Title:
Drawer and latch therefor
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A drawer in accordance with the invention comprises a base having a drawer member attached thereto and a latch. The base has a structure for mating with the latch and is connected to the drawer member via a conventional slide assembly which allows the drawer to move in and out of the base. The latch is connected to the drawer member and has a corresponding mating structure for mating with the mating structure of the base. The latch is movable between a first position, or locked position, wherein the mating structures on connected, preventing the drawer member from moving out of the base, and a second position, or released position, wherein the mating structures are disengaged, allowing the drawer member to be moved out of the base.



Inventors:
Goetsch, Nathan S. P. (East Troy, WI, US)
Sproul, Paul J. (Burlington, WI, US)
Application Number:
11/320407
Publication Date:
07/13/2006
Filing Date:
12/28/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47B88/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20100007256BASKET ASSEMBLY AND BASKET CARRIER FOR REFRIGERATORJanuary, 2010Kim et al.
20080303394ARTICLE OF FURNITURE WITH TAMBOUR MODESTY PANELDecember, 2008Woods et al.
20050116591Home appliance assemblyJune, 2005Hwang et al.
20050122012Screen and shelf unitJune, 2005Northrup
20050023942Steel cabinet drawer fileFebruary, 2005Kunanantakul
20020185944Detachment and assembly structure of master computer's faceplateDecember, 2002Chen
20070096609Volume-adjustable unit and furniture comprising frame made of the sameMay, 2007Chiu
20020101139Elevating device for planer displayerAugust, 2002Lee
20010024077Workplace aid for kitchensSeptember, 2001Doose
20090167124Hard disk drive holding apparatusJuly, 2009Lee et al.
20070029905Folding shelf unit for a lockerFebruary, 2007Shapiro et al.



Primary Examiner:
HANSEN, JAMES ORVILLE
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
FITCH EVEN TABIN & FLANNERY, LLP (CHICAGO, IL, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A drawer comprising: a base having a structure for mating with a latch; a drawer member connected to the base for movement in and out thereof; and a latch connected to the drawer member and having a corresponding mating structure for mating with the mating structure of the base, the latch being movable between a first locked position wherein the mating structures are engaged, preventing the drawer member from moving out of the base, and a second released position wherein the mating structures are disengaged, allowing the drawer member to be moved out of the base.

2. An apparatus according to claim 1 wherein the mating structure of the base is an opening defined by the base and the mating structure of the latch is a protrusion extending therefrom, the protrusion being disposed in the opening of the base when the latch is in the locked position and removed from the opening of the base when the latch is in the released position.

3. An apparatus according to claim 2 wherein the latch has a biasing mechanism for biasing the latch in the locked position.

4. An apparatus according to claim 3 wherein the biasing mechanism is at least one of a bend and a spring for biasing the latch in the locked position.

5. An apparatus according to claim 1 wherein the latch is connected to the drawer member and extends from a lower surface thereof.

6. An apparatus according to claim 1 wherein at least one of the drawer member, base and latch is made out of a non-ferrous metal.

7. An apparatus according to claim 6 wherein the non-ferrous metal is aluminum.

8. An apparatus according to claim 1 wherein at least one of the drawer member and the base is made from a single sheet of aluminum, bent at a plurality of locations to form at least one of a bottom wall, opposing side walls, and opposing front and rear walls.

9. An apparatus according to claim 8 wherein the front wall of the drawer member is angled from an upper rear position toward a lower forward position and forms a drawer pull for an operator to use to move the drawer member between an open position and a closed position.

10. An apparatus according to claim 8 wherein the front wall of the drawer member is angled to provide a surface for placing indicia to identify at least one item that may be stored in the drawer member.

11. An apparatus according to claim 1 wherein the drawer member is connected to the base via a sliding rail which allows the drawer member to be moved in and out of the base.

12. An apparatus according to claim 9 wherein the sliding rails include a pair of elongated channels mounted on opposing sides of the base and a pair of elongated brackets having wheels attached thereto for traveling in the elongated channels when the drawer member is moved in and out of the base.

13. An apparatus according to claim 1 wherein at least one of the base and drawer member defines at least one opening for reducing the weight thereof.

14. An apparatus according to claim 8 wherein the base defines a large opening in order to reduce the weight thereof and the bottom wall of the drawer member defines a plurality of openings to reduce the weight thereof.

15. An apparatus according to claim 1 wherein the mating structure of the latch is an opening defined by an end of the latch and the mating structure of the base is a protrusion extending therefrom, the protrusion being disposed in the opening of the latch when the latch is in the locked position and removed from the opening of the latch when the latch is in the released position.

16. An apparatus according to claim 15 wherein the latch has a bend biasing the latch in the locked position.

17. An apparatus according to claim 1 wherein the drawer comprises a velocity controller for controlling at least a portion of travel of the drawer member in order to prevent it from damaging the rail system when moved between its open and closed positions.

18. An apparatus according to claim 17 wherein the velocity controller is a hydraulic damper that disperses a fluid in order to control the velocity of the drawer member as it approaches its limit of travel so that the rail system is not damaged when the drawer member reaches a limit of travel.

19. An apparatus according to claim 17 wherein the velocity controller is a rubber bumper that decelerates the drawer member by absorbing an impact force generated when drawer member reaches a limit of travel.

20. A latch comprising a body of metal having a first portion which serves as a handle therefor, a second portion connected to the first portion and forming a mating structure for mating with a corresponding mating structure on a base, and a third portion connected to the second portion and extending therefrom for connecting the latch to the base and having a bend therein for biasing the latch into a preferred position.

21. An apparatus according to claim 20 wherein the mating structure forms a shoulder for connecting to the catch.

22. An apparatus according to claim 20 wherein the body of metal is a body of aluminum.

23. A mobile tool store comprising: a vehicle defining a space for storing or displaying tools; and light-weight drawers located within the space defined by the vehicle for storing or displaying the tools.

24. A mobile tool store according to claim 23 wherein the vehicle is a truck and the light-weight drawers are aluminum drawers capable of being moved between a stored position wherein the tools are stored away and an open position wherein the tools are readily accessible.

25. A mobile tool store according to claim 24 wherein the drawers have damping mechanisms for decelerating the drawer when moved from the stored position to the open position.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/639,478, filed Dec. 28, 2004, which is hereby incorporated by reference herein in its entirety.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to an improved drawer and latch therefor, and more particularly, an improved drawer construction and latch assembly.

2. Description of the Related Art

Conventional drawers are used in a variety of different applications. For example, some drawers are designed and used to hold tools, such as tool cabinet drawers, tool box drawers, and the like. The specific application a drawer is designed for not only impacts the layout of the drawer, but can also create limitations on the construction of the drawer as well. For example, some tool drawers are used in mobile applications such as rolling tool carts or tool boxes. In these applications, it is important to minimize the amount of weight of the drawer so that the tool cart and tool box remain light enough to be moved about by hand. Thus, if the drawer is too heavy, the tool cart and tool box may have to be designed with less than the preferred number of drawers or designed to carry fewer tools in order to keep the tool cart or tool box within a desired weight range.

Another mobile application for tool drawers is in vehicles such as mobile tool stores or tool trucks. In these applications, the weight of the drawer may impact the amount of tools that can be carried by the vehicle or even the type of vehicle that can be used. For example, many states, if not all, have limitations on the weight of vehicles. Thus, heavy tool drawers in a vehicle can reduce the amount of available weight for tool inventory, resulting in the vehicle having to carry fewer tools than may be desired. In addition to affecting the amount of tools that can be carried, heavier drawers may also limit the type of vehicle that can be used or the type of components that can be used in the vehicle construction. For example, heavier drawers may require a bigger, more expensive, vehicle to be used so that a desired amount of tools may be carried on board. Heavier drawers may also require the vehicle to be built with non-standard components, such as for example heavy-duty shocks or suspensions, larger chassis, larger engines, and/or heavy-duty engine components.

Thus, a shortcoming with existing tool drawers is that they are made of steel, which makes them heavier. Use of other materials has been discouraged due to the harsh environments tool drawers may be used in. For example, in the mobile applications discussed above, it was believed that softer, lighter metals could not be used in place of steel because they are too weak and would flex too much and/or would not be able to withstand the wear associated with the constant opening and closing of the drawer or the vibration such drawers are exposed to during travel.

Another shortcoming with existing tool drawers is that they often use intricate latch mechanisms that require multiple components, thereby increasing material expense and adding to the overall weight of the assembled drawer. For example, U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,388,902 and 5,403,139 disclose sliding latch mechanisms (40 and 50) which are positioned under the drawer pull (24) of drawer (20) and moved along a horizontal plane in order to lock or unlock the drawer (20). Such configurations require various components, such as fasteners, hooks and elongated bars, which increase the material expense and weight of the drawer. These drawers also use materials, such as plastic, which would likely brake when subjected to the stress associated with mobile applications.

Yet another shortcoming with existing tool drawers is that they often use a spring or springs for slowing the drawer member as it approaches its limit of travel in the open position in order to avoid damaging the rail system of the drawer. Unfortunately, however, springs alone do not work uniformly from one drawer to another due to differences in the size and weight of the drawer member. A spring will take longer to slow down a heavy drawer or drawer loaded with items than it will to slow down a lighter drawer or similar drawer filled with fewer items. Springs also have the propensity to become disconnected from the drawer systems particularly when the drawers are mounted in mobile applications, such as in mobile tool stores, because the vibrations encountered during travel can disconnect the spring from the drawer.

Accordingly, it has been determined that the need exists for an improved drawer and latch mechanism which overcome the aforementioned limitations.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

A drawer in accordance with the invention comprises a base having a drawer member attached thereto and a latch. The base has a structure for mating with the latch and is connected to the drawer member via a conventional slide assembly which allows the drawer to move in and out of the base. The latch is connected to the drawer member and has a corresponding mating structure for mating with the mating structure of the base. The latch is movable between a first position, or locked position, wherein the mating structures are connected, preventing the drawer member from moving out of the base, and a second position, or released position, wherein the mating structures are disengaged, allowing the drawer member to be moved out of the base.

In a preferred form, the mating structure of the base is an opening defined by the base and the mating structure of the latch is a protrusion extending therefrom, with the protrusion being disposed in the opening of the base when the latch is in the locked position and removed from the opening of the base when the latch is in the released position. The latch is preferably biased in the locked position and is fastened to the drawer member such that it extends from a lower surface thereof to engage the opening defined by the base.

In one form, the latch comprises a body having a first portion which serves as an operative end thereof, a second portion connected to the first portion and forming a mating structure for mating with the mating structure of the base, and a third portion connected to the second portion and extending therefrom for connecting the latch to the drawer member and having a bend therein for biasing the latch in the locked position. As mentioned above, the mating structure may be a protrusion, such as a shoulder, for engaging the opening of the base to prevent the drawer from moving out of the base.

To reduce the weight of the drawer assembly, at least one of the drawer member, base and latch may be made out of a light-weight material, such as a non-ferrous metal like aluminum, and in a preferred form, the latch is made from annealed spring steel and the drawer member and base are made from this material to decrease the overall weight of the drawer further. In addition, the drawer member may be made from a single sheet of aluminum, bent at a plurality of locations to form a bottom wall having opposing side walls and opposing front and rear walls extending therefrom. In one form, the front wall is angled from an upper rear position toward a lower forward position in order to provide a surface for placing indicia to identify at least one item that may be stored in the drawer member.

Further weight reduction may be achieved by having the base or drawer member, or both, define at least one additional opening to reduce the amount of material used and the weight associated therewith. For example, in one form, the base defines a large opening in order to reduce the weight thereof and the bottom wall of the drawer member defines a plurality of openings to reduce the weight thereof.

When the drawer is used to store metallic items, such as tools, a magnetic material, such as a magnetic liner, may be placed on the bottom wall of the drawer member in order to retain the tools in position in the drawer member particularly when the drawer is in travel. For example, when the drawer is installed in a mobile tool store or tool truck, the magnetic liner assists in maintaining the tools placed in the drawer member in position despite the many forces that act on the tools and drawer when the vehicle is in motion.

In yet another form, the mating structure of the latch may be an opening defined by an end of the latch and the mating structure of the base may be a protrusion extending therefrom, with the protrusion being disposed in the opening of the latch when the latch is in the locked position and removed from the opening of the latch when the latch is in the released position. This latch may also have a bend biasing it in the locked position.

In another form, the drawer may include a velocity controller, such as a damper or shock absorber, which controls at least a portion of travel of the drawer member in order to prevent it from damaging the rail system when moved between its open and closed positions. In a preferred embodiment, the velocity controller includes a fluid filled cylinder that disperses a fluid, such as air, in order to control the velocity of the drawer member as it approaches its limit of travel so that the rail system is not damaged when the absolute limit of travel is reached. In yet another embodiment, a damper such as a rubber bumper may be used in order to reduce the speed of the drawer and/or protect the rail system when the drawer is moved between its open and closed positions.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Other objects and advantages of the invention will become apparent upon reading the following detailed description and upon reference to the drawings, in which:

FIGS. 1A-D are perspective, side, front and top views of a drawer in accordance with the invention;

FIG. 1E is a cross-sectional view of the drawer of FIG. 1D taken along line E-E;

FIG. 1F is an enlarged view of the latch mechanism of FIG. 1D exploded from circular portion F;

FIGS. 2A-D are perspective, side, front and top views, respectively, of the drawer of FIGS. 1A-F;

FIG. 2E is a top plan view of the punched form and bend pattern used to make the drawer member of FIGS. 1A-F;

FIGS. 3A-D are perspective, side, front and top views, respectively, of the base of FIGS. 1A-F;

FIGS. 4A-D are perspective, side, front and top views, respectively, of the latch of FIGS. 1A-F;

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of a drawer known in the art and shown in the foreground of the picture, as compared to a drawer in accordance with the invention and shown in the background of the picture;

FIGS. 6A-B are perspective views of an alternate latch mechanism in accordance with the invention, illustrating the latch in the drawer shown in the foreground of FIG. 5 with the drawer in an opened and closed position, respectively (note: only the drawer member and base assembly illustrated in FIGS. 6A-B are known in the art, not the latch mechanism or its accompanying interface cut into the base);

FIG. 7 is a cross-sectional view of an alternate latch mechanism in accordance with the invention;

FIG. 8 is a cross-sectional view of a preferred rail system used in the drawer of FIGS. 1A-F; and

FIGS. 9A-B are side and front views of an alternate drawer in accordance with the invention;

FIG. 9C is an enlarged view of the damper mechanism of FIG. 9A exploded from circular portion J; and

FIG. 9D is an enlarged view of the damper mechanism of FIG. 9B exploded from circular portion K.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Turning now to the drawings and, in particular FIGS. 1A-F, wherein a drawer in accordance with the invention is shown generally at reference numeral 10, the drawer 10 includes a drawer member 12 connected to a base 14 so that the drawer member may be moved with respect to the base, and has a latch 16 for securing the drawer member in the base 14. More particularly, the latch 16 is connected to the drawer member 12 and has a structure for mating with a corresponding mating structure located on the base 14. In this manner, the latch 16 is movable between a latched or locked position, wherein the mating structures are engaged, preventing the drawer member 12 from moving out of the base 14, and an unlatched or released position, wherein the mating structures are disengaged, allowing the drawer member to be moved out of the base.

In the embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 1E and 1F, the mating structure of the base 14 is an opening 15 defined by the base, and the mating structure of the latch 16 is a protrusion, such as shoulder member 16d, which extends from the latch 16, with the protrusion 16d being disposed in the opening 15 of base 14 when the latch 16 is in the locked position and removed from the opening 15 when the latch 16 is in the released position. As will be discussed in further detail below, the latch 16 preferably has a bend biasing the latch into the locked position thereby allowing the latch 16 to automatically lock the drawer member 12 and prevent the drawer member 12 from moving out of the base 14 once it has been inserted a sufficient amount into the base 14 (e.g., a positive lock or a passive locking arrangement). To operate the latch 16 and move the drawer member 12 out or away from the base 14, an operator will reach under the front 12b of the drawer member 12 and press up on the operative end 16a of latch 16 to move the latch 16 to its unlatched or released position so that the drawer member 12 may be moved out of the base 12. These and other details of the drawer 10 will be discussed further below, however, before proceeding a detailed description of the individual portions of the drawer 10, including the drawer member 12, base 14 and latch 16, will now be discussed.

A drawer member 12 in accordance with the invention is illustrated in FIGS. 2A-E, and includes a bottom wall 12a, front and rear walls 12b and 12c, respectively, and opposing side walls 12d and 12e, respectively (collectively referred to hereinafter as “side walls 12b-e”). The side walls 12b-e extend up, preferably perpendicularly, from the bottom wall 12a and form a generally rectangular receptacle for receiving items, such as tools.

The front wall 12b may be angled, such as for example from an upper rear position toward a lower forward position, to provide a surface for placing indicia to identify at least one item that may be stored in the drawer member 12 and to form a channel and gripping surface that runs about the width of the front wall which an operator may use as a drawer pull. In the form illustrated, at least a portion of the outer surface of front wall 12b is placed at a forty-five degree angle to provide an optimal viewing surface upon which indicia may be placed. In a preferred form, an adhesive such as a double-sided tape is used to secure an indicia such as a card, label, or graphic on the front wall 12b to identify the contents of the drawer 12. In another form, a mounting mechanism, such as bracket 13 (FIGS. 1A-F), may be placed on the outer surface of the front wall 12b in order to retain the indicia on the front wall 12b. In the form illustrated, bracket 13 is a generally C-shaped aluminum structure that forms a channel within which indicia, such as a card with graphics, may be removably inserted. Thus, the indicia may be replaced from time-to-time by sliding the card out of the bracket 13 and replacing it with an updated or new card. This allows the user to accommodate for situations, such as when the content of the drawer is changed or when the graphics of the card need to be updated or changed. It should be understood, however, that other types of indicia may be used on the angled front wall 12b in place of adhesives, bracket 13 or the graphic card, if desired.

In one form of the bracket 13 illustrated, a stop, such as a cap, may be placed on at least one end of the graphics bracket 13 in order to prevent the card from passing all the way through the bracket 13. Accordingly, removable end stops could be placed at both ends of the bracket 13 to retain the graphics card in the channel of bracket 13 between the end stops, thereby, preventing the graphics card from being inadvertently removed from the bracket 13. Thus, one of the end stops may be removed in order to slide the card out of the bracket 13 when desired. In one form, the end stops are rubber caps that are connected to respective ends of the bracket 13 via a friction fit. However, in alternate forms the end stops may be made from a variety of other materials, such as plastic, wood or metal, and may have a variety of different shapes, such as simple posts or blocks. Similarly, the end stops may be connected to the bracket 13 in a variety of other manners, such as by fasteners like rivets, bolts, screws, or the like.

In the embodiment illustrated, opposing side walls 12d and 12e, have an inverted U-shaped cross-section which form channels 17 into which at least a portion of the base 14 and/or slide rails are inserted. This configuration not only provides a more finished look, but also provides an ergonomic design which covers the slide rails to protect them from outside objects that may interfere with their operation (e.g., objects that may jam the slide rails or the ball bearings of the slide rails), and protects operators from unintentionally or inadvertently coming into contact with the slide rails (e.g., pinching fingers in the slide rails). In FIG. 5, a drawer known in the art is shown in the foreground and compared to the drawer 10 of the invention, shown in the background, with the side walls 12d and 12c of drawer member 12 covering at least a portion of the base 14 and/or the slide rails.

In a preferred form, the drawer member 12 is made from a single sheet of light-weight material, such as a nonferrous metal, which is bent at a plurality of locations to form the bottom wall 12a and side walls 12b-e. For example, in FIG. 2E, an aluminum form is illustrated which may be stamped or pressed out of a larger sheet of aluminum in order to create the drawer member illustrated in FIGS. 2A-D. The solid lines identify the boundary of the form and the broken lines identify the bend pattern or locations where the sheet is bent to make the various wall members. Since bending a material, such as metal, increases the rigidity of the material, the bend patterns should be carefully selected in order to prevent the Young's modulus for the material from decreasing to a value too low to be used in drawer applications. Once the drawer member is bent into shape, various wall members are welded together to complete the manufacture of the drawer member 12.

This configuration provides a lighter, stronger drawer member 12 that is capable of withstanding the stress associated with tool drawer applications and, in particular, tool drawers for mobile tool applications. It should be understood, however, that other light-weight metals, such as magnesium, titanium, carbon, or composites thereof, or other light-weight materials, such as resins like polyethylene, polypropylene, etc., may be used in place of aluminum. Resins, however, would be molded, whereas metals would be cast and bent. Additionally, it should be appreciated that the base 14 may also be constructed or formed from a single sheet of material such as light-weight metal or a molded resin. Such construction could be performed in a manner similar to that just described regarding the drawer member 12.

Although the drawer member depicted in FIGS. 2A-E includes opposing front and rear walls and opposing side walls, it should be understood that the drawer member may be provided in different configurations to suit different applications. For example, in an alternate embodiment, the drawer member 12 may be provided without a rear wall or with a rear wall that is smaller than the remaining walls. In yet other embodiments, the walls 2A-E may include one or more openings in order to reduce the amount of material used in the drawer member 12 and the weight associated therewith. For example, the bottom wall 12a may define a plurality of openings such as is illustrated in the known drawer member shown in the foreground of FIG. 5, in order to reduce the amount of material used to make the drawer member and the weight associated therewith.

Using the drawer configuration depicted in FIGS. 1-2E, the drawer 10 is about forty-five percent lighter than standard drawers used today and about twenty-five percent lighter than known drawers using the material reduction method of cutting a plurality of holes in the drawer as illustrated in the foreground of FIG. 5. When the drawer member 12 of FIGS. 1-2E is provided with a plurality of additional openings in the bottom wall 12a, the weight reduction of the drawer 10 is even greater.

The drawer member 12 may also include a magnetic material, such as a magnetic liner or layer (not shown), which may cover at least a portion of the bottom wall 12a in order to retain items, such as tools, in position in the drawer member, particularly when the drawer 10 is in travel. For example, when the drawer is used in a mobile tool application, such as in a tool cart or in a vehicle, a magnetic sheet may be placed on top of the bottom wall 12a and a rubber liner placed on top of the magnetic sheet. The magnetic liner will prevent the tools placed in the drawer from moving around despite the many forces that act on the tools when the cart or vehicle is in motion. However, since the addition of both a magnetic sheet and a rubber liner will add to the weight of the drawer 10 and height of the liner, an alternate rubber liner having magnets embedded therein may be used to further reduce the weight of drawer 10. In this form, a plurality of magnets are embedded in the rubber liner and spaced apart from one another to reduce the amount of weight the magnetic material contributes to the overall drawer weight. In a preferred form, the embedded magnets are spaced the maximum distance apart from one another that will allow the magnets to still effectively retain the tools stored in the drawer member 12a in position during travel. Furthermore, by embedding the magnetic material into the rubber liner, rather than under the rubber liner, the height of the magnetic liner will be reduced providing more room in the drawer member 12 for storage of tools. The magnetic liner will also preferably cover a majority of the bottom wall 12a. Thus, if a plurality of openings in the bottom wall 12a are used to reduce the amount of material and weight of the drawer member 12, the magnetic liner will cover these openings so that tools will not fall through or get stuck in the openings of the bottom wall 12a and so that the openings of the bottom wall 12a will not be visible to a user.

A base 14 in accordance with the invention is illustrated in FIGS. 3A-D and includes a base frame 14a with opposing side walls 14b and 14c and a front wall 14d extending therefrom. In the embodiment illustrated, the side walls 14b and 14c extend upward from the frame 14a in a generally vertical manner, and form elongated horizontal surfaces, such as shoulders 14e and 14f, which are located, preferably intermediately, between the top and bottom of the side walls 14b and 14c. The bend that forms shoulders 14e-f actually strengthens the wall members 14b-c and allows the base 14 to be fitted into existing mobile tool trucks.

The front wall 14d also extends upward from the frame 14a in a generally vertical manner, and forms an elongated end 14g that extends out generally horizontally, and preferably perpendicularly, from the vertical portion of the front wall 14d. The horizontal end 14g of front wall 14d connects the shoulders 14e and 14f of side walls 14b and 14c and preferably extends transversely between the shoulders 14e and 14f and has an upper surface that is coplanar with the upper surfaces of shoulders 14e and 14f. An upper portion of the side walls 14b and 14c may also extend out along, and perpendicular to, the horizontal surface 14f in order to provide additional support to the horizontal portion 14f of front wall 14d.

The drawer member 12 may be connected to the base 14 in any of the known manners for connecting a drawer to its base, including any of the conventional rail slide systems or assemblies. In a preferred form, however, the drawer member 12 will be connected to the base 14 using the conventional three rail slide system illustrated in FIG. 8 and referred to generally by reference numeral 18. Since the rail slides are connected to the drawer member 12 and base 14 in a similar manner, only one of the rail slides will be discussed in detail. The sliding rail assembly 18 of FIG. 8 includes a first rail 18a connected to the base 14, a second rail 18b connected to the drawer member 12 and a third, or intermediate, rail 18c connecting the first and second rails 18a and 18b, respectively. The intermediate rail 18c is connected on one side to the base rail 18a by way of a first or outer ball bearing race 18d and is connected on the other side to the drawer rail 18b by way of a second or inner ball bearing race 18e. The ball bearings allow the intermediate rail to slide back and forth between the base rail 18a and drawer rail 18b so that drawer member 12 may be fully extended out from the base 14. The sliding rail system 18 also includes a stop (not shown) for restricting the travel of sliding rail 18c when it has reached its fully extended position. Thus, the stop will provide a limit of travel for not only the sliding rail 18c but also the drawer member 12 connected thereto via drawer rail 18b. In a preferred form, the base rail 18a and drawer rail 18b are connected to the base wall 14c and drawer wall 12e, respectively, via tabs (not shown) integrally formed on the base rail 18a and the drawer rail 18b and received in corresponding openings in the base 14 and drawer 12, respectively. In another form, fasteners such as countersunk rivets or the like may be used to attach the base rail 18a and the drawer rail 18b to the base 14 and the drawer 12, respectively. The three rail slide assembly 18 allows for one hundred percent extension of the drawer member 12. In alternate embodiments, however, the rail assembly 18 may include any of the available rail slide systems, such as for example a two rail slide system.

As mentioned above, the base 14 includes a structure for mating with a corresponding mating structure located on latch 16. In the form illustrated, the mating structure of base 14 is an opening 15 defined by the horizontal end 14g of front wall 14d. The opening 15 preferably corresponds in size to the size of latch 16, and both the mating structures of the base 14 and the latch 16 are of a sufficient size, (e.g., length and width), in order to securely lock the drawer member 12 in the base 14. For example, in the illustrated drawer 10, the base 14 is approximately twenty-three inches wide and twenty-two inches long, and the drawer member is approximately twenty-four inches wide and twenty-five inches long. With these dimensions, the mating structures of the latch 16 and base 14 are preferably approximately four inches wide and approximately five-eighths of an inch long in order to ensure that the drawer member 12 will be securely retained in the base 14 when latched therein. It should be understood, however, that the dimensions of the mating structures of the base 14 and latch 16 may take a variety of different shapes and sizes so long as the latch 16 operates to securely retain the drawer member 12 in the base 14. For example, in a larger embodiment of the drawer, a larger mating structure may be used. In yet other embodiments, a plurality of smaller latches may be used in order to secure the drawer 12 in the base 14. For example, two small latches similar to latch 16 may be positioned at the front left and right side of the drawer 10 rather than having one latch in the center of the drawer 10. The smaller latches may mate with respective openings in the base 14 in a manner that will be discussed further below with respect to latch 16.

To further reduce the weight of the drawer 10, the base 14 may define one or more additional openings in order to reduce material and the weight associated therewith. For example, in the embodiment illustrated, the base frame 14a defines a large opening 14h to eliminate unneeded material and its weight. In alternate embodiments, either the side walls 14b and 14c or the front wall 14d, or both, may define additional openings to reduce material and the weight associated therewith in accordance with the material reduction method discussed above.

Although the base illustrated in FIGS. 3A-D is a mounting bracket for use in a mobile tool store or tool truck, it should be understood that the base 14 may be provided in a variety of other structures or configurations. For example, in alternate embodiments, the base 14 may be a cabinet, such as a rolling tool cabinet, or another type of body, such as a tool box, from which a drawer is opened or closed. Furthermore, in some of these configurations, the base 14 may receive one or more drawer members 12 in accordance with the invention, such as for example a tool cabinet with multiple drawer members 12.

A latch 16 in accordance with the invention is illustrated in FIGS. 4A-D, and includes a body having a first portion 16a which serves as an operative end thereof, a second portion 16b connected to the first portion and forming a mating structure for mating with the mating structure of the base, and a third portion 16c connected to the second portion and extending therefrom for connecting the latch to the drawer member 12 and having a bend therein for biasing the latch in the locked position. In the form illustrated, the bend in third portion 16c is slightly downward and away from the drawer member 12, which biases the latch 16 in its locked position. The third portion 16c also defines three bores 16e, 16f, and 16h, which align with bores 12f, 12h, and 12g of drawer member 12 and through which fasteners, such as bolts, screws, or rivets, are inserted in order to connect the latch 16 to the drawer member 12. It should be understood, however, that the latch 16 may be connected to the drawer member 12 in a variety of ways, such as for example, by hinge, weld, adhesive, or the like.

The mating structure of latch 16 may be a protrusion, such as a shoulder 16d, for engaging opening 15 of base 14 to prevent the drawer member 12 from moving out of the base 14 once inserted therein. Thus, when an operator desires to move the drawer member 12 out of the base 14, he or she need only move the operative end 16a to move the latch 16 from its locked position to its released position so that the drawer member 12 may be released. The latch 16 may include a gripping portion, such as lip 16g, to assist the user in identifying the operative end 16a and actuating the latch 16. In the form illustrated, the lip 16g forms a curved projection extending from the distal end of the latch 16 which catches the user's fingers and forms a handle with which the user may operate the latch 16. The lip 16d also helps position the user's fingers so that they will not get pinched between the latch 16 and the drawer member 12 when the latch 16 is operated.

The latch 16 may further include a stop 16i which limits the amount the protrusion 16b can extend into the opening 15 of base 14 so that the latch 16 is easier to operate and remains barely visible, if at all, when looking at the front of the drawer 10. For example, in the form illustrated, the stop 16i catches the latch 16 on the edge of the base opening 15 so that the protrusion 16b is only partially inserted therein. This makes the latch 16 easier to operate in that only a portion of the protrusion 16b needs to be removed from the opening 15 to place the latch 16 in its unlocked position. It also limits the distance the latch 16 extends down below the base opening 15 and makes it easier to hide the latch 16. Hidden latches are not only aesthetically pleasing, but also help prevent inadvertent operation of the latch, such as for example, due to an article of clothing catching on the latch 16 and operating the same to inadvertently open the drawer 10. With such a hidden latch configuration, the gripping portion 16g will further help the user locate and actuate the latch 16 without the need to visibly see the latch mechanism.

As stated above, however, alternate embodiments of the base 14 and latch 16 and mating structures of the base 14 and latch 16 may be provided in a variety of different shapes, sizes and configurations. For example, an alternate embodiment of the latch 16 is illustrated in FIGS. 6A-B. In this form, the latch 16 has a mating structure that is similar to shoulder 16d but simpler in construction. Like the latch discussed above, this latch may be moved between a locked position wherein the shoulder is inserted into an opening in the base in order to secure the drawer member in the base (as illustrated in FIG. 6B) and a released position wherein the shoulder is removed from the opening so that drawer member may be removed from the base (as illustrated in FIG. 6A). Rather than using a stop, such as shoulder 16i, to limit the distance protrusion 16b is inserted into base opening 15, the latch of FIG. 6A-B simply reduces the size of the protrusion 16b of base 14.

In yet other embodiments, the mating structures of the base 14 and latch 16 may be reversed. For example, the latch may define an opening into which at least a portion of the base is inserted to secure the drawer member 12 in the base 14. In the form illustrated in FIG. 7, the latch 16 forms a channel 16j which defines an opening into which a projection, such as post 14j, is inserted in order to secure the drawer member 12 when it is inserted into the base 14. In this configuration latch 16 is connected to the front wall 12b via the first end 16a of latch 16, rather than being connected to the bottom wall 12a of the drawer member 12 via the third portion 16c. A user may actuate the operative end 16a in order to move the latch between the locked and unlocked positions. In one form the latch of FIG. 7 may pivot at an intermediate position, such as pivot 16f. In another form, however, the latch 16 may pivot from the point of connection between the operative end of the latch 16 and the front wall 12b, such as by a hinge. In yet another form, the latch 16 may simply bend, rather than pivot, thereby allowing the latch to be moved between its locked and unlocked positions. In other forms, the latch 16 may simply define an opening similar to the base opening 15, rather than having a channel.

In a preferred form, a shock absorber is used to decelerate the drawer member 12 by absorbing the impact of the drawer member as it reaches its limit of travel in the open position. For example, in one form the drawer 10 may simply have a bumper 22, such as a traditional rubber bumper 22, as is illustrated in FIG. 1E. Alternatively, a compressible spring member that is resilient and capable of compressing when engaged by the drawer member 12 or one of the rails when the drawer member is moved to its limit of travel in the open position may be used.

In yet another form, the drawer 10 may also include a shock absorber or a velocity controller, such as the damper 20 illustrated in FIGS. 9A-D, which slows the drawer member 12 as it approaches its limit of travel in the open position in order to prevent damage to the rail system, such as for example, by an abrupt stop of the drawer member caused by the full extension of the sliding rail system. In the embodiment illustrated, the damper 20 is a fluid filled cylinder that disperses a fluid, such as air, in order to control at least a portion of travel of the drawer member 12 in order to prevent it from damaging the rail system when moved to its limit of travel in the open position. The damper includes a cylinder body 20a for retaining the fluid and a piston rod 20b for dispersing the fluid as the drawer member 12 reaches its limit of travel. When in operation, a damper stop 20c located on the drawer member 12 engages the piston rod 20b and compresses it into the cylinder body 20a. As the piston rod 20b moves through the cylinder 20a fluid is forced through an opening in one direction to control the speed of the piston rod 20b and thereby the velocity of the drawer member 12. The fluid that the piston rod disperses may be any suitable fluid, however, in a preferred form hydraulic fluid is used to ensure that the damper 20 may be used with a large variety of drawers including both light and heavy weighted drawers.

In the form illustrated in FIGS. 9A and 9B, the damper 20 only controls a portion of travel of the drawer member 12. However, in alternate embodiments the velocity controller may be used to control any length of travel of the drawer member desired. For example, the velocity controller 20 may be used to control the speed of travel of the drawer member 12 over its entire length of travel so that the drawer member 12 travels at a desired rate of motion.

Although the drawer 10 illustrated and discussed herein has been shown as a drawer assembly for a mobile tool application such as a mobile tool truck, it should be understood that a drawer assembly in accordance with the invention may be used in a variety of different applications, such as those discussed above with respect to tool carts and tool boxes, and may also be used in a variety of other special service vehicles such as, mobile command centers, mobile laboratories, decontamination units, commercial product demonstration units, hazardous material units, swat vehicles, and the like.

Additionally, although the components of the drawer 10 have been depicted and described herein in relative terms, as well as in general dimensional terms, it should be appreciated that a preferred form of the drawer 10 may include more accurate dimensions to ensure appropriate cooperation between the various components.

For example, in one form, the drawer member 12 includes an overall width dimension of approximately 23¼″, an overall length dimension of approximately 24¾″, and an overall depth dimension of approximately 2½″. Additionally, the drawer member 12 includes an inner depth dimension of approximately 2⅛″. The opposing side walls 12d, 12e have width dimensions of approximately 15/16″, which define the channels 17 as having width dimensions of approximately ¾″. The rear wall 12c includes a width dimension of approximately 11/16″. In the form illustrated in FIG. 2B, for example, the bracket 13 of the front wall 12b extends from the drawer member 12 at an angle of approximately 45 degrees and has a dimension of approximately 2⅜″. Additionally, the lower vertical portion of the front wall 12b extends down from the bracket 13 a distance of approximately 11/16″. It should be appreciated that while the above dimensions describe one form of the drawer member 12, appropriate dimensions of the punched form of the drawer member 12 depicted in FIG. 2E can be readily determined therefrom to include the dimensions disclosed in U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/639,478, of which this application claims benefit of priority to and is expressly incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

Accordingly, the base 14 cooperating with the drawer member 12 having the above-described dimensions includes an overall width dimension of approximately 22 13/16″, an overall length dimension of approximately 21¾″ and an overall depth dimension of approximately 4 9/16″.

Furthermore, as stated hereinabove, one preferable form of the mating structures of the latch 16 and the base 14 include a width dimension of approximately 4″ and a length dimension of approximately ⅝″. More specifically, the latch 16, of one preferred form, includes an overall length dimension of approximately 5″ such that the first portion that serves as the operative end is approximately 1⅛″ long, the stop 16i is approximately ⅜″ long, and the third portion 16c is approximately 2 15/16″ long. Additionally, the stop 16i is approximately ½″ high and the shoulder member 16d is approximately ¼″ high. Further yet, a rearward portion of the protrusion 16b that extends between the third portion 16c and the shoulder member 16d, extends therebetween at an angle of approximately 128.66 degrees.

Lastly, in the present form, the three through bores 16e, 16f, and 16h are disposed approximately ¾″ from the rear edge of the latch 16. Through bore 16h is substantially centered between the side edges of the latch 16 and the through bores 16e and 16f are disposed approximately 1¼″ to each side thereof. In one form, the through bores 16e, 16f, and 16h have diameters of approximately ⅛″. It should be appreciated that these dimensions are merely illustrative of one form of the drawer 10 of the present invention and that the present invention is not limited to the dimensions specifically expressed herein. Rather, drawers having dimensions smaller and/or larger are intended to be within the scope of the present invention and are foreseeably viable alternative to any commercial embodiment.

As mentioned above, a drawer 10 and latch 16 in accordance with the invention may be used in a variety of applications. For example, the drawer 10 and/or latch 16 may be used in mobile tool carts and tool boxes. In addition, the drawer 10 and latch 16 may be used in mobile tool stores, such as vehicles designed to transport, display and sell tools. Such applications can greatly benefit from the light-weight and simplistic construction of the drawer 10 and/or latch 16. For example, a mobile tool store incorporating the drawer 10 and latch 16 will be able to carry more tools while still meeting the various state requirements on vehicle weight and can also benefit from the ease of use of latch 16 particularly when needing to open and close the drawer 10 multiple times each day.

Furthermore, it should be appreciated that the substance of the present invention also provides new and inventive methods, such as for example, methods of manufacturing a light weight drawer and/or drawer base, methods of latching a drawer, and methods of absorbing forces created by and/or applied to the drawer or dampening forces created by and/or applied to the drawer in order to prevent damaging the drawer or its associated assembly, including any base and rails connected thereto. For example, a method of securing the drawer member 12 within the base 14 disclosed herein may include providing the drawer member 12 and the base 14 with corresponding mating structures. In one form, the mating structure of the base 14 is provided as an opening in the base 14 and the mating structure of the drawer member 12 is provided as a biased protrusion on the latch 16 that is moveable between a locked position engaging the mating structure of the base 14 and an unlocked position disengaged from the mating structure of the base 14. Alternatively, the mating structure of the base 14 may be provided as a protrusion and the mating structure of the drawer member 12 may be provided as an opening. Additionally, it should be appreciated that methods of providing the drawer member 12 and the base 14 from single sheets of material are also disclosed. Such provision may include stamping or forming a pattern into a single sheet of light-weight material and subsequently bending or forming the pattern to complete construction of the drawer member 12 or base 14.

Thus, in accordance with the present invention, a drawer and latch therefor have been provided that fully satisfy the objects, aims, and advantages set forth above. While the invention has been described in conjunction with specific embodiments thereof, it is evident that many alternatives, modifications, and variations will be apparent to those skilled in the art in light of the foregoing description. Accordingly, it is intended to embrace all such alternatives, modifications, and variations as fall within the spirit and broad scope of the appended claims.





 
Previous Patent: Jammed Drawers No More

Next Patent: Refrigerator