Title:
Apparatus and method for mounting a hanger wire on a basket and a hanger wire formed thereby
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A method of attaching a hanger wire to a basket includes passing a portion of a hanger wire through a mounting opening of a basket and forming a first bend in a portion of the hanger wire to form a first generally horizontal portion. A second bend is formed in the hanger wire spaced from the first bend to form a first generally vertical portion depending from the first generally horizontal portion. A third bend is formed in another portion of the wire below the second bend to form a second generally horizontal portion depending from the first generally vertical portion wherein the length of the second generally horizontal portion is greater than the dimension of the mounting opening.



Inventors:
Timmer, Randall H. (Hudsonville, MI, US)
Timmer, Aaron R. (Hudsonville, MI, US)
Application Number:
10/936358
Publication Date:
02/23/2006
Filing Date:
09/08/2004
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
105/151, 248/317
International Classes:
A47G29/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20120292466ADHESIVE SUPPORTERNovember, 2012Song
20150182053BEVERAGE COASTERJuly, 2015Woods
20130099080CLAMP WINDOW RODSApril, 2013Baines
20170043071Suspension Jig and Method for Transporting Additive SolutionFebruary, 2017Imai
20140341698RELOCATION AND SUPPORT DEVICENovember, 2014Franco et al.
20070152127Portable device securing mechanismJuly, 2007Kao
20120018600Hangar Mounting Assembly With Adjustable Height GagesJanuary, 2012Kerr Jr.
20050029418UndergarmentFebruary, 2005Lee
20100237219Multi-Purpose Fishing Rod HolderSeptember, 2010Edwards
20080073475Recipe standMarch, 2008Gartrell
20060023416Shock absorber assembly and portable computer utilizing the sameFebruary, 2006Chen



Primary Examiner:
KOEHLER, CHRISTOPHER M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
VAN DYKE, GARDNER, LINN & BURKHART, LLP (GRAND RAPIDS, MI, US)
Claims:
I claim:

1. A method of attaching a hanger wire to a basket, the basket having an annular flange at its upper peripheral edge, the upper annular flange having a mounting opening, said method comprising: passing a portion of a hanger wire through a mounting opening of a basket, the mounting opening having a dimension; forming a first bend in a portion of the hanger wire to form a first generally horizontal portion; forming a second bend in a portion of the hanger wire spaced from the first bend to form a first generally vertical portion depending from the first generally horizontal portion; and forming a third bend in a portion of the wire spaced below the second bend to form a second generally horizontal portion depending from the first generally vertical portion wherein the length of the second generally horizontal portion is greater than the dimension of the mounting opening.

2. The method according to claim 1, wherein the first generally horizontal portion has a length greater than the dimension of the mounting opening.

3. The method according to claim 1, wherein the first generally vertical portion is sized to impart sufficient flexibility in the hanger wire to allow said first generally horizontal portion to pass through the mounting opening wherein the basket is mounted to the hanger wire between the first and second generally horizontal portions.

4. The method according to claim 1, further comprising forming a fourth bend in the lower portion spaced from the third bend wherein said fourth bend forms a second generally vertical portion depending from the second generally horizontal portion to thereby stiffen the second generally horizontal portion.

5. The method according to claim 4, further comprising spacing the fourth bend from the third bend wherein the length of the second generally horizontal portion is greater than the length of the first generally horizontal portion.

6. The method according to claim 4, further comprising forming a fifth bend in the lower portion spaced below the fourth bend to form a third generally horizontal portion spaced from said second generally horizontal portion.

7. The method according to claim 6, further comprising spacing the fifth bend from a distal end of the hanger wire wherein the length of the third generally horizontal portion is greater than said second generally horizontal portion.

8. The method according to claim 4, further comprising forming the bends such that they lie generally in a common plane.

9. The method according to claim 1, further comprising twisting a lower portion of the wire that is extended through the basket flange.

10. The method according to claim 1, wherein said twisting includes forming at least one 360-degree loop in the wire.

11. A method of attaching a hanger wire to a basket, the basket having an annular flange at its upper peripheral edge, the upper annular flange having a mounting opening, said method comprising passing a lower portion of the hanger wire through the mounting opening of the basket; providing a pair of opposing surfaces with each opposing surface having a profile; positioning the basket adjacent the opposing surfaces; positioning a portion of the hanger wire between the opposing surfaces; moving at least one the opposing surfaces toward the other of the opposing surfaces; and forming at least one bend in the hanger wire with the profiles of the opposing surfaces.

12. The method according to claim 11, wherein said forming includes forming at least two bends in the hanger wire.

13. The method according to claim 11, wherein said moving includes moving both said opposing surfaces.

14. The method according to claim 11, further comprising providing at least one actuator, and said moving includes moving said at least one opposing surface with said actuator.

15. The method according to claim 14, further comprising providing a trigger, said trigger actuating said actuator when the lower portion is positioned between said opposing surfaces.

16. The method according to claim 15, wherein said trigger detects when the lower portion is positioned between the opposing surfaces.

17. The method according to claim 13, wherein said moving includes moving said opposing surfaces substantially simultaneously.

18. The method according to claim 11, further comprising: providing as rotatable member; extending the wire through the rotatable member; and rotating the rotatable member to thereby impart a twist into the wire.

19. A basket hanger wire bending apparatus for bending a hanger wire of a basket to mount the basket to the wire, said apparatus comprising: a pair of opposing surfaces, each of said surfaces having a profile, at least one of said surfaces being movable with respect to the other of said surfaces; means for moving said at least one of said opposing surfaces toward the other of said opposing surfaces; a guide surface for guiding the wire between said opposing surfaces; and a control for actuating said means when a portion of the hanger wire is positioned between said opposing surfaces.

20. The basket hanger wire bending apparatus according to claim 19, wherein said means for moving comprises means for moving both of said opposing surfaces.

21. The basket hanger wire bending apparatus according to claim 20, wherein said means for moving comprises a pair of actuators.

22. The basket hanger wire bending apparatus according to claim 21, wherein said actuators comprise linear actuators.

23. The basket hanger wire apparatus according to claim 19, wherein said means comprises a cylinder.

24. The basket hanger wire apparatus according to claim 23, wherein said cylinder comprises a double acting cylinder.

25. The basket hanger wire apparatus according to claim 24, wherein said cylinder comprises a pneumatic cylinder.

26. The basket hanger wire apparatus according to claim 19, further comprising a trigger, said trigger actuating said means for moving.

27. The basket hanger wire apparatus according to claim 26, wherein said trigger comprises a lever, said trigger actuating said control when the hanger wire presses against said lever.

28. A hanging basket hanger wire comprising: an upper wire portion; and a lower wire portion, said lower wire portion connected with said upper wire portion, said lower portion including a first generally horizontal portion, a first generally vertical portion depending from said first generally horizontal portion, a second generally horizontal portion depending from said first generally vertical portion, wherein said first generally vertical portion, said first generally horizontal portion, and said second generally horizontal portion all generally lie in a common plane.

29. The hanging basket hanger wire according to claim 28, wherein said first generally horizontal portion, said first generally vertical portion, and said second generally horizontal portion generally lie in a common plane with said upper wire portion.

30. The hanging basket hanger wire according to claim 28, further comprising a second generally vertical portion, said second generally vertical portion depending from said second generally horizontal portion.

31. The hanging basket hanger wire according to claim 30, further comprising a third generally horizontal portion, said third generally horizontal portion depending from said second generally vertical portion.

32. The hanging basket hanger wire according to claim 31, wherein said second generally horizontal portion has a greater length than the length of the first generally horizontally portion.

33. The hanging basket hanger wire according to claim 32, wherein said third generally horizontal portion has a length greater than the length of said first generally horizontal portion and the length of said second generally horizontal portion.

34. The hanging basket hanger according to claim 28, further comprising a lowermost portion of said wire having a twist formed therein spaced from said second generally horizontal portion.

35. The hanging basket hanger wire according to claim 34, wherein said twist comprises at least one 360-degree loop.

Description:

The present application claims priority to provisional application entitled APPARATUS AND METHOD FOR MOUNTING A HANGER WIRE ON A BASKET AND A HANGER WIRE FORMED THEREBY, Ser. No. 60/501,174, filed Sep. 8, 2003, which is incorporated be reference herein in its entirety.

TECHNICAL FIELD AND BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present invention generally relates to attaching hanger wires to baskets and, more particularly, to metal hanger wires that are attached to the basket for suspending the basket to create a hanging plant.

Hanging plants continue to be popular with gardeners. Most hanging plants are potted in a hanging basket that is formed from a plastic material and includes rim at its upper open end, which includes mounting openings for mounting hangers to the basket. Historically, baskets have suspended by a plurality of metal hanger wires. The wires are extended through the mounting openings of a basket, with their lower end portions looped back up and over the rim of the basket and, further, wound back onto itself to thereby mount the basket to the wire. Metal wire hangers tend to have a long life and can support a significant amount of weight. However, the attachment process is relatively labor intensive and, further, inefficient. Furthermore, the end of the wire often creates a sharp catch point.

More recently, hanging baskets have incorporated plastic hangers that snap into the respective mounting openings provided in the rim. However, in order to provide sufficient load capacity the plastic hangers are relatively bulky and, as a result, tend to detract from the overall appearance of the basket. Furthermore, they tend to degrade overtime due their exposure to the sun. Despite their shortcomings, many nurseries and landscaping companies continue to choose plastic hangers over the metal hanger wires because of their ease of assembly and lack of catch points.

Accordingly, there is a need for a simplified method of attaching a metal hanger wire to a basket.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Accordingly, the present invention provides a method of attaching a hanger wire to a basket that does not require manual manipulation of the wire and which is far simpler than heretofore known.

In one form of the invention, a hanger wire is mounted to a basket by passing a portion of the hanger wire through a mounting opening provided in the basket. The mounting opening is provided in the upper annular flange of the basket that extends around the upper perimeter of the basket. A first bend is formed in a portion of a hanger wire to form a first generally horizontal portion. A second bend is formed in the wire, which is spaced from the first bend, to form a generally vertical portion depending from the first generally horizontal portion wherein the first generally horizontal portion has a length greater than the dimension of the mounting opening of the basket. A third bend is formed in the wire, which is spaced below the second bend to form a second generally horizontal portion, which depends from the first generally vertical portion, wherein the length of second generally horizontal portion is greater than the dimension of the mounting opening.

In one aspect, the first generally vertical portion is sized to impart sufficient flexibility in the hanger wire to allow the first generally horizontal portion to flex and pass through the mounting opening wherein the basket is mounted to the hanger wire between the first and second generally horizontal portions.

In another aspect, a fourth bend is formed in a lower portion of the hanger wire, which is spaced from the third bend wherein the fourth bend forms a second generally vertical portion depending from the second generally horizontal portion to thereby stiffen the second generally horizontal portion. Preferably, the fourth bend is spaced from the third bend such that the length of the second generally horizontal portion is greater than in the length of the first generally horizontal portion. In this manner, the second generally horizontal portion will remain captured below the upper flange of the basket and will not pass through the mounting opening absent the application of excessive loads not normally associated with a hanging basket.

In other aspects, a fifth bend is formed in the lower portion of the hanger wire spaced below the fourth bend to form a third generally horizontal portion spaced from the second generally horizontal portion. Furthermore, the fifth bend is preferably spaced from the distal end of the hanger wire such that the length of the third generally horizontal portion is greater than the second generally horizontal portion.

In addition, all of the bends are preferably formed such that they lie generally in the same plane.

In yet another aspect, a lowermost portion of the wire includes at least one twist. For example, the twist may be formed by at least one 360-degree loop.

According to another form of the invention, a method of attaching a wire to a basket includes passing a lower portion of a hanger wire through a mounting opening of a basket, positioning the basket adjacent a pair of opposing surfaces, with each of the opposing surfaces having a profile, and positioning a portion of the hanger wire between the opposing surfaces and, thereafter, moving at least one of the opposing surfaces toward the other of the opposing surfaces to form at least one bend in the hanger wire with the profiles of the opposing surfaces wherein the hanger wire is thereby captured in the mounting opening and wherein the basket is mounted to the hanger wire.

In one aspect, both of the opposing surfaces are moved toward each other and, further, are preferably moved using actuators. According to another aspect, the method further includes providing a trigger, which actuates the actuators when the hanger wire is positioned between the opposing surfaces. In addition, preferably the trigger detects when the lower portion of the hanger wire is positioned between the opposing surfaces.

According to yet another form of the invention, a basket hanger wire bending apparatus includes a pair of opposing surfaces, means for moving at least one of the opposing surfaces toward the other of the opposing surfaces, a guide surface for guiding the hanger wire between the opposing surfaces, and a control for actuating the means when a portion of the hanger wire is positioned between the opposing surfaces.

In one aspect, the means for moving moves both of the opposing surfaces. For example, the means for moving may comprise a pair of actuators, such as linear actuators and, more preferably, cylinders, including double-acting cylinders. For example, the cylinders may comprise pneumatic cylinders.

In a further aspect, the apparatus further includes a trigger for actuating the control to actuate the actuators. For example, the trigger may include a lever, with the trigger actuating the control when the hanger wire presses against the lever.

In yet another form of the invention, a hanging basket hanger wire includes an upper generally linear portion and a lower portion. The lower portion includes a first generally horizontal portion, a first generally vertical portion, which depends from the first generally horizontal portion, and a second generally horizontal portion, which depends from the first generally vertical portion. The first generally vertical portion, the first generally horizontal portion, and the second generally horizontal portion all generally lie in a common plane.

In one aspect, the first generally horizontal portion, the first generally vertical portion, and the second generally horizontal portion generally lie in a common plane with the upper portion.

In other aspects, the hanger wire further includes a second generally vertical portion that depends from the second generally horizontal portion. In addition, the hanger wire preferably includes a third generally horizontal portion, which depends from the second generally vertical portion. Preferably, the second generally horizontal portion has a greater length than the length of the first generally horizontally portion. In a further aspect, the third generally horizontal portion has a length greater than the length of the first generally horizontal portion and the second generally horizontal portion.

Accordingly, the present invention provides an improved hanger wire for a hanging basket and an improved method of attaching a hanger wire to a basket. The present invention also provides a bending apparatus that significantly decreases the assembly time for installing a hanger wire on a basket to form a hanging basket.

These and other objects, advantages, and features will become more apparent from a study of the drawings and description, which follow.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is an elevation view of the basket and a hanger wire of the present invention illustrating how the hanger wire is bent for attaching the hanger wire to the basket;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the bending apparatus of the present invention with the guard removed for clarity;

FIG. 2A is an enlarged plan view of the frame of the apparatus of FIG. 2;

FIG. 2B is a right side end view of the frame of FIG. 2A;

FIG. 2C is a front elevation view of the frame of FIG. 2A;

FIG. 3 is a similar view to FIG. 2 with the dies of the bending apparatus removed for clarity;

FIG. 4 is an enlarged view similar to FIG. 3;

FIG. 5 is an enlarged view to FIG. 4;

FIG. 5A is a right side end view of the right side die mounting coupler of the bending apparatus;

FIG. 5B is an elevation view of the coupler of FIG. 5A;

FIG. 5C is a plan view of the coupler of FIG. 5A;

FIG. 6 is a rear elevation view of the bending apparatus;

FIG. 6A is an enlarged side view of a pressure plate of the trigger assembly of the bending apparatus;

FIG. 6B is a right side end view of the pressure plate of FIG. 6A;

FIG. 6C is a plan view of a pivot arm of the trigger assembly;

FIG. 6D is a side view of the pivot arm of FIG. 6C;

FIG. 6E is a plan view of the pivot support of the trigger assembly;

FIG. 6F is a side view of the pivot support of FIG. 6E;

FIG. 6G is a plan view of a guide support of the bending apparatus;

FIG. 7 is an enlarged view of one of the actuators of the bending apparatus with the cover plate installed;

FIG. 8 is an elevation view of the bending apparatus with the cover plate installed;

FIG. 9 is a rear elevation view of the apparatus of the present invention illustrating a trigger mechanism of the control system of the present invention;

FIG. 10 is an enlarged rear elevation view similar view to FIG. 9;

FIG. 11 is a top perspective view of the apparatus of the present invention;

FIG. 12 is another embodiment of the basket and hanger wire of the present invention illustrating how the hanger wire is bent for attaching the hanger wire to the basket;

FIG. 12A is an enlarged view of the hanger wire of FIG. 12;

FIG. 13 is an elevation view of the wire bending apparatus of the present invention;

FIG. 14 is an enlarged elevation view of the bending apparatus of FIG. 13 as viewed from the support surface of the apparatus;

FIG. 15 is an enlarged top plan view of the bending apparatus of FIG. 13;

FIG. 16 is an enlarged perspective view of the bending apparatus as viewed from the work surface;

FIG. 17 is another enlarged elevation view illustrating the die block of the upper actuator;

FIG. 18 is an enlarged view of the mandrel of the lower actuator;

FIG. 19 is an enlarged view of the mandrel actuator; and

FIG. 20 is an enlarged view of the trigger assembly of the control system of the bending apparatus.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Referring to FIG. 1, the numeral 10 generally designates a hanger wire of the present invention. Hanger wire 10 is particularly suitable for suspending a basket 12 from a hook, nail or post or the like to form a hanging basket, which is particularly suitable for use in hanging plants or flowers. As will be more fully described below, hanger wire 10 is formed, such as by bending, into a configuration or shape to provide a quick and simple way of attaching the wire to the basket. Furthermore, hanger wire 10 is formed into its desired configuration using a method that is far simpler and faster than methods heretofore known. While the method will be described as an automated method, which relieves the stress and strain on the assembler, the hanger wire can be formed or bent into the desired configuration manually using tools, such as pliers or the like, though an automated method is preferred.

As best seen in FIG. 1, hanger wire 10 is formed from a metal wire and includes an upper portion 14, which is tied at its upper distal end to (or wound with) two or more other similar wires to form a hook for mounting basket 12. Alternately, the distal ends of the hanger wires may be mounted to a hook rather than form the hook themselves. To couple the wire to basket 12, a lower portion 15 of the hanger wire is inserted through a mounting opening 16 provided in the upper flange 18 of basket 12. Flange 18 comprises an upper annular flange that extends around the upper peripheral edge of basket and is reinforced by downwardly depending annular lip 19 and, together with lip 19, forms a rim. To secure the hanger wire 10 in the mounting opening 16, lower portion 15 includes a first generally horizontal portion 20, which is formed by a first bend 22 and by a second bend 24, which is spaced from the first bend 22. A first generally vertical portion 26 is formed by a third bend 28, which is formed spaced from and below second bend 24. Second bend 24 is spaced from first bend 22 such that the length of the first generally horizontal portion 20 is greater than the widest dimension of the opening. A second generally horizontal portion 30 is formed by a fourth bend 32, which is spaced from third bend 28. Preferably, fourth bend 32 is spaced from the third bend 28 so that second generally horizontal portion has a greater length than the first generally horizontal portion. In addition, the length of vertical portion 26 is sized to provide sufficient flexibility to permit the first generally horizontal portion 20 to flex and pass through the mounting opening 16 but with hanger wire 10 being secured in mounting opening 16 by the second generally horizontal portion 30 which is captured below flange 18.

To provide additional stiffness to second horizontal portion 30, lower portion 14 of hanger wire 10 includes a fifth bend 34, which defines between bend 32 a second generally vertically portion and, further, a third generally horizontal portion 36. Fifth bend 34 is preferably spaced from the distal end of hanger wire 10 such that the third generally horizontal portion 36 has a length that is greater than either the second generally horizontal portion or the first generally horizontal portion. In this manner, when hanger 10 is mounted to basket 12, the first generally horizontal portion will be positioned above flange 18 of the basket 12, after it has been passed through mounting opening 16, and second generally horizontal portion 30 will be captured below flange 18 to thereby mount basket 12 onto hanger wire 10. Furthermore, the addition of the third generally horizontal portion provides sufficient rigidity to the second generally horizontal portion to resist the normal vertical forces imposed on hanger wire 10 when the hanging basket is filled and suspended.

As would be understood from FIG. 1, the bends (22, 24, 28, 32, and 34) all generally lie in the same plane such that the lower portion 14 of hanger wire 10 may remain hidden by the rim of basket 12 though it can be appreciated that one or more of the bends may be made so that one or more of the generally horizontal portions or vertical portions lie outside of the plane defined by the lower portion of hanger wire. However, to create the out-of-plane bends, additional steps in the bending process may be required.

Referring to FIG. 2, the numeral 50 generally designates a bending apparatus of the present invention, which imparts the bends into the hanger wire to thereby mount the basket onto the hanger wire. In the illustrated embodiment, bending apparatus 50 includes a pair of opposed surfaces 52 and 54, which are formed on a pair of rigid die-blocks 56 and 58, such as metal die-blocks, with each of the opposed surfaces 52 and 54 including a profile, which dove-tail to impart the respective bend or bends into the hanger wire when the hanger wire is positioned between the opposing surfaces and one or more of the opposing surfaces is moved to the other opposing surface. In the illustrated embodiment, die-blocks 56 and 58 are configured to impart all five of the bends in a single step; however, it can be appreciated that the bends may be formed in more than one step, for example, using multiple die-blocks, though this will be less efficient.

Die-blocks 56 and 58 are mounted and, preferably, removably mounted to a pair of actuators 60 and 62. Actuators 60 and 62 move die-blocks 56 and 58 substantially simultaneously towards each other when the lower portion of the hanger wire is positioned between the respective die-blocks. However, it should be understood that one of the die-blocks may be fixed and remain stationary while the other block is moved toward the fixed, stationary block. Actuators 60 and 62 comprise linear actuators, for example cylinders. Although the following description will be made in reference to cylinders, it is not intended to be limiting. For example, actuators 60 and 62 may comprise other actuators, such as servo motors or the like. Other actuators that may be used also include a combination of mechanical linkages and levers, for example.

In the illustrated embodiment, cylinders 60 and 62 are mounted to a frame 64 with their rod ends extending through the frame. Mounted to their respective rod ends are die mounting couplers 66 and 68, which mount the respective dies 56 and 58 to the rod ends of the cylinders. As best understood from FIGS. 2-4 and 6, frame 64 is mounted to a support 70. As will be more fully described below, support 70 provides a mounting surface for at least a portion of the control system. In addition, support 70 is adapted so that frame 64 is vertically adjustable to accommodate different basket sizes.

As best seen in FIGS. 2A-2C, frame 64 includes a pair of spaced apart arms 72 and 74, which project from a base 76, which provides a mounting surface for mounting frame 64 to support 70 a mounting surface for other components, as will be described below. Arms 72 and 74 provide spaced guide surfaces for the respective dies so that the dies can move between a retracted position (FIG. 2) and a pressing position in which the outer surfaces of the respective dies are in close proximity to each other to thereby impart the bends into the hanger wire, as noted above. In addition, arms 72 and 74 provide a mounting surface for actuators 60 and 62. Each arm 72, 74, includes a first transverse passage 78 and a second transverse passage 80, which has a smaller diameter than transverse passage 78 and is generally aligned along the longitudinal axis 78a of passage 78 so that they are co-linear. Transverse passage 78 comprises a threaded passageway to permit the end of the respective actuators to be threaded in passageway 78 and, therefore, releasably coupled to frame 64. When positioned in passageway 78, the rod end of the cylinders are extended through passage 80 so the rod ends of the cylinders may be positioned between the respective arms 72 and 74.

Mounted to base 76 is a guide assembly 82, which guides the respective hanger wire into positioned between the respective dies (56, 58). In addition, a pair of guide or support pins 84 (FIG. 2) are mounted to base 76, which extend into mounting openings 86 provided in frame 64. Pins 84 provide a guide for the rim of the basket, as will be more fully described in reference to guide block 108. In addition, apparatus 10 incorporates a pair of guide members 88 for the respective dies, which are also similarly mounted to frame 64 by a plurality of fasteners that extend into mounting openings 90 provided on a lower end of base 64.

In the illustrated embodiment, frame 64 comprises a generally E-shaped frame with a transverse lower flange 92, which extends between respective arms 72 and 74, which provides the mounting surface for guides 88. In addition, in the illustrated embodiment, frame 64 is formed from a block of material, such as metal and, preferably, aluminum, which is machined into its desired shape; however, it can be appreciated that frame 64 may be assembled from two or more components and, further, may assume a different configuration or shape.

As best seen in FIGS. 5 ad 5A-5C, die couplers 66 and 68 comprise block-shaped bodies 94. For ease of description, the die mounting members will be described in reference to the right-handed coupler (68). As best seen in FIG. 5A, body 94 includes a threaded bore 95, which threads onto the rod end rod end of actuator 62. Body 94 is secured on the rod end by a fastener 96, which extends through a transverse opening 98 that is communication with bore 95. As would be understood, fastener 96 permits axial adjustment of die coupler 68 along the rod end of the actuator.

Referring to FIG. 5C, the opposed side of the die coupler 68 includes a generally V-shaped rail or guide surface 100, which cooperates with a correspondingly-shaped generally V-shaped groove formed in the die so that the die may be slidably mounted to guide coupler 68. Dies 52 and 54 are secured to guide couplers 66, 68 by fasteners 104 and washers 106, with the fasteners extending into a threaded transverse bore 102 formed in body 94.

Referring to FIG. 3, guide assembly 82 includes a guide block 108, such as a V-block, which is movably mounted to a horizontal support member 110 (FIG. 6), which in turn is mounted to frame 64 by fasteners 112 that extend through mounting openings 110b formed support 110 and in to threaded bores 112a provided in frame 64. Block 108 is secured in position along the support 110 by a threaded knob 114, which extend through an elongated opening 110a provided in support 110. In this manner, the horizontal position of block 108 can be adjusted along support 110 to accommodate different widths of hanger wires. In addition, the height of block 108 can be vertically adjusted by adding spacers.

As previously noted, pins 84 are provided to act as guides for the rim of basket 12. Pins 84 are located below block 108, which provides an upper guide for the rim. To align the hanger wire between the dies, the basket is first placed adjacent the ends of arms 72 and 74 of frame. Thereafter, the rim is inserted between pins 84 and guide block 108. Once the basket is in position, the hanger wire 10 is moved in position between the dies so that the lower portion of wire can then be bent into its desired shape.

As noted above, cylinders 60 and 62 are preferably controlled by a control system 120. In the illustrated embodiment, control system 120 comprises a pneumatic control system that controls the position of the respective cylinders by controlling the flow of air to and from the cylinders through conduits 120a (FIGS. 6 and 9), which are in communication with a pressurized supply of air and with cylinders 60 and 62. In the illustrated embodiment, cylinders 60 and 62 comprise double acting pneumatic cylinders, which provides enhanced control over the position of the rod end of the respective cylinders. Though it should be understood that single-acting cylinders may also be used. Control system 120 may be actuated by a control switch or may be actuated by a trigger, such as trigger assembly 122, which triggers control system 120 when the hanger wire is in position between the respective dies.

As best understood from FIGS. 3, 6, and 8, trigger assembly 122 includes a touch plate 124, which comprises a generally U-shaped plate and which is mounted to a pivot arm 126. Pivot arm 126 is pivotally mounted to a support 128 at its medial portion by a pin or shaft 130 that extends transversely through a central opening 126d provided in pivot arm 126 and, further, through support 128. Support 128 is mounted to support 70 in a transverse opening provided in support 70 so that the distal end of pivot arm 124 extends between arms 72 and 74 beneath dies 52 and 54 and together with touch plate 24 forms a lever to actuate a poppet valve, as will be more fully described below.

In the illustrated embodiment, support 128 comprises a generally inverted channel-shaped member with the pivot arm extending between the downwardly depending flanges and, further, with the pivot pin 130 mounted to the respective flanges of the channel in a pair of a mounting openings 130a (FIGS. 6E and 6F). Touch plate 124 mounts to the distal end 126a of pivot arm 126 by a pair of fasteners that extend through corresponding mounting openings 124a and 126b of touch plate 124 and pivot arm 126, respectively. The proximate end 126c of pivot arm includes an adjustment bolt or pin 132 and a trigger pin or bolt 134, which are mounting in threaded bores 126e. Adjustment pin or bolt 132, which is threaded in bore 126e, limits the total vertical movement of pivot arm 126 and bears against the web 136 of support 128 to thereby prevent further pivoting. The further bolt 132 is threaded through pivot arm, the shorter the stroke of pivot arm. Trigger pin or bolt 134 includes an upwardly extending portion 138, which contacts and compresses against a poppet valve 140 when arm 126 pivots about its pivot axis and proximate end of pivot arm 126 moves upwardly in response to hanger wire 10 pressing against the upper flange 124b of pressure plate 124. When poppet valve 140 has been actuated by trigger bolt 134, poppet valve 140 sends a pilot signal to cylinders 60 and 62 to actuate cylinders to extend their respective rod ends such that the respective dies dovetail to create the bends in the hanger wire.

As it would be understood from the foregoing, it may be preferable to provide adjustment to the height of the frame 64 relative to support 70. Therefore, frame 64 is mounted to a pair of bolts 64a and 64b which mount frame 64 to support 70 through vertically slotted openings 70a to permit vertical adjustment and, further, to level frame 64. To provide additional adjustment, support 70 includes an enlarged elongate mounting opening 70b and an adjustable threaded handle 150 which permits vertical adjustment of support 70 relative to a fixed surface S, such as a table or a frame of a conveyor or the like.

Additional features that may be incorporated into apparatus 50 include a protective shield or guard 152 (FIG. 7), which may be mounted to guides 88 so that the shield extends transversely between arms 72 and 74 of frame 64 to prevent objects, including fingers from being pinched between the respective dies when the actuators are actuated.

It can be appreciated from the foregoing, that the hanger wire of the present invention is formed by initially extending the wire through the mounting openings 16 of basket 12. This may be done before or after the basket is aligned adjacent apparatus 50 and with its rim positioned between pins 84 and block 108. Once the hanger wire is positioned between the respective opposing surfaces of dies 52 and 54, the wire is pushed so that its distal end contacts touch plate 124. Touching touch plate 124 triggers the control system to actuate cylinders 60 and 62 to extend their respective rod ends, which results in dies 52 and 54 moving toward each other and toward wire 10 and dovetailing and forming the one or more bends in the hanger wire. Preferably, as previously noted, dies 52 and 54 have a surface profile that imparts all five of the bends into the hanger wire. Once all bends are formed, the hanger wire upper first horizontal portion 20 of the hanger wire is pulled through the mounting openings 16 so that the basket is mounted on wire 10 between horizontal portion 20 and horizontal portion 30.

Referring to FIG. 12, the numeral 210 generally designates a second embodiment of the hanger wire of the present invention. Similar to the first embodiment, hanger wire 210 is particularly suitable for suspending a basket, such as basket 212, from a hook, nail, or post or the like to form a hanging basket. Similar to the previous embodiment, hanger wire 210 is formed by bending and, further, by twisting into a configuration to provide a quick and simple way of attaching the wire to the basket. While the method described below is an automated method, the hanger wire can be formed or bent into the desired configuration manually using tools, though the automated method is preferred.

Referring again to FIG. 12, hanger wire 210 is formed from a metal wire and includes an upper portion 214, which is tied at its upper distal end to two or more other similar wires to form a hook for mounting the basket. Alternately, the upper distal ends may be mounted to a hook rather then form the hook themselves. Lower portion 215 of wire 210, which is inserted through a mounting opening in the basket, includes a first generally horizontal portion 220, which is formed by a first bend 222 and a second bend 224, which is spaced from first bend 222. Horizontal portion 220 is sized so that it is larger than the opening in the rim of the basket. A first generally vertical portion 226 is formed between second bend 224 and a third bend 228. A second generally horizontal portion 230 is formed between third bend 228 and a fourth bend 232. In this manner, the two horizontal portions and one vertical portion form a generally U-shaped bend in wire 210. Preferably fourth bend 232 is spaced from third bend 228 so that the generally horizontal portion 230 has a greater length than horizontal portion 220. In contrast to the first embodiment, vertical portion 226 is preferably sized to provide sufficient rigidity to prevent the U-shaped bend in wire 210 from passing through the opening in the basket.

The lowermost portion 234 of wire 214, which is extended through the opening in the basket flange, includes one or more 360° twists 236, which have a diameter larger than the opening in the basket flange to prevent the lowermost portion 234 from passing through the opening in the basket. Twists 236 may be more suitable than the bends of the previous embodiment for larger baskets where the weight of the basket is significantly increased, especially when the plants in the basket have been watered.

In the illustrated embodiment, bends 222, 224, 228, and 230 all lie in a common plane; however, it can be appreciated that one or more of these bends may be made so that they lie outside of the plane defined the remaining bends. However, to create out-of-plane bends, additional steps in the bending process may be required.

Referring to FIG. 13, the numeral 250 generally designates a bending apparatus of the present invention, which imparts the bends and twists into the hanger wire described previously. Bending apparatus 250, similar to the previous embodiment, includes a pair of opposed surfaces 252 and 254, which impart bends 222, 224, 228, and 230 into wire 210. Surface 252 is formed on a fixed rigid die block 256, while surface 254 is formed on a plate 258, which is moved into the U-shaped recess 256a of die block 256 to thereby form the generally U-shaped bend in wire 210. Similar to the previous embodiment, die block 256 and plate 258 are configured to impart all the bends in a single step, though it should be understood that the bends may be form from more than one step, for example.

Die block 256 is mounted to a frame 264 to thereby fix the position of die block 25. Plate 258 is mounted to an actuator 260, which moves plate 258 toward die block 256 when the lower portion of the hanger wire is positioned between the respective surfaces of die block 256 and plate 258, as will be more fully described below. Actuator 260 comprises a linear actuator, such as a cylinder 261, though it should be understood that another type of actuator, including a servomotor or the like, may be used. In the illustrated embodiment, cylinder 261 is mounted to frame 264 by a support 264a, which in the illustrated embodiment comprises an angle member with one of the legs of the angle member bolted to the upper end of frame 264 and with the leg that extends downwardly from the upper leg including an opening in which cylinder 261 is mounted and, further, through which the rod end 261a of cylinder 261 extends for coupling to plate 258. Similar to the previous embodiment, cylinder 261 is threaded into support 264a.

As noted above, bending apparatus 250 also twists the lowermost portion of the wire and includes a rotating mandrel 265, which is similarly supported on frame 264. Rotating mandrel 265 comprises a shaft 265a with a slotted end 265b, through which the wire extends for twisting, as will be more fully described below. Shaft 265a is rotated by an actuator 262, which in the illustrated embodiment comprises a cylinder 263 and, further, a rack 263b, which is coupled to the rod end 263a of the cylinder for rotating a gear 265c mounted to the opposed end of shaft 265a. In this manner, when cylinder 263 is actuated to extend its rod end 263a, rack 263b will drive gear 265c on shaft 265a to rotate shaft 265a about its longitudinal axis to thereby twist a wire, when the wire is positioned in slotted end 265b.

Referring to FIGS. 15 and 19, as previously noted, shaft 265a extends through frame 264 to be driven by actuator 262. Similar to actuator 260, actuator 262 is mounted to frame 264 by a support 264b (FIG. 14), which similarly comprises an angled member that includes an upper leg that is bolted to frame 264 and a lower leg that depends from the upper leg to which the cylinder 263 is mounted and, further, through which the rod end of the cylinder extends for driving rack 263b. For example, cylinder 263 may be threaded into support 264b.

Referring to FIG. 16, frame 264 includes two generally horizontal or transverse members 268a and 268b that are secured together by transverse bolts or rods 269a and 269b, which permit the relative position of the transverse members to be adjusted, for example by the addition or removal of shim plates 268c. Each bolt 269a and 269b optionally includes a handle 269c, which permit relatively easy disassembly of the frame. In this manner, the relative heights of the actuators and the respective twisting or bending surfaces may be adjusted to accommodate baskets with different flange heights. In addition, transverse members 268a and 268b are mounted to a support 270, which adjustably mounts frame 264 to a work surface on which the basket may supported during the operation of the bending apparatus. Frame 270 is preferably vertically adjustable to accommodate different basket heights.

As best seen in FIG. 13, support 270 comprises a generally channel-shaped member with an elongate or slotted mounting opening 270a through which threaded fastener 270b extends from mounting support 270 to the work surface. The position of support 270 is fixed by a handle, which when rotated compresses a bushing against the web of the channel member to thereby secure the support at a fixed height relative to the work surface. In the illustrated embodiment, the work surface comprises a table-type frame with a horizontal support surface and downwardly depending legs. It should be understood that the configuration of the work surface may be varied considerably depending on the desired process for handling the baskets.

Similar to the previous embodiment, cylinders 261 and 263 are controlled by a control system 320, which comprises a pneumatic control system, that controls the position of the respective rod ends 261a and 263a of the cylinders by controlling the flow of air to and from the cylinders through conduits 320a, which are in communication with a pressurized supply of air and cylinders 260 and 262. Control system 320 may be actuated by a control switch or may be actuated by a trigger, such as trigger assembly 322, which triggers control system 320 to supply pressurized air to the ends of the cylinders that causes the rods ends to extend when the hanger wire is in position between the respective twisting or bending surfaces.

As best seen in FIG. 16, trigger assembly 322 includes a touch plate 324, which is mounted to the distal end of a pivot arm 326, which in turn is pivotally mounted to frame 264 by a support 328. In the illustrated embodiment support 328 comprises an angle member. Pivot arm 326, similar to the previous embodiment, is pivotally mounted to support 328 at its medial portion by a pin or shaft 330 that extends transversely through arm 326 and, further, which is mounted in support 328. The proximate end of pivot arm 326 extends beneath a poppit valve 340, which is actuated when the proximate end of pivot arm moves upwardly and contacts valve 340, similar to the previous embodiment. When actuated, valve 340 sends a pilot signal to cylinders 261 and 263 to actuate the cylinders to extend their respective rod ends. When actuated, poppit valve 340 releases the pressurized air from the pressurized air source so that the pressurized air can be delivered to the respective cylinders. When poppit valve 340 is released, poppit valve 340 will return to its unactuated state, in which the pressurized air is delivered to the opposed end to the cylinders to return the rod end of the cylinder to its retracted position.

Additional features that may be incorporated into apparatus 250 include protective shields or guards, such as guard 352 (FIG. 19), which covers gear 265c. In addition, the upper actuator preferably includes a guide member 356, which is mounted to frame 264 by way of support 264a so that it is spaced from die block 256 a distance sufficient to permit the wire member to be inserted between guide 356 and die block 256.

In operation, a basket, such as basket 212, is positioned on work surface W (FIG. 14) adjacent support 270. The flange of the basket is aligned or inserted between upper die block 256 and shaft 265a. In the non-activated position, the slotted end 265b of shaft 265a is aligned generally vertically to receive the lower-most end of the wire. After the basket has been positioned beneath the guide block 256, the wire is passed between the guide block 256 and guide 356 such as the wire passes through the opening in the flange of the basket and, further, passes through shaft 265a in slotted end 265b. When the wire is further urged downwardly, the wire will press downwardly on pressure plate 324, which is previously noted, triggers the respective cylinders 261 and 263 to extend so that the wire is bent and twisted into its desired shape. Once the wire is twisted into its desired shape, trigger 322 will release the poppit valve so that the rod ends of cylinders will be returned to their retracted positions.

While several forms of the invention has been shown and described, it can be appreciated that changes and modifications may be made. For example, although illustrated using a conventional hanger wire that includes an offset or bend toward the lower portion of the hanger wire, which provides an indication to the assembler how far to insert the hanger wire into the mounting opening, it should be appreciated that the hanger wire of the present invention may be formed using a straight hanger wire; thus, eliminating the need for the offset. In addition, the rotating mandrel may be formed from a shaft with a transverse hole rather than a slotted end. Furthermore, the various components forming the frame and the support for the frame may be varied. Therefore, it can be appreciated that other changes and modifications may be made without departing from the scope of the invention, which is defined by the claims that follow:





 
Previous Patent: Furniture leg guard

Next Patent: Siderail mounting assembly