Title:
Shelf assembly display jacket
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A rack jacket is disclosed. The rack jacket comprises a support member portion for covering an external surface of at least one of a plurality of support members, and a cross brace portion, for covering an external surface of at least one cross brace disposed between at least two of the vertical support member. The rack jacket is sized and shaped to conform to an exterior surface of the rack.



Inventors:
Czerwinski, David J. (Thousand Oaks, CA, US)
Application Number:
10/986979
Publication Date:
05/26/2005
Filing Date:
11/12/2004
Assignee:
E-Z Shipper Racks, Inc.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47B47/00; A47F5/10; (IPC1-7): A47F5/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
SAFAVI, MICHAEL
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
GATES & COOPER LLP (General) (LOS ANGELES, CA, US)
Claims:
1. A jacket for adorning a rack having a plurality of support members and at least one cross brace disposed between two of the plurality of support members, the jacket comprising: a support member portion, for covering an external surface of at least one of the plurality of vertical support members; and a cross-brace portion, for covering an external surface of at least one of the plurality of cross braces; wherein the jacket is sized and shaped to conform to an exterior surface of the rack system.

2. The jacket of claim 1, further comprising a second support member portion and a second cross-brace portion.

3. The jacket of claim 1, further comprising a display portion disposed between the support member portions and the cross-brace portions.

4. The jacket of claim 3, wherein the display portion is defined by a punch-out portion formed by a plurality of incisions disposed between the support member portions and the display portion and between the cross-brace portions and the display portion.

5. The jacket of claim 4, wherein the display portion, the support member portions and the cross-brace portions ate formed from a single sheet of material.

6. The jacket of claim 1, wherein the plurality of incisions are disposed along less than a perimeter of the display portion, thereby defining a door having a hinge where the incisions are not disposed.

7. The jacket of claim 1, wherein: the rack system accepts a pallet disposed between the plurality of vertical support members, the pallet having a slot; and wherein the apparatus further comprises a slot portion disposed adjacent the slot, to permit insertion of tangs therethrough.

8. The jacket of claim 7, wherein the slot portion is defined by a slot punch out portion formed by a second plurality of incisions.

9. The jacket of claim 8, wherein the slot portion forms a slot door.

10. The jacket of claim 1, wherein an exterior surface of the rack jacket includes display information.

11. The jacket of claim 1, wherein at least one of the support member portions comprises an extension.

12. The jacket of claim 11, wherein the at least one extension comprises a plurality of sections, disposed about an exterior surface of at least one of the support members.

13. The jacket of claim 12, wherein at least one of the sections comprises a surface feature interlocking with a surface feature of at least one of the other sections, thereby affixing the at least one extension to the at least one of the support members.

14. The jacket of claim 13, wherein the at least one extension is removably affixed to the at least one of the support members.

15. A cap for adorning a rack having a plurality of support members and at least one cross brace disposed between two support members, the jacket comprising: a perimeter surface, sized and shaped for insertion over the plurality of support members, the perimeter surface having a horizontal surface disposed adjacent a top of one of the support members; and a display surface, coupled to the perimeter surface.

16. A method of packaging items for transportation, comprising the steps of: assembling a rack comprising a plurality of support members, a pallet disposed between the plurality of support members, at least one cross brace disposed between two of the plurality of support members; placing the items between the plurality of support members; and placing a jacket around the rack.

17. The method of claim 16, wherein the items are placed on a surface disposed between the plurality of support members.

18. The method of claim 16, wherein the step of placing the jacket around the rack comprises the step of assembling the jacket and sliding the assembled jacket over the rack.

19. The method of claim 16, wherein the step of placing the jacket around the rack comprises the step of assembling the jacket around the rack.

20. The method of claim 16, further comprising the step of placing a cap on a top of the rack.

21. The method of claim 16, wherein the jacket comprises a plurality of support member portions and a plurality of cross brace portions, and a plurality of display portions disposed between the plurality of support member portions and cross brace portions.

22. The method of claim 21, wherein: the display portions are defined by punched out portions formed by a plurality of incisions disposed between the support member portions and the display portions; and the method further comprises the steps of receiving the rack; moving the rack to a display location; and punching out at least one of the defined punch out portions to expose the items.

23. A rack jacket comprising: a support member portion for covering an external surface of at least one of a plurality of support members; and a cross brace portion, for covering an external surface of at least one cross brace disposed between at least two of the vertical support member; wherein the jacket is sized and shaped to conform to an exterior surface of the rack.

24. The rack jacket of claim 23, wherein an exterior surface of the rack jacket includes display information.

25. The rack jacket of claim 23, wherein at least one of the support member portions comprises an extension.

26. The rack jacket of claim 25, wherein the at least one extension comprises a plurality of sections, disposed about an exterior surface of at least one of the support members.

27. The rack jacket of claim 26, wherein at least one of the sections comprises a surface feature interlocking with a surface feature of at least one of the other sections, thereby affixing the at least one extension to the at least one of the support members.

28. The rack jacket of claim 27, wherein the at least one extension is removably affixed to the at least one of the support members.

29. A rack jacket, comprising: a peripheral portion sized and shaped to fit around and atop a plurality of rack support members; and a horizontal surface coupled to the peripheral portion, for preventing the peripheral portion from sliding down the plurality of rack support members.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/519,404, for “SHELF ASSEMBLY DISPLAY JACKET,” by David J. Czerwinski, filed Nov. 12, 2003.

This application is also related to the following U.S. Patent Applications, each of which applications are hereby incorporated by reference herein:

U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/388,860, filed Mar. 14, 2003, for “MODULAR LOW COST PALLET AND SHELF ASSEMBLY,” by Jeffrey Salmanson and Jon R. Dickey, which is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/829,589, filed Apr. 9, 2001, for “MODULAR LOW COST PALLET AND SHELF ASSEMBLY,” by Jeffrey Salmanson and Jon R. Dickey, now U.S. Pat. No. 6,609,466, issued Aug. 26, 2003, which is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/358,285, filed Jul. 21, 1999, for “MODULAR LOW COST PALLET AND SHELF ASSEMBLY,” by Jeffrey Salmanson and Jon R. Dickey, now issued as U.S. Pat. No. 6,244,194, which is a continuation of application Ser. No. 09/081,411, filed May 19, 1998, for “MODULAR LOW COST PALLET AND SHELF ASSEMBLY,” by Jeffrey Salmanson and Jon R. Dickey, now U.S. Pat. No. 5,979,338, issued Nov. 9, 1999, which claim benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/046,883, filed May 23, 1997 by Jeffrey Salmanson and Jon R. Dickey, and entitled “MODULAR PALLET AND SHELF ASSEMBLY USING CONVENTIONAL HARDWARE,” and U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/062,754, filed Oct. 23, 1997 by Jeffrey Salmanson and Jon R. Dickey, and entitled “MODULAR LOW COST SHELF ASSEMBLY,” all of which applications are hereby incorporated by reference herein.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of Invention

The present invention relates generally to shipping and retail display devices and more particularly to a display jacket that is usable with rack systems.

2. Description of Related Art

Products shipped from the manufacturer or producer are often shipped to the retailers in corrugated boxes. Typically, these boxes are loaded onto wooden pallets, lifted with a forklift onto a shipping container, and unloaded into the container for transportation to the retail outlet. When the goods arrive at the retail outlet, the corrugated boxes are removed from the shipping container, loaded onto pallets, moved to the retail display location or storage using a forklift or similar device. The products are then removed from the corrugated boxes, and placed on retail display.

There are several problems associated with the aforementioned procedures. Unloading and loading the corrugated boxes is a labor-intensive procedure, often resulting in damage to the products and/or the corrugated boxes. It is also common for the products to be damaged when the corrugated boxes (which are typically stacked during storage and transportation) collapse.

Another problem with these procedures is that the corrugated boxes are not generally reusable, and must be broken down and disposed of by the retail outlets. Alternative wood racking systems, such as those employed in nurseries, do not solve this problem. These racking systems are also difficult to transport, require labor intensive procedures to unload transported products and display them at a retail level, and cannot be broken down easily at the retail outlet. These devices are also typically held together with nails, which further complicate their disassembly and storage, and make any return to the manufacturer generally unprofitable.

Modular rack systems, such as those described herein and in the related patent applications described above, have shown themselves to solve the foregoing problems. Such rack systems can be used for both transport and display of the products. However, the appearance of the rack systems may be unsuitable for some applications. Further, since the rack system is designed to be easily broken down and used for a wide variety of applications, such rack systems typically do not include provisions for making an attractive retail-level display.

What is needed is an apparatus and method for modifying the appearance of rack systems and other transport and/or product display systems to make them more attractive for retail-level marketing and sales. The present invention satisfies this need.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

As the foregoing indicates, there is a need for efficient transportation of products from the manufacturer or producer to retail display. The present invention satisfies that need.

The present invention discloses a “jacket” or sleeve that configured to be applied over transport and/or display systems such as rack/shelving systems, converting the rack to esthetically impactful point-of-purchase displays that that rival or exceed the appearance of traditional corrugate displays currently used in retail establishments. This system has advantages over such prior art systems, including superior strength, rigidity, durability, volume capacity (for heavy products, the majority of the corrugate used in a point of purchase display consists of hidden structural pieces), mobility, stackability, and recoverability (the disclosed system uses up to 80% less corrugate thus reducing disposal cost).

The rack jacket can be cut to fit any size rack and shelf configuration, preferably using die-cutting techniques. Storage areas, useful for storing restock items can be created inside the jacket and rack system by blocking out (not die-cutting) selected sides adjacent the lower shelf area of the rack or, if the sides are die-cut, by leaving the sides in place (not punching them out). The rack jacket need not cover the entire rack. The rack jacket is designed to attach to just the top of the rack unit or to other portions.

Assembly of the rack jacket is simple. It can be accomplished by simply sliding the jacket directly over an assembled rack. Die cut tabs fold over the corner posts securing the unit to the rack without need for any additional mechanical devices. Alternatively, the jacket can be assembled by wrapping it around the jacket, and thereafter securing it using tabs or external devices such as staples. Also, the bottom sections can be die cut to provide forklift and pallet jack access. This makes the loaded display easy to move while at the same time hiding the pallet itself.

Used with an appropriate rack, the rack jacket can take the place of a wide variety of retail displays. The rack jacket could be used with any rack, regardless of it's structural material (e.g. steel, aluminum, plastic, or wood), and with or without a pallet. The rack jacket is also especially well suited to permanent displays, because the outward appearance of the rack can be changed dramatically, simply by removing one rack jacket and attaching another. The rack jacket can also be made from a wide variety of materials, including cardboard, corrugated box material, fiberglass, compressed particle board, Formica, plastic, (or) foam board, or light weight plastic poly film or TYVEC type materials. The material used need not be structural in nature as the underlying rack assembly supports 100% of the weight of the product shipped and or displayed on the unit.

One embodiment of the invention can therefore be described by a jacket for adorning a rack having a plurality of support members and at least one cross brace disposed between two of the plurality of support members. The jacket comprises a support member portion, for covering an external surface of at least one of the plurality of vertical support members and a cross-brace portion, for covering an external surface of at least one of the plurality of cross braces. The jacket is sized and shaped to conform to an exterior surface of the rack system. In another embodiment, the invention can be described as a method of packaging items for transportation. The method comprises the steps of assembling a rack comprising a plurality of support members, a pallet disposed between the plurality of support members, at least one cross brace disposed between two of the plurality of support members; placing the items between the plurality of support members; and placing a jacket around the rack.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Referring now to the drawings in which like reference numbers represent corresponding parts throughout:

Referring now to the drawings in which like reference numbers represent corresponding parts throughout:

FIG. 1 presents a perspective view of the one embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2A presents a view of one embodiment of the present invention, illustrating a coupling between the pallet and the shelving;

FIG. 2B presents a close up view of the relationship between the tabs and the keyhole apertures in one embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 3 presents a side view of one embodiment of the present invention, illustrating the pallet and vertical support members;

FIG. 4 presents a perspective view of an embodiment of the present invention using cleats;

FIG. 5 presents a close up view of one embodiment of the present invention, illustrating a coupling between the pallet and vertical support members;

FIG. 6 presents a side view of one embodiment of the present invention, illustrating the use of cleats to couple the pallet and the vertical support members;

FIG. 7 presents a diagram of the cleats used in one embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 8A presents a perspective view of another embodiment of the present invention illustrating a segmented design suitable for smaller merchandising units-.;

FIG. 8B presents a section view of the coupling between the segments shown in FIG. 8A;

FIG. 9A presents a side view illustrating the use of an inverted keyhole aperture configuration;

FIG. 9B presents a top view illustrating the use of an inverted keyhole aperture configuration;

FIG. 10 presents a perspective view of an embodiment using the inverted keyhole aperture configuration;

FIG. 11 presents a top view of another embodiment of the present invention using the inverted keyhole apertures;

FIG. 12A presents a top view of another embodiment of the present invention showing an alternative arrangement for the pallet securing members;

FIG. 12B presents a side view of another embodiment of the present invention showing an alternative arrangement for the pallet securing members;

FIG. 13 presents a perspective view of another embodiment of the present invention showing an alternative arrangement for the pallet securing members;

FIG. 14 presents a side view of another embodiment of the present invention showing the use of double-sided keyhole apertures;

FIG. 15 presents a side view of another embodiment of the present invention showing the use of a strengthening segment in the vertical support member;

FIG. 16 presents a side view of another embodiment of the present invention showing the use of fewer keyhole apertures;

FIG. 17 is a flow chart depicting the assembly of one embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 18A presents a representation of a rack and a rack jacket, side by side;

FIG. 18B is a diagram showing one embodiment of the rack jacket;

FIG. 18C is a diagram showing a second embodiment of the rack jacket;

FIG. 18D is a diagram showing a third embodiment of the rack jacket;

FIG. 18E is a diagram showing a fourth embodiment of the rack jacket;

FIG. 19 presents a representation of a rack jacket being affixed to the rack from above;

FIG. 20 presents a representation of a rack and a rack jacket, illustrating details of the attachment of the rack jacket to the vertical posts;

FIG. 21 presents a representation of a rack jacket installed on a rack;

FIG. 22 presents a representation of the rack jacket using a die-cut cutout to provide a surface for additional advertising;

FIG. 23 presents a representation of a rack jacket installed on a rack, illustrating cutouts to allow insertion of the tangs of a forklift or a pallet jack to transport or lift the rack and rack jacket;

FIG. 24 presents a representation showing a perspective view of the rack and rack jacket illustrated in FIG. 23; and

FIG. 25 presents a representation showing a rack jacket mounted to a top portion of a rack.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

In the following description of the preferred embodiment, reference is made to the accompanying drawings which form a part hereof, and in which is shown by way of illustration a specific embodiment in which the invention may be practiced. It is understood that other embodiments may be utilized and structural changes may be made without departing from the scope of the present invention.

FIG. 1 presents a perspective view of one embodiment of the present invention. The invention comprises a plurality of vertical support members 100 (which may be “corner posts” having an “L” shaped cross section), which are arranged so as to accept a pallet 102 therebetween. In one embodiment, the pallet 102 is a common two-way wood pallet, which accepts forklift tongues in slots on the front and rear of the pallet 102. In an alternative embodiment, a four-way pallet may be used. The four-way pallet comprises additional slots on opposite sides of the pallet to accept forklift tongues, thus allowing the pallet to be lifted by a forklift from any side. The design of the pallet 102 can be changed to accommodate different loads, with heavier-duty construction pallets 102 employed for maximum strength applications. Each vertical support member 100 comprises a plurality of keyhole shaped apertures 108 disposed on the right angle portions of the vertical support members 100. In one embodiment, the vertical support members 100 are commonly available angle posts that are 84 inches in length.

The present invention also comprises a plurality of cross braces 104, (which may also be L-shaped) that are affixed to the vertical support members 100. Each cross brace 104 comprises a right angle portion and a number of cross brace tabs 109, each of which is small enough to be inserted into the larger portion of the keyhole shaped aperture 108, yet large enough to be retained by the smaller portion of the keyhole shaped aperture 108. When a plurality of braces 104 are so coupled with the vertical cross members 100, the right angle portion (which comprises the lower portion of and “L” when viewed from the side) of the brace 104 forms a horizontal surface, upon which a planar surface 106 is placed. Planar surface 106 is sized so as to be inserted between all four vertical support members 100 and larger than the aperture formed by the braces 104 extending between the vertical support members. Accordingly, the braces 104 serve to support the planar surface 106. The planar surface 106 can be comprised of particle board, oriented strand board (OSB), plastic, metal, or other material. Planar surface 106 may also be molded to conform to the product.

In one embodiment, the braces 104 are commonly available double rivet beams. The size of the braces 104 is selected in accordance with the desired dimensions of the finished assembly, as is the pallet 102 size. In a typical arrangement, two of the braces 104 are 48 inches in length, and two are 42 inches in length. The number of braces 104 used in the assembly is also determined by the number of desired shelves of the finished product. For example, a four-shelf unit would require eight 48 inch braces 104 and eight 42 inch braces, whereas a five-shelf unit wood require ten 48 inch braces and ten 42 inch braces.

Since four braces 104 are not required to hold the planar surfaces 106, it is also possible to use only two braces per shelf level, in a staggered relationship. For example, the first level can use two 48 inch braces 104, the next, two 42 inch braces 104, and so on. This configuration is nominally not as strong, but is lower in cost, and suitable for many applications.

FIG. 2A presents a close up view of one embodiment of the present invention, illustrating the relationship between the pallet 102 and the vertical support members 100. In this embodiment, pallet securing members 118 are utilized to releasably accept and secure the pallet 102 in place between the vertical support members 100 and below the pallet securing members 118, and to bear the weight of the racking system when lifted by a fork lift or pallet jack. Strength considerations determine the number of pallet securing members required to secure the pallet 102. Typically, either two or four pallet-securing members 118 are used.

FIG. 2B presents a detailed view of the embodiment shown in FIG. 2. Keyhole apertures 108 each comprise a first aperture segment 107 and a second aperture segment 109, which is smaller in cross section than the first aperture segment 107. Tab heads 110A are smaller than the first aperture segment 107, yet larger than the second aperture segment 109. Hence, when tab heads 110A are inserted into the first aperture segment 107 and moved laterally, the tab 110 is affixed within the aperture 108.

The pallet 102 comprises a plurality of bottom members 112 and support members 114, both of which are affixed to a pallet cross member 116. In one embodiment, the vertical support members 100 are affixed to the pallet 102 by inserting one or more wood screws 124 (such as lag screws) of suitable length and diametric cross section through the appropriate keyhole apertures 108 and into the pallet 102.

In another embodiment, a number of pallet-securing members 118 are employed. These pallet-securing members 118 comprise one or more pallet-securing member tabs 110 which are inserted into the keyhole apertures 108 of the vertical support members 100. Ordinarily, the pallet-securing member tabs 110 are of the same design as the cross member tabs 109. However, since the pallet-securing member tabs 110 must bear greater weight and shear force, these tabs may be suitably reinforced or made of stronger material, if necessary.

In one embodiment, the securing members 118 are cross braces 104, but inverted so that an interior-facing surface 120 is disposed above the vertical surface 122. This places an interior-facing securing surface 120 over the top of the pallet 102, and in particular, the pallet support members 114. In this configuration, the pallet 102 is restrained between the vertical support members 100 and below the interior-facing surfaces 120. Pallet securing member tabs 110 on the support members 118 are inserted into the larger opening of the keyhole tabs 108. The support members 118 transfer the weight of the assembly to the metal structure, rather than the pallet 102.

The pallet support members 118 and vertical support members 100 may optionally be affixed to the pallet 102 with a suitably sized fastening device 124 such as a wood screw or lag bolt. The fastening device 124 should comprise a head larger than any dimension of the keyhole aperture 108. This assures that the components are securely fastened together. One-quarter inch lag bolts of 1-¼ inch length are suitable for this purpose. If necessary, a suitably placed hole or aperture may be drilled through the pallet 102 before the bolt is inserted and thereafter secured with a nut or other means.

The tabs 110 comprise a head portion 110A and a shank portion 110B. The head 110A is a smaller diameter than the larger portion of the keyhole apertures 108, to allow insertion therein. In one embodiment, the upper portion of the inner surface of the keyhole aperture 108 and the tab shank 110B are in contact, thus causing the tab head 110A to extend beyond the keyhole aperture 108. This provides additional strength to prevent the vertical support members 100 from extending away from the support brace 118. In another embodiment, the head size of the fastening device 124 is selected to be close to or contact the tab to minimize this possibility. In still another embodiment, the support brace 118 comprises two or more tabs 110, and each tab is inserted into its corresponding keyhole aperture 108. For additional strength, all of these couplings may be further secured by additional fastening devices 124, if desired.

FIG. 3 presents a front view of one embodiment of the invention showing another view of the coupling between the pallet and vertical support members.

FIG. 4 presents another embodiment of the present invention, where pallet securing members 118 comprise one or more cleats 126, including a left cleat 126A and a right cleat 126B.

FIG. 5 presents a close-up view of the employment of the cleats 126 in the present invention. Nominally, each cleat 126 is L-shaped in cross-section, and comprises one or more cleat tabs 111 on one outer surface, and one or more keyhole-shaped apertures 108 on the other outer surface. In one embodiment, the cleat 126 is affixed to the pallet 102 by one or more fastening devices 128 inserted through the keyhole aperture 108 in the cleat. The fastening device 128 can be a wood screw of suitable dimension or other fastening means. Optionally, vertical support member 100 can be further secured to the pallet by one or more additional fastening devices 130. Cleat tab 111 extends within a keyhole aperture 108, and may be secured with an additional fastening device as described herein.

FIG. 6 presents a side view of the embodiment shown in FIGS. 4 and 5.

FIG. 7 is an illustration showing the two types of cleats employed in the embodiments shown in FIGS. 4 and 5. Left cleats 126A (depicted in FIG. 5), and right cleats 126B are employed. Nominally, a total of four cleats 126 (two left cleats 126A, and two right cleats 126B) are used.

Nominally, four vertical support members 100 are employed in the present invention, one at each corner of the pallet 102. In alternative embodiments, the present invention can comprise additional vertical support members 100 for additional bracing. Nominally, these additional vertical support members 100 will be flat, and not L-shaped, so as to be easily affixed to the cross members 104, but the present invention can accommodate a wide variety of vertical support member shapes with modification. These additional vertical support members 100 may be affixed to the pallet, but need not be so. Further, if exceptional rigidity is required, the additional cross bracing may be employed in either the pallet 102 structure, the metal between vertical support members 100, or both.

FIG. 8A presents perspective view of another embodiment of the present invention illustrating a segmented design in which the assembly comprises two rigid, yet easily separable sections which can be separated to form smaller shelving units for separate transport or for display and merchandising of products. In this embodiment, the vertical support members 100 comprise bottom vertical support members 100A and top vertical support members 100B, both of which are of generally shorter length than the vertical support members 100 previously described herein. The lower portion of the bottom vertical support members 100A are secured to a first pallet 102A using the techniques and structures described earlier in this disclosure.

A plurality of cross braces 104 are coupled to the vertical support members 100. Cross braces 104A are coupled to the vertical support members 100 to form an aperture for inserting planar surfaces 106 a right angle shelf portion on which supports the planar surfaces 106, as previously described and illustrated. Pallet support members 105 are inserted between the lower vertical support members 100A at the topmost position in an inverted “L” configuration, with the right angle portion disposed above or below the vertical portion. So disposed, the right angle portions of the pallet support members 104B form a shelf or cavity which supports a second pallet 102B, which, if desired, may be secured to the assembly using lag screws 130 or similar fastening devices inserted through apertures in the right angle portions of the cross braces 104B. Upper vertical support members 100B and second pallet securing members such as the cleats 126 described earlier are then secured to the upper pallet 102B using the structures and methods previously described to secure the shelving to the pallet 102, using either cleats 126, pallet securing members 118, or inverted cross braces 104.

FIG. 8B presents a side view of the structures shown in FIG. 8A.

FIG. 9A presents a side view of another embodiment of the present invention illustrating the use of a unique keyhole aperture 108 configuration. In this embodiment, the vertical support member 100 comprises two sets of keyhole apertures 108, a first set 121 comprising one or more keyhole apertures 108A facing in a first direction, and a second set 123 comprising one or more keyhole apertures 108B facing in a second direction substantially inverted from that of the first set of keyhole apertures 108A. For purposes of clarity, keyhole apertures 108A will be referred to henceforth as downward facing keyhole apertures, and keyhole apertures 108B will be referred to as upward facing keyhole apertures. This embodiment also shows another alternative for the pallet securing members 118. Here, one or more right angle support members 140, having one or more right angle support member tabs 113 of suitable size for insertion into the upward facing keyhole apertures 108B are utilized. The right angle support members 140 are disposed adjacent to the vertical support members 100 in a fitting relationship and affixed to the vertical support members by inserting tabs 113 in the upward facing keyhole apertures 108B, and applying suitable force in a direction towards the upward facing keyhole aperture 108B smaller portion.

When the foregoing elements are arranged as described above, a pallet 102 can be inserted in the space formed by the vertical support members 100 to allow the entire assembly to be lifted and moved with a forklift or other similar device. Lifting forces from the pallet 102 are then borne by the right angle support members 140, right angle support member tabs 113, and upward facing keyhole aperture 118B smaller portions, structural elements which are well suited to support considerable weight. This embodiment may also be practiced with the use of pallet securing members 118 or cleats 126 in the place of right angle support member 140. This embodiment also obviates the need for the insertion or removal of pallet securing devices 124, speeding assembly and disassembly.

FIG. 9B presents a top view of the embodiments shown in FIG. 9A.

FIG. 10 shows a perspective view of the foregoing embodiment of the present invention. Safety devices, such as clips or right angle bolts 142 can be inserted into keyhole apertures 108. In the event of a tab 110 failure, these safety devices serve to restrict excessive motion of structures that were supported by the failed tab 110. In the illustrated embodiment, right angle bolt 142 is inserted into keyhole aperture 108A. The right angle bolt 142 comprises a head structure 144 which prevents passage through the keyhole aperture 108, and preferably, a shank structure 146 that is smaller in cross section than the smaller portion of the keyhole aperture 108. In one embodiment, shank structure 146 is of sufficient length and/or mass to assure that the right angle bolt 142 is balanced so as to remain in the keyhole aperture 108 after insertion. If necessary, the safety device may be locked or secured into the keyhole apertures by bolts, clips, pins, or other means.

Friction between the tabs 110 and the upward facing keyhole apertures 108B as well as friction between the right angle support members 140 and the vertical support members 100 are generally sufficient to retain the tabs 113 in the smaller portion of the keyhole aperture 108B. However, if desired, vertical support member 100 and right angle support member 140 may also comprise interconnecting fastening means. Such fastening means can feature, for example, one or more shear apertures 150 in each structure adjacently disposed on assembly, thus allowing the insertion of a pin, nail, or other device 152 after assembly to restrict the apertures from sliding relative to one another. Similarly, if desired, the right angle support member 140 and pallet 102 can be affirmatively secured to the vertical support member 100 by means of a wood screw, nail, bolt or other securing device 144 inserted through the upward facing keyhole aperture 108B larger portion.

FIG. 11 presents a diagram illustrating another embodiment of the present invention. In this embodiment, a simple cleat 126 is used in place of the right angle support member 126. If additional strength is desired, a second cleat can be disposed at a right angle to and lapped on top of the illustrated cleat so that the cleat tabs 111 from the second cleat are disposed through the upward facing keyhole apertures 108A in the vertical support member 100. If necessary, the location of the upward facing keyhole apertures 108A presented to the cleat tabs 111 of the second cleat can be adjusted vertically in an amount sufficient to account for the vertical displacement of the second cleat, or the location of the tabs on the second cleat can be so adjusted to achieve the same effect. Also, if desired, a nail, bolt, or wood screw may be inserted into the cleat 126 keyhole aperture 118 and into the pallet 102 to secure the pallet 102 to the assembly.

Upward facing keyhole apertures 108B are generally disposed near the lower portion of the vertical support members 100. However, that need not be the case. Upward facing keyhole apertures 108B can be disposed on any portion of the vertical support members 100, and when used in conjunction with other structures herein described, provide an exceptionally strong means for lifting and transporting any assembly constructed using the vertical support members 100.

FIGS. 12A and 12B present another embodiment of the present invention, in which the pallet securing members (here, inverted cross braces 104) are affixed so that the securing surface is disposed at the bottom of the securing member. This configuration can be advantageously used to accommodate different pallet 102 thicknesses.

FIG. 13 presents a perspective view of the alternative embodiment shown in FIGS. 12A and 12B.

FIG. 14 presents a side view of another embodiment of the present invention in which keyhole apertures are replaced with double-sided keyhole apertures 200. Each double-sided keyhole aperture 200 has an upward oriented aperture segment 202 and a downward oriented aperture segment 204. This design is simpler to produce because the keyhole apertures 200 have a symmetrical orientation and can be easily punched from the vertical support members 100 without reorientation.

FIG. 15 illustrates another embodiment of the present invention using double-sided keyhole apertures 200. In this embodiment, a strengthening segment 220 is placed between the double-sided keyhole apertures 200 to increase the strength of the modular shelving. This configuration is particularly well suited to heavy loads. Strengthening segment 220 can be implemented by a greater distance between double-sided keyhole apertures 222 and 224, a greater distance between the double-sided keyhole apertures 224 and 226, or a greater distance between both. Alternatively, a vertical support member can be reinforced in this area as required with additional thickness material, molding or stamping a stronger shape, or by heat treatment.

FIG. 16 illustrates another embodiment of the present invention in which only a limited number of double-sided keyhole apertures 200 are utilized. This configuration is useful in situations where higher vertical support member 100 rigidity is required, or when less flexibility in shelf location is required.

In addition to the aforementioned advantages, the present invention is also easily constructed and broken down. Construction is accomplished by placing pallet securing members 118 or cleats 128 about the periphery of the pallet 102 so that the pallet securing tabs 110 (or, in embodiments using cleats 126, the cleat tabs 111) face outward from the center of the pallet. Next, vertical support members 100 are placed at each corner of the pallet 102. Then, downward force is applied to the vertical support members to lock them to the pallet securing members 118 (or cleats 126). Then, the desired number and location of shelves is determined. At the aforementioned locations, four cross braces 104 are inserted into the structure with the tabs 110 on the braces fitting into the keyhole apertures 108 in the vertical support members 100. Downward force is then applied to the cross braces 104, affixing them in position. When so inserted, these cross braces 104 form a shelf upon which the planar surface 106 is placed, completing the construction. Disassembly follows the reverse procedure.

FIG. 17 presents a flowchart illustrating the foregoing operations. The process begins by placing 302 a pallet securing member 118 having a pallet securing tab 110 about the periphery of a pallet so that the pallet securing tab faces outward from the center of the pallet 102. Then, vertical support members 100 are placed 304 at each corner of the pallet 102, and the pallet securing tabs 110 are inserted 306 through the keyhole apertures 108. Pressure is then applied 308 to each vertical support member 100 so as to affix the keyhole apertures 108 to the pallet securing tabs 110. A plurality of cross braces 104 having cross brace tabs 109 are then disposed 310 between the vertical support members 100. These cross braces 104 are then coupled and secured to the vertical support members 100 by inserting the cross member tabs 109 in the vertical support member apertures 108 and applying suitable force on the cross member braces 104. Finally, the process is completed by placing 316 shelving between the vertical support members 100 and upon the cross member braces 104.

The present invention may be practiced in a number of embodiments. For example, while the foregoing has been described with respect to conventional L-shaped steel shelving with tabs 110 and keyhole shaped apertures 108, the present invention can be practiced with other means to affix the elements of the invention together. Similarly, although generally stronger in construction, L-shaped members are not required to practice the present invention. Although the present invention is especially suitable for transport via fork lifts, it is also envisioned that the foregoing invention can be practiced with the use of wheels (which may comprise braking or setting means) affixed to the bottom surface of the pallet 102. Also, while the present invention has been described with apertures 108 on the vertical support members 100, and tabs on other elements, the invention is not so limited, and could be practiced in other embodiments. For example, the present invention could be practiced using tabs on the vertical support members, and apertures on the other interconnecting elements. Cross braces can also be affixed with the use of push-through sections at appropriate locations in the vertical support members. Such push through sections can be fashioned by making U-shaped cuts in the vertical support members, and bending the cut sections inward. The upper portion of the cut sections can then support cross braces or shelving of medium to light weight.

Rack Jacket

FIG. 18A presents a representation of a rack/shelving system 1802 and an embodiment of the jacket 1804. This embodiment of the rack jacket 1804 is sized to fit snugly around the rack 1802, and includes two openings 1806, which when installed on the rack 1802, are disposed adjacent the related slots 1808 of the pallet 1809, thus permitting the insertion of forklift or pallet-jack tangs, and allowing the rack 1802 and the rack jacket 1804 to be lifted and moved about by the pallet 1809. The rack jacket 1804 comprises at least one support member portion 1818 for covering an external surface of at least one of the plurality of support members 1821, and a cross brace portion 1820, for covering an external surface of at least one of the cross braces 1824, 1816. The support member portions 1818 and the cross brace portions 1824 define apertures 1828 therebetween.

The upper portion of the jacket 1804 includes one or more optional extensions 1812A-1812D which are placed around vertical support member 100 upper portions 1814A-1814D. Although the illustrated embodiment includes four extensions 1812A-1812D, fewer extensions can be used. For example, it may be desirable to include only two extensions (e.g. 1812A and 1812B), if extensions 1812C-1812D are not visible when the system is on display.

The jacket 1804 can be attached to the rack 1082 in a variety of ways. For example, the jacket 104 may be simply slid over the top (or bottom) of the rack 1802, wrapped around the rack 1802 and closed with glue or interfacing tabs and slots.

FIG. 18B presents a diagram showing one embodiment of the jacket 1804. In this embodiment, the jacket 1804 is constructed from a single contiguous piece of material such as corrugated cardboard, with a portion 1830 of the material folded over and glued at location 1832 to form a contiguous ring of material, as shown in the top view. The flattened condition shown in FIG. 18B permits storage of a large number of rack jackets in a small space. The ring of material can then be die-cut with incisions 1821 to create display portions, which may optionally be defined by punch out portions formed by a plurality of incisions or perforations. In the illustrated example, the jacket 1804 includes first punch-out portions 1834A, 1834B, (and first punch out portions 1834A′ and 1834B′ on the back side of the ring of material), second punch out portions 1836A and 1836B (and second punch out portions 1836A′ and 1836B′ on the back side of the ring material), and slot punch out portions 1838A and 1838B (and slot punch out portions 1838A′ and 1838B′ on the back side of the ring material). This allows the user to remove the punch-out portions 1834, 1836, 1807 and 1806 as desired to define optional extensions 1812, punch out apertures 1828, punch out slot openings 1806 (and 1807 if 4-way access to a the pallet 1809 is desired).

FIG. 18C presents a diagram illustrating an embodiment of the jacket 1804 wherein punch out portions 1834A, 1834A′, 1834B, 1834B′, 1836A, 1836A′, 1836B, 1836B′, 1838A and 1838A′ have been punched out, creating punch out openings 1806, punch out apertures 1834A and 1834B, and extensions 1812. Note that a cavity 1840 has is formed between the punch out portions that were not punched out (1834A, 1834A′, and 1834B), and an punch out aperture 1828 has been formed at the rear of the jacket 1804, providing access to the cavity. If desired, additional or different punch out portions may be removed, allowing the user to create a variety of different configurations.

While the foregoing illustrates an embodiment in which the punch out portions 1834, 1836 patterns are sized and shaped to correspond to spaces between the cross braces 1824 and support members 1821, this need not be the case. For example, punch out opening 1834A may be only as large as is necessary to provide sufficient access physical and/or visual) to the area inside the jacket 1804. Punch out portions 1834, 1836, 1806, and 1838 also be perforated with incisions disposed along less than a perimeter of the display portion (e.g. on three sides instead of four sides) permitting the formation of a door structure. This is especially useful when used in punch out portions 1838, as it allows the creation of an aperture for insertion of fork lift tangs for purposes of transit, and allows the “door” to be folded back over adjacent to other jacket 1804 structures, to create a more consistent visual appearance (as if the punch-out portions 1838 were not punched out.

FIG. 18D presents a diagram showing the jacket 1804 shown in FIG. 18C when folded out. The resulting jacket 1804 includes an aperture 1828, two openings 1806, and a plurality of extensions 1812. Further, by virtue of the removal of punch-out portion 1834B′, aperture 1828B′ is created.

FIG. 18E presents a diagram showing the jacket when punch-out portions 1834A, 1834A′, 1834B, 1834B′, 1836A, 1836A′, 1836B, 1836B′, and 1838A are removed. This configuration is analogous to that which is illustrated in FIG. 18A, and forms punch out apertures 1828A, 1828A′, 1828B, and 1828B′.

If desired, the jacket 1804 can be constructed without any of the foregoing punch-out openings thus creating a permanently closed area in the assembled product that can be used to store extra stock of the displayed product or other items.

In one embodiment, one or more of the extensions 1812 include appropriate structures permitting their detachable attachment to the upper rack portions vertical support member 100 upper rack portions 1814A-1814D. For example, FIG. 18E shows one of the extensions 1812C having a flap portions 1850A, 1850B that can be folded along creases 1852A, 1852B, respectively, after the perforated portions 1856A, 1856B have been separated. Edges of the extension 1812C include a first structure 1854B and a second complimentary structure 1854A that can be mated to affix the flap portions 1850A, 1850B together, thus affixing the extension 1812C and thereby the jacket 1804 to an upper portion (e.g. 1814C) of the vertical support member 100 of the rack system 1802. In the illustrated embodiment, the first structure 1854A comprises a trapezoidal tab and the second structure 1854B comprises a complimentary interlocking slot, however, other analogous structures can be used. It is also envisioned that adhesive materials (e.g. tape, glue, hook-and-pile fasteners such as VELCRO) can be used to achieve the same or similar result.

Especially if the rack 1802 is similarly constituted, the rack jacket 1804 can also be implemented without extensions 1812A-1812D, and merely slipped around the rack 1802 and affixed with tabs around one or more of the cross-posts 1816.

FIG. 19 presents a representation of the rack jacket 1804 being slid over the top of the rack 1802.

FIG. 20 presents a representation showing another close up of extension 1812C and vertical support member upper portion 1814C. Extension 1812C includes four sections 1850A, 1850B, 1852A, and 1852B. Sections 1852A and 1852B are sized and shaped and sized to conform to the outside of the upper portion 1814C, and sections 1850A and 1850B, which are sized and shaped to fit to conform to the inside of the upper portion 1814C. Section 1850A can be attached to section 1850B, thus wrapping the extension 1812C around the vertical support member upper portion 1814C using appropriate interlocking structures 1854A and 1854B. In the illustrated embodiment, section 1850B includes a tab 1854B, and section 1850A includes a tab interface 1854A that cooperatively interacts with tab 1854B, to removably affix section 1850A to section 1850B. Of course, the upper portion 1814C may be different than the L-shaped design shown, (square in cross-section, for example) and in such cases, the extension 1812C and associated sections are shaped to fit a square cross-sectioned upper portion 1814C. Further, section 1850A can be affixed to section 1850B by use of an additional structure (e.g. a small section of cardboard inserted into matching apertures in sections 1850A and 1850B), rather than by the use of tabs on sections 1850A and 1850B themselves.

FIG. 21 presents a diagram of the jacket 1804 installed to the rack 1802. FIG. 22 presents a diagram of jacket 1804 in which one of the punch-outs is used to provide a surface 2204. The surface 2204 can be used, for example, for additional advertising or information about the products carried by the rack jacket. In this embodiment, an aperture (e.g. 1828A) is created in the jacket 1804 by punching out a die-cut cutout (e.g. 1834A), and affixing the cutout 1834A to two or more of the extensions 1812A-1812D or between the extensions 1812A-1812D and their associated upper rack portions 1814A-1814D. Although FIG. 22 illustrates the cutout 1834A as affixed to extensions 1812C and 1812D, the cutout 1834A can be affixed to any of the extensions 1812 as desired. The cutout 1834A can be affixed between the selected extensions 1812 by use of interlocking tab structures, fasteners (including staples) by adhesives (including hook and pile as well as chemical adhesives), or tape. In one embodiment, the cutout 1834A can also be affixed between extensions 1812 by sizing the cutout 1834A to slightly exceed the space between the extensions 1812. In this embodiment, the cutout 1834A can be slid between the extensions 1812, with friction keeping the cutout 1834A in place.

FIG. 23 presents a representation of a rack jacket 2302 that includes advertising and other marketing information on the outer surface of the jacket 2302. In this embodiment, a planar surface 2306 includes apertures 2308 therethrough so that the displayed product can be presented as desired. A different structure, specially designed to grip or hold the displayed product, can be substituted for the planar structure 2306 if desired.

FIG. 24 presents a perspective view of the rack jacket 2302, showing the aperture 2308.

FIG. 25 presents a representation of another embodiment of a rack jacket 2502. In this embodiment, the jacket comprises a cap 2502 that slides down over the top of the upper portions 1814A-1814D of the support members 100. The cap 2502 comprises a perimeter portion 2508 and a display portion 2510. The perimeter portion 2508 and the display portion 2510 may be integrated together and formed of a single sheet of material, if desired. The perimeter portion is sized and shaped for insertion over the plurality of support members 100 as shown, and can be held vertically in place by either frictional contact with the rack 1802, or by one or more horizontal surfaces 2506 that contact the top of the upper portions 1814A-1814D of the vertical support members, thus preventing the cap 2502 from sliding down the vertical support members 100.

The rack jacket 1804 can be used not only for display, but also for transporting items stored in the rack 1802. For example, the user may assemble the rack system, and place items on the planar surfaces 106. The jacket 1804 can then be placed over (or around) the rack, thus confining the items to the shelves in the rack 1802 during transit. A cap 2502 such as that which is illustrated in FIG. 25 can also be placed at the top of the rack system 1802 to assure that items disposed on the top shelf are secured during transit.

After the rack 1802 and jacket 1804 are delivered, they may be transported to the display location (e.g. via forklift or pallet jack). If used for transit, the cap 2502 can be removed, and punch out openings 1834A-1836D and 1836A-1836D can then be punched out (and used for display as shown in FIG. 22, if desired). Hence, the jacket 1084 can be used to serve the dual function of providing more secure transit as well as enhancing the retail display.

CONCLUSION

The foregoing description of the preferred embodiments of the invention has been presented for the purposes of illustration and description. It is not intended to be exhaustive or to limit the invention to the precise form disclosed. Many modifications and variations are possible in light of the above teaching. It is intended that the scope of the invention be limited not by this detailed description, but rather by the claims appended hereto. The above specification, examples and data provide a complete description of the manufacture and use of the composition of the invention. Since many embodiments of the invention can be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention, the invention resides in the claims hereinafter appended.