required for each rack in the '106 patent. Therefore, the rack cannot be easily disassembled and reassembled when use is required. In addition, the rack of the '106 patent can not be interconnected when inverted, whereas the shelf in the present invention can be interconnected to form a different arrangement.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0014] The present invention presents a device and method for stacking shelves to a desired arrangement. The shelving unit may be packaged in a nested configuration at the manufacturing plant in such a way that it takes up a small portion of the space that would be needed if it were assembled; making shipping, storage and displaying of the shelving unit easier and less costly. In addition, when packaged, it can be packaged such that a customer can ascertain how it will appear when assembled, and the amount of skill that will be required for assembly. After purchase, the present invention maintains its desired feature of ease of assembly/disassembly for required use, and minimal space for storage of the shelving unit when it is not needed.

[0015] The shelving units are easily stored in a small area when unassembled. The shelving units can be assembled through the use of a chambered connector tube where the top nipple of the leg of one shelving unit is inserted into one chambered end of the tubing. The bottom nipple of the leg of another shelving unit is inserted into the opposing chambered end of the tubing. In addition, the shelving unit may be coated in a material such that when the shelf legs are inserted in each end of the tubing, a vacuum is formed to prevent the shelf legs from accidentally being removed from the tubing. Also, the connection between the shelving units may be such that the shelf legs are designed as female connections and the connector is the male connector that is inserted into the shelf legs to connect two shelving units together, or a variation where the tops of the shelf legs are male ends and the bottoms are female, and vice versa. The connection may be assisted by a tube-type connector.

[0016] An object of the present invention is to provide a shelving unit that can easily be packaged such that it takes up a portion of the space that it would require if it were assembled.

[0017] Another object of the invention is to provide readily available shelves that occupy a small area when unassembled in a nested configuration for storage and shipping.

[0018] Another object of the invention is to provide a shelving unit where the method of assembly is easily ascertained with basic instructions.

[0019] Yet another object of the invention is to provide a shelving unit that projects how the unit will appear when assembled by viewing it in its unassembled state.

[0020] Another object of the invention is to provide a design where the connector not only provides a friction fitting, but also provides a fitting that is reinforced with a vacuum.

[0021] Still another object of the present invention is to provide a design where that shelving unit can be assembled in a unique configuration to meet the user's requirements.

[0022] Numerous other objects, features and advantages of the present invention will become readily apparent through the detailed description of the preferred embodiment, drawings and the claims.

DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0023] A preferred embodiment of the present invention is described herein with reference to the drawing wherein:

[0024] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the instant invention as a single stackable shelf with connectors;

[0025] FIG. 2 is a top elevation view of the instant invention shelf with connectors;

[0026] FIG. 3 is a bottom elevation view of the instant invention shelf with connectors;

[0027] FIG. 4 is a front elevation view of the instant invention shelf with connectors;

[0028] FIG. 5 is a side elevation view of the instant invention shelf with connectors;

[0029] FIG. 6 is a sectional view of the connector and posts;

[0030] FIG. 7 is a perspective view of the instant invention in an assembled state; and

[0031] FIG. 8 is a perspective view of the instant invention unassembled and in a nested stackable configuration.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

[0032] While the invention is susceptible of various modifications and alternative constructions, certain illustrated embodiments shown in the drawings 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, but on the contrary, the invention is to cover all modifications, alternatives constructions and equivalents falling within the spirit and scope of the invention.

[0033] Referring to FIG. 1, a perspective view of the instant invention, a preferred embodiment of the present invention 10, consists of a shelf unit 30 and a connection device 80.

[0034] Referring to FIGS. 2-5, the shelf unit consists of at least three legs 40, at least two support members 50, and a plurality of transverse members 60. A support member 50 is connected to at least two legs 40. The placement at which the support member 50 and leg 40 is connected on the leg 40 and along the support member 50 is determined by the designed use of the particular product. While not limiting to a specific use, where the particular design desire is to store items under the shelf, the support member 50 may connected to the leg 40 relatively high up the leg 40. Whereas, where the particular design desire is to store heavy items that need to be off the floor and total height of an assembled shelving unit is limited, the support member 50 may be connected to the leg 40 relatively low down the leg 40. Finally, different heights of support members 50 on individual shelf units 30 can be used to meet unique requirements as determined by the producer.

[0035] A transverse member 60 is connected to at least two support members 50. The placement at which the transverse member 60 and support member 50 are connected along the transverse member 60 and along the support member 50 is determined by the designed use of the particular product. While not limiting to a specific use, particular design desire may require overhang of either a transverse member 60 or a support member 50, or both. Also, the number of transverse members 60 and support members 50 may change depending on other design requirements.

[0036] The shape of the shelf units 30, need not be square or rectangular, but may be any shape meeting a particular design desire, such as circular, triangular or other shapes. In addition, the shelf units 30 is not limited to the horizontal plane, but may also be at an angle to meet unique design requirements.

[0037] Referring to FIG. 6, each leg 40 has a top nipple 42 and a bottom nipple 44 where a connector 80 can connect the top nipple 42 from one leg 40 to the bottom nipple 44 of another leg 40 for assembly of multiple shelf units. The inside diameter of the connector 80 is slightly smaller that the outside diameter of a top nipple 42 and a bottom nipple 44. Since the connector 80 is made of a pliable material, the connector 80 will stretch to provide a tight friction fit over the top nipple 42 and the bottom nipple 44. However, the fit is not so tight as to prevent air from escaping when displaced by the top nipple 42 and the bottom nipple 44. Therefore, once the top nipple 42 and the bottom nipple 44 are placed in the connector 80, a vacuum is formed if the distance between the top nipple 42 and the bottom nipple 44 is increased, hence, forming a vacuum-assisted connection to maintain the strength of the connection. The further the top nipple 42 and the bottom nipple 44 are separated in the connector 80, the stronger the vacuum becomes. The legs 40 may be also coated with a material that will maintain the vacuum and protect the underlying frame.

[0038] Referring to FIG. 7, the present invention is shown in an arrangement where several units are stacked on top of one another through connectors 80. However, it should be understood that a vertical arrangement is by no means the only possibility. Two units may be on the bottom with a single unit stacked on top, between the two bottom units. Hence, there are many unique variations and arrangements that may be achieved.

[0039] Referring to FIG. 8, the present invention is shown in a packaging, shipping, or storage configuration. Here, the legs 40 of the present invention can be placed offset from the legs 40 of another of the present invention such that several of the present inventions can be nested together to minimize space.