Title:
Wire reel support
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A rod is coupled to a frame to hold a wire reel that is to be loaded onto it. A roller is coupled to the frame so that its radial surface stays in contact with a radial surface of a spool wall of the loaded reel, as the loaded reel rotates. Other embodiments are also described and claimed.



Inventors:
Konkel, Joey William (Clovis, CA, US)
Neal, Murray Lane (Fresno, CA, US)
Simmons, William Daniel (Auberry, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/009455
Publication Date:
04/27/2006
Filing Date:
12/10/2004
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
242/596.8, 242/422.4
International Classes:
B65H49/18
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
NGUYEN, JOHN QUOC
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
WOMBLE BOND DICKINSON (US) LLP (ATLANTA, GA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A wire reel support apparatus comprising: a frame; a rod coupled to the frame to hold a wire reel that is to be loaded onto it; and a roller coupled to the frame so that its radial surface stays in contact with a radial surface of a spool wall of the loaded reel as the loaded reel rotates.

2. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the rod and roller are coupled to the frame so that their respective longitudinal axes are parallel to each other.

3. The apparatus of claim 1 further comprising a spring coupled to urge the roller and the spool wall against each other, and wherein the radial surface of the roller is flexible in relation to the radial surface of the spool wall so as to brake the rotation of the loaded reel.

4. The apparatus of claim 1 further comprising a spring coupled to urge the roller and the spool wall against each other, and wherein the radial surface of the roller is flexible in relation to the radial surface of the spool wall so as to prevent wire that is being unwound from the loaded reel to skip over the spool wall.

5. The apparatus of claim 1 further comprising a spring coupled to urge the roller and the spool wall against each other, and wherein the radial surface of the roller is flexible in relation to the radial surface of the spool wall so as to a) brake the rotation of the loaded reel and b) prevent wire that is being unwound from the loaded reel to skip over the spool wall.

6. The apparatus of claim 5 wherein the spring is a mechanical spring.

7. The apparatus of claim 5 wherein the spring is coupled at one point to the frame and at another point to a pivot plate, the pivot plate being coupled to the frame at a pivot point and to the roller at another point.

8. The apparatus of claim 5 wherein the spring is a pneumatic assist piston.

9. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the rod is coupled to the frame so that it cannot undergo translation movement relative to the frame, and the roller is coupled to the frame so it can pivot about a pivot axis that is offset from its center longitudinal axes.

10. The apparatus of claim 9 wherein the rod includes a cylindrical piece that extends continuously through an opening of the loaded reel from one spool wall and past another, opposite spool wall.

11. The apparatus of claim 9 wherein the rod includes a cylindrical piece that extends into an opening of the loaded reel on one spool wall and stops short of another, opposite spool wall.

12. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the roller is positioned forward of the rod in relation to the frame, the apparatus further comprising: a hook coupled to the frame and extending backward from near a top of the frame, the hook being designed to hook onto a rung of a ladder; and a bumper coupled to the frame and extending backward from near a bottom of the frame, the bumper extending further than the hook.

13. The apparatus of claim 12 wherein the hook and bumper are sized so that the frame stays vertically oriented once the apparatus has been mounted to the inside of an A-frame ladder that is standing on its own on a horizontal surface.

14. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the roller is positioned forward of the rod in relation to the frame, the apparatus further comprising: a plurality of hanger bars that are coupled to the frame and oriented parallel to each other and to the roller and the rod, the bars being designed to be inserted into exterior side openings of a ladder.

15. The apparatus of claim 14 wherein a pair of the hanger bars are rigidly affixed to the frame, and another pair of the hanger bars are moveable relative to the frame.

16. A wire reel support apparatus comprising: means for dispensing electrician wire from a rotating wire reel; and means for automatically maintaining a radial surface of a spool wall of the rotating reel and another rotating surface in contact with each other for braking the rotating reel when tension on the wire being dispensed has ceased.

17. A wire reel support apparatus comprising: a frame; a rod coupled to the frame, to hold a plurality of wire reels that are to be loaded onto it; a roller pivotally coupled to the frame and having a foam pad whose radial surface rolls and stays in contact with a radial surface of a spool wall of the loaded reel as the loaded reel rotates; and a spring that couples the roller to the frame and forces the foam pad radial surface to remain in contact with the spool wall radial surface as the loaded reel rotates.

18. The apparatus of claim 17 wherein the foam pad is cylindrical with a central longitudinal opening that is fitted with a rigid insert, and wherein the roller is held by being attached at its ends to a pair of pivot plates, respectively, that are pivotally coupled to a pair of upright members, respectively, of the frame.

19. The apparatus of claim 17 wherein the foam pad is cylindrical and has a thickness of about 0.3 inches to about 0.8 inches and whose longitudinal central opening contains a rigid tube in a fixed relation to the pad.

20. The apparatus of claim 17 further comprising a base, the frame joined to and extending upward from the base so that the apparatus can be operated in a vertical position with the base on a horizontal surface, and wherein the rod is joined at its ends to a pair of upright members of the frame.

21. The apparatus of claim 20 wherein the roller is held at its longitudinal ends by a pair of pivot plates that are pivotally coupled to the pair of upright members, respectively.

22. The apparatus of claim 20 wherein the base has a pair of legs that extend forward and a pair of legs that extend backward from the frame.

23. The apparatus of claim 22 further comprising an additional pair of legs that extend forward from the frame and are spaced apart from the base, the additional pair of legs and the base being sized so that the apparatus can be operated in a horizontal position while resting on a horizontal surface, on the pair of forward legs and the additional pair of legs.

24. The apparatus of claim 20 further comprising: a plurality of wheels coupled to the frame, located at the base and extending backward from the frame, and wherein the base comprises a pair of legs that extend forward from the frame.

25. An A-frame mobile wire caddy, comprising: a collapsible A-frame having a first half pivotally coupled to a second half near a top end of the frame; a plurality of wheels coupled to the second half near a bottom end of the second half and extending backward from the frame; a plurality of stabilizer bars coupled to the first half near a bottom end of the first half and extending forward from the frame; a plurality of rods coupled to the frame to hold a plurality of wire reels that are to be loaded onto them; and a plurality of rollers coupled to the frame so that a radial surface of each roller stays in contact with a radial surface of a spool wall of a respective loaded reel, as the respective loaded reel rotates.

26. The caddy of claim 25 wherein the plurality of rods and rollers are arranged so that when the plurality of wire reels have been loaded, at least one on each of the rods, and the frame has been collapsed, the spool walls of no two of the wire reels touch each other.

27. The caddy of claim 25 wherein the wheels are mounted in a position that is raised relative to the bottom end of the second half, so that when the frame has been opened and the bottom ends of the first and second halves rest against a horizontal surface, the wheels do not touch the horizontal surface.

28. The caddy of claim 25 wherein the plurality of rods and rollers are staggered vertically along the frame so that when the frame is collapsed into a fully closed position, the spool walls of the loaded plurality of reels do not touch each other.

29. The caddy of claim 25 wherein the collapsible A-frame has a lid-locking support with a detent mechanism joining two halves that, once the A-frame is collapsed into a fully closed and vertically oriented position, pivot into a vertical position substantially parallel to the respective halves of the A-frame.

Description:

This application claims the benefit of the earlier filing date of U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/622,456, filed Oct. 26, 2004, and entitled “Wire Reel Frame Support”.

An embodiment of the invention is directed to a wire reel support for dispensing different types of wire used by electricians. Other embodiments are also described.

BACKGROUND

There are several different types and sizes of wire carts, hand truck caddies, and wire caddies that are designed to support several rows of different gauge wire and/or different sized wire spools from which to dispense wire. Any reference to “wire” here is, of course, understood to mean not just metal conductive wire, but also other types of cables, including, for example, optical fiber. Conventional wire reel supports range from hand held units to heavy forklift deployed units. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 4,548,368 issued to Tomlinson describes a wire caddy that can be used to hand carry a number of wire spools that have been loaded onto a spool mounting rod. The electrician pulls wire from any of the needed spools, and the wire unwinds under tension as the spool rotates. In another example, U.S. Pat. No. 5,655,622 issued to Pavlu describes a wire caddy that is attachable to a ladder. In that case, the ladder with the wire caddy mounted thereon can be fully collapsed into a compact configuration.

One of the drawbacks to conventional wire carts and caddies is the fact that when the wire is pulled from the spool, the reels continue to unwind even after the operator has stopped pulling the wire. This leads to unraveling of wire, often leading to the knotting of wires around a spool and wires moving off of one spool and onto another adjacent one. This forces the operator to come back to the reel support unit to untangle the wire and rewind it, before continuing to redispense more wire, causing an undesirable delay for the electrician each time this mishap occurs.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The embodiments of the invention are illustrated by way of example and not by way of limitation in the figures of the accompanying drawings in which like references indicate similar elements. It should be noted that references to “an” embodiment of the invention in this disclosure are not necessarily to the same embodiment, and they mean at least one.

FIG. 1 is an isometric view of an embodiment of the invention, namely, a hand carried floor dispensing model of a wire reel support apparatus.

FIG. 2 is a back view of the apparatus of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a side view of the apparatus of FIG. 1.

FIG. 4 shows a close up view of how a radial surface of a roller stays in contact with a radial surface a spool wall of a loaded reel.

FIG. 5 is an isometric view of a single-sided wheeled floor cart model, according to another embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 6 and FIG. 7 are side and isometric views of a double-sided wheeled floor cart model, according to another embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 8 is an isometric view of an A-frame ladder dispensing model, according to another embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 9 is an isometric view of the embodiment of FIG. 8, as mounted on an A-frame ladder.

FIG. 10 is an isometric view of a reel frame support apparatus suitable for use with an extension ladder.

FIG. 11 is an exploded isometric view of the embodiment of FIG. 10.

FIG. 12 and FIG. 13 illustrate the embodiment of FIG. 10 as installed on the underside of an extension ladder.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

In this section we shall explain several preferred embodiments of this invention with reference to the appended drawings. Whenever the shapes, relative positions and other aspects of the parts described in the embodiments are not clearly defined, the scope of the invention is not limited only to the parts shown, which are meant merely for the purpose of illustration.

It has been determined that a wire reel support that avoids excessive dispensing of wire, once the operator has stopped pulling for more wire, would be desirable to help reduce the likelihood of wires from different spools from crossing over from one spool to another and entangling. Accordingly, some of the embodiments of the invention described here are designed to reduce the risk of wire unraveling and/or crossing over from one spool to another, while dispensing wire to the electrician. Different embodiments are designed for different types of usage conditions within the electrician's working environment, including a floor model, a caddy with wheels, and a ladder mountable version. Numerous labor hours may be saved by using one or more of these embodiments of the invention, which avoid the need for the electrician to repeatedly stop working and return to the wire reel support unit to sort out the entangled wires. Such savings are, of course, carried through to the end customer who ultimately pays for the electrician's installation or production time.

Beginning with FIGS. 1-3, isometric and side views of a hand carried, floor embodiment are shown. This apparatus has a frame 104 that is oriented vertical or upright in this case. The frame 104, in this example, is made of a pair of upright members 115, 117 that are rigidly affixed to each other through cross-members 135, 137 at the bottom and top ends, respectively, forming in essence a rectangle. These members may be steel tubes that are welded to each other for strong and durable service, helping avoid breakdowns that may be caused by stamped metal parts. A finish may be applied, such as a safety orange powder coat that helps visually identify the apparatus in a busy work place, as well as maintain a durable exterior finish to the unit. The apparatus may alternatively have a frame that is of a different shape yet is still capable of supporting one or more conventional wire reels from which wire is dispensed. The wire may be of a type that is typically passed into a conduit or chase by an electrician, during the construction of the electrical/cable network of a building. The wire may be of the solid variety, or it may have multiple strands.

A rod 102 (see FIG. 2, where a back view of the apparatus is shown) is coupled to the frame 104, to hold a wire reel 105 that is loaded onto it (see FIG. 4). If long enough, the rod 102 may hold more than one reel (of the same or different sizes) simultaneously. The lateral size and shape of the rod 102 is selected in view of the size and shape of a lateral opening (not shown) in the wire reel 105, so that the wire reel 105 can be easily slid onto the rod 102. In the examples illustrated here, the rod 102 is cylindrical with a diameter that fits conventional wire reels. The rod 102 may be a solid steel or aluminum piece that extends continuously through the lateral opening of the loaded reel 105, from one spool wall 106 and past another, opposite spool wall 107 as shown. The rod 102 may be rigidly affixed to one or, in this case, both of the upright members 115, 117 of the frame 104. This may be easily accomplished at its opposite ends. At one or both of these ends, the rod may be inserted through a hole in the upright member 115, 117 that prevents translation movement in the forward and backward directions; then, a quick release hitch-pin 114 may be inserted through the rod, for example, to restrict translation movement in its longitudinal direction. This is an example of how the rod may be coupled to the frame so that it cannot undergo translation movement relative to the frame. Other ways of securing the rod to the frame 104 are possible, such as, for example, through the use of a ball lock push-pin. Once the pin has been removed, the rod 102 can be slid along its longitudinal axis out of the frame, so as to allow one or more wire reels to be loaded and unloaded by being fitted onto the rod. Thereafter, the rod is reinstalled to the frame followed by reinstalling the pin to keep the rod securely attached to the frame.

The apparatus depicted in FIG. 3 also includes a roller 108 that is coupled to the frame 104, so that its radial surface stays in contact with a radial surface 109 of a spool wall 106 or 107 of the loaded reel 105 (see the close-up view of FIG. 4). This contact is to be kept while the loaded reel 105 rotates, as, for example, wire is being pulled from it. In this case, the roller 108 is positioned so that its longitudinal axis is parallel to that of the rod 102, thereby allowing their radial surfaces to remain in contact with each other as the reel rotates. This may be further ensured by providing a spring 110 that, in the illustrated embodiments, is coupled to the frame and that urges the roller 108 and the spool wall 109 against each other. The spring pressure ensures that the roller stays in contact with and turns with the largest diameter reel that has been loaded. The spring also helps keep the roller in contact with the reel in the event the unit has been tipped over onto its side or upside down.

The spring 110, in this example, is a mechanical, compression type spring. An alternative would be a pneumatic assist piston (not shown) that may provide, in addition to spring force, some damping forces as well. The pneumatic assist piston may better resist snagging through rough handling, transport, and setup (where the mechanical spring may have a tendency to become caught during rugged and rough transport or usage, including becoming damaged by being over stretched or torn from its mounting location). The pneumatic assist piston may be composed of a self-contained pressure control piston housed within a solid metal tube.

The spring 110 may be coupled at one point to the frame 104 (and in particular to an upright member 115 or 117), and at another point to a pivot plate 116. Mounting lugs may be used to make a secure attachment at each point. The pivot plate 116 is coupled to the frame at a pivot point 118, and to the roller at another point 120 (here, at the center of a longitudinal end of the roller). An additional spring 110 and pivot plate 116 may be added as shown, to the opposite end of the roller 108, for greater reliability and strength. This configuration allows the roller to undergo rotational movement about its pivot axis (through pivot point 118) which is offset from the center longitudinal axis of the roller 108 and that of the rod 102 as shown. This allows a wire reel to be loaded onto the rod while moving the roller away. In addition, the spring allows the roller and the loaded spool to create a specified amount of resistance at their radial surfaces. Together with the flexible radial surface of the roller (see discussion below), this helps brake the rotating reel and thereby prevents unraveling of the wire, once the electrician has stopped pulling wire. An alternative to having the roller be the pivoting part is to affix the roller and allow the rod to pivot. In both cases, a specified amount of force should be applied (e.g., via preferably two springs 110, one on each side) so that their radial surfaces are pressed evenly (along the longitudinal axis) against each other. As an example, it has been determined that in the dual spring embodiment, a spring force of between 3 and 5 pounds by each spring should be sufficient to support standard size spools, e.g. spools of electrical power wire from 8 to 28 gauge, communications cables, and multi-use electrical switching cables. A preferred load capacity of the spring is 3.57 pounds, although the invention is, of course, not limited in this aspect. More generally, the spring constant should be selected so that it is not so high that the user must pull the wire with unnecessary force. In addition, at the low end, the spring constant should be selected so that the rotating reel is properly braked when tension on the wire being dispensed has ceased.

The spring mechanism described above should be selected in view of the frictional force that can be generated against the radial surface 109 of the spool walls 106, 107 (see FIG. 4). A factor that should be considered here is that the radial surface of the roller 108 may be entirely cylindrical and flexible in relation to the radial surface 109 of the spool wall. Referring now to FIG. 4, a close-up view of the roller 108 being pressed against two reels 105, 405 is shown. As seen in region 422, the radial surface of the roller flexes relative to the radial surfaces 109, 409 of the spool walls 107, 406, respectfully. This helps prevent wire 103 and wire 403 from skipping over the boundary of spool walls 107, 406 while they are being dispensed, thereby avoiding entanglement. In addition, the flexure in region 422 creates friction that helps brake the rotation of the wire reels, thereby reducing the chances of the wire unraveling once the electrician has stopped pulling.

An example construction of the roller 108 is depicted in the exploded, isometric view of the embodiment shown in FIG. 11. The roller 108 in this case includes an elastomer foam, cylindrical roller pad 1104 with a center longitudinal opening running through it. The elastomer foam may be a HT/Aramaflex™ black foam manufactured by Armacell LLC in Mebane, N.C. and having a wall thickness of about one-half inch. More generally, the thickness may be in a range of 0.3-0.8 inches nominal, however, through testing it has been determined that about one-half inch thickness provides for improved holding of the reels in place, longitudinally along their mounting rod, while retaining the wire within the confines of the opposing spool walls of a particular reel, as well as helping reduce the chances of a spool wall slipping with respect to the roller radial surface.

The elastomer foam is an example of a closed cell material that preferably resists mold, mildew, and microbial growth. It should also be UV resistant and oil and chemical resistant. The closed cell nature helps prevent absorption of liquids, which is particularly important for electrician duties. The foam may be laminated on its exterior radial surface with a thermal plastic rubber membrane for improved durability and reduced slippage against a spool wall. However, other types of elastomer configurations such as neoprene, polyurethane, and EPDM may be used provided they are properly selected in view of their hardness, thickness, flexibility, and their compositions. Note that elastomer configurations that are too hard may cause the spool walls to slip across the roller, i.e. in the direction of the longitudinal axis of the roller, due to a lack of flexibility and/or grip. This may also undesirably allow the wires to slip past the hard, spool wall surfaces with minimal resistance, thereby causing the wires from adjacent reels to wrap themselves together, or around the rod 102. On the other hand, too thick or too flexible of an elastomer may result in creating too much friction or resistance against the reels, requiring unnecessarily high forces to pull the wires to dispense them. Such increased friction may also undesirably cause the frame of the apparatus as a whole to slide, rotate or tip while the wire is being pulled.

Returning to FIG. 11 and the exploded view of an example roller 108, the roller pad 1104 is cylindrical and may be fitted with a rigid insert (e.g., a tube) that is preferably made of a metal such as steel for durability. The fit between the insert and the pad may be relatively tight so that the two pieces rotate together as one. In the illustrated example, the insert is a tube that is designed to fit directly onto an assist bar 1106 as shown. This fit may be loose so that the combination pad 1104 and tube can freely rotate relative to the bar 1106. The bar 1106 may be designed so that each of its two, opposing longitudinal ends can be fitted through an opening in the respective pivot plate 116 and then prevented from sliding out in its longitudinal direction by a retaining clip, for example. The bar 1106 is, in this embodiment, cylindrical and made of a metal such as steel, and has a minimum diameter of preferably about 0.6 inches for improved strength. An ultra high molecular weight (UHMW) wear resistant end cap 1107, 1109 may be fitted into each open end of the roller pad 1104, to provide protection to the longitudinal ends of the elastomer foam where the thermal plastic rubber membrane does not cover. These end caps help avoid any abrasion problems that may occur due to heavy wire reels forcing the elastomer foam to shift in the direction of the longitudinal axis of the bar 1106 during use. The end cap 1107, 1109 may also serve as a wear resistant, dirt free bearing, for a smooth, non-dragging concentric motion of the roller pad 1104 turning around the bar 1106. It should be noted, however, that there are other ways of implementing the roller 108 so as to provide a radial surface that rolls while remaining in contact with a rotating wire reel.

Returning now to the floor dispensing embodiment depicted in FIGS. 1-3, this particular embodiment has two rods 102 stacked vertically to receive up to four standard sized wire spools of various gauge wire. The figures show the apparatus as standing upright or vertical, where the frame 104 is joined to and extends upwards from a base that lies on a horizontal surface. The base, in this example, has a pair of legs 121, 122 that extend forward, and a pair of legs 119, 123 that extend backward from the frame 104. All four legs in this example lay flat against the horizontal surface, allowing the apparatus to be operated stably in a vertical position as shown. In an alternative embodiment, also depicted in FIGS. 1-3, an additional pair of legs 125, 126 extend forward from the frame 104, and are spaced apart from the base (in this case, to the top of the frame 104). This additional pair of legs 125, 126 and the base are together sized so that the apparatus can be tipped over into a horizontal operating position, where the base is placed on its side (namely, in this case, resting against the longitudinal ends 141, 142, 143, and 144 of the forward facing legs).

Turning now to FIG. 5, an isometric view of a single-sided, wheeled floor cart model is shown. This embodiment may share the same mechanisms for dispensing electrician wire (automatically maintaining the radial surface of a spool wall and another rotating surface in contact with each other, for braking the rotating reel), as described in the embodiments shown in FIGS. 1-4 above. In this example, there are four sets of essentially identical combinations of roller 108, pivot plate 116, spring 110, and mounting rod 102 that are coupled to a frame 504, spaced apart from each other in the vertical direction as shown. In this configuration, the model is designed for the electrician to roll it across a floor (using a pair of wheels 526, 528 that are coupled to the frame, located at a base and extending backward from the frame). Once positioned at the desired location, the apparatus may be setup by being placed upright, resting in this position with the help of a pair of legs 521, 522 that extend forward from the frame 504 as shown and that lie flat against the floor. This configuration allows up to eight large, or twelve standard sized wire spools of various gauge wire to be loaded and dispensed. In this embodiment, a handle 530 extends backwards at the top of the frame 504. The handle extends far enough backwards so that the unit can be tipped backwards into a horizontal operating position on the floor, with the wheels 526, 528 at one end and the handle 530 at another end resting against the floor. This provision for horizontal dispensing allows awkwardly loaded spools of various gauge wires and weights to be loaded and dispensed, without risking the unit being toppled while pulling the wires.

Referring now to FIG. 6 and FIG. 7, side and isometric views of a double-sided wheeled floor cart model are shown. This model is also designed for the electrician to roll across a floor. This time, however, the unit is setup by opening the two halves of a collapsible A-frame 608 as shown in FIG. 6. The A-frame 608 is collapsible, with a left half 610 pivotally coupled to the right half 604 at a top end of the frame. There are five roller-rod dispensing mechanisms in this case, three on one half of the A-frame and two on the other. A pair of wheels 728, 730 are coupled to and extend backwards from a right half 604, at a base or lower end of the half 604. The wheels 728, 730 are slightly wider set than the width between the upright members of the right side 604 and may be manufactured using conventional steel wheels with built-in, dust free, non-maintenance bearings for heavy load displacement and smooth non-dragging concentric motion, as well as being able to be press fitted onto a solid steel shaft 729.

In use, the operator grasps the apparatus at the handle 732 that is located at the top of the frame and pulls backwards while maintaining the wheels 728, 730, so that the unit is tilted backwards. After then rolling the unit to the desired location, the unit is brought to an upright or vertical position, resting on the legs 734 and 736 and that are coupled to and extend forward from the left half 610 at its lower end. Next, the left half 610 may be pulled forward thereby opening the frame 608, as depicted in FIG. 6. The frame may then be locked into position like a typical A-frame ladder with a pair of support arms 649 each connecting the same side of the two halves of the frame 608. A lid-lock mechanism 650 may also be included to preclude the halves 610, 604 from moving closer together or further apart. Note that once in the fully open position, as shown in FIG. 6, the A-frame actually rests on the floor only at the ends of its halves 610, 604, and not on the wheels 728, 730. That is because the wheels are mounted in a position that is raised relative to the bottom end of the right half 604. This allows for a more stable condition, with the foot sections 656, 657 at the farthest end of the frame 608 being preferably tapered as shown, for a solid contact with the floor.

A lower cost alternative to the use of a lid-locking mechanism 650 is to use a conventional metal bar plate and wing nut assembly, or a slotted metal bar plate that is permanently attached to the halves 610, 604. However, these tend to protrude outwards to the front and/or rear of the frame when the frame is in a semi-closed or fully closed position. In addition, the conventional slotted metal bar plate typically requires two hands to open and close, not to mention that the wing nut may often be lost over time and needs to be replaced. In contrast, the use of a lid-locking mechanism 650 allows the frame to open the full distance and is then stopped by a detent (not shown) that protrudes outward the distance of the material thickness, for a solid non-slip positive lock. Also, when the frame is fully closed, the lid-locking mechanism lies along side the two halves, as best shown in FIG. 7, and parallel to the upright members for a relatively unobstructed closure.

The two halves 610, 604 may be securely locked together when folded up, using a, for example, style D lynch pin 762. This lynch pin 762 may be inserted through a predrilled hole 763 in the left half 610, and another one in a preferably solid steel slide along plate 768 on the right half 604 as shown. A heavy gauge spring steel wire loop, for example, may then be pulled over the end of the pin 762 for a secure, non-slip positive locking connection, that maintains the A-frame in the closed position.

Another aspect of the embodiment of the invention shown in FIG. 6 and FIG. 7 is that the mounting rods and corresponding rollers are arranged so that when the wire reels have been loaded, where there is at least one on each rod, and the frame has been collapsed (FIG. 7), the spool walls of no two wire wheels touch each other. This may be achieved, for example, by the configuration shown, where adjacent, roller pairs (such as the pairs 768, 769) are mounted to different halves of the frame 608 (also referred to as a staggered or offset reel arrangement).

Yet another embodiment of the invention is shown in FIGS. 8 and 9. These are isometric views of an A-frame ladder dispensing unit, designed for the electrician to mount the unit to the underside of an A-frame ladder, as shown in FIG. 9. Referring to FIG. 8, the roller 108 is once again positioned preferably forward of the rod 102 in relation to the frame 104. A pair of hooks 810, 812 are coupled to the frame 104, and extend backward, as shown, from near a top of the frame 104. In this example, each hook or also referred to as a rung hanger bar, is J-shaped and is welded at its forward most ends to an upper cross-member 814 of the frame 104. Each hook 810, 812 is designed to hook onto a rung 904 of a ladder 920 (see FIG. 9). The hook is designed to receive the rung at the bottom of the J-shaped section as shown. A bumper 820 is coupled to the frame 104 and extends backwards, from near a bottom of the frame. In the example of FIG. 8, the bumper 820 is rigidly affixed to a bottom cross-member 815. The bumper extends backwards further than the hook 810, 812, such that the frame 104 stays vertically oriented (see FIG. 9) once it has been mounted to the inside of the A-frame ladder 920 that is standing on its own on a horizontal surface. The bumper in this example is resting against the inside of the right half 926 of the ladder 920, but alternatively can be mounted against the left side 928, hooking to the rung 930.

Note that the hooks are positioned to not interfere with any diagonal rung cross-bracing (not shown, but present in some conventional ladders). Those types of ladders have narrower rung widths than some of the others currently manufactured, and use diagonal cross-bracing members between adjacent rungs for improved strength. For further stability, the hook 810, 812 has a J-shape that in particular conforms to that of the outside edge angle of the rung 904. This helps conform the hook 810, 812 to the outside envelope of the ladder so as not to protrude in a way that would create a possible impediment to a proper foothold when the electrician is climbing up or down the ladder 920.

In addition, the bearing weight of the wire reel is preferably loaded towards the center of the ladder, adding to increased stability when the wire is being pulled by the electrician, who is standing on a rung of the ladder at the same time. Accordingly, the length of each hook 810, 812 and the distance between the bumper 820 and the frame 104 should be designed so that the loaded reels are positioned at approximately the center of the A-frame ladder, between its two halves 928, 926 as shown. This helps to provide enough distance for proper foot placement on the ladder rungs as the electrician is mounting or descending the ladder, while providing adequate space to allow the wire reels to freely rotate while loaded.

In operation, the A-frame ladder model depicted in FIGS. 8 and 9 may be loaded in a manner similar to the other models described above, by, for example, pulling the pin 114 that secures the rod 102 to the frame 104 and then sliding the rod 102 out far enough to load one or more reels. In the process, the roller 108 is pushed forward to make room for the reels, and its radial surface will be urged against the radial surfaces of the spool walls, once the reels have been loaded. The rod is then reinserted into its opening in the upright member 115 of the frame 104, and the pin 114 is reinstalled to secure the rod in place. Next, the unit is placed underneath the A-frame ladder 920 from either side of the ladder, slid over the rung 904, allowed to drop onto the rung and then slightly pulled back into the locking position (away from the rung, towards the center of the ladder between the two halves of the ladder). At this point, the bumper 820 should be resting against the half 926 of the ladder while the inside of the curved regions of the hooks 810, 812 are up against the outside edge of the rung 904, as shown in FIG. 9. The unit is thus ready to use, and the electrician can start pulling wire from the loaded reels. To remove the unit, the hooks 810, 812 are slid in an outward direction until the tip of the J-hook clears rung 904, and are then lifted up and away from the rung. Once the hooks have been released from the rung, the unit can be tilted away from the rung again so that the hooks clear the upright members 948, 949 of the half 926, and then the unit may be pulled out from underneath the ladder through either side.

Turning now to FIGS. 10-13, different views of another embodiment of the invention, this time as a model that is suitable for use on an extension ladder are shown. An isometric view of the unit is shown in FIG. 10. The model is designed to be mounted to the underside of an extension ladder 1204 as shown in FIGS. 12 and 13. Referring back to FIG. 10, this embodiment uses a frame 1004 to which a mechanism similar to those described above for dispensing wire has been coupled, namely the roller 108 and pivot plate 116, spring 110, and rod 102. Once again, the roller 108 is positioned forward of the rod 102 in relation to the frame 1004. Also, a number of hanger bars 1005-1008 are coupled to the frame 1004. The bars are oriented parallel to each other as shown, as well as to the roller 108 and the rod 102. The bars 1005-1008 are designed to be inserted into respective exterior side openings (e.g., openings 1207, 1208, on the left exterior side of the ladder 1204, see FIG. 12, and openings 1210, 1214 on the right exterior side, see FIG. 13). In this example, these openings 1207, 1208, 1210, 1214 coincide with and are formed within respective rungs 1211, 1212 of the underside of the ladder 1204.

Referring now to FIG. 11, an exploded isometric view of an example construction of the frame 1004 and hanger bars 1005-1008 is shown. This is an adjustable design in that the spacing between the bars 1006, 1008 and the bars 1005, 1007 is adjustable. In particular, an upper cross-member 1150 and a lower cross-member 1154 are to receive therein respective upper and lower tube extensions 1156, 1158. In this sleeve-type mechanism, the extensions 1156, 1158 slide into the tube openings of the members 1150, 1154 in a longitudinal direction, and are affixed (in the longitudinal direction) by some mechanism, such as, in this case, knob screws 1160, 1162. Other mechanisms for securing the extensions 1156, 1158 in their longitudinal directions may alternatively be used.

Each extension 1156, 1158 is also fixedly attached to its respective hanger bar 1006, 1008 by a respective spacer member 1164, 1168. These spacer members are rigidly joined to each other via one or more upright members 1169. The length of the spacer members 1164, 1168 should be selected in view of the depth of the underside of the extension ladder 1204, as well as the amount of clearance needed to allow the loaded reels to rotate without being hampered by touching a rung or side of the underside. The hanger bars 1005-1008 together with their spacer members 1164, 1168, in addition to acting as a stabilization mechanism, provide the proper amount of spacing between the ladder rung and the roller 108 and rod 102, so that there is adequate foot clearance for the electrician, even with multiple, wire reels loaded.

In operation, the unit is assembled by mounting the roller 108 hardware and the rod 102 to the frame 1004, and preferably with the extensions 1156, 1158 inserted into their respective tube openings. Next, one or more wire reels are loaded onto the rod 102 as, for example, described in the embodiments above. The unit may then be carried up the ladder (which is resting against an upper floor for example, angled as shown in FIG. 13) by the electrician to the desired height. Then, the electrician inserts the fixed hanger bars 1005, 1007 into the nearest openings 1210, 1214 on an exterior side of the underside of the ladder 1204 (see FIG. 13). Next, the extensions 1156, 1158 are slid further into the tube openings of the upper and lower cross-members 1150, 1154, respectively. At the same time, the adjustable hanger bars 1006, 1008 are aligned with their respective exterior side openings 1207, 1208 (see FIG. 12) and are inserted therein, until the spacer members 1164, 1168 rest against the right side of the ladder. The knob screws 1160, 1162 are then tightened against their respective extensions 1156, 1158, to positively affix (in their longitudinal direction) the extensions 1156, 1158 relative to the cross-members 1150, 1154. This mechanism will thus preclude any motion, up or down along the ladder or from side-to-side, of the wire dispensing unit. The electrician may now pull wire from the loaded reels and cut the wire where needed, after passing the wire through the underside and upper side of the ladder, for example, or around the exterior side of the ladder. To remove the unit from the ladder, the knob screws 1160, 1162 are loosened by the electrician while standing on the upper side of the ladder, to release the extensions 1156, 1158 from their locked positions. The extensions are then slid outwards away from the ladder, and at the same time two hanger bars 1005-1008 are also slid outwards until all four are clear of the ladder. The electrician can then re-secure the extensions 1156, 1158 by tightening the know screws 1160, 1162 before bringing the unit outwards and around to the upper side of the ladder. The electrician may then carry this unit to the ground while climbing down the ladder.

The invention is not limited to the specific embodiments described above. For example, the mounting rod illustrated in the figures may alternatively be a shorter piece that, although extends into a lateral opening of a loaded reel on one spool wall, stops short of another, opposite spool wall. In such an embodiment, there may be two shorter rods that support each single wire reel, where these rods extend into the lateral openings on different sides of the reel, but may or may not touch each other inside the reel. In addition, although the illustrated embodiments show the roller as being pivotally attached to the frame in all cases, one of the alternatives as suggested above was to have the rod be pivotally attached to the frame, while keeping the roller fixed in relation to the frame. In that case, it would be the rod, together with the loaded reels on it, that would be moved towards and away from the roller whenever loading or removing a reel. Also, referring again to the illustrated embodiments, the roller is shown as being pivotally attached to the frame by way of a pivot plate whose pivot axis passes through a pair of upright members of the example frame. An alternative design here could be to position the pivot axis so that it is not passing through the upright members of the frame (e.g., offsetting the axis relative to the upright members). Accordingly, other embodiments are within the scope of the claims.





 
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