Title:
Composite support rack and associated method
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A fiber-reinforced composite support rack is positioned in a transportation container. The support rack is provided for supporting cargo on the support rack. An associated method is disclosed.



Inventors:
Stoughton, William (Slippery Rock, PA, US)
Hobbs, Monty (Raleigh, NC, US)
Seiter, Joe (Raleigh, NC, US)
Zupancich, Ronald (Clayton, NC, US)
Application Number:
11/189313
Publication Date:
01/26/2006
Filing Date:
07/26/2005
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
410/32, 211/191
International Classes:
B65D88/00; A47B57/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
GORDON, STEPHEN T
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Barnes & Thornburg LLP (IN) (Indianapolis, IN, US)
Claims:
1. A method comprising the step of supporting cargo in a transportation container by use of a fiber-reinforced composite support rack.

2. The method of claim 1, wherein the supporting step comprises supporting a first cargo unit on a horizontal fiber-reinforced composite first plank.

3. The method of claim 2, further comprising the step of stowing a second cargo unit underneath the first plank.

4. The method of claim 2, wherein the supporting step comprises supporting the first cargo unit on both the first plank and a horizontal fiber-reinforced composite second plank spaced apart from and parallel to the first plank.

5. The method of claim 1, wherein: the support rack comprises a fiber-reinforced composite platform and at least one leg, and the supporting step comprises (i) the platform supporting the cargo, and (ii) the leg supporting the platform.

6. The method of claim 1, wherein the supporting step comprises the support rack supporting palletized cargo.

7. A transportation apparatus, comprising: a transportation container, and a fiber-reinforced composite support rack positioned in the transportation container for supporting cargo on the support rack.

8. The transportation apparatus of claim 7, wherein the transportation container is a rail car, a trailer, a shipping container, or a sea container.

9. The transportation apparatus of claim 7, wherein: the transportation container comprises vertical first and second container walls, the support rack comprises horizontal fiber-reinforced composite first and second planks and vertical first and second legs, each of the first and second legs is positioned next to a respective one of the first and second container walls and underlies and supports an end portion of each of the first and second planks.

10. The transportation apparatus of claim 9, wherein the support rack comprises a third leg that is positioned between the first and second legs and underlies and supports an intermediate portion of the first and second planks.

11. The transportation container of claim 7, wherein: the transportation container comprises vertical first and second container walls and a mount secured to each of the first and second container walls, and the support rack comprises (i) horizontal fiber-reinforced composite first and second planks positioned on both mounts and (ii) a leg underlying and supporting an intermediate portion of the first and second planks.

12. A cargo support rack adapted to be mounted in a transportation container and to support cargo in the transportation container and comprising a fiber-reinforced composite material.

13. The support rack of claim 12, comprising a frame and a cargo platform mounted on the frame to support cargo in an elevated position in the transportation container, wherein the cargo platform comprises the fiber-reinforced composite material.

14. The support rack of claim 13, wherein the frame comprises the fiber-reinforced composite material.

15. The support rack of claim 13, wherein the cargo platform comprises a horizontal fiber-reinforced composite plank mounted on the frame.

16. The support rack of claim 15, wherein the plank comprises a tubular outer wall and a plurality of internal reinforcement walls mounted within the outer wall to reinforce the outer wall.

17. The support rack of claim 15, wherein the first plank weighs about 2.7 pounds per foot.

18. The support rack of claim 15, wherein the first plank is moisture impervious.

19. The support rack of claim 13, wherein the frame comprises first and second legs underlying and supporting the cargo platform.

20. The support rack of claim 13, wherein the frame comprises a single leg underlying and supporting the cargo platform.

Description:

This application claims the benefit under 35 U.S.C. § 119(e) of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/591,197 which was filed Jul. 26, 2004 and is hereby incorporated by reference herein.

FIELD OF THE DISCLOSURE

The present disclosure relates generally to a support rack for supporting cargo inside of a transportation container.

BACKGROUND OF THE DISCLOSURE

Transportation containers are used to transport cargo from one place to another. Efficient use of space in the transportation containers can reduce associated transportation costs.

SUMMARY OF THE DISCLOSURE

According to an aspect of the present disclosure, there is provided a transportation apparatus that comprises a transportation container (e.g., rail car, trailer, shipping container, or sea container) and a fiber-reinforced composite support rack positioned in the transportation container for supporting cargo on the support rack. An associated method is disclosed.

The support rack may take a variety of forms. Exemplarily, it has a cargo platform for supporting cargo and an underlying frame for supporting the platform. The platform has, for example, a pair of horizontal, parallel planks spaced-apart from one another to receive cargo thereon. The planks are made of fiber-reinforced composite material to provide the planks with a relatively high strength-to-weight ratio. The frame has one, two, or three legs to support the planks. The leg(s) may be made, for example, of metal or fiber-reinforced composite material.

The above and other features of the present disclosure will become apparent from the following description and the attached drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a diagrammatic view of a fiber-reinforced composite support rack mounted in a transportation container to support a cargo unit thereon and allow room for stowage of another cargo unit underneath the support rack;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view showing a single-leg, fiber-reinforced composite support rack;

FIG. 3 is an end elevational view of a single-leg support rack;

FIG. 4 is a side elevational view of an intermediate portion of the single-leg support rack;

FIGS. 5 and 6 are side elevational views showing cargo units positioned on a cargo platform of the single-leg support rack and cargo units stowed underneath the platform;

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of a three-leg, fiber-reinforced composite support rack;

FIG. 8 is a side elevational view showing the three-leg support rack supporting cargo in a container;

FIG. 9 is a side elevational view showing a two-leg, fiber-reinforced composite support rack supporting cargo in a container;

FIG. 10 is a side elevational view showing another three-leg, fiber-reinforced composite support rack supporting cargo in a container;

FIG. 11 is an enlarged side elevational view showing a retainer secured to a bottom portion of a leg of the support rack of FIG. 10 and secured to an I-beam of a floor of the transportation container;

FIG. 12 is a perspective view showing yet another three-leg, fiber-reinforced composite support rack; and

FIG. 13 is an elevational view showing a leg of the support rack of FIG. 12 configured as a slotted panel.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

While the concepts of the present disclosure are susceptible to various modifications and alternative forms, specific exemplary embodiments thereof have been shown by way of example in the drawings and will herein be described in detail. It should be understood, however, that there is no intent to limit the disclosure to the particular forms disclosed, but on the contrary, the intention is to cover all modifications, equivalents, and alternatives following within the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims.

Referring to FIG. 1, there is provided a transportation apparatus 10 for transporting cargo 12. The apparatus 10 has a fiber-reinforced composite support rack 14 positioned in a transportation container 16 to support cargo unit(s) 18 on the support rack 14. Other cargo unit(s) 20 may be stowed underneath the support rack 14. The container 16 may be, for example, a rail car, a tractor trailer, a shipping container, a sea container, or the like. The support rack 14 may be used with a wide variety of cargo including, but not limited to, palletized cargo, fluid cargo, dry cargo, etc.

The support rack 14 has one or more components made of a fiber-reinforced composite material such that the support rack 14 is relatively light weight, relatively strong, and relatively moisture-impervious. The composite material thus enhances the strength-to-weight ratio of the support rack 14.

The composite component(s) may be made of any suitable fiber-reinforced composite structure. An example of such a structure is a fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP) composite structure. Such an FRP structure may include a polymer matrix having a reinforcing element and a polymer resin. The FRP structure may be embodied as any type of FRP structure. Examples of such structures include, but are not limited to, a solid laminate, a pultruded or vacuum-infused sandwich panel (e.g., a panel having a pair of skins with a core therebetween), pultruded panel (e.g., a panel having a pair of sheets with vertical or diagonal webs therebetween), or TRANSONITE® available from Martin Marietta Materials, Inc. of Raleigh, N.C. In the case where the FRP structure is embodied as a sandwich panel, the core type may include, but is not limited to, wood, foam and various types of honeycomb.

The matrix includes, for example, a thermosetting resin, although thermoplastic resins are also contemplated for use. Examples of thermosetting resins which may be used include, but are not limited to, unsaturated polyesters, vinyl esters, polyurethanes, epoxies, phenolics, and mixtures and blends thereof.

The reinforcing element may include E-glass fibers, although other reinforcements such as S-glass, carbon, KEVLAR®, metal, high modulus organic fibers (e.g. aromatic polyamides, polybenzamidazoles, and aromatic polyimides), and other organic fibers (e.g. polyethylene and nylon) may be used. Blends and hybrids of such materials may be used for the reinforcing element. Other suitable composite materials may be used for the reinforcing element including whiskers and fibers such as boron, aluminum silicate, basalt, carbon nano-fibers, and other nano-fibers.

Referring to FIGS. 2-6, there is shown a single-leg fiber-reinforced composite support rack 114 for use as the rack 14 in the transportation apparatus 10. Illustratively, the rack 114 has a pair of spaced-apart and parallel horizontal fiber-reinforced composite planks 116 and a centrally located leg 118 underlying the planks 116. Intermediate portions 117 of the planks 116 are supported on and secured to the leg 118 by use of a pair of connector plates 119 and associated fasteners. End portions 120 of the planks 116 are supported on mounts 122 (e.g., angle plates) secured to opposite walls 24 of the container 16. The leg 118 thus acts as a frame supporting the planks 116 which provide a cargo platform for supporting palletized cargo units 18 thereon and allowing stowage of palletized cargo units 20 underneath the planks 116.

Each plank 116 is made of the composite material and comprises a tubular outer wall 126 and a number (e.g., three) of vertical (or diagonal) reinforcement walls 128, as shown in FIG. 3. Outer wall 126 has, for example, a rectangular cross-section. The walls 128 are positioned within and secured to outer wall 126 to promote strength of the plank 116. The walls 128 extend along the length of outer wall 126 and are parallel to one another. Anti-skid material in the form of, for example, a tape or spray may be applied to the top surface of outer wall 126 to limit skidding of cargo located thereon. Anti-abrade material in the form of, for example, a tape or spray may be applied to the bottom surface of outer wall 126 at each end portion 120 to limit chafing of the composite material of the plank 116 upon vibration between the end portion 120 and the mount 122. A number of end caps (not shown) may be to each end portion 20 to cover openings formed in the plank 116.

Illustratively, the leg 118 has a pair of vertical tubular bars 130, a lower horizontal tubular bar 132, a pair of longer upper horizontal tubular bars 134, and a shorter upper horizontal tubular bar 136, as shown in FIG. 3. The bars 130, 132, 134, 136 are made of fiber-reinforced composite material. The bar 132 is secured to the bars 130 by use of a pair of lower gussets 138 and associated fasteners. The bars 134, 136 are stacked one on top of the other and secured to the bars 130 by use of a pair of upper gussets 140 and associated fasteners. The gussets 138, 140 may be made of, for example, a metal material such as stainless steel or a fiber-reinforced composite material. Anti-skid material in the form of, for example, a tape or spray may be applied to the bottom surface of the bar 132 to limit skidding of the bar 132 on a floor 42 of container 14.

The leg 118 may be secured to the planks 116 at a variety of locations along the length of the planks 116 depending on the cargo loading configuration employed (among other possible factors). For example, the leg 118 may be secured to the planks 116 at their midpoint, as shown in FIG. 5, or may be secured to the planks 116 at a location different from the midpoint, as shown in FIG. 6.

Referring to FIGS. 7 and 8, there is shown a three-leg fiber-reinforced composite support rack 214 for use as the rack 14 in the transportation apparatus 10. Illustratively, the rack 214 has the two planks 116 which provide the cargo platform of the rack 214 and has three legs 118 underlying the planks 116 to provide the frame of the rack 214 such that the rack 214 is a stand-alone device. In particular, two end legs 118 are located at the end portions 120 of the planks 116 for support thereof and an intermediate leg 118 is secured to and supports the intermediate portions 117 of the planks by use of the plates 119 and associated fasteners.

All the components of the rack 214 may be made of a fiber-reinforced composite material or, in some embodiments, there may be components (e.g., the gussets 138, 140) which are made of a material other than a fiber-reinforced composite material such as metal. In either case, the components may be configured as shown in FIG. 7 except that, in the case of metal gussets, an edge of the lower gussets 138 may have the shape shown in dashed lines.

Referring to FIG. 9, there is shown a two-leg fiber-reinforced composite support rack 314 for use as the rack 14 in the transportation apparatus 10. The rack 314 is similar to the rack 214 except that it omits the intermediate leg 118.

Referring to FIG. 10, there is shown another example of a three-leg fiber-reinforced composite support rack 414 for use as the rack 14 in the transportation apparatus 10. The rack 414 is similar to the rack 214 except that the end legs 118 are spaced slightly inwardly from the end portions 120 and are secured thereto by use of connector plates 119 and associated fasteners so that a leg retainer 450 secured to a bottom portion of each of the end legs 118 is positioned to be secured to an I-beam 454 of a floor 442 of the container 16 to retain the leg 118 in place.

Referring to FIG. 11, each retainer 450 exemplarily has a hook 452 that hooks onto a top wall 456 of one of the I-beams 454. The I-beams 454 are spaced apart slightly to define an air gap therebetween for air to flow through the air gaps. Each hook 452 fits through one of the air gaps to grip the top wall 456 of the associated I-beam 454 to hold the leg 118 in place relative to the floor 442.

Referring to FIG. 12, there is shown yet another example of a three-leg fiber-reinforced composite support rack 514 for use as the rack 14 in the transportation apparatus 10. The rack 514 has the two planks 116 to provide the rack 514 with a cargo platform for supporting cargo thereon and allowing stowage of cargo underneath the planks 116. The rack 514 has three legs 518 that provide the rack 514 with a frame for supporting the planks 16. The legs 518 are configured, for example, as panels made of a fiber-reinforced composite. In other embodiments, the legs 518 may be made of a material than a fiber-reinforced composite material such as metal.

Each leg 518 defines a pair of open slots 520. Each slot 520 receives a portion of a plank 116. A retainer 522 of the leg 518 inhibits inadvertent removal of the plank portion from the associated slot 520. Illustratively, the retainer 522 is configured as a lip cantilevered to extend over the plank portion.

Exemplarily, the fiber-reinforced composite material of each plank 116 used in any of the racks disclosed herein is a glass fiber-reinforced polymer with urethane resin. In such a case, the plank 116 is moisture impervious and weighs less than 3.2 pounds per foot. Exemplarily, each plank 116 weighs about 2.7 pounds per foot. The other components of the racks may be made of a glass fiber-reinforced polymer with polyester resin.

While the concepts of the present disclosure have been illustrated and described in detail in the drawings and foregoing description, such an illustration and description is to be considered as exemplary and not restrictive in character, it being understood that only the illustrative embodiments have been shown and described and that all changes and modifications that come within the spirit of the disclosure are desired to be protected.

There are a plurality of advantages of the concepts of the present disclosure arising from the various features of the systems described herein. It will be noted that alternative embodiments of each of the systems of the present disclosure may not include all of the features described yet still benefit from at least some of the advantages of such features. Those of ordinary skill in the art may readily devise their own implementations of a system that incorporate one or more of the features of the present disclosure and fall within the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims.