Title:
Pallet support unit
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A pallet support unit includes a plurality of legs extending outwardly at an angle from a load-bearing upper surface to a floor-contacting lower surface. An opening is defined between each adjacent pair of legs both receiving a forklift. Each leg is formed of multiple angled sections to improve the strength of the leg and resistance to impact from the forklift.



Inventors:
Apps, William P. (Alpharetta, GA, US)
Hassell, Jon P. (Atlanta, GA, US)
Application Number:
10/612348
Publication Date:
01/06/2005
Filing Date:
07/01/2003
Assignee:
APPS WILLIAM P.
HASSELL JON P.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D19/00; B65D19/40; B65D71/00; (IPC1-7): B65D19/38
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
TRAN, HANH VAN
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
CARLSON, GASKEY & OLDS, P.C. (BIRMINGHAM, MI, US)
Claims:
1. A support comprising: an upper member including load-bearing upper surface; a floor-contacting lower member; and a plurality of legs extending from the upper member to the lower member and defining between each adjacent pair of legs an opening for receiving a tine of a forklift, each opening generally defining a plane, each leg including a wall section adjacent one of the openings, the wall section substantially perpendicular to the plane defined by the adjacent opening.

2. The support of claim 1 wherein the lower member includes a peripheral flange connecting a lower end of each of the plurality of legs to one another.

3. The support of claim 1 wherein the wall section is an outer wall sections, each leg including two outer wall sections, each substantially perpendicular to an adjacent opening.

4. The support of claim 3 wherein the wall section further includes at least two inner wall sections, each substantially perpendicular to an adjacent one of the two outer wall sections.

5. A pallet assembly including a plurality of the supports claimed in claim 1 arranged to support a single load, the upper members of the plurality of supports arranged generally in a single plane.

6. The pallet assembly of claim 5 wherein the plurality of supports are spaced apart.

7. The pallet assembly of claim 5 wherein each adjacent pair of the plurality of supports are connected by at least one connector sidewall.

8. The pallet assembly of claim 7 wherein the at least one connector sidewall includes at least two connector sidewalls, each connector sidewall extending continuously from the wall section in one of the plurality of supports to the wall section in an adjacent other one of the plurality of supports.

9. A support comprising: an upper member including load-bearing upper surface; a floor-contacting lower member; and a plurality of legs extending from the upper member to the lower member and defining between each adjacent pair of legs an opening for receiving a tine of a forklift, each leg including at least three connected, at least substantially perpendicular, wall sections.

10. The support of claim 9 wherein the at least three wall sections includes at least four wall sections, each wall section substantially perpendicular to immediately adjacent ones of the at least four wall sections.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

This present invention relates generally to pallets and more particularly to a pallet support unit.

Pallets are used to store and transport goods. Pallets maintain the goods at a distance above the floor such that they can be readily lifted and moved by a forklift. After the goods are unloaded, the empty pallets are typically returned to the first location for reuse.

Plastic pallets are usually lighter than wooden pallets and some plastic pallets are designed to be nestable, such that each pallet at least partially fits within another empty pallet, to minimize the space required for storing and transporting the empty pallets. However, a significant amount of effort and space is still needed to store, return and reuse the pallets.

The use of multiple, plastic supports has been proposed. The disposable plastic support includes a load-bearing upper surface and a floor-contacting lower surface. A plurality of legs extend at an angle outwardly from the upper surface to the lower surface and may include openings for receiving a forklift between each adjacent pair of legs. A plurality of similar or identical supports are then arranged to support the goods at a distance above the floor. These supports may be formed inexpensively enough that they can be used once to transport goods from their origin to destination and then, instead of returning them, they can be recycled. However, the legs of such supports may not be substantial enough to withstand impact from a forklift. Therefore, a pallet support unit with legs with improved impact resistance is desired.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides a pallet support unit comprising a plastic support with improved leg strength, and impact resistance.

The pallet support unit according to the present invention includes legs, each of which comprises multiple angled wallstock to improve impact strength. In a preferred embodiment, each leg includes a plurality of 90 degree angles oriented in alignment with each opening between each adjacent pair of legs. Each leg may include three 90 degree angles forming a generally “W-shaped” cross-section. The leg may further include ribs protruding outwardly from outer surfaces to limit the nesting of stacked supports when not in use.

In another embodiment, a plurality of supports are joined by a plurality of connectors extending therebetween, integrally molded as a single structure. Facing openings of adjacent supports are connected by a pair of side connector walls each formed continuously with one section of a leg. An upper connector wall connects the pair of side connector walls.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Other advantages of the present invention can be understood by reference to the following detailed description when considered in connection with the accompanying drawings wherein:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a first embodiment of the pallet support unit according to the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of one of the support units shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a second embodiment of the pallet support unit according to the present invention.

FIG. 4 is a partial section of an alternative embodiment of assembly 50 shown in FIG. 3.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

FIG. 1 illustrates a pallet support unit 10 supporting a load 12 of layers of goods 13. The pallet support 10 includes a plurality of spaced apart supports 14 generally arranged in a two-by-two matrix. All of the supports 14 are substantially similar, and may be injection molded of high-density polyethylene, or other plastic materials suitable for the application.

FIG. 2 shows one of the support units 14, which has a generally planar upper member 16 having an upper surface 18 that defines a load-bearing surface. A leg 20 extends downwardly at an angle of approximately 115 degrees outwardly from each corner of the upper member 16. The lower ends 22 of the legs 20 are connected by a lower member 24, which is a peripheral flange 24 that extends around the periphery of the support 14 that provides strength to the legs 20 by preventing them from bending or deflecting outwardly, and also allow load to be transferred to the surface below. In one embodiment, defined between each adjacent pair of legs 20, and between the flange 24 and upper member 16, an opening 26 may be provided for receiving forklift tine.

In the support 14 according to the present invention, each leg 20 includes a plurality of transverse wall sections 30a-d. In the preferred embodiment, each of the wall sections 30a-d extends perpendicularly or substantially perpendicularly to each adjacent wall section 30a-d. In order to provide increased resistance to impact from a forklift tine, the outer wall sections 30a and 30d, which are adjacent openings 26, are oriented in a plane perpendicular or substantially perpendicular to a plane defined by the opening 26 (i.e. the plane substantially defined by the outer edges of upper member 16, wall sections 30d, 30a′, and the inner edge of the peripheral flange 24). Each leg 20 further includes an inner wall section 30b, 30c adjacent to and perpendicular to the outer wall sections 30a, 30d, respectively, and perpendicular to one another. The result is a generally “W-shaped” cross-section for each leg 20., At a lower end of each inner wall section 30b, 30c an outwardly extending vertical rib 36 prevents the supports 14 from nesting within one another too tightly when stacked between uses.

In use, the supports 14 are arranged in a spaced-apart arrangement on a floor with the openings 26 of the supports 14 aligned to receive forklift tines. Goods 13 are then stacked on the supports 14 in an arrangement that will depend upon the relative size, weight or density of the goods 13 and the supports, and upon the number of goods 13 to be stacked thereon. One arrangement is illustrated in FIG. 1. In some cases, a sheet of cardboard or other type of slip sheet may be included between the support units 14′ and bottom layer of goods 13 for increased support, and stability. In some cases, it may be desirable to wrap the goods 13 together in plastic or other packaging, or even to wrap or otherwise attach the support units 14 to the load 12 of goods 13.

The load of goods 13 may then be transported to its destination on support units 14, such as by forklift in the event of an impact by the forklift tine with one of the legs 20, the outer wall section 30a or 30d will provide increased strength, impact resistance, and help prevent the collapse of support unit 14. At the destination, the load of goods 13 is unloaded and/or sold and support units 14 can be stored by nesting them, each one within another. In this manner the unused supports 14 occupy a minimal amount of space.

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of a second embodiment of a pallet assembly 50 according to the present invention. In this pallet assembly 50, the four supports 14 are integrally molded as a single, unitary structure with each other and with connectors 52. Each connector 52 includes a pair of connector side walls 54, 56 extending from and continuous with the outer wall sections 30d, 30a that are adjacent the openings 26 (not visible in FIG. 3) facing one another from adjacent supports 14. Each connector 52 further includes an upper connector wall 58 connecting the two connector side walls 54, 56 and continuous and co-planar with the upper members 16 of the supports 14. The upper connector wall 58 may include small openings 60 for drainage, ventilation and to reduce weight and material of the assembly 50. The peripheral flange 24 extends outwardly from the outer connector side wall 54.

FIG. 4 is a partial section of an alternative embodiment of assembly 50 shown in FIG. 3, wherein similar components are designated with like reference numerals having a prime (′) suffix. As shown therein, pallet support assembly 50′ includes pallet support units 14′ having a generally cylindrical cross section in place of the rectangular design of the previous embodiment, such as those disclosed in US Patent Application Publication No. 2003/0047121A1, assigned to the assignee of the present invention and incorporated herein by reference. Units 14′ include an upper section 16′, a lower flange 24′, and having legs 20′ extending therebetween. As in FIG. 3, connectors 52′ extend between laterally adjacent units 14′ to form assembly 50′. Legs 20′ may be corrugated such that they act as springs to assist in absorbing shock or load placed on the unit, to the extent of which depends on the material chosen, the number of corrugations, and the number, size and spacing of legs 20′. Fork truck tines may be received by the openings 26′ defined between the legs 20′. Further, the lower edge 55′ of side wall 54′ may be raised upwardly such that a fork tine could be received under the side wall.

While embodiments of the invention have been illustrated and described, it is not intended that these embodiments illustrate and describe all possible forms of the invention. Rather, the words used in the specification are words of description rather than limitation, and it is understood that various changes may be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention.





 
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