Title:
Shelving connector
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A connector is provided for securing two members together. The connector includes an opening formed in one member and a tab extending from the other member. Either the opening or the tab is tapered for frictional engagement with the other when the members are joined.



Inventors:
Collins, James E. (Munster, IN, US)
Wojotowicz, David J. (Orland Park, IL, US)
Troyner, Anthony J. (Shorewood, IL, US)
Application Number:
11/262856
Publication Date:
07/06/2006
Filing Date:
10/31/2005
Assignee:
Edsal Manufacturing Co., Inc.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47B57/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
RAMSEY, JEREMY C
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
WOOD, HERRON & EVANS, LLP (CINCINNATI, OH, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A connector apparatus for securing two members together and comprising: an opening formed in one member; a tab extending from the other member; one of said opening and said tab being tapered for frictional engagement with the other when the members are joined.

2. A connector apparatus as recited in claim 1, wherein: said tab includes a substantially flat surface; and said substantially flat surface is in clamping engagement with the one member when the members are joined.

3. A connector apparatus as recited in claim 1, wherein: said one of said opening and said tab includes first and second sides, said first and second sides being tapered.

4. A connector apparatus as recited in claim 3, wherein: said one of said opening and said tab further includes a top edge and a bottom edge, said first and second sides being tapered inwardly from said bottom edge to said top edge.

5. A connector apparatus as recited in claim 4, wherein: said one of said opening and said tab is a trapezoid shaped opening, said tab being wedged into said trapezoid shaped opening when the members are joined.

6. A connector apparatus as recited in claim 1, wherein: said tab includes a proximal portion integral with an adjacent, substantially planar portion of the other member; said tab further includes an upwardly extending portion integral with said proximal portion; said proximal portion includes at least one bend portion, said bend portion being configured to cause said upwardly extending portion of said tab to be in clamping engagement with the one member when the members are joined.

7. A method of securing two members together without using discrete fasteners, wherein one member includes a plurality of openings, and another member includes a plurality of extending tabs, said method comprising the steps of: aligning the members so the openings and the tabs are in register with one another; inserting the tabs through aligned ones of the holes; and moving at least one member relative to another and thereby wedging the tabs into frictional engagement with the openings so as to join the members to one another.

8. A method as recited in claim 7, further comprising the step of: clamping the two members together when moving them relative to one another when the tabs are disposed within the openings.

9. A method as recited in claim 8, wherein the tabs have a flat surface and wherein the step of clamping includes the step of: engaging said flat surface with the member having an opening therein.

10. A method as recited in claim 7, wherein the opposing sides of the opening are tapered and the opening has substantially parallel top and bottom edges thereby creating substantially trapezoid shaped openings; and wherein said step of securing said two members includes wedging said tabs into the opening between said tapered opposing sides.

11. A shelving unit comprising: at least two columns disposed in spaced apart relationship with one another; at least one shelf support, each said shelf support extending between and connected to each one of a pair of said columns; each of said columns having one of a plurality of openings formed therein and a plurality of tabs extending therefrom; each said shelf support having the other of said plurality of openings formed therein and said plurality of tabs extending therefrom; one of said openings and said tabs being tapered for frictional engagement with aligned ones of the other of said tabs and said openings when each said shelf support is joined with each one of said pair of said columns.

12. A shelving unit as recited in claim 12, wherein: each said shelf support includes a top flange.

13. A shelving unit as recited in claim 13, wherein: each said shelf support further includes a bottom flange and a web, said top and bottom flanges being angled relative to said web.

14. A shelving unit as recited in claim 12, wherein: each said shelf support further includes a web having a bottom edge; said openings are formed in said web and at least one of said openings in each said shelf support open onto to said bottom edge.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCES

This application claims the priority benefit of U.S. Patent Application Ser. No. 60/640,791, “Shelving Connector”, filed Dec. 30, 2004, which is expressly incorporated by reference herein in its entirety.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to the assembly of metal parts and more particularly to apparatus facilitating assembly of parts such as in sheet metal shelving or cabinets. Other applications are contemplated.

BACKGROUND

Metal shelving is usually packaged in component pieces which are assembled to form shelving. Discrete fasteners are typically used in this process, as well as a variety of tab/slot arrangements as is well known. The use of discrete fasteners can increase cost and are the source of aggravation where quantities are mishandled or the like.

Known tab and slot configurations can lack permanency and rigidity, especially when the shelving units are handled or manipulated. For instance, “bayonet-type” tab and slot configurations are known in the art and typically include a male tab protruding through an oversized slot so that movement of the tab within the slot is possible. In some instances, the slot may be oriented in a substantially vertical direction, with the bottom surface of the tab resting against the bottom of the slot via gravity. However, since the vertical dimension of the slot may be oversized relative to the vertical height of the tab, the tab and the member attached to the tab may move upwardly in response to the application of sufficient force, which can cause the assembled structure to wobble or to be otherwise undesirable.

It is thus desired to provide improved connecting structure which produces position and rigid interconnection between elements of a structure such as a metal shelving or cabinet.

SUMMARY

To these ends, one aspect of the present invention is directed to a connector for securing two members together. The connector includes an opening or aperture formed in one member and a tab extending from the other member. At least one of the opening and the tab is tapered for frictional engagement with the other when the members are joined.

In one illustrative embodiment, a generally rectangular portion of a tab integral with one member is frictionally and securely engaged within a trapezoid shaped opening formed in the other member when the two members are joined. However, other shapes of openings and tabs are considered to be within the scope of the present invention provided the tab is frictionally and securely engaged with the opening when the two members are joined.

A second aspect of the present invention is directed to a method for securing two members together without the use of discrete fasteners. With the method of the present invention, a plurality of openings are formed in one member and a plurality of tabs are formed in the other member so they extend from the other member. The members are aligned so the openings and tabs are in register with one another and the tabs are inserted through aligned ones of the openings. One of the members is moved relative to the other thereby wedging the tabs into frictional engagement with the openings to securely join the members together.

In one illustrative embodiment, trapezoid shaped openings are formed in one member with tabs being formed in the other member. The tabs include a substantially rectangular portion. Each male tab is inserted into the larger end of the female trapezoid shaped opening and then slid to the narrower end of the female trapezoid shaped opening “wedging” the substantially rectangular portion of the tab securely into the female part. The tab also makes contact with the flat surface adjacent the female part opening also gripping it to insure a tight fit.

Assembly of the two components or members of a shelving unit wedges them together and the combination of the wedged components and the flat surface engagement provides a strong, rigid, secure interconnection between the components. Use of discrete fasteners for this joint is eliminated and the female and male elements can be provided by stamping in the forming of the components or members, reducing the cost.

These and other advantages will be appreciated from the following written description and from the drawings in which:

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a cross-brace or shelf support member of a shelving unit provided with a plurality of tapered female connecting elements according to one embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 2 is a cross-sectional view taken generally along lines 2-2 of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a plan, or flat pattern view of the developed member of FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of another shelving member, such as a support column, showing a plurality of the male tab connecting elements according to one embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 5 is a developed view of the member of FIG. 4;

FIG. 6 is an enlarged view of the encircled area of FIG. 5 showing the male tab connecting element of FIGS. 4 and 5;

FIG. 7 is a cross-sectional view taken along lines 7-7 of FIG. 4;

FIG. 8 is a cross-sectional view taken along lines 8-8 of FIG. 4;

FIG. 9 is a perspective view illustrating cooperation of members like those of FIG. 1 with that of FIG. 4;

FIG. 10 is a cross-section showing members of FIGS. 1, 4 and 9 in interconnected configuration;

FIG. 11 is a perspective view illustrating members of FIGS. 1 and 4 in interconnected configuration; and

FIG. 12 is a perspective view similar to FIG. 11, illustrating another embodiment of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

FIG. 1 depicts a brace or cross member 10 of a shelving unit 40 (FIG. 11). Shelving member 10 preferably has top and bottom flanges 11, 13 and a web 15 and generally comprises, for example only, a sheet metal formed cross-brace or shelf support for a shelving unit 40 (FIG. 11). The top and bottom flanges 11, 13 are angled relative to web 15. In the embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 1-11, flanges 11 and 13 are formed at substantially the same angle, i.e., about 90°, relative to web 15 as flanges 11 and 13 are both substantially perpendicular relative to web 15. However, flanges 11 and 13 can be formed at different angles relative to web 15 within the scope of the present invention.

In the illustrative embodiment shown in FIGS. 1-11, member 10 is provided with a plurality of female connecting elements or components 12 comprising inwardly tapered apertures or openings, from bottom to top. Each opening has a top edge 20, bottom edge 21 and tapered sides 18, 19. The taper in one embodiment is slight, on the order of 0.010″ so bottom edge 21 is about 0.010″ longer than the top edge 20. In one embodiment, top edge 20 is 0.370″ long and bottom edge is 0.380″ long. Any suitable taper can be used.

The lower female openings 12 may extend into lower flange 13 as best shown in FIGS. 1 and 9. However, the lower female openings 12 may also be disposed entirely within web 15.

FIG. 12 illustrates a shelving unit 140 according to an alternate embodiment of the present invention. Shelving unit 140 is the same as shelving unit 40, except that member 10 is replaced with member 110. Member 110 does not include the bottom flange 13 of member 10 but can be otherwise the same as member 10. The web 15 of member 110 includes a bottom or lower edge 112. A plurality of the openings 12 are formed in web 15, and the bottom openings 12 (only one is shown in FIG. 12, with the other being obscured) open onto the bottom edge 112 of web 15. The utilization of shelving unit 40 having members 10 with lower flanges 13, or the use of shelving unit 140 having members 110 without lower flanges, can be based on one or more of the following considerations: cost, strength and spacing.

Another shelving member such as a formed column 14 is shown in FIGS. 4-12 and is included in shelving unit 40 and shelving unit 140. This member in one embodiment comprises a formed sheet metal angle provided with a plurality of male tabs 16. Tabs 16 are integrally formed of the same material as the remainder of column 14, using any suitable stamping or other process. As shown in FIGS. 6-8, each tab 16 includes a proximal portion 33 integral with an adjacent, substantially planar portion 17 of column 14. The proximal portion 33 of tabs 16 includes first and second bend portions 35, 36. Tabs 16 further include an upwardly extending portion 24 integral with proximal portion 33 and an outwardly bent portion 26 integral with portion 24.

In the illustrative embodiment, the upwardly extending portion 24 has generally parallel edges 25, 27 and a substantially rectangular shape, as best seen in FIG. 6. As also shown in FIG. 6, the outwardly bent portion 26 of tab 16 has inwardly tapered sides 22, 23 to facilitate the insertion of tabs 16 into apertures 12.

The width of the tab portion 24 from edge 25 to edge 27 is about equal to or slightly greater than a length 29 of edge 20, that extends between sides 18 and 19 (FIG. 3) of aperture 12.

The apertures 12 and tabs 16 are oriented in their respective components or members 10, 14 (or 110, 14) so they are in register when the members are joined. The members 10, 14 (or 110, 14) are joined by inserting the tabs 16 into apertures 12, and the members moved relative to one another so the tabs 16 move upwardly in apertures 12. This wedges the tabs 16 frictionally in the tapered apertures 12, holding the members 10, 14 (or 110, 14) rigidly together.

Note also in FIG. 10 that rear flat surfaces 28 of portions 24 of tabs 16 engage web 15 of member 10, thus holding the members 10 and 14 together securely. The opposite side of web 15 is held against column 14 in each illustrated embodiment. This also applies to tabs 16 engaging web 15 of member 110, thus holding the members 110 and 14 together securely.

In a relaxed, free state condition, the configuration of bend portions 35, 36 causes a substantially flat, planar surface 28 of the upwardly extending portion 24 of tab 16 to be displaced from a surface 30 of the substantially planar portion 17 of column 14 by a distance 32 (FIG. 8). Preferably, bend portions 35 and 36 are configured so that distance 32 is less than a width 34 (FIG. 10) of the web 15 of member 10. Accordingly, when members 10 and 14 or 110 and 14 are assembled, as subsequently discussed further, a clamping force is applied between a substantially planar surface 38 of web 15 of member 10 or member 110 and the substantially planar surface 28 of portion 24 of tab 16. The magnitude of the clamping force can be varied by changing the configuration of bends portions 35, 36 to change distance 32 as may be appreciated.

The combination of the wedged tab and the flat surface engagement provides a strong, rigid, secure interconnection between the members 10, 14 or 110, 14.

Tab width and aperture taper can be selected to provide more gentle or more aggressive wedging action. Also, as discussed previously, tab bends can be selected so the joining process clamps one component against another, the “springiness” of the tabs holding or biasing the members together.

Due to the absence of fasteners, no tools are required for the connection of unit members. Instead, only joining, juxtapositioning and manipulation of the unit members are needed to provide secure interconnection.

In use, then, members 10 or 110 are assembled, for example, to frame members such as column 14 for either bracing or support if shelves or items are to be stored directly thereon. This interconnection is produced merely by juxtaposing elements 10, 14 or by juxtaposing elements 110, 14 and moving them relative to each other so that tabs 16 are introduced into openings 12. Further motion securely couples the elements together without the need for discrete fasteners.

It will be appreciated that sheet metal members other than those illustrated herein can be so joined by the connectors and methodology of the present invention, and the openings and tabs of the connector of the present invention can be used in other materials and other configurations, such as cabinets, furniture, buildings, togs and the like.

Additionally, although the illustrated tabs 16 include a generally rectangular portion 24 wedged into a trapezoid shaped opening 12, alternately, the rectangular portion 24 may be replaced with a portion having tapered sides for fitting in a rectangular opening, thus still attaining the frictionally wedging action. Also, the previously described wedging action may be accomplished with openings and tabs having other shapes that are considered to be within the scope of the present invention.

While the foregoing description has set forth preferred embodiments of the present invention in particular detail, numerous modifications, substitutions and changes will be appreciated without departing from the true spirit and scope of the present invention and applicant intends to be bound only by the claims appended hereto.