Title:
Collapsible laundry rack
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A collapsible laundry rack is provided that can be formed from a pair of collapsible legs and a plurality of cross members extending between the legs. A connector is provided between the cross members and the legs to secure the cross members relative to the legs. The connector is configured to allow for sequential assembly and disassembly of the cross members relative to the legs in order to simply assembly and disassembly operations.



Inventors:
Li, Xiangming (Guangdong, CN)
Application Number:
11/127419
Publication Date:
09/29/2005
Filing Date:
05/12/2005
Assignee:
La-La Imports LP
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47F7/00; A47F7/16; D06F57/08; D06F57/10; (IPC1-7): A47F7/16
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
MACARTHUR, VICTOR L
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
FITCH EVEN TABIN & FLANNERY, LLP (CHICAGO, IL, US)
Claims:
1. A connector socket and tab assembly for joining a first structural member to a second structural member, the assembly comprising: a connector socket attachable to the first structural member, the connector socket having an opening and a pocket, the pocket being defined by a pair of opposing end walls, one of the end walls defining the opening and at least one sidewall connecting the first and second walls, the sidewalls having a gap therebetween; and a connector tab attachable to the second structural member, the connector tab having a base, a flange, and a flange support disposed between the base and the flange support, the flange having a larger cross section that the flange support and being insertable through the gap of the sidewalls of the connector socket and into the pocket of the connector socket to secure the connector tab relative to the connector socket, the opening of the connector socket being sized smaller than the cross section of the flange to prevent the connector tab from passing therethrough in order to retain the connector tab between the pair of opposing end walls of the connector socket in one direction.

2. A connector socket and tab assembly in accordance with claim 1, wherein the opening of the socket connector is sized larger than a cross section of the second structural member to allow the second structural member to pass therethrough.

3. A connector socket and tab assembly in accordance with claim 1, wherein the opening of the socket connector is sized larger than a cross section of the base of the connector tab to allow the base to pass therethrough.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application is a continuation of application Ser. No. 10/934,320, filed on Sep. 3, 2004, which is a continuation-in-part of application Ser. No. 10/664,580, filed on Sep. 16, 2003, the entire disclosures both of which are hereby incorporated by reference in their entirety.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The invention relates generally to connectors for connecting components of laundry and storage devices, and particularly to connectors for connecting components of a collapsible laundry rack.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Laundry racks or drying racks typically consist of a pair of legs connected by cross supports. The legs are formed of a plurality of members in a scissor-type linkage arrangement, allowing the legs, and thus the racks, to be converted from a collapsed position to an expanded position. In the collapsed position, the racks can be smaller in size than the expanded position and more readily stored. In the expanded position, the racks can be used to hang various articles, such as clothes, over the legs and cross supports.

In one form of racks or stands, the cross supports are permanently secured to the legs. While advantageously eliminating assembly operations by the consumer, such racks, even in their collapsed configurations, can be bulky. When shipping racks from overseas, shipping costs can be higher for bulky, space consuming racks in their collapsed states as compared to the disassembled components of the racks. The bulkiness of collapsed racks having the legs permanently connected to the cross supports can also disadvantageously require an increased amount of shelf space in stores as compared to the various components of the rack disassembled.

To reduce the bulkiness of the racks during shipping and when placed on a shelf in stores, the legs and cross supports of the racks have been provided disassembled. However, assembly of these racks can be difficult, requiring complex manipulations of the components and sometimes tools to permit assembly by the consumer or end user. For example, holes have been provided in the legs for receiving ends of the cross supports. The cross supports can each be inserted into the holes in a first of the pair of legs, then inserted into the holes in the second of the pair of legs. Due to the number of cross supports, typically three or more, insertion of the cross supports into the holes in the second of the pair of legs can be difficult, requiring that each of the holes simultaneously be aligned with the ends of the cross supports before any of the cross supports are inserted into the holes.

Once in the holes, a friction or interference fit can be used to maintain the cross members in engagement with the legs. However, the friction fits between each of the holes and cross supports can vary, potentially causing difficulties in assembly or in maintaining the components assembled. Screws or other fasteners can be used to maintain the components in an assembled state, but disadvantageously require additional assembly steps and sometimes the use of tools by the consumer or end user.

Laundry racks or stands are disclosed in U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,394,292 and 6,427,858 that are formed of a pair of legs having cross supports extending therebetween. However, complex connection mechanisms are required to secure the cross supports between the legs. These complex connection mechanisms can require complicated or multiple assembly steps by a consumer or end user, and can in some instances are formed of multiple parts that must be assembled. In addition, the configuration of these connection mechanisms appears to require simultaneous alignment and assembly of the cross supports to one of the pair of legs.

Another problem with typical collapsible laundry racks is inadvertent shifting of the rack from an expanded configuration to a collapsed configuration. Such inadvertent shifting can be problematic, particularly when clothes or other articles are hanging on the cross supports and can become dislodge. Moreover, the weight of the articles, such as wet or damp clothes, can increase the likelihood of inadvertent shifting of the rack from the expanded configuration to the collapsed configuration. In order to reduce the likelihood of the racks from inadvertent shifting, support members are provided to assist in keeping each leg in its expanded position. However, inadvertent shifting of the racks from the expanded configuration to the collapsed configuration can still occur.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Apparatus and methods for an improved laundry rack are provided that allow for simplified assembly and disassembly. The laundry rack is convertible between an expanded position for use as a drying rack or stand and a collapsed position for storage. The laundry rack generally includes a pair of legs having cross members extending therebetween. Each of the legs generally comprises one or more scissor-type linkages that are pivotable between an expanded position and a collapsed position, corresponding to the expanded and collapsed positions of the rack. The cross members are removably secured to the legs with connectors attached between the ends of the cross members and the pair of legs.

The connectors are configured to allow for simplified assembly of the cross members to the legs by allowing for the spacing between the legs to be maintained during connection of the cross members after a first cross member has been connected. The connectors also are configured to provide for simplified assembly and disassembly of the rack by allowing the cross members to be connected and disconnected relative to the legs in a sequential, as opposed to simultaneous, manner. To provide these features, the connectors include a combination of connector sockets and connector tabs attached to the legs and ends of cross members.

In addition, the components of the rack are provided in a disassembled state such that minimal assembly steps are required to be performed by a consumer or end user. Thus, the configuration of the connectors allows for the components to be packaged in a compact, yet easy to assemble arrangement, such that shipping costs are minimized, minimal shelf space is occupied in stores, and assembly by the end user is simplified.

In one aspect, the collapsible laundry rack comprises a pair of legs spaced a predetermined distance apart. Each of the legs comprises a plurality of linkage members configured in a scissor linkage arrangement. A plurality of connector sockets are attached to each of the pair of collapsible legs. The connector sockets on one of the pair of collapsible legs are aligned with the connector sockets on the other of the pair of collapsible legs. A plurality of cross members extend between the pair of collapsible legs. Each of the cross members has a connector tab secured to ends thereof. The connector tabs are selectively insertable into the aligned connector sockets on the collapsible legs while the legs are spaced the predetermined distance apart to secure and unsecure the cross members relative to the collapsible legs. Alternatively, the connector sockets and connector tabs may be interchanged such that the connector sockets are attached to the ends of the cross members and the connector tabs are attached to each of the pair of collapsible legs.

The connectors of the laundry rack may be configured such that at least one of the cross members can be selectively inserted and/or removed from between the pair of legs without disengaging another of the cross members maintaining the predetermined distance between the pair of legs.

The connector tabs generally include a stem and a disc. The stem extends from the disc and generally has a smaller cross section than the disc. Furthermore, the stem may have a cross section that defines a key to retain a connector socket more securely. The stem is adapted to attach the connector tab to the end of a cross member or to a collapsible leg. When the stem is to be used to attach the connector tab to the end of a cross member, it generally has a cross section sized to be press fit into the end of the hollow cross member. When the stem attaches the connector tab to a collapsible leg, the stem offsets the disc from the collapsible leg to allow a connector socket to attach thereto. The disc is adapted to be inserted into a pocket of a corresponding connector socket. The stem and disc are configured to maintain a secure connection between the connector tab and the connector socket.

The connector socket may be generally U-shaped, having a pocket configured for receiving the disc of a connector tab. The pocket may be defined by a pair of opposing end walls and at least one side wall connecting the first and second end walls. The first end wall is adapted to attach the connector socket to either a collapsible leg or an end of a cross member. When attaching the connector socket to the end of a cross member, the first end wall may include a stem, much like the stem described above, having a cross section sized and adapted to be press fit into the end of a hollow cross member. Alternatively, the first end wall may include a pocket adapted to receive the end of the cross member. When configured to attach to a collapsible leg, the side of the first end wall adjacent to the collapsible leg is adapted to the shape of the collapsible leg.

The second end wall includes a first opening formed therein. When the connector socket is attached to the end of a cross member, the opening may be sized larger than the cross section of the stem of a connector tab to allow the stem to pass therethrough. When the connector socket is attached to a collapsible leg, the opening may be sized larger than the cross section of a cross member to allow the cross member to pass therethrough. However, in either configuration, the first opening shall be sized smaller than the cross section of the disc of the connector tab to prevent the disc from passing therethrough. Thus, the second end wall at least partially restrains the connector tab, via the disc, between the pair of opposing end walls and in the pocket, reducing inadvertent removal of the connector tab from the pocket of the connector socket. The side wall may define a second opening, which may be sized to allow for the disc of the connector tab to be inserted therethrough and positioned between the opposing end walls.

When attached to a collapsible leg the connector socket or connector tab is positioned to align with a corresponding connector socket or connector tab, respectively, attached to the other of the pair of collapsible legs.

The plurality of members configured in a scissor linkage arrangement of the legs may further comprise at least a pair of members pivotally connected between ends thereof by a pin. The pair of members may be connected by the pin proximate their mid-sections. Adjacent members of adjacent linkages may also be connected by pins. The pins may also be used to secure connector sockets or connector tabs to the legs.

The rack may include at least one scissor-type linkage forming at least part of each of the legs. Each of the linkages may have a pair of members being pivotally connected between their ends to convert the laundry rack between an expanded position and a collapsed position. The linkages may be in a generally X-type configuration when in their expanded position, where the members of the linkage are in a generally perpendicular orientation. The linkages may have their members generally parallel when in the collapsed position, thereby reducing the amount of space occupied by the legs and thus the rack.

One of the cross members may extend between ends of one of the linkage members of each of the linkages of the legs. A support arm may be pivotally attached to an end of the members of at least one of the linkages. The linkage member having a support arm attached may be different than a linkage member having the cross member attached. The support arm is pivotable between a configuration allowing the linkage to shift to the collapsed position and a configuration maintaining the linkage in the expanded position by engagement between an end of the support arm opposite the pivot and the cross member to maintain a predetermined spacing between the pair of linkage members forming the linkage.

A clasp may be provided and pivotally connected to an end of the support arm opposite the end pivotally connected to the leg. The clasp may be pivotable between a locking position securing the support arm to the cross member for securing the leg linkage, and thus the rack, in the expanded position.

It is another aspect of a collapsible laundry rack that the discs of the connector tabs are insertable into corresponding connector sockets through the second openings of the connector sockets to selectively secure the cross members to and between the collapsible legs.

At least one of the cross members includes connector tabs selectively removable and insertable from the connector sockets between the pair of legs without disengaging the connector tabs of another of the cross members from the connector sockets between the pair of legs, thereby permitting sequential connection of each of the cross members to the pair of legs independent of the other cross members. Alternatively, the collapsible legs may include the connector tabs and the ends of the cross members may include the connector sockets configured such that the cross members may be selectively removed from or inserted between the collapsible legs.

In another aspect, the collapsible laundry rack is convertible between an expanded position and a collapsed position, and a support arm is provided to maintain the laundry rack in the expanded position. The laundry rack comprises a pair of collapsible legs. Each of the legs comprises a plurality of members configured in a scissor linkage arrangement. Each of the pair of legs may have a first and second upper members each having upper ends spaced a distance apart. A plurality of cross members are provided that extend between a pair of collapsible legs. One of the cross members extends between the upper ends of the first of the upper members. A support arm is pivotally attached at one end to the upper end of one of the second upper members. The support arm is pivotable between a configuration allowing the pair of collapsible legs to shift to the collapsed position and a configuration maintaining the pair of collapsible legs in the expanded position. A clasp is connected to an end of a support arm opposite the end pivotally connected to the second upper member. The clasp is pivotable between a locking position at least partially around one of the cross members when the support arm is in a configuration securing the pair of collapsible legs in the expanded configuration to secure the support arm relative to the one of the cross members.

The end of a support arm having the clasp pivotally attached may have a notched formed therein for at least partially receiving one of the cross members extending between the upper ends of the first upper members. The notch may generally be U-shaped, and may generally be inclined at an angle. The clasp may be generally C-shaped and may be configured to retain the one of the cross members in the notch when in the locking position.

A method of assembling a collapsible laundry rack from a set of components is also provided. The components may comprise a pair of collapsible legs each having a plurality of members configured in a scissor linkage arrangement, a plurality of connector sockets attached to each of the pair of collapsible legs, the sockets one of the pair of collapsible legs being aligned with the connector sockets on the other of the pair of collapsible legs, a plurality of cross members, and connector tabs positioned on each of the ends of the cross members and removably insertable into the aligned connector sockets on the collapsible legs to selectively secure the cross members to the collapsible legs. The method may include spacing the pair of collapsible legs a predetermined distance apart by inserting the discs of a first one of the plurality of cross members into a pair of aligned connector sockets attached to the pair of collapsible legs. The method may further include the step of inserting the discs of at least a second one of the plurality of cross members into a pair of aligned connector sockets attached to the pair of collapsible legs while the collapsible legs are spaced the predetermined distance apart by the first one of the plurality of cross members. The components may be provided such that the only assembly steps that may be required of a consumer or other end user is connecting each of the cross members to the legs using connections that are already provided on the cross members and/or the legs. Alternatively, the plurality of connector tabs may be attached to the collapsible legs and the plurality of connector sockets may be attached to the end of the cross members.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view a laundry rack in accordance with an embodiment thereof, showing the laundry rack in an expanded position;

FIG. 2 is an elevation view of a leg of the laundry rack of FIG. 1, showing the leg in an expanded position;

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the laundry rack of FIG. 1, showing the laundry rack in a collapsed position;

FIG. 4 is an elevation view of a connector socket on one of the legs of the laundry rack of FIG. 1;

FIG. 5 is a plan view of the connector socket of FIG. 4;

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of a top rack of the laundry rack of FIG. 1, showing the top rack in an unsecured position;

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of the top rack of the laundry rack of FIG. 1, showing the top rack in a secured position;

FIG. 8 is a perspective view showing a support arm of the top rack of the laundry rack of FIG. 1, showing the support arm unsecured relative to a cross member;

FIG. 9 is a perspective view showing the support arm of the top rack of the laundry rack of FIG. 1, showing the support arm secured relative to the cross member;

FIG. 10 is a plan view of components of the laundry rack of FIG. 1 is a disassembled configuration;

FIG. 11 is a perspective view of a connector socket for use in attaching to a cross member;

FIG. 12 is a perspective view of a connector tab for use in attaching to a leg; and

FIG. 13 is a perspective view of the connector socket of FIG. 11 attached to a leg of a laundry rack and the connector tab of FIG. 12 attached to the cross member.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The laundry rack 5 is preferably embodied in a collapsible rack 5 having a pair of legs 10 connected by cross members 20. The connections between the cross members 20 and legs 10 are configured for simplified assembly and disassembly. Preferred embodiments of the laundry rack 5 are disclosed below. FIGS. 1-13 illustrate a laundry rack 5 having connectors between cross members 20 and legs 10 that promote simplified assembly and disassembly of the components. These components include a pair of legs 10 connected by cross members 20, as shown in FIG. 1. In the illustrated embodiment, the legs 10 are vertically extending and the cross members 20 are horizontally extending between the legs 10.

The drying rack 5 is shiftable between a collapsed position, as shown in FIG. 3, and an expanded or upright position as shown in FIG. 1. The collapsed position allows for simplified storage of the drying rack 5, as it can take up less space than the expanded configuration. The expanded configuration, however, is configured to allow for articles, such as clothes, to be hung from the cross members 20 of the rack 5 for drying or other purposes. The cross members 20 are provided at varying heights along the legs 10 in order to provide multiple positions for articles to be supported. For example, the drying rack 5 illustrated in FIG. 1 has six different elevations of cross members 20 that allow for articles of clothing to be hung therefrom.

Each of the legs 10 is convertible between a collapsed position and an extended position, the latter of which is shown in FIG. 2. When the laundry rack 5 is in the collapsed position, each of the legs 10 is also in the collapsed position. Similarly, when each of the legs 10 is in the expanded position, the laundry rack 5 is in its expanded position. The laundry rack 5 includes a top rack portion 30 that is pivotable relative to the legs 10. The top rack portion 30 can be pivoted into a generally horizontal configuration, as shown in FIG. 7, whereby support arms 32 can secure the laundry rack 5 in its expanded position, as will be described in greater detail hereinbelow. When the top rack 30 is pivoted away from its horizontal position, as shown in FIG. 6, the laundry rack 5 is able to shift to its collapsed position from its expanded position.

Each of the legs 10 is formed from a plurality of linkages 12, as shown in FIG. 2. Each of the linkages 12, in turn, is formed from a pair of linkage members 14. Each of the linkage members 14 is attached approximate its midpoint to another of the linkage members 14 forming the linkages 12 about a central pivot pin 16. When the linkages 12 are assembled, each has an inner linkage member 14 facing the opposing leg 10 and an outer linkage member 14 facing away from the opposing leg 10.

In the expanded position of the laundry rack 5, the linkage members 14 of a linkage 12 are in an essentially perpendicular orientation, forming a generally X-type configuration, as shown in FIG. 2. When the linkages 12 are in their collapsed configuration corresponding to the collapsed configuration of the laundry rack 5, the linkage members 14 of each linkage 12 are pivoted about the central pivot pin 16 of their midsections into a generally parallel configuration, as shown in FIG. 10. Ends of the linkages 14 are pivotably connected via pivot pins 18 to ends of adjacent linkages 12. More particularly, the ends of a pair of linkages members 14 forming a linkage 12 may be pivotably connected via the linkage pivot pins 18 to ends of linkage members 14 of an adjacent linkage 12. Multiple linkages 12 may then be connected to each other. When the laundry rack 5 is in its expanded state, the adjacent linkages 12 and more particularly the adjacent linkage members 14 of each linkage 12 are in a generally perpendicular relationship about the pivot pins 18. However, when shifted to the collapsed position, the linkage members 14 of adjacent linkages 12 are shifted about their pivot pins 18 to a generally parallel relationship. The assembly of each linkage 12 provides for a scissor-type linkage arrangement. As shown in FIG. 2, three linkages 12 form each leg 10, where each linkage 12 has two linkage members 14. However, other numbers of linkages 12 may also be used in accordance with the laundry rack 5.

Connectors are provided in order to allow for connection of cross members 20 between the legs 10 to form the drying rack 5. The connection between the cross members 20 and the legs 10 comprises a two-part connector. In this embodiment, the first part of the connector is a connector socket 40 that is attachable to the legs 10. The second part of the connector is a connector tab 50 that is provided on each end of each of the cross members 20. Alternatively, as described hereinbelow with reference to FIGS. 11-13, the first part of the connector may be a connector tab 150 attachable to the legs 110 while the second part of the connector is a connector socket 140 that is provided on each end of each of the cross members 120.

Generally, the connectors are configured such that the cross members 20 can be selectively inserted into and removed from engagement with the legs 10 while the legs 10 are maintained a predetermined distance apart. For example, when assembling the laundry rack 5, one of the cross members 20 can be connected to each of the legs 10 of the rack 5 to thereby maintain each leg 10 of the drying rack 5 a predetermined distance apart from the other leg. Subsequent cross members 20 can be inserted between the legs 10 and engaged via the connectors without changing the predetermined distance spacing the legs 10 apart. Such an assembly method advantageously allows for the cross members 20 to be connected to each of the legs 10 in a sequential manner. That is, a first of the cross members 20 can be positioned between the first and second legs 10. Then, subsequent cross members 20 can be positioned between the legs 10.

The connector sockets 40 that is attached to the legs 10 of the laundry rack 5 have two openings 47 and 48. A first opening 48 allows for insertion of the connector tabs 50 attached to the ends of the cross members 20. The second opening 47 of the connector socket allows for the cross member 20 to extend from within the connector socket 40 when the connector tab 50 is inserted through the first opening 48 thereof. The first opening 48 of the connector socket 40 is positioned to allow for insertion of the connector tab 50 of the cross member 20 without changing the predetermined spacing between the legs 10 of the laundry rack 5.

Turning to more of the details of the connector socket 40, the connector socket 40 is generally U-shaped, as shown in FIG. 4. The connector socket 40 has a pocket, as shown in FIG. 5, for receiving the connector tab 50 through the first opening 48. The pocket is defined by a pair of end walls 42 and 44 spaced apart by a side wall 46. One of the end walls 42 is positioned adjacent the support arm 32 or leg 10. The other of the end walls 44 faces the opposing connector socket 40 on the opposite leg 10. The other of the walls 44, facing the opposite leg, has the second opening 47 formed therein. The second opening 47 is configured to be larger than the cross section of the cross member 20 to allow the cross member 20 to be inserted therethrough. The second opening 47, however, is also sized to be smaller than a cross section of the connector tab 50 in order to prevent the connector tab 50 from passing therethrough. In this manner, the connector tab 50 is held in the pocket of the connector socket 40 by the end wall 44 facing the opposing leg 10. The first opening 48 of the connector socket 40 is sized to allow for the connector tab 50 to pass therethrough to allow for insertion and removal of the connector tab 50 and thus the cross member 20. A depression 41 may be formed in the end wall 42 adjacent the leg 10 or support arm 32 in order to provide clearance between the connector tab 50 when inserted in the pocket and a pin or pivot 60 securing the connector socket 40 relative to the leg 10.

The tab 50 may comprise a circular disc, as shown in FIG. 10, that is attached on each end of the cross member 20. In a preferred embodiment, the tab 50 comprises a circular disc having a stem. The stem is insertable into a hollow end of the cross member 20. The cross member 20 can be crimped around the stem of the connector tab 50 in order to secure the connector tab 50 relative to the cross member 20. The disc on the end of the connector tab 50 is preferably sized larger than the cross section of the cross member 20, while the stem is preferably sized smaller than the interior diameter of the cross member 20. In this manner, the stem can readily be inserted into the cross member 20 and the cross member 20 secured to the stem while the disc remains external to the cross member 20 and positioned for engagement within the pocket of the connector socket 40.

While each of the pins 60 secures the connector socket 40 relative to the support arm 32 or linkage member 14, some of the pins 60, when also extending between linkage members 14 of a linkage 12, may comprise pins 16 and 18. By using some of the pivot pins 16 and 18 to secure the connector sockets 40 to the legs and/or support arms 32, the number of separate pieces required to form the rack 5 can be reduced.

An additional embodiment of a laundry rack pursuant to the present invention is illustrated in FIGS. 11-13. The laundry rack of this embodiment is generally similar to the previously described embodiment, illustrated in FIGS. 1-10.

In the embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 1-10, the connectors include connector sockets 40 attached to the collapsible legs 10 and connector tabs 50 attached to the ends of cross members 20. In the additional embodiment, illustrated in FIGS. 11-13, the connectors include connector sockets 140 attached to cross members 120 and connector tabs 150 attached to the collapsible legs 110. The connector sockets 140 and connector tabs 150, best illustrated in FIGS. 11 and 12 respectively, are generally similar to the connector sockets 40 and connector tabs 50 in FIGS. 5 and 6. In this embodiment, the connector tabs 150 are provided on each of the legs 110 and aligned with connector tabs 150 on opposing legs 110 to allow for connection of cross members 120 between the legs 110 to form the a drying rack.

The connector tabs 150 include a stem 151 that extends from a disc 154, as illustrated in FIGS. 12 and 13. The stem 151 offsets the disc 154 from the leg 110 to allow the connector socket 150 to attach thereto. Furthermore, the stem 151 also includes an enlarged key portion 157 that allows the connector socket 140 to more securely snap-fit onto the connector tab 150. Similar to the connector sockets of the previous embodiment, the connector tabs 150, generally, are attached to the legs 110 by the pins that hinge the support arms of the legs 110 together. In the illustrated embodiment, the connector tabs 150 include a through hole 156. The through hole 156 is adapted to receive the pin that connects the support arms. Alternatively, a screw, bolt or other securement devices or structures may be used to secure the connector tabs 150 to a leg 110.

The connector sockets 140 are generally similar to the connector sockets 40 of the previous embodiment. The connector sockets 140 attach to the ends of the cross members 120 of the laundry rack and have a pocket defined between a first and second end wall 142, 144, a side wall 146 separating the end walls 142, 144, two openings 147, 148 and a stem 149.

The first end wall 142 is positioned adjacent the end of a cross member 120. In the illustrated embodiment, the stem 149 extends from the end wall 142. The stem 149 has a cross section adapted to be inserted into a hollow cross member 120. Generally, the cross member 120 and stem 149 are sized such that the stem 149 may be inserted into the end of the cross member 120 and either press-fit or having the cross member 120 crimped around the stem 149. The end wall 142 from which the stem 149 extends is preferably sized larger than the cross section of the cross member 120, while the stem 149 is preferably sized smaller than the interior diameter of the cross member 120. In this manner, the stem 149 can readily be inserted into the cross member 120 and the cross member 120 secured to the stem 149 while the pocket and end walls 142 and 144 remain external to the cross member 120 and positioned for engagement within the connector tab 150. In other embodiments, the stem 149 includes a pocket being adapted such that the end of a cross member 120 may be friction-fit therein.

The second end wall 144 faces away from the cross member 120 and includes the first opening 147. The first opening 147 being sized larger than the cross section of the stem 151 of the connector tabs 150 to receive the stem 151 therethrough. However, the first opening 147 is also sized and adapted to be smaller than a cross section of the disc 154 of the connector tab 150 in order to prevent the disc 154 from passing therethrough. The second opening 148 is defined between the first and second end walls 142, 144. The second opening 148 of the connector socket 150 is sized larger than the disc 154 of the connector tab 150 to receive the discs 154 therethrough such that the disc 154 may be inserted into the pocket. Furthermore, if the stem 151 of the connector tab 150 includes the enlarged key portion 157, the first opening is configured to mate with and snap-fit to the cross section of the stem 151 to provide a more secure connection between the connector socket 140 and connector tab 150.

In this manner, the disc 154 is held securely in the pocket of the connector socket 140 by the end wall 144 facing away from the cross member 120. This allows the connector socket 140, and particularly the cross member 120, to be selectively attached and removed from the connector tab 150, and thus the leg 110, without changing the predetermined spacing between the legs 110 of the laundry rack or other apparatus.

The subsequent discussion applies generally to all embodiments, but it will be described generally with reference to the embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 1-10. As discussed above, the support arms 32 of the top rack portion 30 of the rack 5 may be pivoted between a position preventing the rack 5 from collapsing and a position allowing the rack 5 to collapse. Each of the support arms 32 is pivotably attached at one end to an upper end of a linkage element 14 of an uppermost linkage 12 of the leg 10, as shown in FIG. 6. The other end of the support arm 32 has a notch 34 configured to at least partially be placed around a cross member 22 extending between another linkage member 14 of the uppermost linkage 12 of the leg 10. When the notch 34 of the support arm 32 is placed over the cross member 22, the linkage elements 14 of the uppermost linkage 12 are prevented from collapsing, and thus the rack 5 is maintained in its expanded configuration.

To prevent inadvertent removal of the support arm 32 from the cross member 22, a clasp 36 can be secured around the cross member 22. The clasp 36 is pivotably connected to the support arm 32 via a pivot pin or screw 38. If a screw is used, it can be tightened to maintain the clasp 36 is a predetermined orientation. The clasp 36 can be rotated from a open position, shown in FIG. 8, to a closed position, shown in FIG. 9. In the open position, the cross member 22 can be inserted into the notch 34 of the support arm 32. In the closed position, a C-shaped portion 37 of the clasp 36 can surround a portion of the cross member 22 not surrounded by the notch 34, thereby securing the cross member 22 between the notch 34 and the clasp 36 to prevent inadvertent removal of the cross member 22 from within the notch 34 and collapsing of the rack 5.

While the openings 48 of the connector sockets 40 can generally be positioned in any direction, it is preferably that most are positioned such that a downward force, such as due to the weight of an article, on the cross member 22 secured via the connector tab 50 will not cause the connector tab 50 to dislodge from the pocket of the socket 40. However, the ones of the connector sockets 50 attached to the uppermost linkages 12 and on the linkage members 14 opposite the linkage members 14 having the support arms 32 connected thereto preferably have openings 48 facing in a generally downward direction. When the rack 5 is heavily weighted with articles, the ends of the uppermost linkage members 14 on each leg 10 tend to want to shift toward their collapsed configurations. Having the openings 48 facing in an opposite direction can prevent the connector tab 50 of cross member 22 from inadvertently becoming dislodged from the pocket of the socket 50. When using the second embodiment (FIGS. 11-13), the cross members 120 should be positioned such that the first openings 147 of the connector sockets 140 are positioned to prevent this problem. To assist in retaining the uppermost linkages 12 in their expanded positions, and the cross member 22 in the notches 34 of the support arms 32, the notches 34 may be inclined in a direction such that the linkage forces toward the collapsed configuration of the linkages 12 urges the cross member 22 at an angle into the notch 34.

The components of the laundry rack or stand 5 may be provided in a disassembled configuration suitable for packaging in a state having a reduced size as compared to the rack in its collapsed state. Such a state advantageously can reduce shipping costs by minimizing the volume occupied by the components as compared to the volume occupied by the rack in its collapsed state. Similarly, such a state can also advantageously reduce the amount of shelf space in a store occupied by the rack. The disassembled configuration, as shown in FIG. 10, comprises two basic components, the legs 10 and the cross members 20. The connector tabs 50 and the connector sockets 40 are preferably supplied preattached to the cross members 20 and legs 10, respectively. In the second embodiment, the connector sockets 140 and connector tabs 150 are preferably supplied preattached to the cross members 120 and legs 110, respectively. In addition, the support arms 32 are preattached to the legs 10.

Thus, the only assembly steps required of the consumer or other end user are insertion of the connector tabs 50, 150 into the connector sockets 40, 140, respectively. The connector tabs 50 and 150 and sockets 40 and 140 are preferably sized such that, when mated, a secure connection is provided that resists inadvertent disconnection while allowing intentional disconnection upon application of a suitable amount of force. Preferably, no tools or other components are required to secure the connection between the cross members 20 and the legs 10.

Three different lengths of cross members 20 are provided, as illustrated in FIG. 10. The three shortest cross members 23 are sized to extend between the support arms 32 to form the top rack portion 30. The eight middle-length cross members 24 are sized to extend between the inner linkage members 14 of the legs 10. The single longest cross member 22 is sized to extend between the outer linkage members 14 of the legs proximate the upper end of the rack 5 and is the cross member 22 to which the support arms 32 of the upper rack portion 30 are engageable.

The cross members 20, support arms 32, and legs 10 are preferably formed of metal, and are preferably hollow. The various pivot pins and connecting pins are also preferably metal. The connector tabs 50, 150 and connector sockets 40, 140 are preferably formed of plastic. Plastic end caps may also be provided and inserted into exposed hollow ends of the cross members 20, support arms 32, and legs 10. However, other materials can also be used. For example, the cross members 20, support arms 32, and/or legs 10 may be formed of solid wood, solid plastic, or hollow plastic materials.

The rack 5 in its expanded position is preferably between about 36 and 48 inches tall, between about 12 and 16 inches wide, and between about 24 and 36 inches long. In its collapsed position or configuration, the rack 5 is preferably between about 3 and 5 inches high, between about 18 and 22 inches wide, and between about 24 and 36 inches long. Each of the linkage members 14 of the legs 10 is preferably between about 16 and 24 inches in length, and more preferably about 20 inches in length. The shortest cross members 23 are preferably between about 24 and 27 inches in length, and are more preferably about 25.5 inches in length. The medium-sized cross members 24 are preferably between about 25 and 28 inches in length, and are more preferably about 26.5 inches in length. The longest cross member 22 is preferably between about 26 and 29 inches in length, and are more preferably about 27.5 inches in length. The cross members 20 preferably have a diameter of between about 0.4 and 0.5 inches. The discs of the connector tabs 50, 150 preferably have a diameter of about 0.7 inches, and a thickness of about 0.1 inches. The pockets of the connector sockets 40, 140 are sized to accommodate insertion and removal of the discs of the connector tabs 50, 150.

From the foregoing, it will be appreciated that an improved connection for components of a rack are provided providing for simplified assembly by allowing for sequential assembly of components as opposed to simultaneous assembly, reducing the number of assembly steps to be performed by an end user, and allowing for the volume occupied by the components to be minimized, such as during shipping and display on shelves in a store. The inventions are not limited to the embodiments described hereinabove or to any particular embodiments. Various modifications to the aforementioned construction, component materials, and component dimensions will result in substantially the same inventions. For instance the connections for components described herein are not limited to use on laundry racks, but can be used for the simplified joining of components of other devices and items.