Title:
Flexible debris collection apparatus
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A debris collection apparatus that is generally shaped as a rectangular sheet and fabricated of a flexible plastic material. The apparatus' front-to-back form is that of a shallow arch or upwardly extending curve. A leading edge of the apparatus is beveled to facilitate the debris pick-up process. Two corners of the apparatus are formed with diagonally-oriented finger tabs, that are raised above the surface of the rest of the sheet, or cut-outs defining handles. The debris collection apparatus may be manufactured using an injection molding process. The apparatus is fabricated of lightweight materials chosen to provide an appropriate degree of flexibility, resiliency, durability, and longevity. The apparatus possesses a simple, yet scalable, design that may be economically manufactured and sold to provide for widespread use.



Inventors:
Kraft III, John R. (Westminster, MD, US)
Application Number:
11/130635
Publication Date:
12/22/2005
Filing Date:
05/18/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47L13/52; (IPC1-7): A47L13/52
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
KARLS, SHAY LYNN
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
OBER / KALER (Baltimore, MD, US)
Claims:
1. A debris collection apparatus comprising: a planar article formed as a quadrilateral further comprising; a top surface, said top surface being slightly convex; a bottom surface, said bottom surface being slightly concave; a leading edge formed between said top and bottom surfaces; a first outer edge formed between said top and bottom surfaces and joined to said leading edge at a first corner; a trailing edge formed between said top and bottom surfaces and joined to said first outer edge at a second corner; and a second outer edge formed between said top and bottom surfaces and joined to said trailing edge at a third corner and joined to said leading edge at a fourth corner; a first tab formed on said top surface of said planar article proximate said second corner, said first tab further comprising a top surface; and a second tab formed on said top surface of said planar article proximate said third corner, said second tab further comprising a top surface; wherein debris is placed on said top surface and said first and second outer edges are curled upward to partially enclose and constrain movement of said debris for transportation of said debris to a trash receptacle.

2. The debris collection apparatus according to claim 1 wherein said leading edge is beveled.

3. The debris collection apparatus according to claim 1 wherein said top surfaces of said first and second tabs are textured.

4. A debris collection apparatus according to claim 1, wherein said quadrilateral is a rectangle.

5. A debris collection apparatus according to claim 1, wherein said quadrilateral is a trapezoid.

6. A debris collection apparatus according to claim 1, wherein said top surface and said first and second outer edges are curled upward to form a U-shape.

7. A debris collection apparatus according to claim 1 wherein said top surface, bottom surface, leading edge, first outer edge, trailing edge, second outer edge, first tab and second tab are formed from a single material by an injection molding process.

8. A debris collection apparatus according to claim 7, wherein said single material is flexible plastic material.

9. A debris collection apparatus comprising: a planar article formed as a quadrilateral further comprising; a top surface, said top surface being slightly convex; a bottom surface, said bottom surface being slightly concave; a leading edge formed between said top and bottom surfaces; a first outer edge formed between said top and bottom surfaces and joined to said leading edge at a first corner; a trailing edge formed between said top and bottom surfaces and joined to said first outer edge at a second corner; and a second outer edge formed between said top and bottom surfaces and joined to said trailing edge at a third corner and joined to said leading edge at a fourth corner; a first handle formed in said planar article proximate said second corner; and a second handle formed in said planar article proximate said third corner; wherein debris is placed on said top surface and said first and second outer edges are curled upward to partially enclose and constrain movement of said debris for transportation of said debris to a trash receptacle.

10. The debris collection apparatus according to claim 9 wherein said leading edge is beveled.

11. The debris collection apparatus according to claim 10, wherein said quadrilateral is formed as a rectangle.

12. The debris collection apparatus according to claim 10, wherein said quadrilateral is formed as a trapezoid.

13. The debris collection apparatus according to claim 10, wherein said top surface and said first and second outer edges are curled upward to form a U-shape.

14. The debris collection apparatus according to claim 10 wherein said top surface, bottom surface, leading edge, first outer edge, trailing edge, second outer edge, first handle and second handle are integrally formed as a unitary body from flexible plastic material by an injection molding process.

15. A debris collection apparatus comprising: a section of resilient plastic material die-cut and stamped into a quadrilateral form with a top surface, a bottom surface, a leading edge, a trailing edge bounded by two corners, and a shallow arched cross-section running from said leading edge to said trailing edge and concave upward, said leading edge further comprising an elongate linear edge with beveled cross-section to facilitate debris pick-up of small particulate matter, said two corners further comprising diagonally-oriented finger tabs raised above said arched cross-section; whereby debris lying on a flat surface may be scooped up by placing the leading edge of said apparatus on said flat surface, the arched cross-section maintaining a constant pressure on the beveled leading edge, sliding the apparatus under the debris and lifting said debris on said apparatus into a waste can.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

The present application derives priority from U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/572,034, filed: May 17, 2004.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to cleaning implements and, more particularly, to an apparatus used in collecting debris for disposal and, even more particularly, to a flexible debris collection apparatus that may be folded into a U-shape to retain any debris contained within and facilitate its transfer into a trash receptacle.

2. Description of the Background

Conventional dustpans consist of a rigid or semi-rigid, metal or plastic, flat tray with low walls on three sides and a thin edge on the fourth side. In use, the thin edge is placed against a flat surface containing dust or other small particulate matter and a broom or brush is used to transfer the debris over the thin edge and onto the top surface of the flat tray. A handle is typically attached to the tray and/or one of the low walls in order to permit ease of manipulation. Dust/particulate matter present on the dustpan is then transferred into a trash receptacle whereupon the dustpan may then be stored for future use.

The present inventor is not the first to attempt to improve upon traditional dustpans used to pick up dust and other small particulate matter from floors and other horizontal surfaces. Variations on the theme are disclosed in U.S. Pat. Nos. 234,644 to Alexander, 411,855 to Klein, 422,240 to Marshall, and 5,020,185 to Hoefler, as well as U.S. Design Pat. No. D257,406 to Ouellette.

U.S. Pat. Nos. 234,644 to Alexander and 411,855 to Klein disclose dustpans that are formed by folding a single section of sheet metal. U.S. Pat. No. 422,240 to Marshall shows a rigid dustpan with intermediate arc to improve dust/particulate matter retention.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,020,185 to Hoefler discloses a disposable plastic dustpan that may be stored as a flat sheet in a stack ready for use. When needed, one sheet is peeled away from the stack and folded to form a dustpan. A non-hardening adhesive is used to hold the sheet in the folded orientation and to seal one edge to the surface requiring cleaning. After use, the dustpan is sealed to trap dust and debris within a folded pocket and then the entire device is discarded.

U.S. Design Pat. No. D257,406 to Ouellette shows a pet litter retriever. Two rear corners of the apparatus are formed with integral finger tabs that assist in providing a better grip.

Unfortunately, each of these prior art devices fall short of the optimum configuration for a debris collection apparatus. The Alexander, Klein, and Marshall apparatuses are rigid units formed with a pocket that is closed on all but one side. The arc formed in the tray of the Marshall apparatus is also rigid in nature. The Hoefler device, while fabricated of a flexible material, does not provide the user with any flexibility as to the form the apparatus may take during use (i.e. it is designed to be folded into a predetermined configuration). Finally, the finger tabs of the Ouellette device merely provide the means for holding onto the device, they do not allow for the reconfiguration of the device into a user-determined form.

To the best of the knowledge of the present inventor, no prior flexible debris collector design intended to address all of the problems outlined above exists. Therefore, there remains a need for an improved collection apparatus, and it would be greatly advantageous to provide a flexible debris collector that (1) remains fully open during the debris loading process in order to maximize area onto which debris may be placed, (2) provides the user with virtually complete control over the configuration of the apparatus during the debris pick up and transportation (i.e. to a trash receptacle) process, and yet maintains a constant pressure on a beveled leading edge to ensure thorough pick-up, (3) possesses finger tabs that assist a user in optimizing the configuration of the apparatus based on use, (4) possesses a simple, yet scalable, design fabricated of durable, lightweight, flexible materials, and (5) may be economically manufactured and sold to provide for widespread use.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

It is, therefore, the primary object of the present invention to provide an improved debris collection apparatus.

A further object of the present invention is to provide a debris collection apparatus that facilitates the pick-up, retention, and transfer of debris into a trash receptacle.

Another object of the present invention is to provide a debris collection apparatus with a beveled leading edge.

Yet another object of the present invention is to provide a debris collection apparatus that is generally rectangular in shape, with a front-to-back form that is a shallow arch or upwardly extending curve to maintain a constant pressure on the beveled leading edge.

Another object of the present invention is to provide a debris collection apparatus having finger tabs or handles that assist with its usage.

Still another object of the present invention is to provide a debris collection apparatus that possesses a simple and scalable design.

It is another object of the present invention to provide a debris collection apparatus that is fabricated of a lightweight material providing an appropriate degree of flexibility, resiliency, durability, and longevity.

An additional object of the present invention is to provide a debris collection apparatus that is inexpensive to manufacture and sell to provide for widespread use and disposability.

These and other objects are accomplished by an apparatus that is generally shaped as a rectangular sheet (i.e. possessing four 90° corners) and fabricated of a flexible, resilient plastic material. The apparatus' front-to-back form is that of a shallow arch or upwardly extending curve. A leading edge of the apparatus is beveled to facilitate the debris pick-up process. Two corners of the apparatus, those opposite the leading edge, are formed with diagonally-oriented finger tabs that are raised above the surface of the rest of the sheet. The tabs may be formed with a textured top surface to increase the coefficient of friction between the tabs and the hands/fingers of a user during the debris pickup/disposal process. An alternative embodiment of the present invention is formed with diagonally-oriented cut-outs defining handles, in place of the finger tabs, in the two corners opposite the leading edge.

While the rectangular form is preferred, other quadrilateral shapes (e.g. trapezoids) may be used for the apparatus of the present invention. The present invention may be manufactured using an injection molding process. The present invention is fabricated of lightweight materials chosen to provide an appropriate degree of flexibility, resiliency, durability, and longevity. The present invention possesses a simple, yet scalable, design that may be economically manufactured and sold to provide for widespread use.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Other objects, features, and advantages of the present invention will become more apparent from the following detailed description of the preferred embodiments and certain modifications thereof when taken together with the accompanying drawings in which:

FIG. 1 is a top view of a flexible debris collector 10 according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a side view of the flexible debris collector 10 of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a close-up, side view of a leading edge 20 of the flexible debris collector 10 of FIGS. 1 and 2.

FIG. 4 is a top view of a flexible debris collector 60 according to an alternative embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

FIGS. 1 and 2 are, respectively, top and side views of a flexible debris collection apparatus 10 according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention. The apparatus 10 generally comprises a rectangularly-shaped sheet (i.e. possessing four 90° corners) with a top surface 12 and a bottom surface 14. The apparatus 10 is preferably fabricated from polypropylene, polycarbonate, or other flexible, resilient, commercially-available plastic sheet stock formed by sheet extrusion using conventional methods. The extruded sheet stock in roll form is then economically die-cut and stamped into the illustrated form. One skilled in the art will understand that any material possessing an appropriate amount of flexibility and resiliency may be used, and other suitable manufacturing methods may be employed such as an injection molding process. Additionally, while the rectangular form may be preferred, the apparatus 10 of the present invention may take a different quadrilateral shape, such as a trapezoid.

The preferred front-to-back form of the apparatus 10 is that of a shallow arch or curve that extends upwardly toward the center from the surface 50 on which the device rests. In other words, the top surface 12 of the apparatus is slightly convex while the bottom surface 14 is slightly concave.

A leading edge 20 of the apparatus, shown in enlarged detail in FIG. 3, is beveled (i.e. the bottom surface 14 extends farther forward than the top surface 12) to facilitate the debris pick-up process. This beveling of the leading edge 20 allows particulate matter that is very small in size to load onto the apparatus 10 of the present invention. A trailing edge 40 of the apparatus 10 may be squared-off or beveled. Two outer edges 22 of the apparatus 10 are typically squared-off.

Two corners 16 of the apparatus 10, those opposite the leading edge 20 or adjoining the trailing edge 40, are formed with integral, diagonally-oriented finger tabs 30 that are raised above the top surface 12 of the rest of the sheet. The tabs 30 may be formed with a scored, ribbed or otherwise textured top surface 32 to increase the coefficient of friction between the tabs 30 and the hands/fingers of a user during the debris pickup/disposal process discussed in detail immediately below.

In use, the apparatus 10 of the present invention is positioned on a surface with the leading edge 20 proximate the debris that is to be picked-up. While holding onto one or both of the tabs 30 the debris is transferred onto the top surface 12 of the apparatus 10. This may be accomplished by holding the apparatus 10 still and pushing the debris onto it with, for example, a broom. Or, the transfer may be effectuated by holding the debris stationary and sliding the apparatus 10 under the debris. The efficiency of either method is increased by the presence of the beveled leading edge 20, and the front-to-back arcuate form which maintains a constant pressure on the beveled leading edge 20.

Once the debris has been transferred onto the apparatus' top surface 12, a user may grasp the tabs 30 in order to curl the outer edges 22 of the apparatus upward to partially enclose the debris. When a user performs this action, the top surface 12 temporarily furls inward and the debris is constrained at the sides by the curled-up outer edges 22 and at the trailing edge 40 by the presence of the user. The leading edge 20 may be angled slightly upward by the user, thereby keeping the debris from moving toward that edge 20, as he/she carries the apparatus 10 to a trash receptacle. Upon arrival at the trash receptacle, the user may angle the leading edge downward to transfer the debris from the apparatus to the receptacle.

FIG. 4 provides a top view of a flexible debris collection apparatus 60 according to an alternative embodiment of the present invention. The alternative apparatus 60 possesses all of the features (e.g. leading edge 20), functionality (e.g. curling the outer edges 22 upward to partially enclose any debris), and manufacturing methods (e.g. die-cutting extruded sheet stock) associated with the preferred embodiment except for the finger tabs 30 visible in FIG. 1. In place of the finger tabs, the apparatus 60 is formed with cut-outs 70 proximate two corners 16 that define two handles. The cut-outs 70 provide a user with the means for grasping and manipulating the apparatus 60 during a debris disposal cycle.

The flexibility and resiliency of the material of construction becomes of paramount importance during this usage cycle because the axis of curvature created by the retention/disposal process is perpendicular to the axis of curvature present when the apparatus 10, 60 is at rest. The present invention is designed to withstand a large number of operative cycles of this type.

As is evident from the above disclosure, the apparatus 10, 60 of the present invention possesses a simple, yet scalable, design that may be economically manufactured and sold to provide for widespread use. The apparatus' design allows multiple units to be stacked and packed in a single dispenser for economical shipping. The apparatus utilizes lightweight materials chosen to provide the appropriate degree of flexibility, resiliency, durability, and longevity required by the nature of its usage, and yet its cost is minimal to allow ready disposal.

Having now fully set forth the preferred embodiment and certain modifications of the concept underlying the present invention, various other embodiments as well as certain variations and modifications of the embodiments herein shown and described will obviously occur to those skilled in the art upon becoming familiar with said underlying concept. It is to be understood, therefore, that the invention may be practiced otherwise than as specifically set forth in the appended claims.